Mudroom-B-Gone!

So, remember the ongoing saga regarding that weird room on the back of my house that I wanted to disappear? For SOME REASON (delusion, lack of forethought, unwarranted optimism…same shit, different post) making an entire addition on the back of a house just go away is more work than I gave it credit for, particularly when no bulldozers are involved. Imagine that.

So last time we talked about how I’d already gut the interior and removed the vinyl siding from the exterior and was gearing up for the full demolition. I could have probably saved quite a bit of work and time by renting a dumpster and disregarding the fact that there were any salvageable materials here, but that would be so…sensible and unlike me. #liveauthentic

backofhousewithvinyl

backofhouseaftervinylremoval

Demo actually kicked off with opening an even bigger can of worms and removing the vinyl siding from the entire back wall of the house. The interior space of the mudroom (soon to be exterior space!) didn’t have vinyl, so this seemed like a logical step. It’s not a HUGE wall, so this’ll also be a good testing ground for restoring the clapboard and removing more and more of the vinyl down the line.

This may be interesting to only me, but I swear it’s slightly important. See how in the before picture, the vinyl goes all the way up to the base of the cornice, but underneath it is actually a pretty substantial flat board that runs perpendicular-ish to the clapboard? What do we call that? I don’t think it qualifies as a fascia, but anyway…it’s something and it’s created endless hemming and hawing over what to do with the back of the house. My guess is that this second floor space was built as an unfinished attic and there weren’t doors or windows up here at all. Later on, the space was finished and that little casement window and that door were cut in and installed. To me they look funny and wrong with the corners cutting into the…fascia?…board like that, right? Like they shouldn’t be there. I’m not as anal about the back of the house as I am about the two street-facing sides, but I do want it to look nice and not weird. Now I’m wondering if the best option is to replace the door and window with two pretty narrow and slightly lower matching windows that won’t interfere with the original trim and cornice like what’s happening now. I don’t even know. Obviously it would be ideal to decide, order the windows, install them, and THEN go through the hassle of fixing up the clapboard, but given that it’s already September and I can’t make up my mind, that probably won’t happen.

beadboardceiling2

Anyway! Mudroom demo! That’s what we’re talking about here! Demolishing this room started with removing the roof. It was an old metal roof covered in layers of tar, but still leaked in spite of that. All in all, it came off pretty easily (and the scrapyard still took it, even with the tar!). We had to remove a piece of clapboard on the house because the roofing ran up under it, so that’s something I really have to fix stat.

Removing the roofing revealed that the beadboard ceiling below it was actually in much better shape than I expected! This roof was VERY leaky so I expected a ton of rot and water damage but it was in really good condition. YAY!

mudroom-roof-demo

Starting at the front of the space, a helper and I removed the boards one by one from the original 2×4 roof framing. It took a little patience to get the boards up intact, but I think we had them all up, de-nailed, and stacked nicely within about an hour.

beadboardceiling

Boom! Hellllo, first floor bathroom ceiling! The first floor bathroom used to be a very small porch, but that beadboard wasn’t really salvageable during demo so I’m glad this was. Dimensionally I think it’s the same (or close to it) but the boards themselves are a bit thicker. I like the idea of putting a wide-plank beadboard ceiling back in there as a nod to what the space was originally.

mudroom-demo5

Removing the clapboard took quite a bit longer. I might have gone a little overboard, but wood clapboard like this is quite different than what’s readily available nowadays, so I just decided to hold onto EVERYTHING that wasn’t rotted in the hopes that my stockpile will save me if/when I have to patch in missing or rotted boards on other areas of the exterior down the line. They’re all piled neatly in my basement, like you might find in the home of someone who has truly lost all grip on reality.

Sometimes they whisper to me.

mudroomdemo5

So, uh…this looks insane. I don’t know. Exciting-insane but also just insane-insane. Just a little paint, right?

backofhousebefore

For reference, here’s that same-ish angle from when I first bought the house. I know, it’s just like one of those Spot the Difference! games where you really have to hunt around.

(it’s the plants.)

backofhousefullfrontal

So, that’s pretty much what the back of my house looks like now. Peeling paint and missing clapboard and utter shambles and complete craziness. I know, but you have GOT to get your jealousy under control. I can feel it from here and it’s making me uncomfortable.

mekkoondeck

I left the floorboards and framing underneath in place for the time being so that the back door doesn’t open out onto a few-foot drop, but that’s going to go soon, too. Mekko doesn’t understand the difference between this and a back porch, so she thinks we’re living in major luxury. Little does she realize this will soon also disappear and everything will be awful again. Living with me is way fun.

