Finishing the Side of the House: Part 1!

I didn’t really know when I embarked on this ~journey~ that the first five years of renovating my house would fall into two fairly distinct phases: before restoring the side of the house, and after. At the beginning it felt more linear—after the major, non-DIY work of replacing the roof, replacing the boiler, and upgrading the electrical system was completed, it felt like things would proceed at a steady and fluid pace as time and money allowed. Living in the house would certainly never be more difficult than it was in those first few months, so if we could just get over those early hurdles it would be relative smooth sailing afterwards. Not easy by any means, but not trying in that way where you question all of your life decisions and rue the day you ever thought homeownership was an appealing goal.

That’s not exactly how it worked out. Some projects are bigger than others, and restoring the south side of the house—a project that began over 2 years ago at this point—was HUGE. Primarily because walls have two sides (fancy that!), so it’s not as though this work was isolated from the interior of the house, too. At this point I think I’ve written more about putting the inside of the house back together after all of this—starting with the bedroom (which saw the addition of a window) and then the den (which lost a bay window but gained a regular window). This is also when the kitchen went from pretty shoddy to totally gutted, and the dining room—though the least affected in terms of actual construction—turned into a total renovation war zone.

WTF am I even talking about? I’ll try to go through this fast, since it’s been a while and it occurs to me that maybe 2 years is approximately 2 years too long to expect anyone to remember the elaborate details of my home renovation. Perhaps.

Above is the back and side of the house pretty much when I bought it. This was after the roof replacement so the fire escape and little roof over that 2nd floor door have been removed, but otherwise this is more or less where things started. Demolishing that single-story box off the back of the house was the first major demolition project, which we’ve talked about a lot—including the two ways that elevation has been rearranged now!

Removing that back addition did a lot for improving the proportions of the house (and bringing natural light into the kitchen!), but the south side is where I really saw potential for major improvement—both for the interior and exterior. The more I lived here, the more I tried to deduce the series of events that had transpired here—seemingly taking a neoclassical house and making it look like…this. It’s an easier task when additions are more modern—where you can really easily see how things don’t match, or are made of completely different materials—but everything was some level of old here except for those three vinyl windows on the first floor. I put a lot of thought into how I might be able to repair and renovate these parts of the house that were old but not original, but ultimately I couldn’t shake that this elevation of the house (which is really more visible than the front to a passerby) just looked wrong. And I really wanted to make it look right again. Not new. Just…as it ought to be. And that meant tearing some shit down.

YOU KNOW, JUST THIS?! On another project you might, ya know, have an architect or something render this out and have something legit and precise for the contractor to work off of, but…I’m the contractor. It’s all in my noggin. What else could we possibly need than this beautiful mind?????

So, um. You know I like a story, so I’ll tell you a story.

I wasn’t planning to do this project when I did. I was considering it “someday” work that I would merrily undertake at some future date when the finances and the time and the pre-planning stars aligned to make it possible. But then there was a glitch in that plan, and that glitch was basically me being dumb.

Here’s some context: I was at the end stages of what had unexpectedly become a very large and very time-consuming freelance project. As a result, I hadn’t been able to do any significant work on my own house for a long time—which sucks when you’re living in a house in need of so much work. I’m not talking about, like, painting walls and swapping out hardware for something so fresh and cute. I’m talking major work. Needed work. Never does a house feel more like it’s falling apart than when work hits an extended stand-still, especially when you’re actively pouring everything you have into someone else’s home while yours feels increasingly hopeless. The job was stressful, the house was stressful, everything was stressful.

Suffice to say, I was not in a great headspace. Like on a scale of Bad to Very Bad, I’d rate it Pretty Fucking Bad.

So we’re at the end of this project, and in my experience something happens at the end of big renovation/construction projects. Things get really slow. On TV we’re used to seeing a mad dash to the finish, but in reality I’ve never really seen this come to pass on a big project. Because you’re waiting for some product order to come, or for the countertops to get installed so the backsplash can go in, or a homeowner really wants to see something in person before committing one way or the other. It’s just…like that. People often talk about how difficult it is to keep contractors “on the hook” while they work through those final items big and small on a project, and it’s often cast as contractors just being selfish or unethical—which sometimes is actually the case (dealt with that shit, too!), but I think it’s more complicated than that.

