The outside

Interestingly enough, the longest and most expensive of all the renovations were on the outside. All windows replaced, new block driveway and patio, landscaping, rear deck, all new siding (simulated cedar shingles in vinyl), and a new roof and gutters. The back “yard” is artificial turf with a 600 gallon dry well underneath for the roof drainage.

Finished just in time for a global pandemic to hit, this outdoor living space has served us well. For the kids, dinner guests, and all, everyone loves it.

This is probably going to be the last blog post, at least for a very long time, since at this point everything we had planned for 5 years ago is basically finished!

Before and after pictures tell the story:

Front Room

One of the last bits of remodeling on the house checklist was the front room. We decided to go with some nice woodworking detail in here, built in bookshelves, and a gas fireplace. The fireplace is installed where the original coal heated chimney was, but in front of it and vented out the side of the house. Here are some before and after shots:

House occupied by previous owners (2012/2013)
Room as we moved in (2014)
Under construction
Front facing view
Back facing view

Upstairs Bathroom(s)

Here’s another much-delayed remodeling update post — this time about the upstairs bathrooms.

In the house originally there was one functional but in really bad shape full bathroom in the middle of the second floor, and one non-functional added-in bathroom in the rear of the upstairs kitchen.

The rear bathroom was demolished and became part of the master bedroom (previous post) so what we decided to do was convert a former bedroom in the middle of the second floor into a spacious master bath.

As part of this, we’d have to tear out a wall in the dining room below to run the new pipes, and completely redo the electrical for most of the second (and third while we were at it) floors.

The new master bathroom includes a massive shower (with a window!) and stacked full sized laundry.

This was probably the most complicated section of renovation done so far, but it turned out pretty good:

Middle Bathroom Before:

Middle Bathroom After:

Master Bathroom Before (looking front):

Master Bathroom After (looking front):

Master Bathroom Before (looking back):

Master Bathroom After (looking back):

Some construction pictures and panoramas:

This has been done for a couple of years but I’m just now remembering to put up pictures. The next work on the house was (and continues to be) exterior work, so those posts are coming soon.

New Master Bedroom – Done (super late entry)

Ok, so I’m about a year and a half late on this particular update, since this phase was complete in April of 2016.  Apologies, and after this one I’ll be more prompt putting up the update on the new master bath remodel which was done earlier this year as well.

Being a two-family home in its most recent incarnation, the house had a kitchen and small bathroom taking up the entire rear portion of the second floor (with a disused chimney for original first-floor cooking hearth and coal burning running up against the back rear section).

Here are the before pictures:


Facing from the room door towards the back of the house (rear stairs on the left, defunct bathroom on the right).


Facing from the back of the room looking towards the door to the rest of the first floor.

With the help of our fabulous contractors, we completely took the space down to the studs, and removed the portion of the chimney going through this room and protruding through the roof.  This was necessary to get us extra space in the area, but also because our homeowners’ insurance had refused to cover us since the chimney above the roof was apparently not sound and in danger of collapse.  No big deal.

The grand plan was to convert the adjacent “middle room” on the second floor into a new master bathroom (see future blog entry), so the space formerly taken up by the bathroom, chimney, and pantry here just became more room for standing wardrobes from Ikea (these are what make up for all of the storage in the master bedroom, see pictures below).

Well, it turns out that the gutter system on this section of the house was still original attached wood and not worth saving, and patching the hole in the roof made by removing plumbing vents and a chimney left the roof in a very leaky state, so a full new roof got added onto the cost of the project.  Also, we decided to go with foam insulation for the room and to split the baseboard heating into its own separate zone (including a new fancy zone relay system for one of the basement furnaces for adding more zones in the future, which we have done).



Full demolition, new subfloor, window relocation/replacement, foam insulation.

We also ended up replacing all of the windows, moving the center-left one to no longer be directly behind where the bed was going to go, and elongating the rear one to make more light available.  It’s amazing how well the foam insulation insulates not only against heat/cold but from sound.  We had them insulate between this room and the rest of the house as well, so it is super super quiet.  Had we thought ahead we would have also had them put foam insulation/soundproofing under the new floorboards if possible, but it’s still quite an isolated space.

And here is the finished product, with Ikea Pax cabinetry assembled and installed (by us) and completely finished and carpeted (this is the only carpeted room in the house).  We think it turned out pretty well.  Vaulting the ceiling would have been another option, but by the time the added costs were there with the chimney removal and unexpected new roof, that was pretty much over the line.

Here is the before/after comparison view


And here is the panorama view of the finished product

Stay tuned for the next entry on the massive re-do of the second-floor bathroom and addition of a mega-posh master bathroom also on the second floor.  Following that, we’ve also converted the remaining half of the third-floor space into a usable working office.  As of now, all remodeling is paused, but replacement window work is scheduled to begin in a week or two, and then we hope to completely redo the siding and trim on the house exterior in the spring of 2008.

Status: Demolished

“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”
-Pablo Picasso

Here is the current state of the front foyer and stairs.  Soon the stairs themselves will be gone to make way for brand new treads, handrail, newell post, etc. A new electric heater is also going in this area to keep it warm and toasty.  It’s not visible in the picture, but also being replaced is the entire front entryway (behind the photographer) with a brand new custom-designed front door, side lights, and patterned-glass transom. This will also include new front steps and railing.  Quite a big project, and I’m glad we’re leaving this one to a contractor and not tackling it ourselves.

