The Solarium is Gone!

demo1

 

So this is exciting: I think I’m done tearing additions off this house! Forever! Tearing off entire structures like the mudroom last year and the second floor bay window this year is, as you might imagine, kind of a big deal. The payoff of restoring at least a close resemblance of the original construction is super exciting, even when it technically means sacrificing a little square footage, but the process can be a little…intense. Which is to say, I’m glad I don’t have to do this kind of thing anymore. We already demo’d the interior of the one-time solarium down to the studs, so it was time to actually get this non-original thing off my house once and for all!

roofdemo2

This started with the roof, which was a total mess. I intentionally didn’t have this roof redone when the rest of the roof was replaced almost 3 years ago because I was pretty sure I’d be taking this addition down soon enough. “Soon enough” ended up being a little longer than I thought it would be, so for three years this thing has been hanging off the side of my house, leaking every time it rained (despite efforts here and there to patch certain areas) and looking super nasty.

While the tear-off was going on, a neighbor strolled over and told me that the previous owner would go out onto this roof every single year and smear on a new layer of tar, so this is literally FORTY YEARS of tar-build up that we had to remove! In some areas it was about 3″ thick and EXTREMELY heavy, even when broken into small pieces. Poor house. I gotcha.

roofdemo

The rusty stuff you’re seeing underneath was what was left of the original metal roofing. It’s so corroded that it basically fell apart like an old newspaper.

Underneath that you can see what’s left of the roof sheathing, some of the framing, and the original box gutters. If you need a toothpick or something to jump-start your compost pile, I guess this might be good? But as a roof it was not so good.

On top of it all, you can see Edwin striking one of his sexy poses.

demo4

In credit to all the rot, the roof came down fairly quickly and easily. Look! Sky! Cool.

demo5

If you can decipher a little of what’s going on with the framing here, you can tell that it’s not so good. The window framing is far from sound, and the entire roof structure was being held up by some short lengths of very rotted 2×4 studs, resting on a horizontal 2×4  stud, and the roof rafters were being supported by…

rot

THIS. Part of the reason I really wanted to get this done NOW was because I feared that the amount of weight in tar, combined with a heavy snow-load might result in this thing literally collapsing. Which would turn its demolishing from an exciting decision I made during a semi-convenient time of year into a huge nightmare.

This is also part of why just tearing this non-original component off the house entirely made a lot more sense than trying to restore it. Bad roof, bad foundation, bad walls, no original windows left…if it had even been possible to salvage, it would have demanded a ton of serious structural work and money and that just never seemed remotely worth it.

demo3

We removed almost the entire cornice in one enormous piece which I dragged into the backyard. We’ll harvest various trim pieces and corbels from it in order to build the cornice on the new formerly-missing third side of that first floor bay window! Because the solarium was added onto the bay window, the cornice on the other side and front of the bay remained totally intact! Yay! We do still have to do some roof framing and put a new roof on the bay window, so don’t be fooled! Lots of work ahead.

We took down the walls section by section, using some quick temporary bracing to keep it all from just collapsing onto the sidewalk or back onto the house.

diningroomlight

My dining room is looking pretty torn apart obviously, but even with just the solarium’s roof removed, the newfound amount of LIGHT in this space—which has always been fairly dark—was thrilling. I’m still shocked every time I walk in there by how bright it is now that the window faces the outdoors instead of into the super yucky solarium. It’s a really dramatic change in real life. It’s hard to get the same sense in the kitchen because it basically no longer has walls or a ceiling so the light gets swallowed up, but I’m sure it’ll be one VERY bright space when it’s put back together.

demo2

The entire demo from start to finish only took about 4 or 5 hours, and we even had the truck loaded and off to the dump before they closed at 3 PM. Teamwork!

democomplete

So…EEK! This is the first time I was actually able to get a good sense of how the house would look with the solarium torn off. The new kitchen windows were making me nervous without being able to really see them in relation to the rest of the house and the dormer window above them.

I’m getting used to them. They’re 4.5 feet tall, and they look so little! I think the real problem is that I just don’t like that dormer window (it just feels so out of scale with that back part of the house, and the shed roof and the fact that it’s flush with the exterior wall and interrupts the cornice is kinda just all wrong). I wish the new kitchen windows were closer in size to the rest of the first floor windows on the front section of the house, but it felt like the most natural solution was to match the header height of the other windows (so the tops would all align) and shorten them because this is, after all, a kitchen and I need to be practical and be able to fit a countertop under the bottom of the windows. Ya dig? I think it would be nice to put window boxes below those two kitchen windows, too…both to visually elongate them and because, ya know, herbs and stuff!