Because everyone has to make a living. Say you have a full-time job, and then your boss announces that you’re going down to part-time and your pay is getting cut accordingly. This isn’t great but it’s pretty normal for your industry, and so you need to find another job to make up the lost income. The problem is that the first job—now part-time—expects you to be like a doctor on call, ready to make an appearance and do good work with little notice. This doesn’t jive so well with your new job, which expects your consistent attendance, and promises WAY more in the way of future income than your first job which you know is going to end pretty soon anyway. So you do the thing that’s in you and your family’s immediate best interest: prioritize the new job that offers more consistency, money, and satisfaction, and get back to the first job as time allows because your old boss won’t leave you alone and just finishing is easier than getting sued or whatever.

FOR INSTANCE.

So that’s kind of where we were with this very large freelance project. Lots of finishing touches that had to be done but couldn’t be done all at once for various reasons, clients who had very little patience for that, and contractors who wanted so badly to be OUTTA THERE, that last couple thousand dollars in their contract be damned. At the center of this stood me, trying to keep it all together and afloat with everyone getting along (ish) and the project actually getting completed. Which is how an idea was born.

I needed to keep everyone busy in order to keep everyone paid full-time so nobody was scrambling for other work. Must keep contractors in my clutches.

But I could only keep everyone busy a little bit at the freelance project.

But I could keep everyone busy a lot at my own house by just hurriedly embarking on the largest renovation project this house will likely ever see! When we couldn’t be working at the freelance project, which was most of the time, we’d be at my house. And when that product order came in or the counters got installed or whatever, I could transition everyone back to the freelance job at the drop of a hat, which in turn would keep the clients satisfied that things were proceeding at an acceptable pace.

And so. A mess was made. Here, Edwin stands in the new south garden, created by removing what was once a long skinny solarium space.

Behold! My cozy relaxing den and its new window.

Here’s more or less what remained of my kitchen and pantry.

Then my bedroom joined the fun!

MEANWHILE, the outside of my house is looking something like this, and something like this is not going to fly for a Hudson Valley winter. The idea of really doing anything with the interior before the exterior was totally buttoned up was ridiculous—this had to take priority. You know, behind the never-ending freelance job but ahead of having a decent place to sleep or cook or really do anything at all.

Some of this might seem exciting, and it kind of was, but I can tell you firsthand…IT. FELT. FUCKING. TERRIBLE. Exactly zero square inches of the house felt clean or OK to be in. I didn’t really doubt the vision so much as deeply regretted the process and the lack of preparation—which included financial.

Oh my god, THE MONEY. MONEY IS SO HARD. IT IS SO HARD TO SAVE BUT SO EASY TO SPEND. I thought I was such hot shit because I’d managed to squirrel away about $12,000 to put toward the house before this, and before I knew it, it was gone. Then I did the super fun and advisable thing of maxing out my credit cards! Yayyyyyyy! This is exactly what I needed during this terrible time inside my brain and also inside my house! Everything at once!

So, I’d say around the project’s midway point, I realized I had to start being very strategic about what work I’d be able to pay someone (Edwin) to do with me, vs. work that by economic necessity I’d have to complete alone.

Which was…a lot of work.

Which I think is why EVIDENTLY this is the last image I shared of this !!huge transformation!! 2 years ago, because all I really wanted to do was to go from this directly into sharing a big reveal which never came. It didn’t come because…well…I didn’t finish.

A big part of the reason this took so long and cost so much was the amount of particularity that went into reconstructing the original details without going totally broke. Half the point of this was to bring the house back to a closer resemblance of its original construction, so new work had to blend seamlessly with the old to pull it off—end of story.

Demo had fortunately left me with the cornices of the old 2nd floor bay window and the solarium, so I was hopeful that these parts would provide at least most of what I needed in order to reconstruct the third side of the bay window and patch the cornice upstairs. A lot of this wood was too rotted to be useful, but the corbels and various lengths of trim were generally salvageable.

That being said, there were three major pieces that I just didn’t have. The first was the decorative drip cap above all of the windows. The original windows still had them, but they’re meant to have returns on the sides—these were hacked off when the previous owner had the house covered in vinyl. Sigh.