You may or may not be curious what the current plans are for the covered back porch that was supposed to be happening this summer, and the answer is no way, no how. The backyard ate up more money than I realized it would and I have less money than I thought I would so that project is getting shelved hopefully for next spring/summer, which I think is actually a good thing. I don’t have to TOTALLY freak out about the back of the house—patch in some clapboard, strip/scrape, prime, paint, ya know—but I have a second now to reevaluate what I want back here and hammer out the details and all that before embarking on a semi-major construction project. I like most of the original plan, but I’m already thinking I’ll probably nix the second floor balcony concept and scale down the first floor part a little to bring it into better proportion with the house—like big enough for an outdoor dining table and a couple chairs, that kind of thing.

kitchenwithlight!

Oh! One of the majorly super exciting things about this whole mudroom disappearing act? The amount of LIGHT it brought into the kitchen! This kind of stuff is hard to convey in pictures (you can go look at the original kitchen reveal here), but it makes a huge, huge difference in real life. The eventual plan is to someday probably enlarge the window that’s currently over the sink as well as add two additional windows in the kitchen, but until then, seeing the light stream in from the door that goes to the used-to-be-mudroom is so nice. When you’ve spent two years seeing a dark brown abyss through that door and having a kitchen without a lot of natural light, this is awesome.


89 Comments

  1. Daniel, you’re not a hoarder–you’re a genius and a preservationist for saving all that material. It will all come in handy someday, saving you money and providing an authentic look to future renovations. Your blog is my favorite.
    Diane

    • Ha! That’s the kind of thinking that got me into this mess!! I’m sort of a compulsive scrap/salvaged wood saver, but I really do dig into it ALL the time, so it validates the hoard in a way that’s probably…not ideal. Ha! I think my new goal is to never buy wood again. Wait till you see the garage!

      (and thank you!!)

      • Also, the thickness of the wood has changed since that was installed. You will spend the rest of your life shimming out all the new pieces that you are using to patch the old if you don’t stash this stuff. Ask me how I know (and my house is only from the 50’s!).

      • Yes, absolutely! The siding on my house is so different than what you can buy stock anymore! I’m sure I could still get something comparable or mill down 1x lumber or something, but hopefully I’ll never have to deal with that because I’m so anal about keeping it all!

    • It’s not hoarding if you have an idea of how you want to use what you’re saving! At least that’s what I tell myself… ;)

  2. Whoa, what a difference in the kitchen light!

    I really liked the ‘balcony off the (at some point) master bedroom’ idea, but if the door is going, then I agree that matching smaller windows would look very nice. Right now, it’s a hot mess, true. But I trust your vision for the space.

    • It’s such a conundrum! I guess I feel like the door looks really awkward now that the vinyl is gone, and honestly I haven’t really found any examples of open second-floor balconies like what I was planning on old (particularly Greek Revival) houses—they always seem to be covered with more columns up top, but that’s just not an option here. I think it’s a dream I just have to abandon! It certainly would make the construction simpler and less costly, too…

  3. Re: second floor balcony – I distinctly remember seeing an episode of This Old House where the people fought the plan and worked very hard to get a second floor balcony. In the end, it was flooded with light and…wait for it…WAY TOO HOT to use ever. Granted, they were in Texas, but still.

    Also, I LOVE natural light in the kitchen. Enjoy that!

    • Ha! I can actually see that happening here, aside from maybe looking weird. This area gets a LOT of direct sun in the morning so an uncovered balcony might not really get much use, which would be a huge shame!

  4. Wow, fabulous! And I would totally put two new windows in place of that door and odd window. More natural light, plus a view out the back. A house can never have too many windows. Within reason.

  5. I have second-hand anxiety looking at these pictures. Especially that bit where you talk about the money, which you rarely do.

    Is that the laundry room behind the wall to the left of your kitchen door (from the inside view)?

    xx

  6. Yes! Totally go for your “two smaller, lower windows” plan for the second floor (uh, in my opinion, not to boss you around or anything…). Also, you are hilarious. Also also, the light streaming into the kitchen looks amazing!!

  7. I’m sure when this is done I will be amazed as always by your vision and resourcefulness. Right now I’m just… dafuq? I don’t understand you, but I love you.