Honestly, once everything is put back together and painted and done, I’m sure I won’t even be thinking about this anymore. It’s FINE. The front part of the house is the real showpiece here, anyway, and that’s going to look goooooood.

rendering

LOL LOL here is a half-hearted attempt to Photoshop the previous picture into a better idea of where things are headed, so we can all stay motivated. You don’t have to pretend that it’s very effective or convincing but WHATEVER, at least you can see where the windows go and stuff. The real thing will be significantly better looking, I promise.

It’s starting to get cold, which is freaking me out. Pls pray.


88 Comments

  1. I love it! So excited for this venture, and now you/your house can finally BREATHE. And the photoshop mockup helped ;) A rough mockup is always better than nothing at all!

  2. so worth it…amazing….much more streamlined….I’d so some trailing vines in those window boxes…to enlongate even more….but it looks great (or it will.)
    Edwin..man-God.

  3. Daniel, this is awesome! It already looks so much better. And yes once it’s all painted and with window boxes, the smaller kitchen windows won’t be noticeable. Question – what are those trees planted in your hell strip? Pear?

  4. OMG it looks SO FREAKING GOOD!!!!! You have such vision… I never probably would have thought of all this stuff when first looking at the house. I actually think the kitchen windows look great, and I absolutely love the window box idea!!

    • Thank you, Rachel! I didn’t think of this stuff when first looking at the house, either! Small budgets and being busy give ya lots of time to think! :)

  5. So exciting! And I think the window boxes will make all the difference! It’s going to soooo great!

  6. Daniel, you are doing such an awesome job with this house!

  7. I have to admit that I originally didn’t really get why you were going to so much trouble in taking off this bit of house, but I totally do now. Nicely done! My vast interest in your home remodeling is evident in that google chooses to put you in my ‘Important and Unread’ box whereas PTO emails go to ‘Everything else’. A little indicator of my interest in your endevours. Keep up the good work Daniel! Prayers coming your way from a bit south of you :)

  8. Again. Again you impressed me.

  9. Sending you prayers and encouragement. You’re DEFINITELY headed in the right direction. I also think your kitchen windows will bug you less with landscaping below them as well. If you can plan for something a bit taller to mask the lack of window below the planned window boxes, I doubt you’ll ever even notice that the windows are themselves shorter.

  10. Brave and good work here. That new corner board makes the kitchen windows look just fine. And maybe even bought you some grace with that upper shed, which isn’t ideal but feels ok now that it’s separated from the main mass.

  11. Ooooooh, I get it now! I could not picture this side of the house before, despite somuchscrolling. But I get it! This is fantastic!

    I agree with an above commenter that the window boxes will give you some of the symmetry you desire. Very excited to see it all come together.

    Thanks for posting!

  12. Woo! It’s going to be lovely. And thank you for the Photoshop, because my visual imagination is very erratic, only sometimes giving me a glimpse of how something will be, so it helped bring it all together in my brain. I’m always so happy when a post goes up and we get a look at what you’re up to. Fingers crossed that the weather co-operates for you!

  13. Woao, your posts are always like energy shots into my serial renovator veins!!
    This is HIGHLY inspiring ! I m going to start a huge demo/renovation in Bordeaux, France in a couple of months and I am still looking for my ‘French Edwin’ to get ready.
    Thank God I have already the slightly overprotective Jewish mom!!

  14. Looks great (of course)!

    Does the roof really sags in the middle or is it just my imagination?

    • My eye always goes to the roofline and cringes at that. Would also like to know what is going on there.

      • It does have some sag along the ridge, but somehow it always looks much more dramatic in photos! The roof framing will need a little attention at some point, but there’s nothing too dramatic going on…just old :)

  15. Holy cow. This is so amazing. And kind of scary too–what you found under the layers! That rotted wood! Yikes.
    Your photoshopped window boxes are the perfect solution for balancing the bottoms of the kitchen windows with the rest of the house. Brilliant.

  16. I honestly think the kitchen windows look fine. That part of the house is already a bit visually differentiated from the slightly taller main structure, so it doesn’t look jarring to have a change in window height. It looks proportional.

  17. It’s going to look so good! The light is so worth it!

  18. I got finger cramps from scrolling back and forth “cold cold go away come back in another month”, tis house is going to be more awesome than I ever thought good job xx

  19. Amazing, as expected. Cannot wait to see everything finished up! It is agony waiting for each post, though, agony! Hopefully you can get everything under wraps before the snow flies. Also, is the angle different on the new third side of the bay window? I mean, in the picture with just the framing (not your masterful Photoshop), it looks like its a little wider than the left side angle. Just an optical illusion from where you are taking the picture? Anyway, keep up the incredible work.

