Restoring the Side of My House!

Please excuse me if I’m a little overly excited in this post, but it’s only because I’m actually overly excited about some crazy stuff going on at my house. You might have noticed that it’s been a little while since I’ve posted about my own house, which is really just a reflection of nothing too exciting going on there. I finally primed the walls and ceiling in my hallway? I did some stuff in the backyard? I…got a dishwasher? My life has pretty much been Olivebridge Cottage 24/7 (slew of posts about that forthcoming), but after wrapping up restoring the back elevation of my house back in December, the renovation progress has more or less stalled.

WELL. I AM BACK IN ACTION AND IT FEELS SO RIGHT. Here’s what’s going down.

Side1

Here’s a picture of the side of my house in all its glory. My house is on a street corner, so arguably this is actually the most visible side, since the other side is more obscured by other houses and trees and stuff, and you don’t see the front unless you’re, well, in front of the house, give or take a hundred feet or so.

It’s pretty bad, right? Clearly I have what borders on an unhealthy affection for my house, but this side is a damn mess. What’s supposed to be all elegant neoclassical architecture is a vinyl-siding-clad imbalanced mishmash of weirdness that I have been scheming of a way to take care of for over three years. Things were improved quite a bit with the elimination of the “mudroom” addition on the back of the house, but that didn’t do anything to address the rest of what’s going on here.

house-then

Taking a trip back in time, here is the sole, prized photo I have of my house from 1950. As you can see, things were a little different back then. The house was about 85 years young, and looking a lot better than it does now. That part that sticks out on the side on the first floor is a long, narrow space that was almost entirely windows…I suppose sort of my house’s version of a solarium! I originally thought this was at one time an open-air porch and fleetingly thought I’d restore it as such, but I’m 99.9% positive that this is how it looked when it was originally built.

And that bump-out bay window on the second floor! It was pretty in its day, and I’m sure a fun feature to have inside the house. It had two big two-over-two double-hung windows on either side, and two smaller one-over-one windows facing the street.

side2

Even back then I can’t say I think it looks particularly right, but it sure is more attractive than it is today! The windows on the sides were lost at some point, with the openings covered over with plywood and the whole thing wrapped in vinyl siding and…now it looks like a tumor. I feel similarly about the long former-solarium—with all that glass replaced by those three crappy vinyl windows at some point, it’s just a sad sagging thing tacked onto the side of an otherwise pretty good-looking house…if I do say so myself.

bayinside

Inside, things are similarly awkward. This bay window is in my dining room, and I think it’s more or less without question that there was a third window where that door is when this thing was built. I actually think the bay window was itself an early addition, onto which the solarium was later added, and then the bump-out upstairs added at some point after that. The doorway appears to have been added in the 1930s, based on the framing and wall material (which is this wood composite garbage stuff called beaverboard).

The side-porch-solarium-thing has been a real concern of mine since buying the house. Unlike the robust bluestone foundation of the rest of the house, this thing sits on a few cinderblock piers that appear to have pushed themselves outwards over the years. If you return to the first photo in this post, you can see a pretty significant sag in the roofline of the solarium, which seems to be partially an effect of rot and partially an effect of the way those three shitty windows were framed and installed. The header that spans that length of this thing is very old, very rotted, and lacking almost any support…that’s not good! It seems to have sagged more since I bought the house, too, but that could just be my imagination.

The bump-out above, of course, is resting entirely on the top of this thing, which is also not good. Putting a really heavy part of a house on top of something with barely enough structural support already is probably not the safest thing. It’s all mildly horrifying.

You might see where I’m going with this. The dining room bay window is solid and old and beautiful, but the rest of it? Trying to fix this stuff would essentially mean rebuilding it, and then…what? That’s a lot of major expense to try to salvage some non-original features that I’m not hugely fond of to begin with, you know? Emphasis on the “non-original” part. That’s what I have to keep reminding myself, because the solarium-ish and the bump-out are old. Just not original to the house. I feel a lot of weird guilt about not being able to restore this stuff to how it looked when it was built, but then I remember that restoring the house is much more important to me and I feel a bit better.

Still, it’s a sticky subject! How do you decide how to handle stuff that’s really old but not original? I’m guessing a lot of owners of old homes have crossed this bridge a few times. For example, my house has beautiful fir hardwood flooring that was probably installed in the 1930s. Do I tear it all out to reveal the original wide-plank pine subfloor? I’d say no, but only because I prefer living with the smoother and tougher “upgraded” flooring. And sometimes I justify decisions like this with thinking that changes like that are also part of the history of the house in their own right, and perhaps that’s reason enough to maintain them. And, admittedly, these non-original additions do have their place in both the history of the house and the trajectory of local architecture. According to the Architectural History and Guide of Kingston:

August 7, 1874: The Daily Freeman describes “a new architectural fancy,” the “rage uptown” for bay windows. “No man of property can consider himself in style unless a bay window has been added to the house.” Upper-story bay windows were said to be especially fashionable as a sign of wealth, and looked well when “studded with flowers” or, even better, “an attractive lady.”

The only thing that makes sense to me is dealing with everything on a case-by-case basis. If this stuff were in better condition and more practical to salvage, or original to the house, I’d restore them. But that’s not the case, and the alternative of restoring this elevation of the house to a closer resemblance of its original architectural intent is hardly a bad thing, either.

Side1

So see if you can follow. This is the plan.

Look at those first two windows on the far left. That’s what things are supposed to look like. Slightly bigger window on the first floor, aligned center with a slightly smaller window on the second floor. The sizing is significant, since placing smaller windows on the second floor was meant to make the house look taller and bigger. Greek revival loves drama, and if my house looks enormous, that’s by design. It’s a little over 2,000 square feet, so nothing to shake a stick at, but it’s hardly the mansion it looks like!

Moving toward the back: in the 1950 photo, the house had two false windows next to these windows at the front corner, which I LOVE! It just tickles me! They look like regular windows that are shuttered closed, but they’re purely decorative and there is nothing behind those shutters. This is actually pretty common around here, but somewhat rare to see intact. I want to restore that, but I might actually make the second floor one into a real window and just do the shutter trick downstairs.

The bay window on the first floor stays, and has its third side restored with another window. Trying to match and replicate all of that woodwork is going to be a big task (inside and out!), but I’m kind of excited for the challenge!

Remember, to the right of the bay window on the first floor, there’s that other dining room window that faces out to the solarium thing. The solarium thing is demolished, and that window is an exterior window again. My dining room will get so much more light!

Aligned center above that window where the bump-out currently is goes a new 6-over-6 double hung, matched in size to the adjacent windows on the second floor. The cornice gets patched back in (hopefully just reusing everything I can from the parts that are coming down), the vinyl is removed, the siding (hopefully all salvaged) gets re-installed, this house gets painted…BOOM. If I have any money remaining, which is unlikely, I’d dieeeeeeeeeeee to outfit all my windows with shutters, but that part might have to wait. Doing shutters the right way is a pretty spendy endeavor.

On the far right, on the first floor under the dormer, I’d like to add two windows in my kitchen. Which means my kitchen is about to get kind of destroyed. Oops! But I kind of feel like…let’s just tear the bandaid off and get it done. My kitchen was never meant to last forever, and I really don’t feel all that precious about it.