    • Ha! You and everyone else. I’m glad I have patient neighbors because I’m sure they all think I’m just destroying this place!

  8. I think demolition is exciting. I vote for a second floor balcony and leave the door and window holes as is. I think they add a quirky charm to the back of the house. Can’t wait to see how you fix up this hot mess.

  9. Any chance the second floor windows were moved from the center to accommodate the installation of the door. Sorry – I can’t remember what is going on inside there plan-wise. Maybe the door was added later, and the existing window was just reused in a new location – you could easily tell if the wall was opened up there. Even on the back of these houses you don’t see that kind of oversight / overlap! Do you have to keep the door there?

    • I totally see what you’re saying, but there’s a big chimney in the middle of that wall! That’s part of what makes it so weird and hard to figure out what to do! Maybe there were those little teeny quarter-round windows on either side of the chimney originally? Maybe opening up the interior of the wall will lend some clues. Huh.

      • Dude. I missed the chimney completely. Interesting. The plot thickens. Can’t wait for the forensics.

  10. Just reread it, and you mention getting rid of the door, so ignore my question above. I still think that window might be original and just shifted over – I think it would look great moved back to center. (Attics typically did have some wort of ventilation.) Lowering head heights is trickier – you’d have to lower them a lot to miss that fascia (and fascia is the correct word). Exciting progress. I remember these days of gutting and overwhelming to-do lists. Deep breaths.

  11. I really admire your continuing demolition energy!

    Your mystery trim boards are a rake frieze (85% sure about that anyway). Also if you’re getting rid of the door, one nice-sized centered window would be lovely, probably.

    • Ah-hah! Thank you, Erin! We’ll go with rake frieze, then! :)

      Unfortunately there’s no way to do a centered window without demolishing that chimney! I shoulda mentioned that. Otherwise, I agree!

      • Well drat. I bet there weren’t any windows there originally then, but you could make two tiny ones work! Or maybe a funny trap door through the chimney! Sure, why not…

  12. No lie, I hyperventilated and had to take a minute looking at the back of the house. I SWEAR IT WAS SYMPATHY. Nevertheless I am sure it will be awesome–the light in the kitchen alone is worth the ridiculous pain.

  13. I love your blog. I enjoy reading along as you undertake all of these projects in your own home as well as others. How is the cottage by the way? Should you decide to keep the master balcony after all, it does sound lovely, would you consider centering a pair of slim French doors on that wall? They might look better than what is there now and will let in plenty of light.

    • Thank you, J! I should have mentioned in the post, but there’s a chimney that runs up the center of that wall, so short of demolishing it there’s know way to add anything in the middle (which I can definitely see looking nice!). I think the balcony is just not meant to be, here…ah well.

  14. Isn’t it funny how when restoring an old home, it seems like one spends more time ripping out and removing some else’s idea of an “improvement”… and somehow those are the projects that seem to make the most difference. Yes, the back of the house looks a little cray cray right now, but it looks much better than it did before with the dilapidated and not period correct mudroom addition and stairs. AND it will look absolutely FANTASTIC after wood repair and paint!

    • Thank you, Jen! Yes…always about peeling back layers of work done over the years. I have faith that the back of the house will look good someday—thank you for the vote of confidence!! :)

  15. Oh this is the best, most timely post. I love seeing that mushroom gone (what a difference!) but I’m obsessing over your clapboard. My husband and I are SMACK in the middle of removing our vinyl and giving new life to our original siding. The thing I didn’t expect when we were taking things off was all of the trim that was covered up. Like, massive amounts of beautiful detailing along side some lightly horrific window gutting to which were oblivious before hand. Our neighbors (and tenant) aren’t exactly thrilled or understanding on why we would get rid of perfectly good siding (ugh), but we couldn’t be happier. It’s like my house is finally naked and I can see her history so clearly. It’s the most gratifying, though difficult (see the Health Department getting involved and some major health scares), renovation projects we’be experienced so far.

  16. Yards eat up all the money. It does look better. Just a little scarred from all the jumble of the mudroom, but that will disappear when you paint. I do think that the asymmetry of the door and window might be a lot more noticeable now that the mudroom is gone. A second floor balcony would be lovely, but I think the two narrow windows would be loveliest.

    • Thanks, Laura! It’s amazing how much $$ landscaping and stuff eats up!! I thought I’d be better off budget-wise because Lowe’s stepped in to sponsor some big-ticket things for me (achem, fence!), but somehow I’ve still managed to spend the majority of the house renovation fund this summer! Getting at least the foundation for the yard in place before winter hits feels important and like a big accomplishment, though, so soon I’ll be back on the paint-and-joint-compound diet plan. Ah well.