I had one relatively intact piece, aside from that notched out part, which had escaped the same fate because it was above the dining room window which faced into the solarium. I carefully removed it and brought it to Spiegel Architectural Woodworks—right here in Kingston!!—which is ESSENTIALLY the point of this post; it’s just taken me 2,000 words to get there.

SO. I did not know how getting woodwork reproduced generally works, but now I do so I’ll tell you.

When a place like this has to reproduce a molding, first a knife has to be created from an example of the molding profile. Sometimes this is done in-house and sometimes it’s contracted out–in this case it’s sent out, which is only really notable because obviously it affects lead time.

The cool thing is, once a knife has been made, it’s catalogued and stored for future use. That means that if you need more than you thought, you don’t have to start the process over entirely, and it ALSO means that it’s possible somebody has had the same profile replicated before. The reason this matters is that there are two flat fees that will come along with any amount of molding you order: a fee to fabricate the knife, and another fee to set up the knife at the mill so the work can be done. If your molding has already been replicated, you should only have to pay that second set-up fee, plus the cost of the material you’re having made! The material is typically priced by the linear foot, and there’s a big range depending on the type of wood. For the window drip caps, I went with Western Red Cedar because it’ll get the most exposure to water/snow.

So. Because getting these details wrong would be so so very sad, I was adamant about getting them right. Close enough wasn’t going to cut it! And then, sure enough, someone in the past did have the same molding profile as my original drip caps reproduced!

ALMOST.

SO CLOSE. SO SIMILAR. The difference was that the rounded part on mine is a little oblong, whereas the existing knife was a more perfect quarter-round.

Remember that thing I said about close enough not cutting it for my fancy obnoxious ass? A $200 knife fabrication fee for the tiniest, most imperceptible difference was, apparently, enough for close enough to be JUST fine. Funny how that happens.

That left this nice simple crown, which is part of the cornice all around the house. I love that simple profile so much! This one required a knife to be fabricated for $200. But then they made me 150 feet of it! For cost purposes, I went with pine.

This is the uppermost crown molding below the roof, and this is where “close enough” was really not going to cut it! Here’s kinda why:

My house has classical eaves returns, which to me is a super important detail to be preserved, and says something about the quality of the craftsmanship that went into its beautiful details! With a “poor man’s return,” you could probably get away with replacing rotted crown molding with a similarly scaled stock molding and nobody would be the wiser, but a classical eaves return requires two variations on the same profile—one for the flat parts and one for the raked parts. Using a similar but different molding for the flat sections would completely ruin this transition to the raked parts and I couldn’t live with myself! And so, because this molding was the biggest, the knife fee was $300. Ouch!

If you thought $12,000 seemed like a lot of money to do this project, here’s a good example of why it wasn’t. I spent like $3,000 that summer on reproduction moldings. That’s completely separate and apart from other lumber, trim boards, stock moldings, siding, windows, primer, paint, nails, roofing…just three molding profiles.

ANYWAY.

Between salvaged pieces, reproduced pieces, pieces we could mill ourselves with saws and routers, and stock pieces (or just parts of stock pieces, as the case may be, like in the image above!), we sorted it out! I actually like figuring stuff like this out.

Here you can get a sense of it—the basic structure of the cornice was there because the second floor bay window was added, but all the details were missing. I had hoped for a more seamless, staggered patch job, but to be honest…truly restoring the cornices is a project for another time, and I didn’t want to start tearing into existing stuff because that is a goddamn can of worms if I ever saw one. That job is going to require scaffold and a tonnnnnnn of time—but after patching and paint, I can TOTALLY live with this.

Recreating the third side of the bay window was…intense. SO MUCH MOLDING. SO MANY LAYERS.

To reconstruct the cornice, we tore off the roof to try to recreate how the original two sides were built. Like the rest of the house, this bay window has box gutters so there were definitely some uncomfortable flashbacks to the roof replacement of a few years before. Luckily this time I was much more prepared for the near-inevitability of rotten gutters so I was able to move a little more efficiently into just fixing them instead of freaking out.

You can also see how deteriorated the top of the crown molding is—luckily, by this time I have more!

