Starting Work on the Exterior

You know that feeling you get, like if you oversleep by accident or get stuck in terrible traffic, and then you spend the rest of the day chasing that time you missed out on?

Yeah. That’s pretty much how the cottage renovation started out.

I woke up the morning of the closing with a fever and popped some Tylenol. I’d been in this pattern for about four days, and I guess I might have been more concerned about it if I wasn’t also in the thick of buying a condemned house, helping renovate a friend’s bathroom, trying to work on my own dining room, trying to procure an insurance policy for the cottage before closing, wondering why my Check Engine Coolant light never turns off, wishing I had a bagel…you get the idea. Generally feeling a little bit crazed, which is more or less how I (dys)function always and forever. Works great.

Admittedly, feeling this way before embarking on another major renovation probably should have served as some kind of warning, but whatever. I signed all the papers and handed over all the money and bought that house! And then the next day I found out my mysterious fever was actually Mono.

I turned to my primary care physician, WebMD, which informed me that everything was about to get worse, maybe for weeks, maybe for months. Then I mentioned having it on this blog, and among the well-wishes and get-betters were horrific stories of 6, 8, 10, 20 months-long ordeals with the affliction of which I had recently been diagnosed.

This was such bad news. Buying this little condemned house sort of felt like buying, I don’t know, a baby. Like I bought a helpless, defenseless little thing with the promise and understanding that I’d take care of it, and then my body was basically like “NOPE. You will go to sleep indefinitely instead!” So that’s what I did, more or less, and it super sucked, except for the part where I watched all the TV.

Luckily the worst of it was over within about two weeks, which brought us to mid-September, when I declared that the first day of work would officially begin on the cottage. I’d been up on my feet a few days and it seemed like it would be OK to, you know, ease back into things. Just get my feet wet a little bit.

Then I proceeded to pull weeds and vines and pick up trash for eleven hours straight. Why? Because I am dumb. And I really wanted the painters to be able to access the house to start prepping. Mostly because I’m dumb.

Anyway, hopefully this is the last you’ll hear me complaining about mono because it won’t come back and everything will be terrific forever. Fingers crossed. I’m trying to be good about not pushing too hard. It’s going moderately OK.


Lest we forget, here was the state of the front yard before (standing at the house, looking toward the street). It’s sort of crazy seeing this kind of thing in a fairly densely populated urban area…I’ve noticed that even empty lots don’t look like this in Kingston, let alone ones with houses on them! Bananas.

ANYWAY. The name of the game with this yard is pretty much to start over. There isn’t really anything except the bluestone hardscaping that can be salvaged, and I guess the fence posts are in OK shape. The super overgrown shrubs along the front and the large (but poorly located and very ugly due to some old aggressive pruning over the years) Catalpa tree will have to get removed professionally, but I figured I could save a little money by handling pretty much anything that didn’t require a chainsaw by myself. People have suggested keeping the huge evergreen shrubs in the front for privacy, but I sort of feel like it’s important for the street for this house to be seen, since it’s going to look all spiffy and whatnot. Removing the shrubs should also bring more light into the main floor, which would be nice!

I’m really, really excited to say that I’m teaming up with my friends at Lowe’s again (they also worked with me on our laundry room) to get this exterior into shape! The team at Lowe’s was as excited about the project as I am, and have been completely dreamy to work with. I pretty much do all of my shopping at Lowe’s in general (I love the employees at our local store! So much!), so I’m all-around super thrilled to be doing this with them by my side! They’ve given me complete creative freedom with this, by the way, and—as always—all opinions are my own.

My basic strategy was to start at the perimeter of the house and work my way out, clearing space for the painters first (who, achem, didn’t end up coming that day) and then worrying about everything else. I essentially just threw everything in a large pile…it’s really too much to be wrangling into individual yard bags. Kingston’s Department of Public Works has a program where yard waste can be brought to a place nearby, where they chip it into mulch, so the plan is to borrow my friend’s pick-up and do that. You can actually rent a dump truck for a weekend for $50 for this very thing, which I guess they drop off on a Friday and pick up on a Monday, but my understanding is that the entire city basically shares one and so that option only really works if you’re not on a deadline. The other cool thing I learned is that once everything is chipped into mulch, any Kingston resident can take it! As much mulch as you want for free. So cool! I only mention this stuff because it all seemed to novel to me and maybe other people are missing out on similar fun and exciting municipal services.


So part of the trouble with the yard being SO overgrown and unruly was that it was a little hard to even tell what was going on with the exterior of the house. Everything looked more or less OK, but so much of it was obscured by plants that me, the inspector, and everyone else may have missed a few little details.

Like, oh, the front of the house sitting below grade. Nice.