  17. This. Is. Terrifying. Actually gasped a little at that photo of the back. You’ll have plenty of time to repair that board and prep the surface and paint the house before winter comes…right? Right? Reassure me here, I’m freaking out on your behalf.

  18. It looks a bit of a hot mess right now, but paint will work wonders :) Your idea of two tall windows sounds really nice, but one window centered would be equally nice. Love how ambitious you are, and the results are always worth it, so keep on truckin. How is the cottage doing lately? I know you needed to take paying jobs to keep on going, and I’m just wondering if you have been able to do any more work on that?

    • Thanks, Jeanna! I really should have written in the post that there’s a big chimney on that wall, so big window isn’t really an option! I’ll figure out how to work it…:)

      The cottage is…OK. This summer got crazy derailed between Olivebridge (it was supposed to be an 8 week job that is now at almost 5 months—that house is a horror show!) and trying to get this stuff done on this house while the weather holds, so unfortunately it hasn’t gotten a ton of attention. I’ll be back in there very soon, though…it’s mostly just been maintenance, trying to wrap up a few boring loose ends with the exterior, and prepping inside for the next phase of work. Kinda snore-worthy blog content but maybe I should post a little update. :)

    • Oops, sorry I hadn’t read the comments, and didn’t realize there was a chimney there. What ever you end up doing will look great, I’m sure :)

  19. Great Job! I’ve always envisioned that if it were my house I’d open up and/or remove some of the additions since the very first photos I saw of the place.
    Refresh my memory… is the Chimney that is behind the centre of that wall still used for your new boiler system or is it now abandoned?
    If the Chimney is done, I’d plan to take it down so that in the master on the second floor you’d have a two window set of casements that were Italianate in style (long, narrow) that would be centred (rather than a big window that wouldn’t match the style of the house). Then when you get to replacing the kitchen many years down the road you can take it down the rest of the way, claim back the kitchen space and adjust the door and window positions on that floor as needed to make it symmetrical and pleasing proportionally.

    I like the increased light in the kitchen a lot.

    • Me too! Mudroom first, then the addition on the side. I think it’ll work wonders for the curb appeal and bring more natural light into the inside and just make everything better.

      The chimney doesn’t actually do anything, no…but I’m not sure how I feel about losing it, either! I actually already took the chimney out of the main section of the house (structural hazard, causing roof issues, non-functional, etc), but I gotta say it still makes me sort of sad! It was pretty, and I feel like losing this one too would be a shame…but I definitely see the potential benefit. Hmmmm.

  20. Something tells me that every time you walk into the kitchen now, a smile comes over your face with all the added light. So, totally worth all of the extra work. :)

  21. I totally laughed at the spot the difference/plant joke. High five for silly jokes :)

  22. This looks really exciting, but I have to ask, what is going on with Bluestone Cottage?

  23. OMG. I love you so much — all the way from Philly! This post made my day and gives me courage to continue to tackle my rowhome reno.

  24. For all of its clapboard-y, peel-paint-y, mismatch-y glory, I find it still looks less insane than it did with those exterior stairs. So that’s something? I’m looking for the silver lining here. But am 100% sure it will be amazing once you’re done!

  25. Ahhh, I love it. Super-jealous. ;)

    But no, really, I can visualize how awesome it’s gonna be down the line. And my vote is for keeping the luxe second floor porch! First of all, I don’t think most people realize how much they prefer a roof over their head outside until they don’t have one. And second, I know you wanna be historically accurate & all, but how about getting a French-style wide sliding glass door on the second floor and centering it? Then it wouldn’t cut into the fascia, it’d bring a friggin’ ton of light into your room right there, and it’d add a nice view once you added seating and a potted plant or two. Plus, with sliding doors, you wouldn’t have to worry about the doors eating up your floor space. I know people like to knock them for being tacky, but Pella has some really nice stuff, plus you can get them with shades between the glass, so your privacy would be dog-proofed when the shades were down.

    Anyway, that’s what I’d do. Sometimes I’ve just gotta go for the luxe option over strict historical accuracy.

  26. “Sometimes they whisper to me.”
    Daniel Kanter, I officially love you!