    • Thanks, Sara! Yep, just an illusion. We built directly on the original rim joist for that wall and it looks the same when you’re looking at the bay window head-on. There’ll be more pictures of it, don’t worry! :)

  20. Daniel, the Photoshop is highly motivating! Go you! This is all going to be fabulous when it’s put back together. Can’t wait for more on yesterday’s Instagram reveal – amazing find!

  21. I acutually really like that the kitchen windows are slightly shorter! It kind of gives me an optical illusion that the kitchen addition is set back a bit from the main house, which takes focus away from the admittedly less-than-ideal dormer. And I’m sure the dormer will look okay too once all the clapboard and trim is up and painted.

  22. I’m DYING. It’s going to be SO GOOD. The final two pictures had my jaw dropping – where you are is good and where you’re going is just so, so beautiful. Even though it’s a half hearted Photoshopped image, the final photo is like the house is finally giving a sigh of relief. Like you’ve finally brought it back to where it’s supposed to be. Keep it up! Winter is coming, but all of the hard work is worth. it.

    • And wait… did you used to have a fence in front of the solarium? Did you take it down?

      • Yep, just removed it temporarily (it’s no-dig aluminum fencing, basically held in with stakes) so it wouldn’t get crushed during the demo and to make working in that space easier. Should be able to put it back easily!

  23. Brilliant and visionary work, Daniel. I know it was a slog, but wow–what a wonderful restoration. Your house will be grateful! I love the idea of window boxes below the kitchen windows. It works visually from the outside, and will be pretty from inside, too: herbs and geraniums all Summer, evergreen branches in Winter?

  24. OMG YES!!!! This looks so amazing! WELL DONE!

  25. Wow! Such a big improvement! The condition of the solarium roof/framing was terrifying. O_O

  26. The light, the light! You finally have light in the dining room! I agree with Jen that the kitchen windows look fine, particularly if you landscape for it, but I love idea of opening the window to snip off some thyme or rosemary to throw into a pot. Your renovations are very exciting reads an I’m always eager to read the next installment.

  27. Wonderful, just wonderful! Thanks for bringing us along on your journey.

  28. Another year, another race against winter. Pretty sure the reno deities will smile on you with gratitude. Now we await updates on your house, Olivebridge Cottage, Bluestone Cottage, and the new restoration project. You can do all that blog catch-up in a few days after the European R&R, right? (just kidding)

  29. Daniel,

    You are amazing – GO GO GO! It’s going to be so worth it when done.
    Cheering you on from DC,
    Michelle

  30. I love that in the photoshopped “after” version there is still the ladder and the truck full of stuff going to the dump, because that, my friend, is honesty!

  31. Daniel,
    It’s going to look lovely when done. I wouldn’t worry too much about the proportion of the windows. Window boxes would be pretty and effective though. But the light, the light inside! Now that is worth every cent and every minute you have spent on removing the cancer on the side of your house. That’s the best part for me. Love to see it shining on that beautiful ceiling rose in the dining room. Anticipating your beautiful new kitchen and the difference all that light will make.

  32. Edwin’s cheeky eyebrow for the win!

  33. I also think the back windows look fine. A lot of old houses started out small and had rooms added on a bit at a time. You expect some differences. It’s already looking terrific, so nice to see results.

  34. It is looking amazing! So much hard work, but it is paying off. Can’t wait to see it with siding and paint, looking like it had been this way all along!
    A comment about the back windows, though it is likely too late to change anything – we have an 1850s home with big windows all around. When a large modern kitchen was put in by previous owners, the window, like yours, ran down to lower than the counter height. But that hasn’t proved to be a problem. The windows are caulked shut (which is fie by me, you don’t really air out a house in the humid south) and the back of the counter is caulked where it meets the window, just as if it was meeting a wall.It’s been this way for at least 2 decades, to my knowledge, and not a single problem. We do a sort of yearly caulk inspection, since water constantly getting back there would be a potential pain, but that’s it. From the outside, it looks no different than a table being by the window.

    • Thanks Chris, I know exactly what you mean! I considered doing something like that, but practicality just sorta won out. If there had been existing windows at that size I probably would have ended up doing what you’re describing, but given that I needed to install new windows and new framing anyway, keeping them above counter-height seemed like a better option for me. :)

  35. It’s looking great! You can pop a shrub or two under those two kitchen windows also. Window boxes are great idea. Wow, the condition of that wall! Eek! You must be so relieved to have gotten that down! Can’t wait to see what’s next!!