As I went about my weed-pulling, I started to notice that under all the overgrowth was a massive amount of dirt. There’s something around 30 feet of front yard between the house and the sidewalk, and the whole thing is graded super wonky, like there’s a big hill in the middle and about 3-4 feet of soil build-up behind the fence that’s pretty much just being held in by a couple of horizontal 4×4 posts and the root system of those evergreens. It’s really strange. As it stands, the whole thing basically needs a retaining wall. It looks like I have a lot of dirt-moving in my future. Maybe it can come to my backyard? Somehow? Hmmmmm.

ANYWAY, a consequence of the crazy dirt situation and the crazy grading is that the bottom course of clapboard was basically completely buried, meaning the bottom part of the exterior sheathing and the sill plate (that thing between the studs and the foundation, which holds up the house) was also sitting below grade. YIKES.


I mean, HOLY SHIT. The entire front of the house is resting on that rotted out disaster. To me it kind of looked like termite damage more than regular wood rot, but there weren’t any signs of an active termite infestation, so at least that’s good. Anyway, a little quick evaluation told me (and then, later, my go-to contractor Edwin told me) that the whole thing needed to be replaced.

Ouch. Ouch Ouch Ouch. This is not the kind of information you want to get on DAY 1, FYI. Basically we’d have to figure out a way to support the whole front of the house from collapsing (easier said than done without a basement under this section) while we took out what was left of the existing sill plate and replaced it with new pressure-treated lumber. The whole thing sounded horrible and potentially astronomically expensive and I basically could just picture that emoji I’ve grown so fond of using—that one with the wad of money flying away with its set of wings.

BUT. It wasn’t that bad. Really. The house sat like this for a few days, which made me crazy anxious for some reason, but then we got to work. There was also a section of sill plate that was rotted out at the back of the house near the kitchen (due to a damaged gutter…gutter maintenance is important, people!), that needed replacement, and Edwin quoted $800 + materials (which ended up costing about $200) for the repair of both. So…not cheap, but not totally decimating the budget either. OK. Deep breaths and stuff. We’re still good. Luckily the rot hadn’t extended up into the studs or past the sill plate into the joists, so that was good news. I was a little worried the whole house was like this.


This is what the entire front of the house was resting on! It’s sort of a wonder the whole thing hadn’t collapsed? I mean, damn. It’s basically a toothpick!


But, we fixed it up! The process involved supporting the front of the house very temporarily (like 10 minutes) with 2x4s and sliding two new 2 x 8 pressure-treated boards into place, which were sistered together with a framing nailer. So fresh and so clean! Then the front wall was shockingly easy to move back into the correct position, and the studs were re-attached to the sill plate with the framing nailer at a few different angles, inside and out. Solid as a rock. This isn’t how houses are built today, but it’s worked here for many decades and now can continue to work for many more! HOORAY.


After the new sill plate was in place and secured, we shimmed the whole thing out another inch to match the thickness of the original sill.


Then all we had to do was cut a piece of 3/4″ pressure-treated plywood to create the sheathing. I had the plywood leftover from my failed attempt at fixing my own box gutter, so the material for this part at least was free.


After the sill plate was replaced and the new sheathing was installed, we opted to add 14″ high aluminum flashing to help keep water away from the new sill plate and foundation. A few courses of new clapboard will be installed over top of this (the old stuff wasn’t salvageable), and everything will be OK. The house will be solid and more equipped to handle water and stuff than it was before. Excellent.


Throughout this ordeal, we realized that the existing sidelights and door were framed in COMPLETELY incorrectly…no header, no real support…the whole thing was a mess! Rather than trying to work with the existing crappy job as we were installing a new front door and jamb, we made the quick decision to rip it all out and re-frame the entire thing. It cost me a couple hundred bucks in extra labor hours and materials, but it was entirely worth it. The front of this house is not going ANYWHERE.


The new header meant that the old sidelights had to be cut down a bit to compensate. I’m seriously debating these sidelights. They’re REALLY not very old and REALLY not very nice, and a ton of the panes are broken, and I think I could just replace them with something nicer and new for about $200. I’m really tempted…I have so much window restoration on this house already, and this is one of those things that I can make a little bit easier and a little bit nicer for a little extra money, and it kind of seems worth it. I don’t know! For now, the old ones went back in place (with temporary stops, so I can easily remove them for restoration and paint), but we’ll see. I’m not married to them. They’re really pretty bad, believe me.


Anyway, look at that fancy framing and that fancy new door!! AHHHH! Finally the house has an actual LOCK, and I can stop being super paranoid about people coming in and stealing my tools. Obviously in this picture we still have to add back the sidelights and trim everything out, but it’s already and improvement. I changed the direction that the door swings, and I think it makes a lot more sense this way.