I don’t like that second floor dormer above the kitchen, but I don’t really know what to do about it. I’d still like windows in that room, but potentially the dormer could be reconfigured. I just feel like the scale/location/shed roof on it is all wrong. Anyone have any ideas?

ANYWAY. Cool. Let’s do this thing!

When I bought the house, that door in the bay window led to a very small triangular closet, which was separated from the rest of the space with a slim wall (just some lengths of beadboard tacked to a couple horizontal supports on the floor and ceiling), which you see below. The beadboard was then covered in wood paneling—that cheap 70s kind, nothing nice.

interior1

The rest of the space was accessible from the kitchen and looked like this! I started tearing layers out of this space so long ago that I actually forgot what it looked like until I was editing photos for this post. There was a drop ceiling, wood paneling, linoleum floor, some very moldy drywall on the window wall due to the very leaky roof…blech!

BUT! Notice how there’s a window back there, on the right side? That’s the other window in my dining room, which was very clearly at one point a window that looked outside. The thing that was remarkable about this window, though, is that its trim was never covered with the vinyl/aluminum combo that’s on the rest of the house, so I have a well-preserved example of the original sill size and casings and stuff to model everything else after.

demo5

At some point I got pry-bar happy and took down the wood paneling, and was delighted to find the original clapboard below in excellent condition. If only the whole house was like that!

dogs

I had the realllllly long baseboard radiator removed during the great radiator shuffle. Shortly thereafter, I removed the layers of flooring. This linoleum was stuck to plywood, which was attached to a bunch of shims to level out the floor. Below that was the original tongue-and-groove, which rakes downward toward the street.

windowframe

Check it out! At the other end of the solarium, there was another window! I actually think it’s possible that this window was moved here from the side of the bay window and re-installed here. The sashes and parts of the frame are long gone, but you can see how it looked at one time.

Notice the brick-filled wall cavities, too—my whole house is basically like that! Broken, defective, and weak bricks and mortar were used as an early form of insulation and pest-proofing, called nogging. It has an R-value of less than 1 and is not structural, so I’m removing it piecemeal as I work my way around the house and replacing it with modern insulation that will hopefully help increase my energy efficiency. Removing nogging is an extremely dusty and heavy pain in the ass, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

interior2

I also removed the drywall on the street-facing window wall, which was moldy and yucky, and this is pretty much how things sat for a couple years! UNTIL NOW!

demo4

The other night, I started tackling more of the demo again! I always try to demo slowly and deliberately, saving anything I can—especially stuff like moldings that are much easier to reuse than try to replicate!

demo02

By the next morning, I had this!

demo01

I took up the old floor board-by-board (to reuse for what, I have no idea!), and underneath was surprised to discover…a 4″ thick or so layer of mortar! OOF. This is when my main squeeze Edwin started working with me, and we shoveled it out and hauled it out of the house bucket by bucket. Super fun, as you can imagine.

foundation

Underneath the layer of mortar were these really wide boards attached to the joists. It’s interesting that the joists run from side to side instead of back-to-front…those are some REALLY long joists! We had to cut them in half just to get them out, but the old wood is so pretty that I’m determined to do something with them.

Here you can kind of see the foundation below. Told ya, just a couple of cinderblocks! I wonder if they have footings or anything. We’ll soon find out!

demo1

Demo, demo, and more demo! It’s so crazy how much material went into these houses. This is part of why demolishing old houses is such a tragedy—the sheer volume of stuff that ends up in a landfill is almost unimaginable, which is another reason I try to salvage as much as possible. Renovations always generate enough waste as it is!

demo2

With the floor, the mortar, the subfloor, and the joists removed, we have….the original exterior wall of my house, looking pretty damn good! The rim joist is enormous and in excellent condition, and the foundation is in amazing shape from being protected all these years! And look at the basement window! Light comes in through it now!

Oh, and what’s that back there? A window? A NEW WINDOW? I have so much to share about window shopping that it’s gonna have to be another post, but I can happily report that I think I’ve found a very good solution for matching 150 year old original windows with new, if you’re in a similar predicament. I’m totally opposed to replacing my original windows for a number of reasons, but trying to find a decent match was no easy feat!

SO ANYWAY! This week, my house feels like it is getting torn to shreds, and the copious amounts of dust and disorder that I haven’t experienced since demo’ing a couple plaster ceilings a few years ago is back with a vengeance.

I couldn’t be happier about it. Progress once again. Feels good.


127 Comments

  1. I have a thing for sunrooms and solariums, so I would have loved the house in the 1950s.
    You will not regret removing this wart that grew on your house. As you said, the dining room will be brighter.
    As for the upstairs bump-out window, I thought they had windows on all sides for air circulation. Especially when it rains in summer, pre-A/C, you would have three possibilities to leave open for air, and at least one ought to not let rain in.
    I was so delighted with what you had done to your kitchen–the after was SO much better than when you bought it, but I am always in favor of more windows. And you’re the one paying, so go right ahead.
    I wish you could see our renovation. Don’t you need a vacation in the south of France? We finally found out what was under the linoleum that we ripped out of the ginormous kitchen. Our ancient-tile expert removed the glue and gunk and revealed that about half of the terra cotta tiles were broken or missing. So we did the logical thing: we removed the salvageable ones from an interior room (“without historical significance,” according to the preservation authority’s architect) and put them in the kitchen. The tiles had been placed, without any mortar, on foot-wide boards. Daily dust filled in between the cracks. Charming, eh? Anyway, it was quite something to see those boards from the early 1600s.
    You would love it.

    • The air circulation thing makes a lot of sense, yes! That purpose is a little defeated when you lose the side windows, though, haha!

      Don’t worry about the kitchen! It was always intended to be a stop-gap, and the intervening 3 years of use haven’t been especially kind to it. It’s OK! I’d like to try to get at least the infrastructure in place for the kitchen I want to put in someday, and I’ll do something in the meantime to try to make it cute and functional. :)

      Your project sounds SO COOL—I’d love to see it! Maybe I DO need a vacation in the south of France! Or any vacation, ha!

      • I would never forgive you if you came to southern France and didn’t drop in and see me also (well in the summer months at least, the rest of the time I’ll be in Atlanta)

        @Taste of France, where are you situated?

      • Luna, duh! You’re first on the list! Hope you’re safe and doing OK in light of yesterday’s horror. Sending well-wishes. <3

      • @Luna: Carcassonne. And you?

  2. Was the arched opening from the dining room to the bay original? Seems more 1930’s but I am often wrong. :-) I seem to see a door with a transom–is that the door to the kitchen? Is it original and in the original spot or has it been relocated? Guess it might be a side entry…

    Once that 1930’s and so on is removed, do you plan on lining up the windows and doors? Sure seems that the house calls for that. I also don’t like the second floor dormer and I think it will really look out of place after the first floor is done….could there be a relocation to the non-street side? or a roof window on the other side to keep the profile of the roof?

    Hope it’s the picture and not a real sway in your roof….nah, I’m sure it’s the picture and not the roof.

    Looks like a great renovation plan.

    D

    • I think the arched opening is original to the bay being added, but not when the house was built. I’d imagine there was just another regular window there. I think the bay was added circa 1870s, though, and then altered by removing the third window and adding the door in the 1930s, when the house was cut up into apartments…and I actually think that door was solely put in to create that small closet that was there when I took ownership.

