Tour: The Exterior!

aerialview

At long last, the exterior!

frontview

This is our house from the street! When we first saw the house over the winter, there was about a foot of snow on the ground and it was impossible to tell what was going on with the yard, but by the time we closed, the yard had become completely overtaken by tall grass and weeds. Over the first couple of days, Max worked really hard to mow the grass and clean up what we have. It’s really important to us that after 2 years of vacancy, the house finally looks like somebody is taking care of it. That goes a long way in the neighborhood, too.

Even though the exterior needs a lot of work eventually, we’re really lucky that it already looks pretty cute without doing anything major! The bones are there. Most of the houses in our neighborhood are on smaller properties and lean toward more traditional Victorian details, but ours has a larger piece of land and looks pretty different architecturally from everything around it——which, to me at least, might be another indication that it’s older than a lot of the surrounding houses. We’ve yet to pinpoint a date, but we’ve done some preliminary research. I’ll write a post about some history when we know more!

ANYWAY. At some point, probably in the 70s, vinyl siding was installed on all the exterior walls, but the original clapboard is right underneath. Even though I want to rip all the vinyl off and restore the clapboard RIGHT NOW, we’re definitely going to wait on that for a while. Since the vinyl is white, it doesn’t really impede on the look of the house very much, and we have no idea what we’re going to find underneath. As with the inside of the house, it just isn’t wise to start exposing anything that we’re not ready to deal with yet. Sometimes people tear off vinyl to find the clapboard in great shape and easy to restore, and some people end up with lots of rot——and then tons of time and money——to restore it. Obviously, when the time comes, I’m hoping that we find the former, and I’m also hoping that whatever nice moldings used to exist around the windows are still there.

frontdoor

I really love the crazy entry with the crazy columns, which are repeated on the porch off to the side. The banisters extending between the front columns and the house are definitely a newer addition, but they’re OK enough for now. The concrete needs to be re-faced at some point and the steps could use a little restoration, but nothing is so far gone that it all needs to happen this instant.

I love the front doors. I’m debating trying to strip the doors and stain/seal them so that they’re natural wood, but that might also make me insane. Maybe they just need to be black? I like a “pop of color door” as much as the next person, but I really don’t think it’s right for this house.

knob

Cool hardware, just for fun. The locks still work!

side1

I love the little wrought-iron fence that covers the front and part of the side of the house. So cute! When we can finally landscape, I really don’t want to have any sod at all at the front of the house or on this side. We have plenty of yard in the back, and grass is a pain to maintain (WE JUST MOWED THIS.) and isn’t the most environmentally friendly choice. Can’t you just see it with beautiful luscious gardens all along the front and side? It will be so nice.

side2

The side view of the house is where it kind of starts to look a little bit Frankenstein. My guess is that the original house had one bay window on the first floor, and later (when the side porch and kitchen sections were added), that second bump-out on the top was also put in. But I don’t know! I’d love to find an old picture of the house from this angle.

sidegarage

There’s a garage! Crazy. We can’t actually get in to the garage from the street because of the fence (it doesn’t appear to open in front of the garage door!), but eventually I’d love to set up a little workshop space in the garage and use it as an actual garage. I have no idea if the garage is original to the property, but it is really old. Evidently when the house was on the market, some improvements were made to the garage (apparently it was falling down…yikes), but it seems very solid now. It even has a new roof!

backmudroom

This is the mudroom from the outside. See how it’s weird and big? See how the window is tiny and strange? See how there’s that awful set of exterior stairs and that silly little flower bed? See how there’s a huge weed/tree growing from the crawlspace underneath?

Oy vey. I don’t know. SOMEDAY (most used word in the post?), I actually think it would be nice to shrink the mudroom by about half the depth, move the door to face the garage, and then put a set of stairs up to it on the wall where there’s currently that tiny window. Does that make any sense? As it is, the mudroom is silly-huge (about 9′ x 10′) and just looks like such a janky little add-on.

backofhouse

This picture is taken from the back corner of the yard. Those steps to the second floor! I want them to disappear. I’m sure they were required by code when the house was two units, but since we’re converting it, I’m guessing it will be OK to take them out. Obviously we’ll make sure and permit properly and all that…when the time comes.

That big tree (some type of maple? maybe?) is really nice, but unfortunately it’s kind of rotted at the base and probably needs to be removed. This makes me a little sad.

So. The asphalt. BEHOLD:

backyard2

Remember that thing I said about the house being covered in snow when we saw it the first time? Amazing what a foot of snow will make disappear. Apparently, between making the house into two units and owning several cars, the previous owner decided that paving, like, half the yard was a great plan. We’ll definitely come up with a whole landscaping plan before totally getting rid of it, but I’m pretty sure it all has to go. How hard is it to use a jackhammer? Honest question.

You can kind of tell in this picture that on the backside of the garage, there’s a pretty sizable flower bed made of cinderblocks. I call it our weed garden! For the sake of our verrrrry preliminary attempts at landscaping, I think it would be worthwhile to clean this planting bed up, pull all the weeds, and maybe plant some veggies or something in it. Right now, it’s crazzzzzy. Some of those weeds are taller than me.

There’s a small strip of land on the outer edge of the garage, too (about 5 feet), which is also completely overrun by weeds. I think I’d like to put gravel in this area and put a compost bin back there.

asphalt

That back fence is like a crazy jungle nightmare mess. I did a little exploring and found that there are actually a few nice-looking bushes/trees hiding in all of that, along with a bunch of daylilies bordering the pavement. That neighbor also has a wood fence, which is nice for privacy, so I’m kind of anxious to at least get this area a little cleaned up.

backyard1

Finally, some grass! Once we’re able to replace the chain-link fence, I’d like to plant some more privacy trees lining the fence to the right (behind that green house is a very low-traffic commercial business, which would be nice to block out a little bit!), then probably reserve a lot of this area for grass. The whole reason we were so excited to have so much yard is because it gives Mekko enough space to get her ya-yas out, and I’m sure she’d appreciate not running all over asphalt. Although she also doesn’t seem to mind at all.

sideyard

The side of the house is where the best part of the yard is——just some grass and that big tree. The house doesn’t have a dryer, hence the clothesline. I’ve never made a habit of air-drying my laundry, but I have to say, it really works! Everything smells good and dries fast and it’s kind of awesome. We definitely want to get a dryer, but it’s kind of nice that this option is here, at least as long as we have the tree.

sidebathroom

The window on the left is the laundry room, right is the bathroom, and far left are the big living room windows. Sorry if you’re so lost!