I’m not sure what we call the framing that creates the structure of the box gutter, but it looks like this! The originals were all in various stages of decay, so we used one as a guide and recreated a bunch of them out of 2x4s, which are thicker than the 1″ thick boards the originals were made from. Because the gutter needs to pitch in a direction for drainage, we had to be very careful about cutting and fastening these pieces to avoid low points away from the downspout outlet.

Once we’d sistered in our new pieces, it was just a matter of following the same principal to rebuild the third side. It was hard, not gonna lie.

I think we did well, though! There are a couple pieces still missing in this photo but you get the idea. The new reproduction crown wasn’t installed yet, either, and we basically threw a piece of ice and water shield over the roof until the roofers could come.

This is now mid-October. I really can’t afford the help I’d, ya know, ideally have. Especially because it’s getting late in the season and half the house still doesn’t have siding installed (let alone caulk, paint, downspouts, the list goes on). I took on installing all of the siding on the first floor by myself, and then Edwin and I did the second floor together.

Cutting and installing siding alone is not a good time. It’s very much a two person job and not only will it be slow, but you also MIGHT fall into a depression spiral of feeling so super alone in this exciting restoration journey! you’ve undertaken that has taken all of your money and all of the years of your mid-twenties and left you chasing daylight on a crisp autumn evening, shivering outside of your barely-habitable house where there’s nothing inside but destruction and more aloneness.

NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW ABOUT ANY OF THAT. I’M JUST SAYING IT MIGHT HAPPEN.

Ten days after that last photo was taken, this one was taken. Snow. Winter had arrived. This text exchange with my mother pretty much tells you what you need to know:

Oh right and the freelance job was somehow STILL going on.

The deal with the roof was essentially this: I could not, for the life of me, hire a roofer to come and do this roof. I called all of them. I think one or two showed up for give an estimate, but then never got back to me. That feeling—of not being able to give somebody money to do the thing that they do to make money—is so lousy and helpless. I feel it with plumbers constantly. I think the job was just too small and nobody thought it was worth it.

SO. You can kinda see above the bay roof, about 5 courses of missing siding. This was left intentionally to allow the roofer to flash up the side wall, and we’d patch in those missing courses once the roof was done.

Except there was no roofer and it’s now November. I had wanted/assumed I’d do a EPDM roof, which is how my box gutters were lined on the rest of the house and is a common way of addressing flat/low-slope roofing and box gutters here. The problem was that—at least at the time—I had an IMPOSSIBLE time sourcing the products. It was crazy! The rubber, the underlayment, the fasteners, the mastic—all of it! I KNOW IT EXISTS. NOBODY CAN SEEM TO SELL IT TO ME.

Cue more anxious feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I’m a lot of fun.

And so, eventually, I gave up on finding a roofer. “Edwin,” I asked. “Do you think we can handle this?”

“Of course we can. Done it a thousand times.”

Mostly due to ease of availability, we went with this torch-down rubber roofing product. So listen. We know I adore this man, and have worked with him on many projects for years, during which his experience has been a tremendous asset. Which is really why I bring this up, because it’s a good reminder that when you’re working with ANYBODY, on ANYTHING, EVEN if you know and trust them—KNOW HOW THE THING IS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE. You have nothing to lose by being an informed consumer but a whole lot to gain.

At this point, I was so drained. Financially, emotionally, physically just beat. Edwin said the roof was no problem, so we bought a roll of this stuff and got to work. About midway through, it occurred to me that our installation process just seemed…not right…and THAT’S the first time I googled how the fuck this stuff is supposed to work.

We were doing it very wrong. Edwin told me not to worry, I told him I was worried, he told me it would be fine, I told him it didn’t seem fine, and so forth. But we were halfway through, and an incorrectly installed roof had to be better than no roof at all…so I just…went with it.

I don’t really know how, but before winter really, really hit, we got the bay window roof done, the rest of the siding patched, and everything got at least a coat of primer if not caulk and paint.

And you know what? Everyone survived. The house survived and I survived, and even the bay window survived.

I’ll cop to this, too: you might expect that during the next summer, I was able to circle back and do that last 10-15% of the work and really get it finished off.