      And yes, the doorway with the transom! Again, fairly certain it is not original, and I think its only function was entry to the solarium thing, not an exterior entrance. There’s a door in the kitchen to the backyard about 8 feet away, and there was another one on the other side of the kitchen sort of opposite the doorway you’re referring to, so I doubt there were 3 exterior entrances…but I don’t know! It’s hard to figure this stuff out, particularly when it seems like a lot of these changes happened separately but within a fairly condensed timeframe. I wish I had more pictures. :/

      I know exactly what you’re saying about the dormer. Unfortunately the other side of the roof isn’t an option because of a bathroom and how those rooflines intersect, and I’m not a fan of skylights on old houses when they’re visible from the street (or in general—I’ve only ever heard that they’re leaky heartbreakers!), and…I don’t know! The best answer is probably removing it entirely and going window-less up there (there are two small windows I put in last year on the back of the house, which is the same room), but that would leave that room really dark and cramped. I wonder if something like two peaked dormers with smaller windows would look more natural, but I don’t know. I’m stumped!

      • I think that once you’ve got all that “solarium” stuff off of there it will be much more clear how to resolve the dormer and you’ll figure it out. No need to solve all the problems at once. This is going to be such a huge change for the better and it will change how you look at it dramatically. I have no doubt that you will figure out what to do up top once you can clearly see it in all its glory. I’m so glad you’re ripping this thing off!!

      • I think you’re absolutely right, Jessica—thank you!! Sometimes I need someone to tell me that. And that really IS the wonderful luxury of this being my own house that I live in and plan to continue living in for many, many years. I’ll figure it out, but it doesn’t have to happen this very instant. Thank you. :)

      • Love your plan. So glad you’re keeping the bay window. The arch inside the bay window is very Italianate or Anglo-Italianate or Gothic. All popular in the 1840s-60s.

      • YAY! Progress!! I don’t mind the shed former in the back, it isn’t totally out of reason to have a less formal dormer like that on a back (lower hierarchy) part of the house. You also would be removing the only egress windows from that room. The existing may or may not actually meet egress dimension requirements, but the new little guys on the back definitely couldn’t be crawled out of in a fire. I’d get the rest of the windows on that facade sorted out and I think the shed dormer will be surprisingly inoffensive. YES to the shuttered fake Windows for symmetry too!

  3. Oh Daniel, this is so awesome! I know it is a lot of work and there will always be unexpected surprises when doing it, but it also very clearly a labor of love and your enthusiasm for the work is fabulous! Looking forward to finding out about your windows.

  4. The balance is being restored. The gods of classical architecture are thanking you right now.

  5. You need to come over for dinner and look at our bays. I think you could create something similar. Have you ever seen the greek revival churches with huge 9/9 windows? We need to fix the yankee gutters on our house. They are a plague, but are original to the house. Dinner. Soon.

    • Your bays KILL ME in pictures!! They’re unreal. For this, I’m not really looking to change what’s existing—just patch in a third side that will match the existing two, ya know?

      Resounding yes to dinner! I can’t believe I still haven’t seen your house. I’ll tell ya everything I know about yankee gutters…I feel your pain, believe you me!

  6. HUZZAH!! SO excited to hear an update, and so excited to see the end result! GO DANIEL!!!!

  7. Wow, wow, wow. Amazing. I cannot wait to see where this goes! I’ll admit I was a little sad when you said you’d be removing it all, because from the outside it looks like so much space. But when you see inside that it’s so narrow and unusable – “drama architecture” is so accurate! Your regular spaces will have more light than you know what to do with, it’ll be a new home all together.

    • Holding my breath, Kari! You’re exactly right—neither the second floor bay nor the long former-solarium are/were particularly functional or compelling (especially without a MASSIVE restoration/rebuilding that is totally outside the realm of my budget, even if I wanted to), and ultimately after living with both for this long, I know the house will be better off without them. It’s weird to be so enthused about losing square footage, but the payoff is going to be so worth it!

  8. Congratulations! I am so excited to see more of the changes at your house, and dying for Olivebridge updates!

  9. For the second floor dormer above the kitchen, I think it would look totally normal if you did a few aesthetic things to make it match: install cornice pieces and replace the windows with similarly paned ones (6×6?). That’s what’s making it look a tiny bit odd, in my opinion.

    • That might be the best answer, and certainly the simplest! The windows actually ARE six over six right now, you just can’t tell in the picture! I certainly think it’s worth trying to trim it out to match the house better and seeing what happens. Thank you!!

    • I was thinking the same :)

    • I was about to say the same thing.

    • The missing cornice around the back of the house really does have a big impact, great idea. I feel like there should be pillars or vertical siding that imitates pillars on this side as well, it being greek revival and street facing, the drama isn’t really there. Hmm, I’m sure Daniel has looked at a million greek revival homes, though and has a good idea what to do with it.

  10. I am so excited about this! The sunroom looks pretty nice from the outside, especially in that old picture where it was all glass, but once you see what it looks like from the inside, forget about it. I’m with you. Tear that sucker down.

    I am also not sure what I’d do with that dormer on the second floor. It doesn’t really seem to fit with the symmetry, but I am also a fan of dormers (especially if you add the two side windows back in). Looking forward to seeing what you do!

    And I am also curious about what you found to match your old windows. :D

  11. It’ll be fantastic! I can see how and why you decided to remove the unusable, structrually unsound, and maybe most importantly unorginal parts and are getting back to a cleaner, more functional, and beautifully streamlined house. I love what you’ve done so far! You’re such an inspiration to me!!!

    • Thanks, Teresa! I’m excited too!! I’ve been staring at all this for three years now and it’s STILL very hard for me to really visualize what it will look like, but I’m feeling good about it!

  12. I am very worried about one tiny little line, “By the next morning, I had this!”. Does this mean that you literally spent the night demo-ing? What happened to sleep? I’m your mom and you still need to take care of yourself. This does not sound like healthy behavior, even though your readers and I love to read more and get more from you, all the time. Is your life out of balance? Get it together. Let’s talk not here.

    • Oh, silly goose. I just didn’t take a picture when I wrapped up the night before! I promise I cut myself off at 11:30. The boy can attest!

      But let’s still talk, because I love and miss you. <3

    • First, I love your mom. And had the same thought while reading the post. (But I’ll admit to staying up way past my bedtime in the midst of demo too. It’s addictive!)

      Second, I love the changes you’re making and I always think removing all the extra material from a house allows it to breathe. I swear you can feel the space relax once it’s done. Between less extra garbage tacked on and more light, your house is going to be so, so happy!

    • Daniel’s Mom! I love your response…I was thinking the same thing, I guess as mom’s we struggle to find a balance between excitement for our kids endeavours and worrying about their health and safety! Does it ever end? I hope not. :) Good luck with this Daniel kid, he seems like a handful! hehe

      Daniel, love what you’re doing to your gorgeous house. Totally agree about the growths needing to go! :) The dormer window over the kitchen. Any way that a horizontal window or two small square windows would look less crazy? …I have no idea what I’m talking about…just wondering!