But look! Somebody had a little garden here at one point. And a huge affinity for Hosta. Hosta and day lilies is how this yard was landscaped. Definitely room for a little more diversity.

The little slate path bordering the house is super cute. Max bought those little solar-powered outdoor lights for a few dollars a piece, and they actually make a big difference to the look and feel of the yard at night. They work really well, too.

porch

Back at the front of the house is the porch. I love the porch! We need to get some furniture or something for it, but it’ll be nice to hang out on. The people in our neighborhood have been very friendly and social, so it’ll be nice to sit out there and chat with everyone. There are some nice plants in front of the porch. A couple of them are a little too big and overpowering, but we might be able to prune them back or relocate and replace with something else, too.

I know this yard (and the exterior, generally) are going to take a ton of work and a lot of upkeep and maintenance and a future full of back-breaking labor and weird sunburns and probably an inadvertent brush with poison ivy (or several), but we’re so excited. Almost as excited as Mekko, who has eased into her role as Squirrel Patroller with all the tenacity and panache that Linus puts into sunbathing.


143 Comments

  1. in the final photo, my favorite thing is the downspout that doesn’t reach the ground… like a waterfall, i’ll bet! crazy. but the house is amazing and it will be even MORE amazing when you have your way with it. i cannot wait! enjoy :)

  2. Hey, Daniel (and Max)!
    Your house is gorgeous and dripping with potential. I’m so excited to see what you do with it! Jackhammers are not difficult to use, though they are tiring. You’ll be able to rip out the entire asphalt patch in one hard weekend. Congrats to you both on your new home!

  3. Wow, that’s a BIG house! (But I do come from the UK, so…) It’s really lovely. I’m so excited to see what you do to this place.

  4. Ahhhhh, just so awesome!! Things like that front door make me super homesick for the awesome late-1800s house my boyfriend used to rent in central Pennsylvania (we live in Oklahoma now… very different “historical” architecture :() You guys are basically living my dream!

    Also, super glad someone else uses the word “janky” :)

  5. Its a beautiful home.

  6. Just curious…why would anyone ever put up a fence on their property without a gate at the garage? On what planet does that make sense? And the driveway situation – what kind of nutjobs owned this house before you?
    Anyway, it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun to rennovate! I’m excited to see what you can do with it.

    • I don’t know about the fence! Apparently the elderly man who owned the house was grouchy about neighborhood kids getting into his yard, so maybe that’s why? Also, the garage door is old and manual, so it might have been hard to lift? I don’t know. I’ve looked at the fence a hundred times and it definitely doesn’t open! It is a separate section of fence, though, so I bet if we swapped out some of the connector parts with gate parts (I know nothing about chain-link fences…clearly), we could get it opening again. There’s tons of street parking, though, and we can always park in the driveway next to the garage, so it doesn’t really feel necessary until we just replace the whole fence.

  7. Oh, I love it so much! It reminds me of home. I am from Albany County and Otsego County.

  8. Such potential! I LOVE ripping out weeds unwanted volunteer trees and clearing and planting anew for LOW-MAINTENANCE landscaping. If we weren’t painting our entire house this summer, I’d offer to drive down for a weekend of grubby yardwork in exchange for house tour and icy-cold lemonade. :) Anyway, if that backyard tree must come down–here (VT), some arborists will take a look for free–you can easily install your own DIY clothesline, modeled on something like this: http://www.smartdrying.com. BTW, your enthusiasm for the house’s abundant but neglected charms is a delight.

  9. Your house has fantastic bones and a lot of work, seems like the perfect combination for professional bloggers! My suggestion is to paint the door black for now and restore it in a few years when you are running out of home improvement projects to blog about.

    • “a few years” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. :)

      • you know younghouselove is already on their third house having run out of things to do in the first two….

      • Yeah, I know, haha. I’m also…not them. And I’m pretty sure their houses were all built between the 1950s and the early 1980s, so we’re dealing with a whoooollleee different set of challenges and problems!

  10. The door knob/lock is so neat! And I love that tree…sucks it’s rotting away. Your caged in garage made me laugh…it’s like some random conceptual art installation haha. But yeah – everything else has an incredible amount of potential.

    Oh and don’t worry about using a jackhammer, it’s actually kind of fun (but then again, I love stuff like that). Just keep a firm grip. You might feel a little wobbly and sweaty afterward, but it’s not bad.

  11. I LOVE your house! So cute. Please have a tree specialist look at your tree. You’d be surprised what can be saved. Also, probably for not very much, you could get someone with a backhoe that could just scrap the asphalt up and cart it away. Good luck!

    • Yes, we’ll definitely have somebody professional evaluate the tree before we make any big decisions. It is a really pretty tree. :(

      And you’re totally right…what with everything else going on, I should definitely look into having the asphalt removed rather than DIY.

      • We had a huge cement slab ripped out and recycled by a guy we found on Craigslist for about $250. It was worth every penny. If you get a thick layer of mulch down immediately you won’t have to worry about weeds in that area.

      • I second the backhoe approach. A jackhammer is very hard to use. They are extremely heavy and loud. And clearing all the paving after you’ve broken it up would be back-breaking. Not to mention how would you dispose of it? Definitely a project better left to professionals. Meanwhile, that circular window on the garage? So cute!

      • I was going to say that you should look into hiring out the asphalt removal. What would take you days and days of back-breaking (and potentially injury inducing) labor will take the pros mere hours. Plus, finding a place to deposit the used asphalt could be tricky. It’s one of those few times when hiring pros is the best choice, leaving you plenty of time to lay sod (for Mekko – if you try to grow grass from seed you’ll have the saddest doggie you ever did see), and do your own thing landscaping-wise. Good triage keeps a DIY-er energized and ready to tackle the things that need a keen eye, and a big-picture vision. The house is beautiful. Congratulations, again!