Maybe by March this part of the house will be usable again — depending on how fast the contractor gets the job done.  In the mean time, we’re using the back stairs (which will be featured in more detail in the next blog post!).


And here is what’s left of what was the upstairs kitchen and its unusable bathroom in the rear-right corner there.  This will eventually be rebuilt into our new master bedroom with walk-in closet and wardrobe wall.  A new en-suite bathroom will be added in what is now the upstairs “middle room” (not pictured here, but it’s the room directly behind where the photographer is standing that links this room to the rest of the 2nd floor of the house).  That back door is what leads downstairs directly to the back door and kitchen through a convenient back stairway.


So as you can see, things are pretty messy right now, and about 30% or so of the house is un an uninhabitable state. But these will surely be beautiful spaces when they’re complete.


So the kitchen is just about done enough to take pictures of. It’s been a while since the last update here, so I’m not going to wait any longer.




And this is what an entire kitchen full of Ikea cabinets looks like in boxes before it’s assembled:


Next up, the dining room (which is also almost finished). The contractor’s demolition folks should be coming by within a few business days to tear up the front foyer and staircase to start the mega-project of completely rebuilding that as well as the front door and stoop.  The upstairs kitchen is also already demolished down to the studs and subfloor in preparation for the project to turn it into the new master bedroom, but that’s a topic for another post!

Kitchen Remodel Progress

One great thing about buying a 2-family house is that we can use the upstairs kitchen while we work on the long process of remodeling what will be our actual house kitchen down on the first floor. Here’s what the downstairs kitchen looked like when it was occupied:


As you can see, the rear pantry is oddly closed off, and the door leading into the dining room is small and not compatible with actually having a refrigerator in that corner. Enlarging and moving that door over, and completely opening up the kitchen into the rear pantry are the two main changes we’re making to the room:


But there was a pretty big surprise when we started ripping down the old plaster and drywall on what will be the cabinet wall of the kitchen:


What you see there in the window frame, underneath the replacement window, is a hole leading directly out to the exterior vinyl siding. The previous owner and his ever-so-skilled workers replaced a large window with a smaller one (so that cabinets could go in front) by hastily rigging a new rough sill across the opening, tacking it in place, and then just covering the hole with nothing more than a few square feet of fiberglass insulation and a sheet of drywall. Tom Silva (of This Old House fame) even chimed in on twitter when Kristin shared the “surprise”:


As you can see in this previous blog post, the siding on the outside wasn’t even attached underneath the window. This meant that the entire inside of the drywall and framing of the kitchen was nearly open to the elements. Thankfully I discovered the siding deficiency back in september and filled the whole gap with an entire can of Great Stuff ™ foam. Were it not for copious amounts of Great Stuff back then, I’m not sure what water damage we would have discovered in that wall.

At any rate, the demolition is now complete, the window has been reframed enough to be stable, and the door has been resized and moved. Also the electrical is roughed in and at this point we’re just waiting for time to rent a pick up truck and go to the Home Depot to pick up copious amounts of drywall to hang:


The cabinets are picked out (from Ikea), and the appliances are actually already ordered and should be arriving by the end of August — so we should have some pictures of a beautifully finished kitchen in not too long!

More Progress: Bedroom #1

Anyone familiar with this house will probably list the upstairs front room as their favorite room and/or the best room in the house, and I would certainly agree.  The initial plan was for this room to be a guest room while the rear upstairs bedroom would be the temporary master bedroom (temporary only until we get to the point of remaking the upstairs kitchen into the new master suite).  Unfortunately, a mishap with the previous tenants and some fireworks and a (thankfully) abortive arson investigation made the rear upstairs bedroom unusable.  Actually, I’m happy that this became the master bedroom for now because the size, streaming sunlight, and condition of the room make it fantastic.

Since this room was already in decent shape (thanks in part to the excellent paint color choice and the excellent history of people who lived in it), the before and after pictures aren’t so striking.  We repainted it with a slightly less-bright yellow, but the color is a great match for such a sunny room.  Although this was the first room in the house that reached “finished” condition (even before we moved in), here are the first photos of it on this blog. Excuse the slight jigginess of the panoramic photo artifacts — that window and its curtains really are quite straight and nice:



It still needs some art and pictures and decorations on the walls (like the rest of the house), but all in all a pretty nice space.

More Progress: Gym

From our home inspection, I learned that we aren’t legally able to use the finished, climate-controlled attic (two fairly large rooms) as bedrooms, or lease it out, as the previous owner was doing. Right now the rear attic is just storage, but someday it could be an office/hobby space. The front attic, however, was a great place to put a gym/fitness room. So far it includes a rowing machine, TV/stereo with Xbox/kinect, weights, floor pads, and some other gym-like things.

As I said, the previous owner was renting out these rooms illegally, and here is the “before” picture when the room was still occupied:


And here is how it looks now. We kept the sparkly circle art in the back right corner, and the purple ceiling with gold spray-paint embellishment because they are cool, and as a nod to the former resident(s):