      Love your blog by the way, I have been following for years, since college apartment times! I would love to know where your cross stitch “art” collection is now! hehe

    • Dear Mom,
      You RULE!!!!!
      If we weren’t the same age, I would ask you to be my mom.
      Love,
      Daniel’s fan

  13. Love this post and, as always, love Daniel’s mom.

  14. As the floor in the solarium was slanted, I’m guessing it was added as an open porch originally, and then later glassed in. It probably functioned well as a porch, but seems too narrow a room when closed in. It will be good to lose it. Are you planning on keeping that kitchen door to the exterior (which would involve some sort of porch or steps to access it – which could add some interest to the look of the side of the house, though a challenge to be worked out with visually with the dormer above) – or close off that doorway altogether? Does adding the two windows to your kitchen require getting rid of the doorway, or is the plan for them off to the side of the door? If off to the side, can you add a window where the door is as well?

    As to the dormer, I think with the right roof pitch (perhaps peaked, or just slanted toward the street rather than flat) and right window size (perhaps one window, or two narrower windows connected side by side would work) you can find something workable – having window(s), and decent-sized ones, rather than tiny ones, is always good in a bedroom. (I’m less a fan of two tiny peaked dormer windows than trying some other options that I’ve tried to suggest above, especially since the other windows in the room are tiny.) I’m sure once the solarium is gone, with some looking at other houses to see what looks good in second floor dormers, and some sketching to match up the first and second story windows, you will find something that looks good. Maybe not original-Greek-Revival good – but, like your dining room bay, plays-well-enough-with-Greek-Revival-house-and-adds-more-light-to-the-interior-and-doesn’t-look-like-an-eyesore good. And that’s all you need, really.

    I like the rest of your plan, except for adding the fake window to the front room – why not just add a real window instead? It isn’t like fake windows are fashionable anymore – they just look odd.

    • See, I thought the same thing about the solarium, until I demo’d out the exterior wall and found what certainly *look* to be original studs along the bottom of the wall, coming up about a foot from the floor…making it appear that there originally was a low wall and then all those windows above. The fact that this low wall was also filled with brick and mortar (which was not done during other big changes to the house that occurred in the 30s, and the lumber looks totally different, blah blah) makes me think that it was originally like that!

      I do think the dormer thing will become more clear when the other stuff is done, or close to it. It’s really hard for me to visualize something that will work well with all this other stuff that’s going to disappear still in my line of sight, but here’s hoping that there’s a big A-HA moment when the rest of the house is exposed!

      The reason I’m hesitant to add another window to the front room is probably the same reason they didn’t just put one there to begin with! That room (which isn’t that big!) has a fireplace, two doorways, a small closet, and three windows already, so there’s very little actual wall space to place anything, and I think it feels nicely balanced as-is. The room upstairs, by contrast, is my bedroom, and the one window on that wall (which is really the only wall a bed can go on) makes the whole room feel imbalanced and awkward. It’s the nicest bedroom in the house, so I want it to be REALLY good! And, as you say, it’s nice to have lots of light in a bedroom! I’m OK with my house not being particularly fashionable…to me the faux shuttered window is a totally cool and unique and original feature, and that’s the kind of stuff that makes my house special to me!

    • I haven’t got the length of the solarium quite in my mind, but am wondering if adding an additional bay perhaps not as deep as the dining room one, perhaps even a narrower depth rectangular shaped one) where the exterior door is might add a space in the kitchen for a breakfast table/nook? Could be interesting…

  15. “How do you decide how to handle stuff that’s really old but not original? I’m guessing a lot of owners of old homes have crossed this bridge a few times. ”

    I totally relate to your quote above. Our house is full of crazy add-on covered porches and wall added between rooms. It is fun to guess how the space was used originally, but it is also kind of maddening trying to figure it out. My rule of thumb is that anything that was done in the 1960’s is crap and therefore goes immediately. :D All the unoriginal pre-1940s stuff, I take on a case-by-case basis. If I like it, it stays. If I don’t, it goes. However, I find that I actually like most of the old stuff that is not original, except that dreaded 1960s crap.

    Also, that picture of Edwin, standing in the hole, talking on the phone cracked me up. I could just picture him saying, “You won’t believe what Daniel tore up today.” LOL

    • It’s tough, right? And often hard to figure out without opening up walls and making a big mess of everything. But your pre-war/post-war criteria is something I’ve run into a lot too, and I think is a generally good measure…it’s why I don’t really care about my 1950s kitchen…in a 1950s house, sure, but in mine, I can do better! Fortunately or unfortunately, my 1930s renovations are also lousy (crappy materials, poor craftsmanship if any, generally not worth preserving!), which I guess is kind of nice since I don’t feel badly about losing them. It’s something I’m sure I’ll continue to negotiate moving forward on this house, and work on others! But I agree—I don’t think there are really any hard and fast rules here if you’re not a totally die-hard preservationist.

  16. A tumor?! lol You never disappoint. I’m glad it’s going out. The solarium you say was original to the house. But, I keep wondering how it would look without it.

    • :)

      I was actually saying the solarium was NOT original to the house (which I think is maybe what you’re saying too? typo?) and I wonder the same thing, but we’re about to find out! Eek! Eek!

      • I was a bit confused at first too. Early on you said, “I suppose sort of my house’s version of a solarium! I originally thought this was at one time an open-air porch and fleetingly thought I’d restore it as such, but I’m 99.9% positive that this is how it looked when it was originally built.” I didn’t read every comment, so disregard if you’ve already clarified or if I’ve misread it.

      • Oops, sorry! I only meant when the *solarium* was originally built, not the entire house. :)

  17. I know that every city is different, but do you have to have a building permit (or, possibly, demo permit) to do various work like this on your place? I know that it happens in fits and starts, which is how it would happen with me, but I’ve been a little concerned to get started due to worries that I’d be in trouble with the building folks. Any information you could pass on about that aspect of renovation would be great.

    • Hey Samantha! As you say, every city is different—the best advice I can offer is to call your building department, describe your project, and see what they say. My experience with building departments is that they’re generally very friendly and happy to answer questions like that! Building permits are also generally fairly inexpensive and simple to renew if you’re dealing with a long-term project (I think permits normally are valid for either 6 months or a year).

  18. I can’t wait to watch this come together. I think it is a great call to remove those features. Although the solarium looks lovely in the photo from 1950, it never looks right to me when a house it bursting at the seams of the property. Adding back some space between the house and the fence just seems right. Good call and nice work (as always).

    • That’s a good point, Kerrie! The outer wall of the solarium thing is only about 18″ from the fence that borders the sidewalk, and I agree that it looks cramped on the property. I’m very excited to get that part of the yard back for landscaping!

  19. I love it when a plan comes together! Also, you with the teasers everywhere…the promise of more Olivebridge, the hope of more wood planing (dork, I know), the hint of life in general looking up for you. I think it’s the right approach to work on all the stuff you know for sure and then figure out those upstairs windows. The world doesn’t end if it waits until next year, even.

    • Maybe that last sentence is just me talking to me…

    • Haha, more wood planing! I’m glad this is something somebody else looks forward to! I find myself wanting to plane things even when there’s nothing really to plane. It’s sort of a problem.

      Totally right about the dormer. I’m not gonna sweat it right now! I’ll be working on this house for a longggg time, and one of the things that it’s taught me is that I’d rather take my time and get it right than speed through and get it wrong!