  12. Oh, you know what that asphalt would be great for until you rip it out? Having your own flea market of housewares and furniture on the weekends–like as a little side business? Maybe you could get Vegan O’Brien Baking Company (in New Paltz) to sell cookies at it, too. I just basically wrote the business plan right there, so, yeah, I think that should happen. ;)

  13. Your home is charming! So much potential that you’ll undoubtedly tap into with gusto. Can’t wait to see.

  14. Wow, the lot is HUGE!

    I am so, so excited to watch this all come together (interior, exterior, et al.) I almost feel like it’s a written version of an HGTV reality show and I look forward to each ‘episode.’

  15. wow. what possibilities!

    will be great to see your plans evolve. i imagine all of us have ideas as we viewed the photos… i certainly agree with the garden beds in the front and in the back- with all that sun you have so many options – lots of roses, and so many perennials who love sun would be so happy back there. and room for veggie garden too.

    when you get to work = put out the word, some of us readers may volunteer to come help!

  16. The house is so gorgeous! What a really lovely home. In terms of contrast for the front entrance, would you consider painting the “ceiling” (there must be a more technical term) of the overhang if you don’t want color on the doors?

    • Maybe! I need to spend some more time looking into what would be historically accurate for the style. Not necessarily because I would follow that, but sometimes it’s a good indication of what would look good instead of out of place, you know? Seems like Greek Revival houses are usually predominantly white, but that kind of thing might be nice! I’m not used to worrying about exteriors!

      • I’ve seen those ceilings restored to a light blue colour to mimic the sky. But that could be just for large verandas.

      • I’m with Brendan on the light blue porch roof tradition – it’s supposed to cut down on bugs, too.

  17. So lovely! Thanks for sharing :)

  18. Hi there. I love the house and your huge and wonderful ambitions for it.

    I just wanted to tell you something wonderful about perennial plants – hostas and daylilies and iris and some shrubs and a number of wonderful other plants. If they are too big for the space, dig them up, chop the root ball in half, throw some compost in the hole and plant half back where it was (if you like that location) and then pant the other half someplace else. They’ll look a bit funny for a half a season or a season, but then they settle down and in three years you can do the same thing again.

    It is cheap-ass slow-burn gardening and a hilarious and wonderfully accessible book on perennial cottage gardening is Mrs Greenthumbs, by Cassandra Danz. It’s all about making a garden like what you’ve visualized for the front and side of the house.

    Oh! – and that tree looks pretty healthy – that stuff at the base might be from a large branch falling off (it’s very hard to see, it could totally be rotten too) – but the leaves and shape look good, not sickly. Maybe get a tree guy to look at it and see if it’s salvageable.

    Forgive me if you know all this already – I get pretty excited about dividing perennials.

    • I’m with you. Most of the garden at my last house was perennials, divided and shared from family and friends. Free and easy.

    • Thanks, Juno! I actually did a lot of gardening as a kid (I was weird, and my parents gave me a plot of land to work on, which later extended to the whole yard!), so I’m no stranger to splitting up perennials! I actually really like the type of hostas we have, particularly for borders and such, and they seem to do well in lots of different light conditions, so I can definitely see doing that! We have TONS of day lilies, which actually aren’t my favorite, but we’ll probably transplant a lot of what we have and maybe give some away, too. The more gardening we can do for free, the better! Plants are expensive!

      • They really are! If you want a clump of old fashion Siberian Irises at some point, let me know. They won’t bloom for 2 years after you put them in, but when they do, they’re the prettiest thing going.

      • Also, I hate day lilies. Shhh, don’t tell.

  19. What a beautiful house! Looks like a really classic example of Greek Revival architecture (with a few additions over the years). And you’re right, this architectural style probably makes it older than the surrounding Victorian-style houses. It was probably built between 1820 and 1850. I’m currently renovating my condo on the second floor of an 1847 Greek Revival row house, and a lot of your house’s interior details, especially the original windows and the surrounding trim and paneling, look awfully familiar. Looking forward to hearing what you’ve found about the house’s history!

    • Thanks, Dan! I agree. There are some other Greek Revival houses in the area (although they’re a bit more classic, like having the two-story portico and columns in front, rather than the few smaller 1-story ones we have), but the symmetry of the interior, especially, also seems very Greek Revival to me. Maybe I can find out when the other houses in the area were built, which might give a slight indication of when ours was constructed.

      Thanks!

  20. I love all the little gardens! If there is one close to the door that is closest to the kitchen, may I suggest an herb garden? Dill, basil, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, oregano (careful with those last two, they like to take over a garden), Italian parsley, maybe lavender and borage and summer savory and pansies and dill. Your taste buds will thank you!

    • That’s a great idea! That little bed by the door is kind of a mess, but I think working with the space and making it an herb garden is a great idea. I LOVE cooking with fresh herbs!!

  21. I rented a jackhammer last year for the first time to bust out a concreted sunporch. My feeble arm strength made it difficult, but not impossible. Here’s what I learned:

    1. Make sure you have a well-functioning jack. (If you’re renting, I think this is accomplished by telling the clerk you want one that works good, yo.) We had to switch out jacks in the middle of the project, and the second one blew the first out of the water. I think it was the motor?
    2. Getting rid of what you just busted up is as hard, if not harder, than busting it up in the first place. It took renting a truck, three trips to the dump, and more money than I expected.
    3. Make someone take pictures of you and the jackhammer in action. You will never again look like that much of a badass.

  22. I knew it was the white house in your ‘Winter Times’ post from your Kingston visit! Ha! Got you!

    That yard is just the icing on the cake – so much space, so many great ideas you have already . . . I can easily imagine lush greenery round the sides of the house, and flower beds all over the place.

    Just think: if you start now on the vegetable plot, you’ll have a harvest in time for Thanksgiving. That would be poetic.