  27. This does not freak me ot at all, I think it’s super exciting tbh!! Can’t wait to see how things evolve.

  28. Looking at the existing window, it feels like the original size might have been half of it, and the position the right half of what it is now. There could have been a second one mirroring it, and both would’ve lined up nicely on their outside with the inside lines of the window and door below. They’d also be nice and symmetrical. Now that you mentioned there being a chimney in the middle, that also makes sense with what’s given on the inside.

    Using that position and width, I’d probably go with either the height of the window as it is now, or do a lot longer in a way that best works with the other dimensions of the back side (meaning, PS-mockups until my eyes bleed ;) ).

    I adore what you’re doing with the house, and I’d be just as …diligent… with removing old materials. I dream of having my own house to work on one day, right now I put a lot of work in a worn-down flat in a really old house as a renter. At least renters in Germany can do more stuff than what I see American ones frequently lamenting, but I still wish I could do more, and could take my work with me once I leave. Some day… until then, I live vicariously through people like you. Keep it up (she said, totally selflessly)!

  29. WOW, what a HUGE change that mudroom demolition makes.. even with the green paint and the other stuff that needs fixing… SO much better for the back of the house.

    as for the upstairs porch… i am firmly in the camp to do it .. you can put a lovely umbrella up there to shield from the sun – and perhaps you would sit up there more in the evening than the morning? i just think the idea of a porch with some pots of flowers and a chaise lounge perhaps? right off your master bedroom suite – sounds so dreamy and perfect for lounging with a book and a drink .

    however if its hard to make the design work with the rest of the house – i can see that may be a problem… i dont know architectural style for that period – but on the other hand it is in the back of the house …

    anyway,now you have a nice long winter to plan and research.

    That light pouring into the kitchen is great!

    • I keep thinking of the tall wrought iron balconies in the French Quarter… i know that wrought iron would be prohibitively expensive (i imagine) but the idea of tall columns = maybe that would work for the style?

  30. I think that this is real progress. You never liked that mudroom, so BAM it is now gone. Can’t you just leave the supports and floor of the mudroom up all winter? Early spring, you can drag a yard chair out there, sit down and study the view (and enjoy the sun). I’m glad you scrapped the second floor porch. A simple deck would be fine.

  31. I think a post that copies your very first walkthrough (with pictures from the exact same positions) would be outstanding. I pretty sure that seeing all the reno at once would be inspiring. Just a thought!

  32. oh Mekko, so adorable! she looks beautiful and dignified even with the torn-up back of house as a backdrop. so impressed with your energy, vision and mad renovation skillz

  33. This is great! But what a large room it was. I didn’t realize it until I saw it down to the last framing. I’m with you on saving what wood you can. From my desk at work I watched a 19th century building that was missing it’s rear wall get rebuilt by a design firm some years back. Someone went over every board in the siding, cutting out the rotten wood and piecing in bits from other places on the building so the street sides are beautifully restored. (The rear wall is steel and glass.) You’ll have the last laugh, Daniel. And thanks for making me laugh, too. Hope if New York has tax credits for historic restoration that you take advantage of them.

  34. I am glad that the mudroom is gone–the light is wonderful. I hope you will be able to have a balcony if you want one–but, me, I’d have DH make me a couple of stained-glass windows in an appropriate style and then insert them on the back of the house–a smallish one on either side. Or, I might take down the non-functional chimney and do something in the center. But, yes, probably I would ask for stained-glass window(s). I’d have to cough up several angel food cakes, some caramel corn, and french-fried mozzarella cheese (he’s a carb hound)–but I would ask.

    Mekko looks like she is having fun–I am glad she likes her faux porch, however temporarily.

  35. You are amazing. The changes you’ve made to the house are incredible. I have to say that I look at the Foundation and shudder. I’m in the Bay Area land of Earthquakes. I guess you don’t have them in Kingston-unless they’ve decided to do some serious Fracking around there.

  36. I wish you would get rid of the chimney – since it’s not doing anything but being original and getting in the way of future floor plans and windows in the kitchen and the master bedroom. Whether you just make a covered back porch or go for the luxe balcony off the master, losing the chimney makes sense. I hope you don’t feel you have to make everything completely match the original style of the house, or retain the chimney because it is original. I guess I might feel guilty getting rid of original features, but I’d let that go for the sake of a more cohesive design.

  37. Oh, and I just assumed that you were keeping the chimney for budget considerations. Which I completely understand.

  38. “To me they look funny and wrong with the corners cutting into the…fascia?…board like that, right?”