    • Yes, definitely! Can’t wait to landscape that area that used to be covered by the solarium! I definitely think it will help make everything look better.

  36. Dear Daniel,
    I’ve been following your webby log since your college dorm room. Watching your style evolve and your construction skills grow has inspired me no end. I’m almost 2 years into restoring my much abused shotgun house and your progress helps me keep my spirits up. I have been on pins and needles waiting for these last few posts. Your mock up works for me. I’m praying that the weather gods keep smiling on you and Edwin! Cheers!

  37. Ahhhh, it’s looking so good! And the shorter windows on the kitchen addition don’t really bother me, now that there’s that thick board really highlighting that it’s an addition & not part of the original structure. I agree that window boxes should help balance everything out, and I’m having nooooo trouble visualizing how it’s gonna look when it’s done. Really excited for you, and I hope the weather holds so you can get to where you want to stop for the year without it being too much of a PITA!

    P.S. Sooooo intrigued by your kitchen fireplace find. Trying to figure out which wall it must be on!

    • Thank you, Lori! I’m glad the thick cornerboard separating the front from the back is working for you! That was definitely the intention and I think it’s pretty effective but sometimes it’s hard to be objective about this stuff when you’re calling the shots and staring at it everyday, haha. I’ll talk about the fireplace ASAP!

  38. Well, I love tall windows, from inside as well as outside (too many years of living in Brooklyn brownstones), so I probably would have put in taller ones myself and worked the kitchen around them – possibly with low cabinets with a window seat in front of one, and maybe room for a foot pedal garbage can in front of the other. Or just a table in front of the windows, as I like sitting and eating by windows best. (I had a great kitchen table in front of two tall windows in one brownstone rental kitchen – it was a corner brownstone, with side windows on a small street, and I’d sit at that table and look out at the really tall trees and brownstones on that lovely street.) Or if I really couldn’t live without more cabinets ad counter, I’d even have installed cabinets and counters in front of them, where you can still open and close the windows easily behind the countertops as I’ve seen friends do in old houses. BUT – it was basically a choice of the inside v. the outside – you chose the inside, and so won’t have to think about your windows when designing your kitchen. Which means you just have to work a little harder to make the outside work visually. (Your choice makes sense, in that you will likely spend far more time in your kitchen than viewing the outside of the side of your house.) While I think window boxes can help, but only deeper ones that come as low as the bottom edge of the longer windows, I think that landscaping below is really going to be the way to get these windows to blend in. The house is rather exposed to the street right close by on that side anyway, so some taller, maybe skinny, shrub/trees will go a long way to restoring a sense of privacy, and will also obscure the kitchen windows size. But that’s for later – final demolition of that sucker may have only taken 4-5 hours (I was surprised to see it went that fast, and included removing the foundation masonry), but replicating the cornice and trim work is fine work that will take you many hours to complete. Don’t worry, you’ll still have lots of sunny days, if shorter, even if the nights are cold, to finish it (they’ll be lovely days to be working outside – fall is my favorite season, especially nice out of the big city where you can see the leaves on the trees changing and smell the crisp air. The dormer above the kitchen does look off in your final photoshopped version. Is replacing that one your list for before this winter, or is that a project left to another year? If this year, I expect your next post will be about your design options for that, as you are probably considering many dormer options you see around you …

    • Doing this in the fall is definitely nice! I just hope it holds! This side of the house gets a lot of sun so working on it in the heat of summer can be a little intense. I’m REALLY trying to avoid messing with the dormer beyond a couple cosmetic tweaks… the roof on it is only a couple years old, the windows are in good condition, it’s nice from the inside…I don’t love it and it’s not the way I would have added a dormer there, but it is what it is and somehow rebuilding it is just such a big and expensive undertaking. But I’ve been considering it a lot and I think I have a plan, so hopefully that’ll help!

  39. Yay! So much work, but totally worth it. I can’t believe that it held up with all that rot. You must feel so refreshed now.

  40. Completely transformed! Nice job!

  41. You’re a superstar!

  42. Sorry to be commenting for a third time but I have questions. I was thinking about your planting possibilities now you have extra gardening space. It looks like you uncovered 2? basement windows. Do they have glass in them? What’s the plan for down there?

    • Yep, two basement windows, both in pretty good shape! All my basement windows need some level of restoration work, but the wood is solid so that’s the plan! The basement is really just for utilities, storage, and tools…DEFINITELY no plans to try to finish it or anything…it’s just not that kinda basement :)

  43. Hi Daniel,

    Still following your adventures with interest. You have come so far in so a short time from your little apartment. Can’t wait until you get to the decorating part of your adventures in all the houses. haven’t heard much about your other projects for a while. Have you finished the cottage?