    So glad you love the washing line – you could invest in a spinner for your laundry room, meaning the clothes and linen would dry more quickly, even in winter when you would have to dry them inside on hanging racks, or you could install/build a pulley in your laundry room. But in good weather, there’s nothing like bed linen dried outside in the fresh air . . . that really is luxury in my mind.

    Finally, Daniel, I personally think you should get in touch with your inner masochist as soon as possible and return that wonderful double front door to its former natural glory.

    • I can’t believe you noticed! Haha. Yep, that was the first time we saw the house and I was OB. SESSED.

  23. Get the book “Lasagna Gardening”. I used this method for my overgrown raised beds in my new house and I haven’t had any issues. In fact I took an even lazier approach, I weed wacked everything in the beds down to the nubs, put some cardboard down to cover everything, then just added potting soil and compost and planted right in the bed (about 6″). I’ve got beautiful herbs and veggies and no weeds poking through. The water seems to be going through the cardboard for drainage just fine. I guess this would depend on how much clearance you have in the raised bed but if this is an option for you it might be a quick way to get around having to pull all the weeds out.

    • Anya’s suggested method really works for new beds from weed patches. Charles Dowding is a ‘no-dig’ guru and has written some great books. I am really looking forward to seeing how your plans take shape for the house and garden – what a great place. I was very excited to see you announce your new house purchase – I thought you’d gone rather quiet…

    • Thanks, Anya, that’s great to know about! Might be a great option for that weird bed by the garage.

  24. I can’t wait to follow this transformation! As for the garage, I doubt it’s “original” if the house is as old as you think it might be (i.e. pre-dates the dawn of the family automobile). Can’t wait to see what you uncover!

  25. Your house is completely adorable – a clean and beautiful style of architecture. It’s great that you are planning to restore so many wonderful, somewhat-abused original aspects of it.
    Just thought I’d add in my 2 cents on the mysteries of your home’s past, as I’ve lived in a few old houses and have always enjoyed armchair house-archeology. While old dated photos are best for pinning down specifics of additions, the house will offer certain clues, especially if you look at things that are unlikely to be replaced due to rot (windows, railings, wood trim) or remodel (windows, roof raising, enclosed porches, doors, interior trim).
    Can you look at the foundation from underneath? Crawl spaces are creepy but a high-powered flashlight can reveal foundation differences that indicate additions, old porch demos, etc. And if you can see the floor joists and subfloor, that may also be interesting.
    Do your chimneys all match in style and materials exactly?
    Do your eaves all have the same trim detail?
    Is your attic unfinished? It may reveal modifications (for instance, was that attic stair added later?).
    There’s also the common set of ways houses changed over time: attached kitchens, interior plumbing, interior toilets, gas (for lights and cooking), electricity, phone service. For instance, looking to see where old-style wiring is/isn’t may show older/newer parts of the structure. But a lot of these clues may require poking around in the crawlspace or happening upon them during remodeling.
    Good luck with this massive and exciting project!

    • Thanks, RTBoyce! Both our attic and basement are unfinished, and definitely have some good indications about additions, like you’re describing. For example, the kitchen on the back of the house has a foundation that seems very separate from the main portion of the house, basically like someone just busted through a wall of the original foundation to provide entry into the second basement. The other sections are crawlspaces (the big living room and the bathroom, laundry room, side porch, and mudroom).

      As far as I can tell, the attic stairs are original! It seems like one of the difficulties with dating various changes to the house, though, is that whoever made the changes did so very conscientiously——the cornice matches around the exterior, window and door moldings match on the interior, even where doors may have not existed originally, etc. It’s definitely nice that they were so careful with that stuff, but makes it hard to distinguish. It’s also possible that the entire house was renovated at some point with new moldings and things——one person told us that based on our interior details, that might have happened around 1870, but the original structure may be older. So many mysteries!

  26. I am so excited to see what you and Max do with this beautiful old house! :)

  27. that. doorknob. I would gladly kill you for it. Also, I whole heartedly agree that the entire side porch is an extension of a previously existing bay window, especially considering the configuration inside. Too bad it’s probably (and I only say probably because I’m no structural engineer) holding that bump out (that would make a perfect windowseat reading spot) on the 2nd floor or I’d rip that horror show off in seconds flat. Leaking and poorly done? make it GO AWAY.

    I’ll be the naysayer here a – I don’t know about ripping up all that asphalt. I bet you’ll find it’s more useful to have a hard surface than you thought it was. Or at last, don’t rip it up completely until you can replace at least a parking space worth of it with pavers or something – nothing worse than trying to back a car out of an icy mudpit (trust me, I’ve done it in Michigan)… I’d suggest waiting a bit until you see what your drainage situation is like. Especially since you can’t you know, drive a car into the garage (weirdness!!)

    Landscaping…meh. Flowers attract bees and bees are horrifying. Shrubs and stuff are nice I guess. Herb garden just outside of the mudroom? Hells yes. Vegetable garden by the garage? double hells yes!

    • vege patches don’t happen without the help of bees, ya know? so some flowering plants, just for the pleasure of the bees, will help everything along.

      • yes of course I know plants generally need bees to pollinate. Phobias are rarely rooted in reality though….

    • Yah, it’s DEFINITELY holding up that bump-out. I wouldn’t even be opposed to hacking THAT off and just replacing it with windows, but that’s…a big job. The whole thing is kind of a mess over there. The house’s foundation is really solid, but this side porch (and, in turn, that bump-out) seem to have settled a fair amount over the years, which is not good and has caused some wonky flooring and general weirdness, both on the interior and exterior of the house. You can kind of tell in that photo.

      Yeah, the asphalt is all in pretty bad shape, and there’s just NO reason we need that much of it! I do think we’ll probably do pavers or something in that spot between the garage and the house, though.

  28. Granted, I am squinting at a tiny picture and you are looking at the real thing, but it *really* looks like your fence should open in front of the garage. See how it is one long span that is exactly garage-width, and then that tiny unmoving bit between it and the driveway gate? Can you check if the ground rod on one end pulls up out of the ground, and if the side connector on one side is actually a latch that can be pulled up so the section opens up? They may be rusted/stuck in place… Guess I’ve been spending a lot of time in chain-link fence surrounded playgrounds, ha! Hopefully it really does open- seems like it *should*!