    Daniel, I totally agree with you. Your house has such fancy-pants guttering and cornicing that it looks totally crude (not to mention ignorant and disrespectful) to have cut into it for that window and door. I would replace them with two small windows and forget about the balcony.
    Love the light in the kitchen and I’m sure none of your readers think you are nuts for saving all you can from the demo.
    Looking forward to hearing anything about Bluestone cottage, no matter how uninteresting you may think it is.

  39. What a relief to have that mudroom gone! The house already looks better, as if it can breathe again – even in its current rough state.

    Why not leave the floor as a deck area? That much of it is a part of the old house. I can’t quite visualize what it would look like, but it seems like it would be a great hang-out place for you and the dogs.

    Also, the chimney – is it in use? Because it’s not that hard to remove a chimney, impossible as it sounds.

  40. bravo! forward progress is always a celebration!!!

  41. I love love these posts. They give me a strange sort of satisfaction. I guess I just love seeing this house come back to its original design. But questions always creep into my mind when you make exterior changes. Do you have a relationship with your neighbors? Do they comment? Are they excited about the changes/pending changes? Don’t care? Complain? Based upon what you shared awhile ago about the house being vacant for awhile and someone dying in the home, I was always curious about if the neighbors are happy to see some love being brought back in.

    • Yes, they’re very happy! I have great neighbors. The house was vacant for a while and not particularly well cared-for for years before that, so people have been very, very complimentary and happy to see the house getting some love, even at my admittedly sort of slow DIY pace. :)

  42. If you’re nixing the second floor balcony and pulling the window framing out anyways, couldn’t you put in a large centered window? It might not be entirely accurate to the homes original build, but with the correct caseing and scale a large window could provide an enormous amount of light and become a great architectural feature to your home.

  43. Hi Daniel, you are a fantastic writer. Love this blog so much. My 2 cents on the second-floor balcony – we built one which is accessed through our master bedroom. Seemed like a great idea and looks nice from our backyard! We have used it maybe 6 times in 10 years. YMMV of course; I have a friend whose second-story deck is accessed from her master BATH and she uses it all the time and has no problem escorting others out there too. Maybe if our bedroom were neater we’d have wanted to use it!

    • That’s interesting, Elise! I do wonder how much I’d actually use it, definitely, if I were to build it. I already HAVE a front porch that’s totally nice, and honestly I don’t really find myself out there all that often…and it’s relatively spacious and covered, which the second floor balcony thing would not be. I think I’d be more gung-ho about it if there was a really spectacular mountain view or something, but there isn’t…I think this just isn’t the place for it, really, especially knowing what I know now about the original trim and stuff on the house! And yes…I can’t really imagine wanting to lead people through my bedroom to go out there, especially with a perfectly good porch off the kitchen (and another one in the front!) downstairs.

  44. Absolutely, 100%, certainly, yes, keep everything! I can’t tell you how handy even the smallest old growth items have come in handy on my projects. We’re even talking 3″ long pieces of lumber that pretty much anyone would have thrown away. Sure, it may make you into a minor hoarder, but who’ll be the one laughing from behind their giant pile of shit when hey have to replace a busted clapboard? The forward thinking hoarder, that’s who. Anyhow, I can see your vision and how awesome it all looks. For the upstairs door and window, what about taking both the door and window out, then centering a modest Palladian window, or maybe a similar look with a triangular window replacing the Palladian arch to mimic the roofline?

  45. I must say, even though the wall does look busted up, it looks a lot less freakish with that mudroom and that horror of a staircase gone. But oh my, that door and window placement! Are they symmetrical, are they the same width? I really can’t tell. You are absolutely right, the door and window cutting into the frieze looks wrong, but what is your objective here? Do you want to patch up the situation for now and return to it later or do it exactly right, right now? If you’re not doing the balcony-thing, does the room need those windows at all? I seem to remember, you want to rip up the entire room there anyway, maybe that wall is the right place for a built-in wardrobe or closet? I’ve stared a while at that picture of the wall and really can’t think, what would look right on that upstairs wall. What do comparative houses have in a place like this? Your house has a centered half-round window in the front, doesn’t it?

    As a European, I’m really curious – how thin is that vinyl siding? Was there any insulation underneath it at all? How can that flimsy shit have any positive effect on insulation anyway? In the pictures the wooden siding looks all right. Did you encounter any of the rot, you feared would be there?