  20. Good ideas, but so much work! I would be planning to paint everything white, sell it, and get a condo in Miami about now. I suppose someone has to champion the old beauties, and I’m always excited to see what your vision will create.

  21. Gah! So much work! Every post of yours is an inspiration to get off my bum and finish something in our house. 5 years in and it’s still not finished… but I guess living in a house whilst you renovate it gives you a better sense of how you want things to be.
    Can’t wait for the next post Daniel.
    Also, love your mom’s interventions :)))

    • Thank you, Doorot! 5 years is nothing, don’t sweat it!! This stuff takes a long, long time!

      I’ve been thinking about this so much lately…what I would have done if I had a huge renovation budget on Day 1 and could have hired a bunch of people to tackle everything at once before moving in or something. I honestly can’t think of a single thing that I think I would have done the way that I now plan to do them, or ended up doing them because I had to wait for time and money to allow. There’s so much to be said for taking it slow and getting to know your house before really diving in! My renovation/restoration is slow and at times grueling, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll have a pretty kick-ass house at the end of it, in large part due to that pace!

      • “There’s so much to be said for taking it slow and getting to know your house before really diving in!”

        This, totally. for way too many reason than I have the energy to list right now….

  22. It’s always great to see a new posting from you, Daniel! Following with great interest.

  23. Yay! Posty goodness from Daniel – and about the “main” house no less! Tell me more, tell me more!

    I think you’re making all the right calls in this. It needs to look right, no? And if it doesn’t, what does it matter, if it’s old? People in the nineteenhundreds were perfectly capable of making bad decisions. While I liked the upstairs bay window in the house tour pictures from way back, it does look super weird from the outside. Plus you said, it leaks, doesn’t it?

    However much I love the progress on the house, like your mother, I do wonder about your nighttime demo decisions. After dinner some telly, wine and crisps you ponder whether to go sleep or really effing mess up your dining room and you go with the latter? Well, you do you! As long as you post about it.

    Since I’m a nosy parker, I’d love to know, who is that boy, who does all the attesting around your house. Absolutely none of my business, so if I’m way out of line please just ignore it…

    As always – heartfelt greetings from Europe!

    • Thanks, Florian! The roof of the upstairs bay window doesn’t leak anymore (it was replaced with the rest of the roof a couple years ago, luckily!) but it was leaking pretty severely when I bought the house! Now that it’s gutted out, the damage from that water isn’t actually THAT bad beyond how it rotted the sheathing (also replaced with the roof)—the bigger structural issue is the structure below being too weak/deteriorated to hold the weight! As a result, the amount that this second floor addition appears to have separated from the house over the years is a little unnerving!

  24. Daniel, I wonder if you’ve heard of the UK’s Sarah Beeny? She’s fabulous – a professional house flipper, and straight-talker, she and her hubby went against all her professional instincts when they fell in love with and painstakingly renovated a crumbling old Manor House in Yorkshire – the agony and ecstasy they went through in reinstating old mouldings, finishes, etc. battling the local planning department and balancing the need for a home and a venue was fascinating! Sarah endorses a company which makes made to measure shutters for home installation – http://shutters.co.uk/DIY-Guides/Sarahs-Shutter-Tips~254/ – loads cheaper than anything else on the market. I don’t know if there’s anything similar In the U.S. or if shipping would be insane? Ignore if not! I love your updates – you’re a truly gifted writer. All the best from sunny Brighton.

    • I haven’t heard of her, thank you for the recommendation!! I’ll check it out! Crumbling old manor house in Yorkshire sounds wonderful, oh man. I’ll also check out the shutter source—I’m guessing the shipping and taxes would make it too spendy for me, but worth a shot!

  25. The “solarium”–does it connect the back of the house to the front? I am wondering if it was at one time a passage that was used by servants or perhaps an area used for staging parties (the windows might have been helpful to add light without adding heat). I could see it as really useful for something like that–as well as a nice place to sit and get away from maybe nasty fumes from the fireplaces sometimes.

    If it had a purpose like that, the purpose is long since gone–I am glad you are taking it off, as it really does seem like an afterthought. Of course, my only real thought was . . . Puppies!

    • Oh, sorry–of course there would be heat as well as light if the windows were shut. What I meant was that there would be light without having to do gaslights and that open windows would keep heat from building up in the summer, but I guess there would also be heat (with the windows shut) without having to have a fireplace. And, if there were doors at both ends, the chill wouldn’t get into the living areas too much when there was no sunlight.

      • The solarium connects the kitchen to the dining room now, but I’m not sure it always did? The doorway in the bay window looks to have been added in the 30s, as did the small closet it used to create, and it would be sort of odd for someone to have removed a doorway and all of the existing framing just to put in another door, right? So I wonder if the only access to the solarium was originally only from the kitchen, which in some ways in consistent with what you’re saying about the space being more for servants, perhaps to start plants from seed in the spring or grow herbs, that kind of thing.

  26. MAN!!! You know what’s great about looking at your website from work? TWO SCREENS! One for reading and the other for pictures! (I don’t have to go back & forth) (Sorry boss), Daniel takes precedence.
    I love what you’re doing, which reminds me I gotta go to lowes tonight… keep up the great work & thanks for the inspiration!

  27. Always love your demolition post! what did you do with the upstairs bump-out? Is it safe to remove so much stuff down to the foundation before taking the upstairs weight down first? I am sure you thought it through but would love to learn why you do things in the sequence you did.

    • The upstairs bump-out got gutted in a similar manner (I’ll post progress update soon!), which took a ton (probably literally!) of the weight off of it, but most of what we removed downstairs wasn’t really doing anything very significant structurally. I had my BFF/contractor Edwin by my side for the major demo part of this…I might have done things in a little bit different order (like keep at least the floor joists in place until the rest of the structure was down), but if Edwin investigates and thinks it’s OK to demo, I usually trust him! He’s kind of ballsy but I never think we’re being endangered. :)

  28. Have you thought about doing a new, narrow solarium on tie side after both old structures are removed? Like the fourth picture in this one?
    https://www.thenaturalhome.com/planterbed2.htm

    Since you already have the hole on the ground, it can be in ground too as in ground too, which will make a better green house for plants. But it depends how much room you have between the exterior wall to the fence.

    Love to hear your thoughts!

    • Never really thought about it, no! I think that’s very pretty on that house (and something I’d totally want if I had a cool modern house), but I think it would look and feel really out of place on mine, ya know? I’d much rather have that space back for landscaping!

  29. More posts please, I could read this kinda stuff for HOURS! The joy of what you’re finding/fixing, I’m so jealous!

  30. Now don’t be teasing us with the promise of a lot more posts! I read every single word of this and referenced to each picture. I loved every word and picture. You are so talented in the house reno stuff and such an amazingly entertaining writer. Keep it coming, please.

  31. So excited you’re tearing that eyesore off the house, I’ve never liked it [such that that matters, and damn, I also forgot what a garbage fire that room was when you started. That paneling. That lino. Ugh.] and this is going to look so sleek and streamlined. Maybe it’s just me, I was hoping we were going to see the vinyl siding being torn off in a blaze of glory…down the road, down the road. Glad to hear there’s a new man in the picture, too–if anybody deserves to be happy it’s you, Mr. Kanter. Look forward to the next update.

