stone windowsill in a recently repointed basement in a 240 year old home in new jersey

Stone Windowsills and Wooden Doorsills

Let’s talk about what’s on everyone’s mind these days – window and door sills. Specifically, stone windowsills and wooden doorsills.


Wait. That’s not on everyone’s mind?

Only mine? Huh.

What do you guys think about?

What’s for dinner? Why “sigma” is teen slang now? A problem at work? How to help your kid with fractions? When you can squeeze in time for a haircut? That embarrassing thing you did in third grade? All the emails you haven’t read? Inflation? War? If the colostrum all the influencers are taking has real benefits or is a gimmick?

Fair enough.

I guess we’re done here.

But…stone windowsills and wooden doorsills are easier to understand than why kids are saying, “What the sigma?” every five seconds.

So how about if you let your mind rest and let me explain the perks of stone windowsills and wooden doorsills and why we’re preserving them in our old house.

Preserving might not be the right word. Rebuilding as close to the original as we can is probably a better description.

what we didn't anticipate when repointing our stone walls in the basement ourselves repointing stone walls takes a lot of time Stone Windowsills and Wooden Doorsills

When we started repointing the stone walls in our basement, we realized the windowsills would have to be rebuilt. Repointing means removing an inch or so of the old pointing or lime mortar that’s starting to crumble and replacing it with new lime mortar. Learn more about that here.

The stone windowsills in our basement were not in good shape and once we removed the old mortar, the stones were completely loose. Some were even missing and had been filled in with concrete instead.

The use of concrete on a stone foundation like ours is a big no-no. Concrete is too hard, which means it could crack the stones. It also doesn’t breathe and stone foundations are supposed to breathe. That’s part of what keeps them in good shape.

It’s hard to tell from the below photo, but this windowsill has a hole about six inches deep and 15 inches wide. There should have been stones filling that hole but instead, it was filled with my tears of dismay over having to make this repair.

Overreact much, Annisa? Why, yes. Thank you for noticing. 

Stone Windowsills before repair and repointing

Aside from that, it didn’t look pretty and it certainly wasn’t functional as a windowsill.

We don’t have to buy stones to fill in any gaps in these walls. We just have to go to the backyard where we have piles of them in the form of low stone walls around the property. We do have to haul these stones down to the basement though, so we try not to get too carried away before it becomes a CrossFit meets DIY situation.

Six batches of lime mortar and 15 stones later, we had a pretty AND functional stone windowsill.

Stone Windowsills after repair and repointing

We applied the same treatment to an interior window in the basement. (It was an exterior wall at one point.)

We had planned to cap these windowsills with wood, but now we’re having second thoughts because of how well the windowsills turned out.

Best of all, these stone windowsills should last well over 100 years. They’ll outlast us and our great-grandkids by a long shot.

 Stone Windowsills after repair and repointing

Next to that interior window is a doorway. The hinges are still there but the actual door is long gone.

The wood door threshold had almost completely rotted away. It’s hard to tell exactly how old that wood was, but it could easily have been 200 years old. Years of footwear and exposure to moisture had contributed to the decayed nature of the threshold.

The bottom of a door that you step through usually has two parts: the sill and the threshold. The doorsill is underneath and the threshold is usually what covers the gap between the door and the flooring.

Threshold is a term that seems to be used pretty generally. Since we rebuilt this section of the door from the ground up, I’m using doorsill terminology, but we added a threshold too.

As you can see, I’m overreacting and over-explaining today! I don’t charge extra for that.

Wooden Doorsills before repair

We decided to rebuild the doorsill and threshold almost exactly how it had been constructed.

After all, that design was good enough to last a very long time. No need to make things more complicated than they need to be. Trust me, they were already complicated enough!

It’s hard to tell, but there is one section of mortar along the base of the door (below the bricks).

We filled in the big gap between the wood beam and the mortar with bricks and lime mortar until it was level with the old mortar.

Wooden Doorsills during repair

Once it was level and had dried, we had a solid base to put the second layer of the doorsill.

That sketchy-looking beam that we left on the floor looks worse than it is. It also is higher than the mortar by almost 2 inches.

We added new pressure-treated planks to butt up to that old piece of wood.

Technically speaking, you aren’t supposed to put pressure-treated wood inside your house in case it off-gases chemicals. However, every new house has a tiny bit of pressure-treated wood because that’s what is used to build your sill plate that sits on top of your foundation and that your entire house is attached to.

We all know the saying “The dose makes the poison.” We figured that of all the things that might get us in this house, a tiny plank of pressure-treated wood was not going to be it.

I’m more worried about our steep, uneven staircase. That thing has it out for me daily.

If you’re not already horrified by anything I’ve said today, let me up the ante.

The floor in our basement is mainly dirt. Yes, dirt. Fancy and modern we are not.

Where there’s dirt, there will be moisture. We wanted that piece of wood to be able to have contact with the ground and not rot straight away. That’s why we used a tiny bit of pressure-treated lumber.

This concludes the risk assessment section of this blog post.

Wooden Doorsills during repair

On top of the pressure-treated layer went 2×8 planks of pine.

They are nailed into the layer of wood below it.

You can see the three layers of the doorsill and threshold below.

Overkill? Not sure.

Old homes are often over-engineered. It’s part of why they last so long and I have a vested interest in making sure this old home stays standing tall and strong for many more generations.

It does mean you have to duck going through this doorway though if you’re of average height or taller and don’t want to hit your head.

Hmm. Another possible thing that could get me.

Wooden Doorsills repaired in a 240 year old home in new jersey

When we started on this process of repointing the basement, we didn’t plan on redoing stone windowsills and wooden doorsills.

We also didn’t plan on this whole project taking as long as it has. Are we slow or is the job bigger than we anticipated? Or both?

However, we sure are happy about the improvements we’ve made to our home. We probably love this money pit more now than before we started this process, which is saying a lot because it was already a love connection.

What do you think about the work we’ve done in this basement? How do you feel about stone windowsills? Feel free to over-explain. You can always comment on this blog post, email us here, or reach out via Instagram or Facebook.

P.S. I have since stained the wood door threshold to discourage any critters from chewing on it.

P.P.S. We have also fixed the stones around that doorway so that it doesn’t look like one sneeze away from collapse.

Thank you for indulging me in these stories. Thank you for your encouragement and your questions. If you’d like something else to read, I’ve got you covered. 

The Cool Thing We Made With That Rotten Wood From The Door Threshold

Why We Decided To Repoint Our Stone Walls Ourselves

Our Memorial Day Tradition









Share this:


  • Pamela

    I actually was already horrified before you upped the ante. 😂 I can’t, I just can’t imagine the work and level of damage repair. I read this posts with my face all screwed up in disbelief . The only sad thing is that it’s a basement where you guests don’t go. That windowsill is a thing of beauty…leave it be and line it with some lovely old crocks.

    • annisa

      LOL! Maybe when we are done with it, guests will actually want to venture down there. Kind of the whole point of repointing is to get this space to a point where it is useable. Maybe for a gym or a craft area. Not sure yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.