    I know, I’ve rained on your upstairs balcony idea before, and I know, you have this charming idea of stepping out with your coffee in the morning directly to survey your empire, and I do admit to doing exactly that myself, and I really enjoy it – however – it does seem a very apartment thing to do, to do it directly from the bedroom, doesn’t it? I still think you should get your ass into your gorgeous and gigantic kitchen in the morning to make the coffee there and take it to one of your existing porches, Mr. Homeowner! I don’t mean to sound snarky, it’s just, you have all that space, use it, live expansively!

    • The vinyl siding is not meant to be insulation or have insulating properties. In general, here in the US people covered their house in vinyl siding in order to avoid having to paint periodically (it was sold as a maintenance-free upgrade). That being said, it is still vinyl and I used to have melted portions where the sun was too hot on it, as well as the fact that it can’t withstand hail.

  46. That’s some good looking natural light coming in the kitchen. It’s amazing, the little things. They can go such a long way—daily—in improving your goodwill toward the headache that often is home renovation. For the mess that you’re left with, it’s still part of the process and one step closer to completion! Keep it up, yo!

  47. Congratulations! That looks amazing. The light is a HUGE difference, and the exterior looks a billion times better. Love it, and great work! : )

  48. Wow, I didn’t realize until I revisited the kitchen reveal post that I could miss a house! Its so exciting to see this update. Some people find that mishmash back view terrifying, but I find it deeply, deeply satisfying. I’m casting my vote for an upper back deck, for what its worth – even if its a narrow one. There is nothing more divine than starting the day by drinking a coffee and looking out over the city (or yard, or neighbourhood)!

  49. Oh Daniel. I’m so jelly. Altho quietly slightly anxious that someone’s going to open that door. Otherwise, as usual I’m seeing your vision and see greatness in the near future. I vote no deck upstairs… Keep it clean and simple and bring in the light. Worshipping.. Xx

    • Ha! Luckily (or unluckily?) that door has been locked since before I bought the house, and I don’t have the key! :)

  50. Go for the two pretty narrow windows I say. You’re always spot on with your ideas. The light into the kitchen looks fantastic and so happy! Also, I’m really excited to see the beadboard on the bathroom ceiling when that comes around – fine idea sir. Love reading your blog and learning along the way. You’re a gem.

  51. “Helper”, huh?

    • A hired helper? A dude from around the hood who wanted to make a few bucks by helping me wreck stuff? #singlelife

  52. Geez … it did turn into a saga, but the LIGHT in that kitchen looks fantastic. Well worth the effort, and I can picture a great back deck out there ;-)

  53. So, it isn’t clear how to fenestrate the back wall of your house, as the back part was clearly an addition at some point. I would consider not only how the fenestration looks from the exterior, but also how it looks from the interior based on how you use those rooms. I hear you talking about more windows in the kitchen, but not about how you will arrange a bedroom upstairs.

    I lived in a house or two that had an uncovered balcony (over the addition below, which was an enclosed porch) and we never used those balconies at all, except to shake small rugs and dust mops from. l always thought it was odd to have an exterior door in my bedroom (much the way I feel about having an exterior door open directly onto to a living room now) – it’s just not a cozy feeling. But those upstairs porches weren’t set up for lounging on like a deck (one didn’t evan have a railing if I recall correctly, so was not a place to hang out on.) I kind of agree with the person above who said you will more likely make coffee in your kitchen and go outside from there. I agree that balconies off bedrooms are more an apartment/condo/hotel room sort of thing, not something one would necessarily use in a house – unless of course you made this upstairs room a guest room suite – guests might lounge. (I don’t see you lounging up there – you’ll have too much work to do on the house!)

    The one way I could see using an upstairs porch is as a screened in sleeping porch for hot summer nights – I love seeing them on old houses – but they tend to be on craftsman and related styles of homes – I’m not sure how one would do one on a house of this style – but it is something to think about if the idea appeals to you. I’ve also seen them done as sunrooms instead, with windows all around along the upper portion of the walls, that open, but can also be closed, so as to be useful year ’round (or in three seasons depending if heat was added) – they make really nice studies with bookshelves and plants and sometimes wood paneling, with cozy leather chairs and an old wood desk. Or music, meditation, or floor exercise rooms. Again, not sure if or how one could make such a room on top of a porch look good on this sort of house. I’m sure there’d be a way if one wanted, though that’s a more major building project than a porch.