Oh, about the door! I’m super happy with it. I went to a place called The Door Jamb nearby, which basically sells overstocked or slightly damaged doors and windows at great discounts. This door is solid wood (not stain grade, though, so I’m planning to paint it), really nice, and only $95! That’s super cheap for an exterior door. I wasn’t really planning to find anything I liked that was new production, but I think this door suits the house super well, especially when I put the first floor casement windows back in place (I took them down for repair/painting…the windows in the picture are just the storms).


One of the things about there only being one of me is that I can’t be in multiple places at once! I’ve spent a lot of time running back and forth to Lowe’s to pick up more supplies—more lumber here, more paint there…I’m typically there like 1-3 times a day, which means sometimes I miss things back at the ranch! I casually mentioned to my contractor that I was planning to put new beadboard up in the arched area above the door (which was totally rotted/eaten by animals), but I never planned for him to do it for me! I guess the installation must have been easy since he banged it out in about 20 minutes, but I missed the whole thing! This is just tongue-and-groove breadboard wainscoting that comes in a pack (I bought 4 foot lengths, and I think this took a little more than 1 pack), attached with 2″ finish nail. It looks so good. I thought for a second about trying to stain it, but I think it’s getting painted like everything else. I don’t want it to look glaringly new, you know?

Is that enough progress for one post? It’s hard to know when to stop! Even though a lot of this stuff was a little bit unexpected, I’m really glad that we got it resolved quickly and properly (and relatively inexpensively) and can move forward with the beautification process and start seeing some non-invisible changes around here!

By the way, I’m sorry about the (in)frequency of posts in the last couple of weeks! I promised more and then you did not get more! Obviously this is a big project, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going through some growing pains right about now…trying to manage all the work and keep everything moving and also have time to blog about it and eat and sometimes sleep and pay my bills and all of that is proving a little tough. We’re only a couple weeks in, though…I’m trying really hard to strike a balance and figure out how to make this work a little better. Just FYI.

Totally unrelated, but I had this kooky idea…continuing in the grand tradition Martha Stewart’s New Old House, I thought maybe it would be fun to maybe end these posts diary-style. It’s all well and good to see a bunch of progress in one post, but I always sort of wonder what the day-to-day looks like. I skipped over those sections the first time I read Martha’s book (which is amazing and totally insane—I love it), but reading through it the second time was sort of amazing…the entries are informative but also reveal her neuroses and anal-retentiveness in a really adorable Martha-y way. So why not? Fun? Let’s find out.

Day 1: Bought new front door.

Day 2: Yard clearing. Took a break to purchase some supplies. Uncovered structural issue on exterior and worked on solution with Edwin. Used Edwin’s truck to buy pressure-treated lumber to replace sill plate.

Day 3: Cleaned up around yard and interior of cottage while Edwin started prepping clapboard for paint.

Day 4: Edwin continued to prep exterior for paint. Painted sample of siding color on clapboard for review and approval. Debating how to paint trim, window sashes, and doors.

Day 5: Went to Building Department to apply for building permit while Edwin and crew continued to prep for paint. Edwin and I brainstormed exactly how to replace sill plate. Lack of basement makes things complicated.

Day 6: Bough caulk for painters. Went to Lowe’s for 2×4 lumber to reframe door and sidelights, aluminum flashing, and Sawzall blades. Edwin and Edgar worked on replacing sill plate—almost complete by the time I got back. Edwin and Edgar moved on to removing old door and sidelights. Painting began on underside of rafters and trim. After workers left, cleaned up site and met with tree service professional, Armin, about removing larger trees and grinding stumps. Quote seemed reasonable, nobody else has returned my calls—hired!

Day 7: Went to Lowe’s to buy plants (before they are out of stock), new cedar siding, more flashing, and exterior paint. Changed painting plan slightly—$550 mistake on my part. Edwin and Edgar re-framed doorway and put back old sidelights. Edwin installed beadboard wainscoting over entryway. Edwin installed door, threshold, weather-stripping, and new locks.  Ran back to Lowe’s to buy 2×6 pressure-treated wood to replace upper portion of trim and 5/4″ x  6″ for trim pieces around door to match original 1″ thickness, which will be installed next working day. Rain in forecast tomorrow.



This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 10.10.14
    Deb said:

    Love these house progress updates. I really wish you would stop making me fall in love with homes in Newburgh NY though! And while I’m on my dappled Complainy-Horse: can we get a pup update every so often. I miss hearing about the canine kids. Kudos on all your work and thank you for all your posts.
    Deb in Indiana

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Deb! I’m actually in Kingston, NY—Newburgh is about 45 minutes south! Lots of houses to love there, too! :)

      I’ll try to do a pup update! They’re doing well! Ya know, sleeping a lot, eating, playing…being dogs!