    We have been renovating our little house on a shoestring for 3 years and are almost finished (the inside – outside still to be done). We just did the kitchen using all an old kitchen we got for free (inspired by you). Just need to some the floating floor and some tiling. We have had a really wet winter and spring here in Barmah Australia. The creek at the front of our house is really high but we don’t have to worry about floods just yet. Roll on summer!

    It’s amazing how it all looks a mess and then comes together right at the end!
    Can’t wait to do the fun part of decorating and adding the finished touches. Hurry up and do yours – I need your inspiration.

    Keep going, it’s going to be absolutely fabulous.

    Cheers,

    Maureen

    • Thank you, Maureen! I can’t WAIT to get to the decorating part, omg. Just for the change of pace! Other projects are in progress…Olivebridge is 99% done, Bluestone is back in action (long story), my house is moving, a couple other projects in Kingston…there’s a lot going on!

      Love that you were able to install an old (and free!) kitchen, so cool! xoxo

  44. AW i can hear the house take a deeeeep breathe … so fabulous .. and understand why you wanted to do it!

    europe? wow hope it was a good trip!
    updates when you can on the other things.. curiousity …

  45. If you made your window boxes deeper, it would give you the balance you’re looking for

  46. I think the shorter windows are better, and while the window boxes are lovely, I don’t think you need them for disguise. That corner board was brilliant. Now the front of the house is one thing and the back of the house is another thing and they work together–without being the same. If you’d put the longer windows in the back, the shed dormer windows would be the only odd ones out and I’d bet it would drive you right out of your mind. As it is, the kitchen windows work beautifully with the dormer and everything looks very intentional and harmonious.

  47. Fantastic! I always get excited to see an update on what you are doing. The photoshop pic finally pulled it all together for me and I get where you are going finally. Love it all.

  48. Tearing down that addition was such a brilliant move. It’s quite exciting to watch the transformation of this space. Also, I’m really looking forwward to any kitchen update.

  49. Thoughts and prayers…….and high fives!! Another thoughtful (and beautiful) renovation.

  50. You’ve got balls my friend! Tearing your house apart (even when removing stuff that is no good) is SCARY. I love that you are owning the process. The decisions you have made this far have been spot on. So excited to see it when all of the clapboard and mouldings are up!!!

  51. Yep. All good!

  52. YES! Love it.

    OK, the dormer does still kind of suck, but as others have noted, the wider corner board and the proportions of the new kitchen windows help enormously to create some harmony out of all the previous discord. You, sir, have got vision.

  53. Ohhhhhh! The photoshopped image finally made this whole project make sense for me. Living in a tiny dark apartment in Brooklyn, all I’ve been able to think for the last couple months has been, “Wait, you have an entire small room in your house that is just dedicated to GETTING SUNLIGHT and you’re going to tear it out?!” but now I totally get it. The final product is going to look so beautiful.

  54. Yay, Daniel. This is so exciting (/terrifying)! I love your window box idea. It’s a great way to solve the window height vs. counter height issue.

  55. You did it!!
    This looks absolutely amazing. Although it would scare me to death to attempt something like that on my own.
    The look improved so much by removing the solarium and I can only imagine how this will change the feel of the kitchen. Looking forward to your next adventure!

  56. The corner board makes such a huge difference! I really think the smaller windows look fine because they are balanced with the size of the dormer and the corner board really differentiates the front and back of the house, which makes it seem intentional (plus, what is an old house but a bunch of not ideal options? kitchen counters are so worth it) The window boxes will be so dreamy and conceal-y too. A kitchen herb garden window box never occurred to me, but now that I have seen how awesome yours are going to be, I am basically positive that I need one for my life to be complete.Thanks for the inspiration and good luck beating winter!

  57. I think it’s amazing how the window boxes in the mock up totally undid the window size mismatch for me.
    Have you thought about replicating the cornice below the original roof above the dormer window? Now I’ve typed that I’m worried you will mentally smack me with a newspaper. Anyway, with the side of the house making more sense I think the dormer shape is less noticeable.

    • Ha! I think I’ve figured out what to do with the dormer, maybe, but it’s going to have to wait until next year! Outta time, outta money! :)

  58. Regarding your faux window on the first floor, to the left of the bump out.

    I think you were considering covering the spot with faux closed shutters. I was wondering if it would make sense to install a faux window with a faux white blind behind it (in reality, just board painted pale grey to match the tone of a white blind in the shade), so that spot is consistent with the rest of the house.

    I think it would totally fool the eye, and you could just make it out of spare wood and even a sheet of plexiglass or plastic.

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