  32. I cannot wait to hear all about the window shopping! I’m restoring a 1914 craftsman bungalow and ended up having two pairs of window sashes custom-made to match the existing windows and to get the perfect size to fit within the frame. I couldn’t find any sashes or even heavy enough weights in salvage shops, so the weights were custom too. I plan to buy new windows when we remodel the kitchen, so please share all of the glorious details of your window adventures – spare no expense!

    • So curious, who did you get to custom make the sashes? I didn’t go very far down that road, but it seemed like it would be way too expensive for my budget. I’d love to hear more if you’re willing to share! I’ll tell ya what I learned soon—the window industry is insane!

  33. This is so fascinating. I have to really study the photos to understand what you’re saying — and you’re saying it fine; it’s just that I don’t know a whole lot about architecture. But I get it, eventually.

    Has solving the horrors of the Olivebridge house made you feel braver about tackling this demo?

    And what’s going on with the Bluestone Cottage?

    I want to know everything!

    • Thanks, Bonnie! Olivebridge has been an extremely educational experience—I think more hands-on renovation/construction experience in general helps with gaining the confidence to take stuff like this on, for sure, and that was a WHOLE LOT of experience in a very short time frame. I also have Edwin by my side for a lot of this, and we work really well together, and that helps enormously!

      Bluestone is back too! Wrapping up getting her ready for plumbing and electric, woo hoo! It’s a huge relief to have momentum there! :)

  34. I really enjoyed this demo post! So much of your blog reminds me of the old Enon Hall website. (Which I just searched for and saw is still up! Yay. :)

    • That’s very flattering, Liz! I read that entire blog start to finish a few years after he started it and followed until the end! The house and his work on it were unbelievable. That blog (and others like it) is what made me so interested in restoration and renovation work, and is absolutely a big part of why I’m doing this kind of stuff now. :)

  35. I have a few points.
    1. I love your mom. You should really make a point on her commenting every post.
    2. I take it that if Edwin is at your house he is no longer at Oliverbridge?
    3. I am really happy that life seems to be treating you well.
    4. I can’t decide if renovating is your true calling or if blogging is. You are awesome.

    • Haha! In order:
      1. She does it for her fans now, I think. I believe her following exceeds mine at this point.
      2. Kinda-sorta! That project is winding down but I refuse to release him from my clutches. He’s too cute!
      3. Thank you! :)
      4. Thank you again! :)

  36. You know, I’m thinking the shed dormer might work if it were cased differently.

  37. Daniel, this is a wonderful post on your not so little house. :-)

    Having just closed on a small place of my own I now know what it feels like to own a home I can do stuff with!

    It’s a 836SqFt 3 bed house, originally built in 1908, but with an addition from the past 40 years, judging by the siding and the soffet vents.

    Anyway, like your house, it needs work, but is basically a solid little house in Tacoma Washington where I grew up.
    Rents in Seattle have gotten so bad it was taking more and more of my income and housing prices here have gone through the roof due to tight supply Vs demand, so a tear down gets 41 offers and sells for 427K when it listed originally at 225K and was a 2100SqFt house from 1951 that had not seen any maintenance in probably a decade or more and it shows with tarp on the roof and 5Ft of water in the basement, being just two of the issues and resides in West Seattle, an area that once was affordable, but not anymore.

    Anyway, reading your blog (and other similar blogs) now with more interest as I work to make my place better. :-) I officially move this weekend, though began taking stuff down today and have tomorrow off for more.

    Some early projects, a new, and better lockable mailbox, a new decent cordless drill and may have a lawn mower and a W/D, both used lined up so things are beginning to happen!

    As to your house, I think you are making some wise decisions with what needs to be done and taking your own sweet time. I’ll be using the reuse stores as well as the Habitat for Humanity Restore places for stuff to improve the place, as well as IKEA where appropriate, but first, get settled in.

    Good luck on your projects!

  38. I was looking at the picture of the side of the house with that dormer toward the back and thought about my grandparent’s house, the house my Granny was born in. It was a very different style but symmetrical and I think it was built in the same period. There was a eaves detail that might be an option for you: the back eavesline of the house is uneven with that dormer kind of breaking up the line. What if the line is even, but the actual roof over the windows is kind of a “skeleton” of the roof, allowing light in and the windows to stay the same size, but creating the look of the unbroken eaves along that lowered section of the roof. I’m not sure if that makes sense but I’ll see if I can find a helpful picture.

  39. Love to see it go, and love your preservation ambitions. It is always a difficult decision to let older parts and space go, but I was at the same time excited about what could be harvested… It is difficult to see the difference between vinyl and wood on pic (one of the reasons I think vinyl can sell, since it looks like shit in reality) but I had no idea the trim around the windows were vinyl? Really sad. But it is good that some take the energy and money to put it back, it keeps the wood workers with knowledge in business. I was curious if the lower part was original or an extension? Now when the vinyl is coming off I am very curious to see if there will be traces of a column or something marking the transition, I think additions should have a little set-back so you can read the different volumes correctly, maybe even with different sizes in panelling. It will be very exciting to see what is under there…

    • Vinyl is the worst! The casings around windows and stuff on my house is actually covered with a thin layer of aluminum, fairly easily removed. Unfortunately, as is typical with vinyl installation, protruding elements like sills and moldings above windows are often cut or broken to accommodate the flat, dimension-less look vinyl is so good at! I actually don’t know whether or not my sills are intact, but I’m about to find out!

      The solarium thing on the side does seem to have some original details intact under the vinyl, so I’m excited to peel it off and find out, too!

  40. Here’s a great resource not too far from you (Western MA) that might be helpful in restoring old wooden windows to match the existing ones – http://www.cadwellwindows.com/

    • Thanks, Andy! I don’t think I ever came across that one. I’m so glad there are still people out there doing craftsmanship like that. Makes my heart happy. :)

  41. Okay, your house makes me swoon! Love it! I noticed there was another fireplace in the center of the house. Did you remove it or was it removed before? (or at least the chimney was knocked down under the roof)

    I love your taste and you challenge me to see things I really didn’t realize were wrong. LOL Keep it up!

    • Thanks, Gina! I still sort of hate to say, but I demolished that chimney back when I had the roof replaced a couple of years ago. It’s very pretty from the outside, but it was structurally unstable and causing issues with surrounding rafters and sheathing, and it seemed like the best decision for the house. But I do miss the way it looked from the exterior! Fortunately, I guess, it wasn’t actually serving any function (it would have originally been venting coal or wood stoves when that was the house’s main heat source), so removing it didn’t affect anything inside. Sigh!

  42. so happy to hear from you, that olive bridge is moving forward, you haven’t fallen out of love with your greek revival beauty, and that the hounds are helping you and edwin excavate the solarium. your reno of the back of your house, replaning the old boards, nearly brought me to tears. strength to your arm!

    • Thanks, Amey! I’ll be using much the same process on this side of the house, too, so here’s hoping it all pans out nicely!

  43. It’s going to look awesome! I’m excited for you, it must feel nice to get back into your own projects. I’ve been looking at old houses and all the little details have been frightening as a buyer. I’ll miss the solarium, but I have a thing for them. Unfortunately they’re never really functional and tend to damage homes more than add to them… sad. I visited one house recently where the added solarium had increased heat and humidity so much inside the room that it had cause all the siding to peel and curl. The mold smell was unbelievable. They had both a pellet stove and a hot tub in the solarium. I was horrified.