  2. 10.10.14
    Cathy said:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and you are doing such a wonderful thing by saving this old house (well, both houses). It is a real mitzvah. I am sure the neighbors are ecstatic! I’m learning so much about old home construction from your blog and it’s giving me confidence that one day I can tackle something similar myself!

    Having been a fellow mono sufferer, please please please take good care of yourself and rest as much as you need to. The aftereffects of mono can hang with you for years and the last thing you want is to end up with never-ending fatigue. (Ask me how I know! says this type-A person…) Load up on tons of anti-oxidants, high-quality beneficial supplements, etc. and always wear face masks to avoid inhaling too much crud or chemicals. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your adventures with us. :)

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Cathy! I’m trying to be smart-ish about the mono thing…I wish my brain would cooperate! Sleeping ENOUGH has honestly been the biggest challenge in all of this…I just want to get back to work!

      And yes, the neighbors are thrilled! Makes me wish I could fix all the houses!

  3. 10.10.14
    Jay said:

    Ugh, I love living vicariously through you and your amazing house projects! Well, it also makes me feel sad and lazy and not smart, but the good feelings outweigh the bad by far.

    Question: where did you learn all your house/construction terminology (sill plate, etc.)? Book, blog, TV, contractors?

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I have no idea! I started reading house blogs as a teenager when they were really renovation-focused, so I think I picked up a lot of it there, or maybe seeing something and doing further research. I do have some books that have been helpful with this type of thing, and of course google sometimes saves the day, and I always try to learn as much as I can from professionals who come in to do work, including plumbers and electricians. The more you know, the faster you can make decisions and problem-solve. It’s fun to know stuff, I guess. :)

      Max is convinced I was an old-timey house builder in a past life, but that seems less likely.

  4. 10.10.14
    Niki said:

    I like the day-to-day breakdown! It really shows how much work you and the rest of the team are putting into this. And I’m glad the rotted wood wasn’t as awful as you’d feared… yeesh.

  5. 10.10.14
    Ryan said:

    love the diary sign-off!

  6. 10.10.14
    Debbie in toronto said:

    Daniel! So much continue to amaze. I really love that door suits the house perfectly. Don’t you just love how comforting new wood is when you are fixing something up? It just makes it look like progress, bit by bit. Bravo.

    Love the diary too

  7. 10.10.14
    threadbndr said:

    Holy Cow! on the rotten sill. That’s never a good thing! Glad it wasn’t worse than it was and hadn’t gotten into the framing above (and no bugs!)

    I’m liking the diary, too, reminds me of the pioneer ones (this is a good thing as our gal M would say).

  8. 10.10.14
    Claudia said:

    Firstly, I love the house and basically, everything you do and post. Ever.
    A note about shared mulch programs though… because all kinds of yard waste get all chipped up, you can end up with a nasty case of poison ivy/oak/sumac. It happened to my neighbor. So please be careful and wear pants/long sleeves/gloves while you mulch!

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I’ve wondered about that, Claudia! Good to know!! I’m not sure whether I’ll end up getting mulch through the program or just buying it (the transportation issue makes getting it to the house a little tough!), but I’ll definitely keep that in mind!

    • 10.10.14
      Amanda Z. said:

      Our city also has a free mulch program which we tried one time. And then we had termites.

  9. 10.10.14
    JulieW said:

    The portico ceiling is probably already painted but if it isn’t stain it. Stain it. Stain it. Stain it. It would be a little unexpected gorgeousness.

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      It is already painted!! Sorry!! Maybe next time. :)

  10. 10.10.14
    S@sha said:

    You skipped the diary part of Martha’s book the first time!! At least you realized the error of your ways. I really miss 90s Martha when she produced things for people with attention spans and her tv show was filmed in her own garden most of the time and she highlighted cool historic properties (that she started collecting like a crazy rich lady). Nostalgia. I like the diary style and think it’s a nice addition, but I also think you already provide a lot of detail and commentary, which makes reading your posts so enjoyable. And I love that front door! Great find.

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I know, what was I even doing! It’s maybe the best part of the whole thing. She’s so nuts.

      I miss 90s Martha, too! I love Martha now for a ton of reasons, but it makes me sad that I feel like the general populace doesn’t totally understand her contribution to preservation and appreciation of old houses and thinks of her more as this crafty, neurotic homemaker lady. She’s just amazing!

  11. 10.10.14

    Nice! It’s really exciting! Love watching an old building get a makeover. If you ever have to buy doors that are not solid, one of my interior designer friends told me he drills holes in the top and fills them with sand until the doors feel heavy like a solid wooden door. A good trick.