I did not. I was super busy, this time on a different ever-expanding freelance job, and when it came to my own house I decided to focus on redoing the back again instead of wrapping up this side, because both things definitely weren’t happening and getting the window and door arrangement right on the back was standing in the way of much further progress on the kitchen.

ROUND AND ROUND WE GO.

I actually think that little roof was OK for about a year, but then it started leaking. OF COURSE it started leaking.

So. I am bound and determined to get this side of the house really finished off this fall. A few weekends ago I replaced the roof all by myself (BOY WAS THAT FUN AND NOT AT ALL THE WORST THING EVER), and I’ve been working my ass off on sanding, scraping, caulking, priming and painting the entire thing. It’s an assload of work but really does feel good to circle back around and really give everything the care and attention it needs! And I gotta say—it’s looking goooooood. Give me a little more good weather and it’ll finally, at long last, be time for the AFTER!


63 Comments

  1. YOU CAN DO IT!
    <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  2. What an epic reno tale! Thank you for being honest because so many people make light of the actual work involved in these projects and makes it seem like everything just magically comes together and the reality is these things take so much time and money and are so draining and you just want to burn the whole thing down–or at least that has been my experience with my own home project! It is nice to know that I am not the only person that works and works and works and is still never done–or the only person that BEGS contractors to PLEASE TAKE MY (REAL!) MONEY but they won’t! Can’t wait to see the after, can’t wait to hear about the other projects, if they are finally completed! And keep fighting on–you can do it!! :)

  3. You saved that remarkable text, showing a) what a terrible one finger typist I am and b) where you learned all that flowery vocabulary you use? I’m so proud.

    • I love every single one of your comments, Daniel’s Mom! And I mean that completely unironically.

  4. Please, never stop blogging. I love reading your stories so much – I need more! I once called 11 contractors to try to get a shower replaced. I finally had to suck it up and reno the entire bathroom just to get someone to take my money! Side note: one of the 11 gave me a quote – $10,000 for a shower. Not a fancy shower.
    Not a large shower. Just a simple tiled shower. The whole bathroom came to $13,500… At least someone took my money in the end…

  5. Daniel, you are the best thing to ever happen to that house. Truly. <3

  6. Boy Daniel – the day is coming soon when you will have undone all the. Rimes and bombing of previous owners and then you will fly …. a new kitchen, a stunning sitting room, a verdant garden. You’ll never be able to just sit and enjoy it as you aren’t built that way, but you will know every inch of the structure inside and out, and you’ll be able to sleep easy while planning changes to other buildings.

    What you have done is absolutely epic. Love the moulding story. Looking forward to the kitchen story!

    Fingers crossed for a mild autumn and some new pictures of the garden.

  7. Sorry, that should read “crimes and bodging of the previous owners”

  8. Hang. In. There. Those exterior projects are always deceptive BEASTS. Will feel great to have it done, I’m sure. Sending you all my determination.

  9. *GASP*
    I think I just read everything in one go without breathing stoooooop!

    That was so stressful, but how far you have come. Hang in there!

  10. Sending you the very best of luck and positive thoughts that this is the light at the end of the tunnel! So sorry to hear about how hard it’s been – I can relate to living in a house under moderate renovation but not to your extent and it it SO SO SO draining! Hugs from Ohio.

  11. Can I just say that I love your blog posts. About anything really, but ESPECIALLY about your lovely old home. I kid you not, your blog posts are sometimes the highlight of my afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to write/post them. You’re one of my favorite bloggers!

  12. You are my idol. Never stop blogging :)

  13. Daniel, I am just amazed about how much restoration you put into the finer details of architecture. You should clearly be a historic homes renovator/preserver and get the big bucks that go along with that– oh hey, doesn’t the historic homes of America have you on their payroll yet? You are like the fine masters who touch up and restore the paintings on the ceilings in Palace of Versailles!!!!