    As to the chimney – I do notice that in your sketch-up of the exterior of your back porch and balcony, you neglected to draw in the chimney. I think you were onto something with this. Sure, it looks pretty, but without a function, I think it will have to go. You’ve created a workable kitchen around it now, but looking at the interior photos of the upstairs room, there’s no way that room will ever make any sense with the chimney bump-out there. Someone suggested you might want a row of closets or wardrobes along that back wall, which would disguise the chimney bump out, but you do need windows on the outside for it to look right. Fake shuttered ones? – I think not here. More light and views in the room is always better.

    So, think about how you want to set up the inside of the bedroom before you decide on how to put windows up there. I used to never put a bed in front of windows (too many years of living in rundown places with drafty windows where it was cold and windy in the winter), but then I discovered that putting a bed in front of reasonably sealed windows is great, as you can read in bed in the morning with natural light streaming in over yoru shoulders – which is really, really nice. Whether you are reading or whatever. And they don’t need to be tall windows – windows higher up on the wall, even one on each side, not a horizontal one across the top of the bed, work just fine. The key is going to be able to get the downstairs windows looking right with the upstairs windows from the exterior, with them both working for the functional use of the rooms inside.

    But I think the chimney is going to go. Sure it is pretty, but it has no function. What was it added for? Does the basement extend under this addition in the back – and was this chimney used to vent a heating system? Or was it installed to create hearths when the back was added for the kitchen(s) stoves, whatever sort of stoves they were? Just curious.

    Another curious question. The first floor kitchen cupboards look familiar to me. Is it possible they are from the 30s when this addition was added? Is there a manufacturer’s stamp in side the cupboards, say on the inside of a drawer? I’m wondering if they were made by the same maker who made my circa 1929 kitchen cupboards – Keystone Cabinet Co.. of Littlestown, PA.

    • Wow! So much comment! Haha :)

      Post about back-of-house-fenestration coming up! I think I’ve figured out what I want to do…

      I think you’re right about the second floor balcony. Not necessary, might not get used, costly to do, complicated to build…I’m over it! That kind of thing happens a lot with such a lengthy renovation process…I guess it’s a good thing that time and budget cause long lags between major projects because otherwise I’d probably have done all sorts of things to this house that I’d later regret!

      I’m really tied to keeping the chimney! I know that might seem crazy but aside from the hassle and expense of removing it, I like the way it looks and the layer of history that it adds to the house. It seems to have been built originally as the only wood-burning fireplace in the house, which is in the basement below the kitchen (which I’m sure was the kitchen at the time…). It was used to vent a hot water heater when I bought the house but that’s since been removed. In theory somebody (me?) could someday decide to have it lined and restored to a usable state…I’m not so concerned with that right now, but I like leaving the option open. I see people demolishing defunct chimneys a lot around here, and I feel like it often has the effect of making the house more bland…not to mention that the bricks used to build them are Hutton bricks, which have a HUGE place in Kingston’s history of manufacturing and economic development. I just think it’d be a shame to lose!

      The kitchen addition should long pre-date the 1930s—it’s all post and beam construction (which wasn’t really done post-industrial revolution) on a stone foundation…big joists in the basement with a wide-plank pine subfloor…it’s probably more like 1860s. I think the last major kitchen renovation was in the 1950s, but I don’t really have any evidence of that other than the materials and how it looked when I bought the house. I don’t think the cabinets have any manufacturer’s marks, I’m sorry!

  54. I just stumbled upon your rear exterior twin. Of sorts.
    Check out the driveway edging post from April 2012 at our-big-house.blogspot.com. Perhaps they nixed their own mudroom…

  55. Hi Daniel, Just wondering if you can remember the name of the white IKEA shelf brackets? About a week or two ago I’m sure I clicked on your link from the kitchen reveal so I could see them but now it just goes to a general home office page. I hope they haven’t been discontinued! I live in NZ, without IKEA, and have an upcoming overseas trip and was so happy I would be able to get some but now can’t seem to find them!!
    Jemma

    • Oh bummer!! They were called EKBY GALLO but I’m not seeing them on the IKEA US site either. Argh! Sometimes IKEA discontinues things in some places but not others so I guess I’d check the country where you’re going to see if they might still have them? But it kind of seems like they’re gone :/

      • Nope nope and nope. None anywhere. They were there just a couple of weeks ago!! I could have asked my sister to go get some. Of all the shopping in all of Dubai I only wanted them. Bereft.

  56. Yeah they look like they’ve been discontinued in Canada too :(

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