    I go to the Lowe’s in Middletown and seriously love it too. If we go in the day time, there’s all these older guys that I think are retired, who work there and they know how to fix pretty much anything. If we tell them our issue, they always know what supplies and how to fix just about anything. If it didn’t sounds creepy I’d just ask them to come over and hang out for a bit, you know, help us fix stuff. I make good biscuits. Oh well, that sounds creepy.

    Email me your plaster guy! I need to get ceilings done so I can get rid of all the yellow paint in this joint. My eyes are bleeding. Take pity.

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      That’s so funny about the sand! I’m picturing somebody trying to drill out a hole for a new lockset and having a terrible surprise…

      I bet the Lowe’s guys would love it! I’d totally want to go tinker around in your house, especially if biscuits are involved!! Haha.

      OK! I will email you now!

  12. 10.10.14
    Christina W. said:

    So excited about this! Also I *really* like the look of the unpainted beadboard against that color green. I’m sure you have extensive color changing plans in store, but in the meantime I think it’s really very nice! Two possibly creepo fan girl things: 1) my boyfriend’s brother graduated from Vassar in May, and I really wanted to CASUALLY TRY TO FIND AND DRIVE BY YOUR HOUSE but boyfriend was super not on board with that (understandably) 2) boyfriend later tells me that his aunt and uncle live in Kingston! Why didn’t he tell me this before! His uncle is also a commercial architect, and a very cool guy, so if you need to redo like, an office building or something, shoot me an email. :D

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha! You don’t have to be a creepo! Just come up and say hi!!

      And I’ll keep that in mind! No offices in my foreseeable future, but I bet he’d know a thing or two about houses that could be helpful!

  13. 10.10.14
    Ellen said:

    Just here to add another thumbs up to the diary ending! I really enjoy reading about your progress (while I sit drinking coffee in my partially renovated kitchen – it’s only been two years… :| )

  14. 10.10.14
    Leanna said:

    I feel a bit guilty to admit that I’ve been using your blog posts as a “don’t worry – it could be worse!” reminder for my husband. When something goes wrong with our newly purchased old house I send him your posts to make him feel better since our rotten wood / water damage / weed overgrowth problems are not quite this severe. Luckily you are both more brave and more talented than us so we are pretty sure you’ll be fine! This is our ‘new’ (1920) place –

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha!! Well, I want my blog to be useful, so I’ll take it!

      Your house is beautiful!! Love!

  15. 10.10.14
    mollie said:

    gosh darn it i am loving these posts. and the diary portion is killing me. in a weird way – it reminds me of a book i read some time ago that was based on diary entries of a pioneer woman. she would talk about her daily housetending and then nonchalantly end with “baby is two days old. husband had me lay with him tonight.” like, wtf.

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh man, I want to read that book.

    • 10.10.14
      Alicia said:

      Am I the only one who’s super interested in the name of this book?!

    • 10.10.14
      Alicia said:

      Lol I guess not! (Page didn’t refresh fast enough)

    • 10.10.14
      Ryan said:

      Maybe not at interesting as a pioneer diary, but you can read daily entries in a five-year-diary from a young woman who lived in Seattle. The diary starts in 1961 and the posts are up to today’s date in 1964 now. Each day, an entry from exactly 50 years ago is posted on the blog.

  16. 10.10.14

    I have seen toothpicks stronger than what was holding up that house. You are lucky that it did not collapse while you were in it! It must be such a relief to have that problem fixed. This project is so fascinating and I like the diary style at the end. Thank you for being awesome!

  17. 10.10.14
    Nat said:

    Daniel, as much as I love your blog and your writing style, just an FYI that babies should never be referred to as something that can be bought. I don’t like leaving a negative comment, I prefer not to comment in such instances, but… I don’t know. That really rubbed me the wrong way. And I’m sure you didn’t mean it to, but saying that kinda really sucked.
    sorry, thanks for listening.

    • 10.10.14
      Jeanna said:

      Gosh, I had to go back and re-read the post to find out what you were referring to. I did not take that comment the same way you did at all. I totally get how this house is like a defenseless little thing that needs his help and care………………………..

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Sorry to have offended! Pretty much everything on my blog is a little tongue-in-cheek, and I know that sometimes puts me at risk rubbing people the wrong way. Hope we can move on. :)

    • 10.10.14
      Nat said:

      used to work in intercountry adoption/child trafficking/children’s rights where things like that actually do happen, so in a way can never get over it. glad you’re not offended! like I said, love your blog.

  18. 10.10.14
    Lisa and Tate said:

    Yippee!!! Loved reading this post. Diary is a plus plus bonus! Hate to be a nagging hag but LOVE to hear updates often but most importantly keep yourself healthy!

  19. 10.10.14
    amey judd said:

    while i really love the decor posts, i can’t tell you how good it makes me feel that bluestone cottage has immaculate new sill plates. and that edwin and edgar are also interested in taking such good care of it. thank you, and i hope you feel better forever.