    PS. I agree- save the tree if you can- it is in the perfect spot! Also, it doesn’t seem like it would hit the house if it did fall, so maybe keep it even if it isn’t in perfect health? It seems like house inspectors always want trees gone… We had a tree in not perfect health in front of our house, growing up, for many many years – it was perfect for climbing on!

  29. I thought, at first, when you introduced your new home that you two were slightly crazy … it just seemed all too much work. But seeing the outside I can see why. It’s wonderful. Now, regarding Mekko and the asphalt – it isn’t necessarily bad for your dog to run on asphalt … it’s like a “natural” emory board for the nails, keeping them short without effort. Of course, I fully understand wanting to get rid of most of it!

    • Yes, it’s definitely good for that! We’ve actually NEVER had to trim Mekko’s nails because of all the walking around on Brooklyn streets and sidewalks.

  30. I’m going to be a neggy Nelly on doing your own jackhammering. It’s a large space, and it sounds like you and Max are only up at the house a few days at a time. Jackhammering that much asphalt, while not technically difficult (wear good workboots and ear & eye protection!!) is going to take a while. That’s a while you could better spend on something more suited to your talents and desires. Hire a couple of day-laborers and contact a hauling company to get rid of the asphalt.

    Also, Deborah is completely right on the drainage: wait a year before you do anything major to the ground around the house. That’ll also give you the chance to see how the present landscaping, such as it is, looks through fall and spring. You’ll be able to make more informed decisions about where to pull things up and what to put in their places.

    If you *do* decide to rent a jackhammer and go for it, get (see above) good workboots that are meant for heavy labor, like Red Wings. You’d be surprised how much jittering and buffeting your feet take when you’re jackhammering.

    • “Hire a couple of day-laborers and contact a hauling company to get rid of the asphalt.”

      I second this suggestion! I’m usually keen on doing things myself, but in this case I don’t think it’s going to wind up being worth it — cost-wise or time-wise.

      Hire it out!!

  31. I happen to have an asphalt wasteland in my back yard. I haven’t mustered up the courage to do anything about it yet. I just wanted to second the person who said you will spend an arm and a leg disposing of it though. Anyone i know who has rented a dumpster has gone way above the weight limits. I swear, the weight limits they quote are if you fill it with feathers. We had one when we did a small demo and couldn’t believe we went over the limit. Just a thought for you in your budgeting.

    Oh, and it might be too fem but i think a royal purple would be gorgeous on the front door. I love the home,good Luck :)

  32. Surely there’s some sort of Hot Cops equivalent of jack hammer operators?

  33. I second your house being Greek Revival and think a black door would look gorgeous and be pretty historically accurate. I’m jealous of your purchase and all your projects ahead! Good luck!

  34. I’m going to echo all the previous commenters that recommended against ripping that asphalt up yourself, it’s more of a pain than you think. Also removal of the debris is a headache. There’s probably someone in town with a backhoe and a dumpster who could take care of the whole operation for a reasonable fee, leaving you with more time for fun things, like plotting out the gardens. If you do decide to tackle it, maybe you could throw a Hammerin’ Party and take turns? Good luck!

  35. Swoon! What a gorgeous house. You guys have so many great ideas, it’ll be fun seeing the process and so rewarding for you both. That doorknob is amazing. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before. Just curious what color do you think you’ll pick for the exterior once you get to it?
    P.S. Always a great post when you get to use the word janky!

    • I don’t know! Greek Revival houses were usually white originally, from what I understand, but I do think it would look nice in a very soft grey, like just dark enough for the moldings to stand out a little.

      • Paint can always be changed. I like the idea of doing a slight change-up from the traditional on the exterior!

  36. OH MY GOD! It is so beautiful! I’m from Australia and we don’t have houses like that at all…lovely lovely lovely gorgeous.

  37. A diamond in the rough! If anyone can make this baby shine it’s you! Love it! Hey, what a place to hold a special event! Just think a simple garden wedding taking place in the backyard with beautiful flowers, vintage globe Edison string lights …. (Wink) :)

  38. You Americans and your dryers! *lol* In Australia dryers are a middle class luxury for use when it’s raining. My mum and dad have one, but I don’t know anyone my age that owns one. Unit blocks have big commercial clotheslines out the back; and even the supremely fancy mansion I housesat once had drying lines down the side. Your surprise that line-drying really works makes me smile.

    Guess you get more rain (and snow!) than us. And I’m sure dryers are more common the high rainfall areas of Australia. Still, we just use inside racks when it’s raining.

    • yes I’m also from Australia, and we don’t share what seems to be the American taboo about line-drying. it costs nothing, it’s healthier (usually), and a dryer can still be used in bad weather; that’s the way we see it. we’ve got that wonderful invention, the Hill’s Hoist, to our name. many an Australian kid has swung from one of those…

    • I live in Switzerland which you know does have snow and rain and cold. I used the dryer maybe twice in my life, both times before going on holidays. Seriously, its a waste of energy and bad for your clothes.

    • I KNOW, I KNOW. I AM A FILTHY AMERICAN ADDICTED TO MY CONVENIENCES.

      In all seriousness, we’ve been enjoying the line drying, but the amount of times just over the last month that we haven’t been able to line-dry is getting annoying. Either it’s just REALLY humid, or it’s going to rain, or it is raining…it’s frustrating! I think we’ll definitely maintain the line as an option when the weather is good (it IS nicer, you’re right!), but I can’t really see just not having a dryer! I know that must seem ridiculous, but…well, Americans are kind of ridiculous.

  39. Wow, I am actually REALLY looking forward to following your blog over the next few years and vicariously getting involved in this restoration!!

  40. oh! it’s SO pretty!!

  41. Gorgeous! You’re going to make this place excellent!

  42. okay. I’ve just gone from very jealous to like, unbelievably uncontrollably over-the-top jealous. like… I kind of hate you now but obviously will keep reading to make sure you don’t ruin my house jealous.