    Anyways, have you considered adding a faux balcony rail to the top of the bay window? I see them a lot on bump outs on these kinds of houses. It could play up the drama of this side of the house. It’s not centered, and that’s what’s throwing me off, but restoring the old windows should fix whatever visual imbalance is there. +1 to restoring the cornices to the back side of the house. You’ll have plenty salvaged, which is nice. I don’t know if gabling the roof over the dormer would fix it. It feels like it needs a pediment there, but at the same time there’s so much going on with the house it’s hard to really visualize. There’ll probably be a point where you know exactly what you want it to become. You’ll see it come together as the porch (?) and tumor (XD) come down.

    • Huh, ya know, I never thought about the faux balcony thing! No plans for that, but it’s worth looking into! I guess I associate that more with victorian architecture, but I don’t really know a lot about it.

      And yes, I think the dormer thing will become clearer as the other work is completed…it’s so hard to picture now! The facade is going to look so totally different that whatever ability I have to envision options for it is shot! We’ll all figure it out together, wheeeee!

  44. Hi Daniel! So glad you’re back at it on the homefront! I have a question about a statement you made at the end of the post that was probably intended to be insignificant for this post’s purposes but of course, leave it to me to overanalyze everything. Anyway! You say you are against removing your original windows–we have an 1899 home with HUGE original windows that we love and hate at the same time. So I wonder–what do you recommend for getting your original windows in the best shape they can be? AKA not drafty & in good working (able to open!) order. Enlighten us please! xo

    • Oh Megan, I’m glad you asked! It’s not insignificant at all! You (and I!) are lucky to have our original windows intact, because they reallllly just don’t make them like they used to. Partially because they literally can’t (the old-growth lumber used to make them, which is why they can last hundreds of years, doesn’t exist anymore), and partially because the window industry relies on windows needing to be replaced every 15-20 years or so. A well-maintained or well-repaired wood sash with a storm window is comparably energy-efficient to a new insulated window, the difference being that the original will be endlessly repairable, far more beautiful, remain on the house rather than in a landfill, and save an enormous amount of money vs. buying replacements and then having to do it again a couple decades down the road!

      SO! To your question…repair/restoration of these windows is really inexpensive and fairly uncomplicated to do yourself. It IS somewhat time-consuming, so I think the general rule of thumb is that if you hire it out, you’ll be spending something comparable to replacing them altogether, which is still money well-spent in my book! Luckily, there are lots of great resources in print and online to guide ya! Here are a few:

      Here and There
      Old House Online
      This Old House
      Probably my favorite, Alex of Old Town Home’s Window Restoration Series

      Good luck!! A restored window is a beautiful thing! :)

      • This is great! I had no idea how to even go about restoring them. Thank you!

  45. Ah! the angst! When I checked in yesterday and saw that there was a new post – and about the old house to boot – I was torn between reading it right there on the spot!..but then I thought, no, I’ll keep it for breakfast in bed tomorrow morning (but the wait will be agonising!) I kept it and I’m glad I did, here I am lying in bed with the summer sun streaming through the windows two mugs of tea and a ‘pain aux raisins’ in my belly (I’m on vacation, don’t judge) and I just finished reading everything plus ALL the comments – sigh…paradise!
    Good to see the old house back in the spotlight.
    Love

  46. I love the courage you have Daniel. Not only to tackle large jobs requiring new skills but to dare to make such large changes to the house and then put it all on the web. I love your work, I love your mum and Im only sad we didn’t get another Sketchup image LOL. I suppose its because you had one or two things on the go.

    • Ha, the Sketchup!! I was gonna put one together, but it’s the kind of thing that takes so long for me that it makes posts like this never happen when I put that kind of pressure on myself!

      Thank you for the kind words! :)

  47. Have you ever driven by the Northampton Inn in Northampton, Mass? It has a huge solarium on its side, which seems nice(you never know), but this post has reminded me of that Inn. I thought it was very eye catching and cosy and wanted to go inside, but never did. They must be useful for getting light in the house,especially on cold snowed in days. Also, my grandmother’s house had one in Upper Michigan,again a very snowy place. But it was lovely with the three sided views. I like to think of the reasons certain designs become fashionable. We are living in the south now and I rarely see sunrooms, probably Too much sun. Your decisions will be great, they always are. So happy with this new post!

    • I haven’t! I just looked it up, though, and it’s quite nice! The funny thing is, given that my house really wasn’t designed for something like this (exterior windows facing into it), so I think EVEN if all that glazing was restored, it would still have the effect of making the interior of my house darker. On a different house, though, I’d love a solarium/sun room!

  48. Memo to self: When Daniel refers to the first and second floors, he means what we in the UK refer to as the ground and first floors. Remember this and you’ll save yourself a lot of confusion.

    Daniel, I found that quote from 1874 fascinating. It reminded me that in the UK men of property would add Georgian facades (lovely classical architecture built between 1714 and 1830) to their houses to show their standing in the world. It happened to one of the houses in my family history. The first mention of the house by name (that I’ve found so far) is in 1680. So, if the facade was added between 1714 and 1830, it must have been done by my 4th or 5th great grandfather. The original house must have been built in the time of the Stuarts or even earlier, say the Tudors and Queen Elizabeth I or even back to Henry VIII. I’d love to see inside the house but so far, on the few times I’ve been there and knocked at the door, there’s been nobody home.

    In Cambridge, England, I used to see a house with an old (perhaps two – three hundred years) house, with an unremarkable and conventional front. Then I discovered that I could see the back and sides of the house, which had the original Tudor beams in the external walls, all skew-whiff. Does that phrase translate to American? The angles would make you give thanks that you weren’t trying to level those floors.

    Keep up the good work – on all your properties. I’m always looking forward to more posts.

    • That’s really the ONLY thing I find kinda sad about changing the house in this way…I think the way houses were altered with history is so fascinating. We have a lot of that here—the city was burned by the British in the early 1800s, and many stone houses were rebuilt thereafter using the shells of the remaining structure…there’s a house around the corner that is stick-frame and originally covered in clapboard, but was later veneered in brick (it’s gorgeous!), all sorts of beautiful and not-so-beautiful additions, etc. etc. Of course, I’m totally selective about it, though…anything that happened to my house in the last half-century I pretty much regard as total garbage! I hope that someday my house is still standing and somebody else gets to figure this stuff out all over again…but hopefully not by tearing everything out! :)

  49. I love a good sun room but I think removing it is definitely the right call for this house. I also agree with lots of people who say that the dormer problem will become clear or not really be a problem anymore once the rest of your plans are done. So excited for you!

    All this work on your house is just making me really itchy to own a place of my own to bring back to life again. I’m currently obsessed with this house http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1131-Main-St-Saugerties-NY-12477/2099251879_zpid/ because it has so much potential and the fixes seem doable (over years of course!). Plus! Someone found an old drawing of the house in it’s heyday! Look how pretty! https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Beers_Ulster_County_Atlas_Page038.jpg How could someone ever enclose that porch? For shame!

    • GOOD LORDY, THAT HOUSE! If you buy it, I offer my free labor and tips and tools just to go inside!