  20. 10.10.14
    Shauna said:

    Ok so our sill plates on the back of our house need to be replaced as well…and I now am a little less afraid. Previous owner attached a terrible deck to them and it just held water and does was held water does (ie rot things that are wood and holding up your house).

  21. 10.10.14
    kathyg said:

    WOW – lots of stuff going on! It looks SO GOOD! The neighbors owe you another pie! hahaha. I’ve been where you are, it can be overwhelming with all the decisions and details (for me, I always kept a huge 3 ring binder with everything in it – helped me bunches). But that is your forte, you’ll do an excellent excellent job! That front must have been a big scary woah, but it looks SO GOOD now! Sounds like you have a great crew to work with too. Fingers Crossed the weather will be kind to you the next couple of months!

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Kathy! I’m really lucky to have great people by my side—it’s amazing how much they can do and how quickly! I’m used to DIY-ing things so I feel like we’re moving at warp speed.

      And actually, the neighbors brought me potatoes from the community garden last week, and cupcakes for me and the guys the other day! So nice.

    • 10.12.14
      Joann said:

      Aww, that is so nice! Also, I would love to hear that you are keeping an opening concerning a “Bluestone Cottage II” that might come down the road. Nothing like keeping things on track systematically like having another project lined up behind this one. What are your townspeople saying

  22. 10.10.14
    Devyn said:

    The front door is fabulous! Very much in keeping with the style of the house. When I’m working on an old space and trying to find new materials which fit in, I often ask myself the question: “How would this material have looked if it had been installed when the space was built?” If I can see that it would have blended in, I know it will work out. Otherwise, time to rethink things. Your door looks as if it could have been there in the beginning. Bravo!

  23. 10.10.14
    Jeanna said:

    I like the diary type ending…………………. really makes it clear the amount of time and effort that goes into this. Great post, and happy to hear about the latest on the cottage :)

  24. 10.10.14
    cate said:

    OMFG. This place wasn’t built correctly in the first place and it’s severely damaged. But anyway, please be careful not to overwork yourself and please don’t worry about us, your readers.

    (Also how can you tell a termite infestation isn’t active? Now is a good time to get a pest control-wildlife person in there to evaluate so you can do everything you need to do to seal and treat the house when it’s in the demo stage. A visit needn’t be too expensive. Use someone local who is recommended, not a chain.)

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Well, my understanding is that it wasn’t necessarily built incorrectly, it was just built the way things were built then. Most of the house is also balloon-framed…not incorrect by the standards at the time, but a definite no-no now!

      Well, I’m no scientist, but we removed the entire sill plate and there weren’t any visible insects or droppings anywhere. I do plan to have a pest inspection when the interior is gutted, though, when we’ll have the most visibility, and treat anything that may come up accordingly!

    • 10.12.14
      cate said:

      I though you couldn’t see termites? (I mean not the ones inside the wood. The flying ones you can see.) Not sure. (They do leave a tell-tale pattern to their wood chewing, so you can tell if you ever had them.) But anyway a pest inspection when it’s all gutted will take care of the problem. Also when the walls are down to the studs, you can cover holes with mesh and cement so mice and rats and other things can’t get inside. Oh and later, before you install any cabinets or built-ins, cover any holes in the wall those built-ins are going to cover.

  25. 10.10.14
    Rosie said:

    I think I’m going to steal the diary idea – I’ve been attempting to start a blog about the new house we are building for oh, 10 months or so. And I haven’t completed and posted a single entry, because, as it turns out, writing long entries that the world might see is super stressful and time consuming, and oh, we’re planning and then building a house, so not like I have any time to begin with. But I really want to document the process, and I think other people might find it interesting, and so not blogging = guilt. Solution, found! (Thanks, Daniel! Obviously, I think the dairy thing is a keeper!).

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Steal away!

  26. 10.10.14
    Joycelyn said:

    Love the diary you’ve added. Also love the door – not the door I imagined, but it really works. Now, I am obsessed with attempting to build a house very similar to this one – can’t get it out of my mind. Luckily that is my problem, not yours!

  27. 10.10.14
    Jennifer S. said:

    I love your posts. What you may lack in quantity, you more than make up for in quality, which is the important part anyway. Loved the diary ending. I knew you had mono, but I didn’t realize it happened when you got the cottage. How frustrating that must have been!

  28. 10.10.14
    Sheri said:

    Daniel, this is so exciting! I am beyond ecstatic that you have this cottage to work on/I get to follow along, and I’m so glad the worst of the mono is over, too. Now that YHL is no more (single tear!), you are my sole source for comprehensive guides to structural/meat-and-potatoes type of DIY projects. And you’re funny and charming, to boot! My man and I have a 100-year-old Craftsman in Seattle (that’s old on the west coast!), and we’ve been undertaking a lot of the same types of jobs as you. It’s a godsend to have your guides to consult – thank you! xo

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Sheri! That’s a lot of pressure…gulp!! Best of luck with your house! It sounds wonderful!