  43. Seeing all this is exhausting. The upkeep and detailed maintenance of my prewar studio (!) is too much for me still! But I have hope that someday I’ll feel as competent as you, ready to take on something an order of magnitude larger. Either that, or you guys are totally fucked.

  44. Re: clothesline, you actually have a rural luxury there. Heat degrades the fibers in your clothing, so especially your knits and anything with lycra will last longer and stay in shape better. But basically everything does better on a line. If you tear through sheets every year or so, now you know why. Also, line-dried cotton sheets = next best thing to linen. Enjoy.

  45. Love your house and am excited to see what magic you and Max do with it. Out of curiosity, does the door on the front porch enter the house?

    • Yes! The door is just to the left of the front door when you walk into the entry. Right now it’s inside the “vestibule.”

  46. While a hand-operated jackhammer would work it wont be the most useful tool for removing asphalt, especially as much as you have. The key will be renting a skid-steer or something similar to get under the asphalt and pull it up, it remains surprisingly pliable. If you choose this option you can also get a skid-steer jackhammer attachment. Then just break it up into more manageable chunks and pull it up.

  47. Looks great! So much room! A tip on the doors- you can take them off and get them “dipped” to remove the paint-much faster and easier than tacking yourself! In Australia it’s under $100 so suspect it would be much cheaper in the states as most things seem to be!

    • Thanks, Kimba! I’m aware of dipping, but I’ve also heard it’s not the best thing for the wood. Also, then I’d have to be without front doors for however long it would take, which isn’t really great option.

  48. It’s beautiful! I’m looking forward to seeing how it is transformed. We moved into our 1870’s cottage last summer and reading your fantastic blog posts is keeping me motivated with our (quite slow) progress.

  49. What a beauty! This community is lucky to have you guys to make smart choices for this house. The feeling of sleeping in line dry sheets is unbeatable!

  50. What is it with mudrooms with tiny windows? My family’s house in RI is just the same way.

  51. Sorry to sound a discordant note, but you might want to rethink day lilies as you have the pups. Lilies are toxic and even the pollen can be toxic to dogs and cats.

    • Oh, thank you!! I actually never knew that. We had them growing up and always had dogs, and had no idea!

      • You’ll both be happy to learn that the ASPCA says that daylilies are toxic to cats, but NOT to dogs: http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants/day_lilies.aspx
        I think they’re a pretty good source for such info.
        Daylilies are a different family from other kinds of lilies, which ARE toxic to dogs.

      • You probably had daylilies, too.

        And they probably didn’t eat the daylilies because…oh, I don’t know.. there was grass to chew when they needed it, and they got fed everyday and weren’t exploring the yard for food sources.

  52. On a more positive note – it does look like a lovely house! I wish we had that much space around our house, but all we have is a fairly small back garden and a drive at the front where the car is parked. Our garden is absolutely crammed – my partner is a keen gardener and everything is very lush, to the point of becoming a bit like an obstacle course in summer as things overgrow the path. I can’t wait to see what you do with your place. And, btw, the entrance with its columned portico is just gorgeous. I love the tree too – I have a *thing* about Japanese Maples – and I really hope you can save it.

  53. Congratulations on your new home. I read every word and you are right on in your plans and ideas. A few comments a) thank god you are young, b) you are going to rock this, c) be patient with yourself and the house. I have renovated a couple. A key to survival is to be flexible and don’t agonize over every little decision. Trust your very good instincts. There will be days when Murphy’s Law appears in everything you touch. Step back, take a deep breath and know that it is temporary. Everyday, sit back and revel in your successes and practice gratitude. Ten years from now, you all will be 30 somethings in a fabulous home that you made happen. GO Daniel and Max! Bring on the learning.

  54. You should troll around some botanic gardens to get a feel for the kinds of plants that would be historically appropriate. I love a good rhododendron or azalea – do I see one in the front? :P

  55. Paul has it right; the tree in the backyard is a Japanese Maple. With a little bit of pruning the tree should last you for a while longer, barring any tree killing disasters! All those lilies and hostas can be split and planted around the yard as quick and easy landscaping until you have a plan in place. Also, i never had any trouble with my pets and lilies but keep an eye on the pups. Cool yard and awesome house!

  56. It’s so great!! To be honest, I especially love the left part out front. The height of the main part and the scale of the add-on balance each other very nicely.
    Any chance of keeping part of the asphalt intact for a swanky patio? I mean… not all of it. It’s crazytown. But… Outdoor dining!

  57. Uhmm…Pretty cute? Pardon my potty mouth but – Try unbelievably fucking AMAZING cute! It’s a god damm postcard! What a beautiful score! Is that considered Greek revival? Seriously- Register that baby on the movie locations list and make some coin on the side. What a gem.

    • That’s a good idea, haha!

      Potty mouth is always pardoned here, silly!

      And yes, I think it’s Greek Revival! It’s missing some of the characteristic aspects of the style, but I think it would still be considered greek revival.

  58. We moved into our ‘not been touched/ maintained for at least 70 years’ house 3 years ago this month. We are skint and tired did i say skint already? and a little bit crabby and halfway to the finish line but last weekend the sun finally shone and we opened up our recently completed extension doors and we had a magical moment where it was worth it. We were in the garden and yet at the same time in the extension and Buster was sunbathing on a pile of sheepskins on an eames footstool…..then I had to go back and finish stripping down the lounge window frames for repainting.
    The one sad note was that the 30ft ornamental cherry tree that should have been the focal point of our view and hiding us from the neighbours wasn’t there. It had always leaned a bit and the leaves seemed small but oh the blossom in March!
    I was on the train to London one morning this April and I got a text from my mum who was visiting ‘sorry to say the blossom trees fallen down’.
    ‘What?!! Send picture’ I replied. Thankfully it hadn’t taken the extension down along the way! When I got back that night there was an entire tree in my garden- it was totally rotten at the base -dry rot.
    But the good news my partner had bought me a chainsaw for my birthday-clearly he’d never forgotten the ‘frying pan’christmas present (it was Conran!) and it only took me 4 weekends to chop up log and store in the cellar. There are 52 in a year so that’s fine right?!