  14. ALL HAIL EDWIN

  15. Oh man, I know that This Is Carpentry image of the classical and poor man’s return so well – we put crown and classical returns on our new-but-looks-old house, and just figuring out how to cut the molding, what spring angle to use, etc. to make it all work seemed to take DAYS of the project. We used two different profiles of stock molding to do it, and somehow we ended up with the wrong size on one of the profiles, and just couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to work. And like you, it was fall and we were were scrambling to get a roof on before snow while doing it. I was the one who insisted on the crown without really knowing what was involved, so I was really regretting my decision the whole time – but, some how we made it all happen and it looks amazing now and I don’t regret it at all! So, I completely sympathize, but yay for doing it right!

  16. It is a really good thing that you have decided to take short vacations to see your friends. And, at least at this point you have a great bedroom, laundry. den and living room and home grown veggies. I know you are pleased and proud of that progress.

  17. I am so immensely grateful for your steadfast dedication to proper restoration.

    It seems like you’re the only one out there in DIY Bloggerville doing actual restoration, while everyone else is busy remuddling things, to horrific effect.

    Its so satisfying reading your posts, knowing your focus and determination in doing right by your house.

    Seriously, thank you. Its truly a joy. :)

    • 100% agree with the above. Would also like to add that you’re a treasure, a scholar, a saint, and your blog is Testament.

  18. LOVE YOUR UPDATES AND YOUR HOUSE!! Daniel, my hat is off to you on your construction journey….wish I had your nerve and gorgeous house too. PLEASE keep the posts coming. Love them!

  19. Daniel, please please please put up a patreon!

  20. Your renovation skills and the heart you poor into your work are only matched by your superb talent for writing. If it were me I would still be crying and shaking in a pile of lumber next to my house. Keep up the beautiful work and the great writing.

  21. Dude, you saved my sanity today. Seriously, your IG post announcing your new blog post gave me something to look forward to as I powered through some seriously miserable landscape maintenance for 8 hours at 91 degrees and 91% humidity (keep in mind that I’m a redhead, so that means pants, boots, long sleeves, collar, wide brimmed hat with a bandana under it to protect my ears) .

    I have two things to say in response to this post, because it has been A WEEK and I am already D-O-N-
    E.

    #1 Thanks for keeping it real. Because my god, I don’t think any of us really know what we’re really getting into when we buy an old house. They say hindsight is 20/20 and foresight is legally blind.

    And #2 You are my hero, like I am not even joking, for powering through all this crap and figuring out how to fix things, and then just sucking it up and getting it done/dealing with it. It makes me feel so much better that it takes you a while, because I am still trying to figure out how the hell to cope the interior corners of crown molding properly and that shit doesn’t even need to be weather proof, and don’t even get me started on all the stuff that’s been demo’d but is waiting on insufficient funds to complete.

    Ok, I take back only having 2 things to say because #3, it’s really awesome to read back and then compare to how confident/capable you have become. See #2. ;)

    Rock on, Daniel! And for real, if you want some help with your landscaping as winter comes down to the wire, shoot me a line. I need a serious break from Texas, for many reasons.

  22. Wow, what a great post! Thank you for your honesty, and all the details, and your dark humor! I’ve been stuck in a pit of despair over here in Dutchess Co with my house renovation. No money, no time, no energy, and way way way too big of a To Do list. It seems insurmountable. But somehow reading your piece has given me hope. You persevered, and you’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I can too. And look how beautiful your house is now! I love Greek Revivals, and I’m so glad to see how you are restoring the soul of this one.

  23. This is undoubtedly the craziest teardown in Kingston, if not all of New York State. You tear down to the brick walls in order to build it all back out, from scratch or remnants. And whereas most teardowns are to make way for bigger houses (I think they look like ridiculous steroid-using muscle men popping out of their shirts, those big houses on little lots) you are removing square feet of house.
    I hope you get a new tax assessment to reflect the smaller footprint.
    You deserve to get a book contract. This was a riveting read, even for someone who has read every single post for years. Also, it’s interesting to hear it from the “contractor’s” POV–too many people with ample checkbooks and a shortage of patience think that contractors are just incompetent/not smart or they’d be doing office work like finance/rip-off artists. There is a whole genre of “I moved to a new country and restored a house and it was a nightmare working with those idiots over there” (Peter Mayle, I’m looking at you). Maybe because my husband built his previous house with his own two hands and was able to understand the contractors, we had no problems. Your attention to detail and ability to explain all the technical points for laypeople is refreshing.
    Awaiting more!