    • 10.11.14
      Sheri said:

      Haha no pressure intended! You’re already rocking it on the daily, so just keep doing your thing. ;)

  29. 10.10.14
    Celia said:

    I really like the diary. It gives an idea of how long the process really is!!! So impressed by your cool response to the foundation issue. I would have panicked. Looks like you found a really good solution. I’m confused. Is there a basement? What did those stairs in the kitchen go to?

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Celia! There is a basement, but only under the part of the house where the dining room is. Everything else is crawlspace!

    • 10.11.14
      April said:

      I was confused about the basement/lack of basement, too.

  30. 10.10.14
    Anne at Large said:

    I was worried that you might be buying plants… Please try and avoid planting as much as possible during the demolition and construction phases of this project, I know you want it to look loved ASAP but plants always get neglected and are in the way and end up getting the short end of the renovation stick. Let them be the final touches and they will be happier and healthier in the long run (end rant). I am loving living vicariously through all of your house shenanigans!

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      This might make more sense when I post more about the landscaping plan, but the plants I’m buying now will be very out of the way…there’s still TONS of yard to use as a staging area, and it shouldn’t be too much to maintain during the project. I think it will be OK!

    • 10.10.14
      Anne at Large said:

      Oh phew, I just got through watching my neighbors renovate their house and nuke basically every plant on the property so I worry. Can’t wait to see more!

    • 10.11.14
      Jannike said:

      You could always put all the plants in at house real house and transplant them in the spring.

  31. 10.10.14
    Jory said:

    I mentally inserted a gif of Kristen Wiig saying “Shit! That’s fresh!” from Bridesmaid when I saw that new beadboard. That looks so great, and really compliments the sunburst detailing above the door!

  32. 10.10.14
    Jen said:

    I don’t usually comment, on any blog, but I really enjoy your posts and I just wanted to let you know. I’ve been getting a little worried what with all the blogger burnout happening all over the interwebs. Please keep it up! I’m also a little jealous that you own 2 houses – I’ve been househunting for over a year now, and the closest I got was a house that turned out to be a former grow-op (and also had 2 fireplaces that weren’t up to code, an inadequate well and a faulty septic tank). So your rotted out foundation looks like a treat!

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Jen! Don’t worry—not burning out! I don’t really think blogger burnout is a real issue, for what it’s worth…EVERYONE in the world gets burned out at their jobs! I don’t think there’s anything super special or particular about blogging…I think it’s sort of crazy that the NYT wrote a whole article about it, but hey! I don’t write the news. :)

      Good luck with the house hunt!! And hey, if it all gets to be too much, plenty of houses for sale in Kingston! (including this one in a few months! Haha)

  33. 10.10.14
    karen said:

    Excited to see the partnership with Lowe’s – seems a really good fit.

    Diary is great, too. Gives us readers a real idea of how much time/effort is going in to it all.

    Glad you’re feeling better, but like others said – take care of yourself! :)

  34. 10.10.14
    Sarah said:

    Love the diary format at the end! It’s great to see the flushed out post above and the quick and dirty of what happened when.

  35. 10.10.14
    Donna said:

    Suh-weet….a great looking $95 door! Good for you….it should make up a bit of that unexpected sill plate expense. Like the diary. Glad you’re feeling somewhat better. Very happy you have Lowe’s partnering with you–because I just love Lowe’s.

    I am renovating a 1934 brick cottage where I blame every un-square wall on previously employed bankers who lost their jobs in the Great Depression and then found work pretending to be framing carpenters. My particular favorite was finding re-used charred wood–scary when found but this house had not burned. Apparently lumber from burned-out buildings was quite thriftily used in the early 40’s renovation.

    Old houses are very interesting and your blog is one of the most interesting. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • 10.12.14
      Joann said:

      Don’t worry Donna, the Morris family in New Haven, rebuilt their house after the British burned it down during the Revolutionary War in 1979. Mr. Morris, was a prosperous carpenter and as such, his family saw fit to reuse charred beams from the original home during its reconstruction in 1780. You can visit the house, it is maintained by the New Haven Historical Society and touch a bit of the char on exposed interior beams surviving from that British conflagration.

  36. 10.10.14
    Liz said:

    Love the post! LOL about WebMD being your primary care physician. That cracked me up.

  37. 10.10.14
    Laurea said:

    omg! New Old House is my favorite book of all time! Except for the laundry room. I hate that laundry room with a passion.