  59. Thanks for showing us your exterior! It helps me understand a lot more about your house, like how your bay windows are not aligned. I totally agree that your mudroom looks jinky, and I’m getting mixed messages from the rear of the house about the age of the kitchens: matching chimney, not matching cornices, Matching cornices on the former porch, which extends to the area, non-matching roofline and dormer treatment, intersection of roof angles at the bathroom… Also, that stair sure looks steeper than code, which makes me think it’s older than the 70’s paneling divisions inside. What an architectural mess back there!

  60. Looks great! Can’t wait to see the progress.

  61. That house is gorgeous and I can’t wait to see what you do with the place. Is it weird I’m totally excited? I’ve been following your blog for a while and you getting a house to fix up is sort of like one of my favorite book authors announcing a new multi-part novel series to come, lol. Also that black doorknob & lock is the most amazing thing.

  62. Love, love, love your house! I work for Virginia’s historic preservation office, so researching historic properties is part of what I do each day. Here are some things that should help.
    1. This book, American Vernacular Buildings and Interiors: 1870-1960 may help you name and date some of the fixtures.
    2. Contacting a university with a historic preservation or architeecture program and get yourself some interns for doing research or help in restoring parts of the house for school credit? Try Cornell, Columbia, and Pratt.
    3.Check with your state Preservation Office to see if tax credits or a preservation grant are options.
    4. Helpful document on doing research of historic homes.
    5. Last but not least: check to see if there is a file on your house already here.
    GOOD LUCK!!!

  63. I love the house exterior! Love the front doors and doorknob! Love the gardens – yes, you’ll have gardens someday! I see them in my (ok, your) mind’s eye. This is a beautiful almost lifetime house of work but going to be soooo worth it! I’m so glad to have found your blog and to be along for the ride!

  64. I say this house just won the lottery. To be neglected for so long only to be found by people who see her for what she is is fantastic! You’ve got this! I am excited to watch this all play out.

  65. No wonder you fell in love with the place! It’s gorgeous! So so so excited to see what you do with it!

  66. Holy Moly, what a fanastic piece of property–so glad you put up the exterior shots as well! (makes me feel like a creepy stalker to JUST now be commenting when I have been reading your blog since Dorm-days).

    Anyway.

    You mentioned ripping out all the asphalt:
    1) jackhammering asphalt is MUCH easier than concrete. Especially on a hot summer day :)
    2) Have you considered doing something like permeable/porous pavement for any part you decide you DO want to keep? (for example, grass porous paving? You can park on it, but it looks like grass and removes hydrocarbons & other pollutants from stormwater before it goes into the groundwater).

    Awesome project. Can’t wait to see more!!! Thanks, as always, for sharing

  67. Lovely, lovely, lovely. All of it.

    One note on the vinyl siding – it may have been done later than the 70s since aluminum was still widely used up to that point and vinyl didn’t really start taking off until late 70s/into the 80s. If there *is* any aluminum siding on the house, when you rip it off you can recycle it for some extra $$!

  68. The exterior really looks great. With the eave details and where it’s located I’d venture a guess at late 1870s to mid 1880s. It’s harder to tell since the old siding profile and window details aren’t visible. The yard has so much potential (front and back). I see lots of potential for rain water collection, pea gravel spaces for relaxing, and a whole lot of room for some raised square foot gardens.

    When you do eventually get to the siding, you’ll surely need to replace some boards here and there, as well as repair/replace places where the sils or lintels have been cut or otherwise removed from the house. We’ve had some great experiences using cypress as our siding. The natural oils/compounds in the cypress dry over time and make the siding very stable and resistent to rot. For the sils/lintels, try to resist the urge to correct or reproduce them using any type of pressure treated lumber. Instead, try to find a local salvage place where you can buy some reclaimed pine and use that instead. The pine along with a good quality and stretchable caulk (like Big Stretch caulk) will make for a long lasting and very water resistent seal. And finally, keep your eyes open for “Pump Jack Scaffolding.” If you see it listed on craigslist or in other places, get yourself some sets. It’s a small scaffold system that allows you to build scaffolding that is safe and secure using standard lumber. We used it when we did our siding years ago and it worked out great.

  69. HI Daniel,

    Welcome to Kingston! I am a cyber friend of Anna’s (although we have yet to meet in person, and I live right around the corner from her in Brooklyn!). I am glad to see more people moving to the area. I bought my old house in Kingston about 8 years ago, and we are still working on it! It never seems to end! I look forward to seeing what you do with the space. I enjoy reading your blog. Maybe one weekend I’ll run into you at the farmers market.

    Tess

  70. It’s darling! Oy…that concrete is no joke. How good is your back? Seriously though, might be worth hiring out. Concrete can be $$$$$ to “dispose of” since it’s so heavy so I’d try to break it up into usable pieces to either reuse yourself or sell/donate via Craigslist. People love free concrete! (After we jackhammered our paved planting strip we just piled up the pieces and put out a “free” sign and it was gone within a few days.) Our old backyard sidewalk was a good candidate for saw-cutting (and reusing as pavers) but not sure if would be feasible to sawcut that whole area. Plus, depending on how thick the slab is those pieces are going to be super heavy. I think each of our rectangular pavers are 600 lbs!

  71. the house is gorgeous, esp. the porch. I always told myself I’d never buy a house with vinyl siding…and then I did. I reeeealllyyy wanted to take it down and expose the original wood siding (1923 house) – I could tell what it looked like b/c there was some exposed in an enclosed vestibule (is that redundant?) at the back door, but I was afraid of what kind of condition it might be in. I told myself that if I stayed in the house long enough I’d do it; then I sold it after 7 years! in any event, you are wise to leave that hornet’s nest unstirred for now!

    also, NOT ONE DOG PHOTO IN THIS POST. not ok

  72. The door knob is beautiful. I’m so enjoying seeing all your projects! That “silly little garden” would have been a kitchen garden. Having herbs and lettuces growing right off the kitchen was pretty common; making it easy to grab as they were cooking. Wouldn’t it be great to go grab and few handfuls of fresh greens while you’re cooking? Looking forward to watching you put the life back into your home.