    • I second the book contract idea. I would totally purchase a book about of the renovation of this house. What is so interesting about the Manhattan Nest Blog is how it shows your growth- from hacking furniture and fixing things in your apartments to tackling a major home renovation/restoration on your own (okay, with Edwin & Co as well). Even the change in the type of furniture you gravitate towards has been interesting to read about- mid century modern, to the antiques you have bought in your auction posts. I don’t see this sort of growth in other “house blogs” – not like there are many left.
      Thank you for sharing.

  24. okay.
    I think it’s unanimous!
    WE LOVE YOU! and your mother <3

  25. Your grit is inspiring!

  26. Holy shit. Like, holy shit. Just reading your post made me feel bone tired, so I can only imagine how you actually felt while doing all of that work. I love reading your blog, though, so I hope you continue to make yourself exhausted and crazed!

  27. You are amazing. Watching you make your way through these huge projects is inspiring – and hearing/reading that it can be depressing and difficult helps when I want to just run away from my own much smaller projects.

  28. I found this truthful, hopeful, inspiring blog of yours when it lived with you in a small apartment… and then it moved to its soulmate of a house. And then it spread its arms around the homes of other people in the most thoughtful, homey, love-where-you live kind of way.
    You’re writing always reminds me that home is like a person. With history, particularities, flaws, outright meltdowns… and warmth, adventure, contentment, and future. And as I sit here waiting for contractor to fix my kitchen, and ignoring my siding issues until summer because we just replaced our stinking roof… I am leaning on your post (as I often do). It’s truly a compliment when I say you make rotten wood bearable!

  29. As someone who loves these old houses, I can only say you are simply doing a tremendous job. Carry on.

  30. Actually, the rest of the screenshot told me everything I need to know – 80 unread messages and 15% battery power! LOL, I’ve been in that boat; good luck and hang in there. You’re doing an incredible job! Really enjoying the posts and IG stories!

  31. You are simply the best. I love your writing style and your honesty. You always make me laugh and I’m always impressed by what you are willing to tackle. Your house is enchanting.

  32. A new post from you always makes my day! Congratulations on circling back to unfinished work. It’s going to feel SO GOOD to clear this from your mind.

    Your blog is my favorite. Your voice, your honesty, your detailed restoration… it’s all such a gift you share with us. I never have expectations from your blog. I simply appreciate what you share when you’re able to share.

    Hoping for a long, dry Fall for you!!!

    • Exactly what I was thinking, but you said it better. Thank you, Jennifer, and THANK YOU, DANIEL.

  33. Keep the faith….keep the energy….keep Edwin….but not always his advice….keep blogging!

  34. oh holy shit.
    What everyone else said!
    And I feel like such a weeny for not being able to tackle my own plaster ceiling/wall redos…having to hire someone for far more money than I have….
    Somehow I dream in “This Old House” and “Manhattan Nest” and then wake up to the reality of lost at the Home Despot….but you do inspire, and make me laugh, even sometimes with tears.

  35. You can do it, Daniel! This post (and your realness) made my day. Stay strong (and seriously consider a patreon!)

  36. You’re killing it. Lesser people would have succumbed to the darkness by now. Soon you’re going to know ALL OF THE THINGS.

  37. I loved reading this but also had sympathetic horrors (“oh, no, I remember that! Oh no, I remember THAT!”) which I think is my reaction to…20% of your posts? I hope this year you have heat all winter and nothing leaks and there’s hot water and someone to hang out with while you complete tasks.

  38. I don’t think you fully understand how excited I get when I see you’ve posted something.

  39. Daniel, bless your heart! I am in the midst of a renovation and things are dragging on forever and ten things are happening at once so stuff gets 75-90 percent done but then we get pulled to something else. I had a total meltdown last week about how it had all swallowed up seemingly all of our savings — and the house is still filthy and uncomfortable and just not even close to done. Renovations are so tough for so many reasons and unless you’ve lived through one (without endlessly deep pockets) it’s hard to explain to people. But you nailed it here. This! This is what it’s like!