      • So good, right? Before I buy the house I might actually have to move to the area and get a job…one thing at a time. Know anyone hiring? haha! But being able to buy a house like that is a big reason I’m working towards moving back to the east coast. The PNW has some great stuff but I miss all those old houses and buildings!

  50. I just love how you refer to Edwin as your main squeeze :)

  51. Daniel have you considered that the “wall” in this pic of your living/sun room could be part of your original porch?

    http://manhattan-nest.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/livingroom.jpg

    • I’ve thought about that! But I don’t think so, because I’m fairly certain that “wall” was installed in the 1920s or 1930s, and the photo from 1950 in this post shows the solarium intact. Those windows on the wall are also wood on both sides, whereas exterior windows would have likely had the glass held in by glazing putty on the exterior side. The windows on that wall are also in PERFECT shape, leading me to believe they’ve never been exposed to the elements. Good thinking, though!

  52. Can’t wait to see what you do!

    Question re: original windows. Is there a reason you prefer original to new other than aesthetics?

    I live in a 100 year old house with original windows. Sadly, most of the original trim and sills were replaced throughout the years and are now very underwhelming. The windows take serious upper body strength to open (which I sorely lack) and they’re so drafty in the winter I can actually see cold air coming in and my expensive heating dollars escaping. Other complaints: lady bug infestations, toddler safety concerns and noise. I’m sure I can think of others.

    I’m not a huge fan of the look of vinyl windows either and worry that if I do replace them they’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Is there a point where function should take precedence over form? Can you start a home reno advice column?

    PLZ ADVISE. AND ALSO PLZ COME RENO MY HOUSE.

    • Good question, and I understand your complaints! My affinity for original windows is somewhat aesthetic, in the way that I think windows are a hugely important architectural feature of a structure and altering that—which most replacement windows tend to do quite drastically—is really destructive to the historic value of a building. But largely, it’s based on the fact that a well-maintained original wood window, combined with a storm window (which there are many lovely options for nowadays, both to be applied to the exterior or the interior!), is comparably energy efficient to a replacement window in good working order. I put that in italics because replacement windows have a very short life-expectancy, relative to the longevity of an old wood sash, which are made of old-growth lumber that allows them to last such an extremely long time…something that does not exist anymore. There is a big range of quality with new windows (and many really are quite nice and suited to historic projects, particularly when the originals have already been replaced and you want to approximate the original appearance), but in general you’re looking at 20 years or so? So people spend tens of thousands of dollars to replace their windows (not-totally-shitty new windows are spendy! Particularly with custom sizes, which many old houses require…unless you change the sizes to a stock size and reduce the size of your openings, which nearly always destroys a facade!), typically to “save” on energy costs. But the number of years it would take for that investment to pay for itself is longer than the life of those windows! At which point you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars AGAIN to replace the replacements. And in the meantime, put your original and most likely repairable original windows into a landfill, and a whole set of replacement windows, and are only 1-2 decades from doing it all over again, and the house isn’t as pretty or true to its age! So it’s really neither financially nor environmentally beneficial. It’s a sad cycle. Even hiring out old window restoration tends to be less expensive than purchasing good-quality replacements.

      THAT SAID, there are reasons to replace windows. Sometimes windows are just REALLY REALLY rotted and far gone, and replacing them is the best and most cost-efficient option. Restoring windows is time-consuming and somewhat labor-intensive, and replacing windows is normally a pretty speedy task (although, again, hiring out the restoration may be cheaper!). So I’d say IF YOU MUST, I think maintaining the original sizes and style (divided lite pattern, usually) is the best thing you can do. Many companies make wood windows with aluminum or vinyl exteriors that are FAR nicer than vinyl/vinyl, which seems to predominate due to cost…which again is short-sighted because they don’t last. For lite patterns, “simulated divided lite” is the nicest way to go. Alternatives are snap-on grills, or grills that go in between the two panes of glass, with nothing actually on the interior or exterior, but those tend to look pretty cheesy. There are a LOT of different products out there, so doing your research and pricing out different brands and options is super important.

      If you want to check out some resources for window repair (which is really uncomplicated!), take a look at my response to Megan’s comment above!

  53. Hi Daniel;
    Why don’t you do yourself (and us) a few favours, show us the end-result of the Olive-bridge cottage and just let the whole stressful process in between be forgotten (for us). I can imagine how traumatic and exasperating the whole thing must be for you and really you don’t have to revisit that for our sake. Let it go (as they say in Frozen).
    Anyhow, I love seeing you take time for your own house for a change. I love your plans, I think it will be very nice to look out from the kitchen onto the street. I am not sure about that bay-window upstairs, but I guess I’ll see how that turns out.
    About your question: “I don’t like that second floor dormer above the kitchen, but I don’t really know what to do about it. I’d still like windows in that room, but potentially the dormer could be reconfigured. I just feel like the scale/location/shed roof on it is all wrong. Anyone have any ideas?”
    I agree with what you are saying, Also I seem to remember that that room there is very low in height. SO I have a crazy proposition (that might be an assault on the historic provenance of the house, but it would really improve the look (I think)), it also is probably prohibitively expensive, but anyhow: why don’t you extend the main roof (or a copy of it slightly lower) over the last part of the house? The end of the house looks very confusing with that narrow (flat?) roof inbetween the two roofs and the window sticking out. It would give you more height for a “normal” window (like the other ones) in that room, and it would clean up the (rather confusing) look of that part of the house. Also I think in the long run it would be cheaper and easier in maintenance.
    Also, I would like to mention that in the first picture of the house, it looks as if the nook of your house is sagging a bit. I can’t remember if you wrote anything about that in your post about renewing the roof.
    Looking forward to how things evolve. Kind regards.

  54. Just saw your progress on instagram. Kind of breathtaking in a pretty stressful way. They should call you “Daniel Braveheart Kanter”. Phew, you go Daniel!!!!

  55. Thank you for this post. My home is only 65 years old, but was built with some good quality single pain wood Windows. After reading your post and several more articles I’m now convinced it would be better to repair a couple cracked Windows and repaint than to replace all the windows. I was so indoctrinated into the new windows are better doctrine that it had never even occurred to me before now that repairing my older Windows would be a better option.

  56. So happy to see you’re getting some solid time in on your own home.
    Looking forward to the posts about Bluestone. I LOVE that little house!
    Windows are sooooo important. I live in a 1980s vintage 14’x70′ mobile home that was supposed to be our temporary residence while building our dream house. We have lived here for going on 20 years now due to health issues that ate up all of our savings. (But, hey, not dying is a lot more important than building a dream house!) When we determined that this trailer was most likely going to end up being our permanent residence we decided we’d better put some money into making some substantial improvements. The first thing to change out was the original windows, which were aluminum frame, un-insulated school bus windows. Every winter we had to tape those 3M window kit sheets of plastic over the inside of the windows to try to keep the weather out of the house. As winter progressed frost would build up on the inside of the window glass. The frost patterns were beautiful, but made it impossible for us to see outside until Spring thaw. When the frost melted all that moisture went into the window sills and ran down the walls beneath the windows causing the windowsills, walls, and flooring along the edge of the wall to rot. The first winter after we replaced the windows our heating bill was cut in half and we no longer had to run a kerosene space heater in the living room to assist the furnace in keeping the temp in the house above 50 degrees. It felt luxurious!

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