  73. The house I grew up in used to have a paved carport, when I was maybe 4 years old my mom took out the carport in the backyard by herself with a sledge hammer. I think she might have hired someone to help her carry it out. But if my 5’4 mom could do it with two little kids running around (while my dad was on a work trip… haha). Not saying you should do it, but you could for sure.

  74. Daniel, I hadn’t been to your blog in quite some time (over a few months, I think) but MY GOOOOOD am I superglad that I came back!?! How EXCITING! You guys bought a friggin HOUSE! The house looks absolutely WONDERFUL I am jittery to read all about it! This is gonna be GREAT. Lots of warm greetings from Belgium,
    Silke

  75. About the clothesline – if that tree does have to come down, or you want to have more space, you could get a rotary clothesline like we use in the UK: http://tinyurl.com/muadcaf

    I think they use them in Australia too. You sink a small metal tube into the ground and then you slot them in. They fold up, so you can take them down pretty easily when you aren’t using them and store them. And they spin around too obviously. I’ve never seen them used in the US, but perhaps there is a supplier out there somewhere?

    However – you really will need a dryer for the winter.

    • Yes, we might get something like that! They definitely sell them in the US——in fact I just saw them for sale at Home Depot!

  76. Daniel, you are a Renaissance man! I started reading your blog after reading an article you posted on someone else’s blog about cleaning your marble threshold. It inspired me (and prescribed the proper tools) to clean my bathtub, which I thought was un-cleanable because of tar stains from previous inhabitants of my home. They smoked so much that the old nickel plated light fixtures looked like brass when I moved in!

    So, as the Renaissance man, I want to see you running a jackhammer! I would fly out to see that! It’s fun- at least on concrete. But then again, the tractor idea is probably better. You could rent a Bobcat with the front-end loader and scrape up the asphalt like bad icing on dry cake.

    Thanks for sharing your progress.

  77. Love all the pics & info about the new house! Thanks so much for sharing!

    FYI- I’m 5’2″ tall & about 110 lbs & jack hammered a TON of cement in our backyard & a long walkway in our front yard. The hard part isn’t the actual jackhammering (which is pretty fun if you’re into demo). THE CLEAN UP IS THE BEAR. CHECK PRICES! We had to hire a guy to come out with a mini bulldozer & dumpster just to pick up the debris. Wish we had just gotten a price for ripping it out & removing it!

    & BE WARNED: EXPECT THE WORST! The backyard seemed to have NOT been done by a pro & was prob done at a later date cause it was pretty easy to tear out compared to the front yard path which was done by a pro in the 70’s when the additional was built.

    NEVER THE LESS I did both areas by myself in about 2-3 days in my late 20’s… 10yrs later… I would def check the cost diff.

    Hope this helps! It completely transformed our front & back yard.
    Cement SUCKS!
    X

  78. I cannot get over how generous people are with their help and expertise. I have learned so much here. This is such a great blog. Thanks Daniel.

  79. This is a great house! I love the exterior and it looks to be in very good shape. Very nice!

  80. And…even though I’m usually not a fan of vinyl siding – wow – whoever installed this siding did a really good job. They managed not to mess with any of the great details of this house. And it is white which is so good. I think the front doors would be outstanding stripped of paint and stained. The ceiling of the entrance would be lovely in a traditional pale blue – old wives tale – this is supposed to keep out any “haints”.

  81. Hosta were a good choice for a rental. They require absolutely no care.

    Let me put in a suggestion for lilacs somewhere on the property. To me, every greek revival needs a lilac!

  82. Gentlemen; Great house. If you notice the windows in the living room that open onto the front porch, go all the way to the floor. The sashes are in three sections. I suspect that you can push all three sashes up and use the windows for doors during the lavish parties that I know that you will host once you get things organized. Cheers!

    • Thanks, John! The sashes are actually in two sections (6 over 9), it just looks like 3 from the outside because of the storm window things (which are actually just plexi panels).

  83. This is my favorite ‘tour’ so far! The outside is so amazing, so beautiful and welcoming from the front, and what a great amount of space to work with. I agree with the herb and veggie garden- and you have enough room to potentially expand your growing room a couple of years down the road. With that little space between the garage and driveaway you could even have a little half greenhouse to start your veggie seeds in! (Can you tell i’ve got gardening on the brain this summer?) Can’t wait to see what you do with the outside!

  84. I am no gardener, but I just learned today that pokeweed is very common in overgrown yards. It is HIGHLY poisonous to dogs. Keep an eye out for it in your yard!

  85. Our 1840’s house had a kitchen extension added to the back in the 1880’s and a second floor above that extension in the 1970’s. They did a pretty good job of tying everything together but we found clues to help us determine what was added when. Inside kitchens and bathrooms and closets were later additions in many very old houses. We also had a couple of concrete pads removed by a backhoe. We let someone else do that job!
    Anyway, your house is beautiful and I know it will be torturous for you to have to exercise restraint on the project prioritizing. You chose well and I wish you both much success. If your previous projects are any indication this ride will be fun (vicariously) for all of us followers.

  86. Maybe this has already been addressed: On the side of the house that has the laundry, the foundation stone toward the front part of the house matches the foundation around the front. And the moulding under the roof soffit of the laundry (roof) appears to match the original mouldings on the house. The pic of that side of the house gives me déjà vu every time I look at it. I’ve seen the lines of your house somewhere, maybe in its “original” condition(?). It’s driving me nuts.

  87. Durn,something else: If there is a cellar, it may to give away some of the original foundation secrets. Also, the attic may have some signatures and dates put on the unfinished ceiling by the carpenters while the house was being built. Looks for the same kind of things on cellar beams and closets Also, there are dates stamped inside toilet tanks that can give away when plumbing was installed, although original toilets may have been replaced over the years.

  88. Your home is going to be beautiful! Thanks for sharing! You made me wish I blogged during our remodel!

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