  40. You have the best Mom. WTF indeed.

  41. You’re doing great, Daniel. Keep up the good work! Looking forward to an update of it all being finished!

  42. I hope you write a book someday…something like “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They” but with houses and projects. I will buy 8 copies.
    OMG I have that same problem with getting people to come to my house and take my money and do the thing they do as a profession! And I’m super sweet, and the projects are big, worth-your-time projects, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference. I feel like standing outside with a sign, “Do My Project, PLEASE! I Don’t Care if You’re Not a Pro, Just Get It Done!!!”

  43. This is why I love you. You brightened a bad day for me today. I am proud of you for doing that roof twice, and look foward to the second installment of this Everest-ian trek. Thank you.

  44. Frequently when I read your posts I think – damn – I should just go to Kingston, NY and see this place and say hello to Daniel & Meko (I know I didn’t spell Meko’s name correctly but the thought is there.)

  45. I love that your blog is so real. It’s not all sunshine and daisies and foundation problems are nbd. It’s real. Also, everyone thinks $12,000 is a lot of money until they are in the middle of a reno project and it’s gone.

  46. Hey Daniel,
    Loved the post, and been loving the new porch ceiling! Yeah Baby!
    You are awe inspiring…
    A question about your metal fence; is there a post on the project?
    Also, where it came from, was it easy to install, is it holding up?
    It is so pretty and I covet it. Is that bad? Thanks,
    XXX Pam

  47. You are amazing! I wish I had the same motivation and energy that you have. I think I would be curled up in the fetal position somewhere with all that work ahead of me.

  48. Thank you Daniel, for keeping it real!
    Pretty much how I feel about 85% of the time about our house and projects, and my boyfriend is a contracter who knows alllll the things about building. But shit; everytime you take something out of the @#^#$ house, about 500 other things come up… I get it

    The house is looking fantastic though and it will all be worth it in the end!

  49. Wow. Just wow. And ditto to all the kind, proud, sweet sentiments above.

    May I interest you in this house in Pittsburgh I am pining over?
    https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/6834-Simonton-St-Pittsburgh-PA-15208/11286459_zpid/?fullpage=true

    Sigh. I’ll be starting much smaller but that’s my dream place and project.

    One foot in front of the other. You got this. :)

  50. I had to read this post three full times to wrap my head around the magnitude of everything you took on. Most of it by your damn self. You are going to look back at this point in your life some day and think, nothing will ever be that hard again!

    Seconding your comment about $12K disappearing into the void. Legal fees are the only other time that kind of money disappears like that, and I hope you never experience that variant!

    Great big hugs to you, Daniel. Wishing I could bring you over a pot of soup and a bottle of wine.

  51. I 100% understand how you feel about this part of renovation wheneverything is chaos and the house doesn’t feel like home and no where is cozy and it’s a cold lonely winter and you’ve run out of money to pay people to help so you’re dyi’ing it and when you do have money to do it you can’t seem to be able to hire people to do what they do! It’s THE WORST part of renovation!! Thanks for talking about it and good luck with the next stages!! You’ve got this, no matter how endless and impossible it seems! I’m so impressed with all you’ve done!!

  52. Can I ask how you deal with nail holes on the siding from the vinyl? I have a 1920s house with vinyl siding over original clapboard, and every time I talk to someone about restoring the original wood, they say, but it will be full of nail holes!

    Thanks for sharing all of this with us.

    • Caulk or filler! For larger holes or repairing rotted wood, Abatron’s WoodEpox system is the best thing that I know of, and easy to work with. For small nail holes and stuff, I’ve been using 3M Patch Plus, which dries SUPER fast and sands beautifully smooth. For caulk, I’ve been using Big Stretch—best paintable caulk I’ve used! I’m a total convert after years of DAP products shrinking and separating on me.

  53. Not that I don’t appreciate all of your blog entries… but whatever happened to the Olivebridge house? Still haven’t seen the final results.

  54. Fantastic-laugh-out-loud-searingly-Honest-down-to-earth-this-isn’t-HGTV-but-things-still-get-done- post.

    Thank you for sharing.

  55. This too shall pass, this too shall pass…Norm Abram and Bob Villa would approve! Lovely work.

  56. HGTV is dead. Long live Manhattan nest!

    Seriously, you packed more action into that post than HGTV has aired in the past 5 years.

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