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha! I don’t remember the laundry room, I’ll have to go look! In general I think pretty much the entire “decor” portion of the book is totally heinous, but so was everything in the early late 80s/early 90s! Lovably terrible. I really like the technical portions and the restoration stuff, though. I’ll never get over that she sandblasted THE WHOLE HOUSE.

  38. 10.10.14
    Susan H said:

    This project is amazing! Love the detail describing everything. This should be a book!

  39. 10.10.14
    Suzanne said:

    What are we looking at in the last pic? The threshold?
    I admit to being the one who impatiently checked in everyday for an update, and 😔 when there are no update but a new post always more than made up for it and at the same time, please do take care of your health. Here’s hoping the cottage don’t throw out too many such surprises. That ‘toothpick’ sill amazing, are you keeping it to use as art installation?

    • 10.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Yes, the last picture is the door threshold (well, missing the threshold part, but the opening!)—we had to remove a few strips of flooring to support the wall from the ground in the crawlspace, but it shouldn’t be a terrible repair..hopefully!

      And no, I want that toothpick sill as far away as possible!! Haha :)

    • 10.11.14
      DavidInNYC said:

      The last photo shows the top of the new sill and it looks like the cmu foundation wall below. I hope the sill was anchored to the top of the wall and not just into the floor joists.

  40. 10.10.14
    Cair said:

    Love the new door. It is perfect for the house. I cannot wait for the reveal of paint, which is likely done already. Oh, and my totally unsolicited advice, scrap the not-old-in-really-bad-shape sidelights and get something that works and doesn’t suck your time/precious energy. I’m still planning to move and buy the cottage and I’m good with that. :)

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      Good to know! I’m so tempted!! They need so much repair. Argh…

  41. 10.10.14
    Cat said:

    Dear Daniel, alongside many others, I was excited to learn about Bluestone Cottage and wish you nothing but success with it. Please be gentle on yourself and your posting ‘schedule’. The fact that I will not find a new post on Manhattan Nest every other day is a sign of great quality to me. I have always felt that you post because there is something exciting and relevant to tell, and not because a schedule says so or your readers expect you to. I find this is what makes your blog different from so many others and what allows me to really appreciate all the work you are putting into it. I guess what I am trying to say is: good things take time, this is how it has always been. Bluestone Cottage will offer a lot of new and exciting stories, and I’m happy to follow along whenever they are ready to being told.

  42. 10.10.14
    Kaitlyn said:

    I love the diary-style ending. It’s great to get a better idea of how you spend your days. This blog is so dangerous for me. I am trying to convince my boyfriend that we need to buy a fixer in Los Angeles and you make me feel like I could actually do it. Eeek!

  43. 10.11.14
    Katie said:

    Don’t feel you have to post more! I think your informative, funny posts are so worth the wait. I get excited each time I see a new one. I love your blog. I love your houses. And as a crazy pittie/ dog lady, I love your dogs. I also might love you, especially after the glasses of wine I had tonight. Keep up the good work and take care of yourself!

    I just bought that Martha Stewart book. Looks like a great read.

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh, have fun with it! It’s such an insane book. And thank you!!

  44. 10.11.14
    Krista said:

    Ooo – I can’t believe how lovely and cheap that new door! Always jealous of how affordable (some) stuff can be in the US.
    Even though you love to DIY it must be a relief to have capable workers banging stuff out!
    Love reading about the progress – keep it up.

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      It is a relief sometimes! I still have my hand in pretty much everything, but all of this would be impossible to do alone. It’s sort of astounding how fast everything moves when you have experienced help!

  45. 10.11.14
    Krista said:


  46. 10.11.14
    Dogger said:

    Okay, you can do the diary-style updates, but ONLY IF you don’t stop with the details. It’s your personality, thought-process, wit, writing style, that keeps me coming to this blog every day. And I don’t even own a house!

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha! If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about, it’s my need to share and over-share! The diary is just a fun little supplement thing.

  47. 10.11.14
    Erin said:

    Silly question maybe, but I know nothing about houses. What’s wrong with being below grade? Rot and things like that?
    And ditto with all the other readers; while I love seeing a new post here (the only blog I don’t have on Feedly because I remember to check it every day on my own!), considering how amazeballs and how much content/quality each post has, not posting 5 times a week is A-OK in my opinion.

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you Erin! And yes—the problem here is that sections of the house made of wood are sitting underneath the ground, or just too close to it. Soil retains a lot of moisture, so over time those areas rotted extensively. It also exposes those areas to various insects (like termites and carpenter ants) that are like to set up colonies and destroy wet wood, which can cause major structural damage over time! I’m actually lucky the damage wasn’t more extensive.

  48. 10.11.14
    Bonnie said:

    Loved your post as usual. Thought I would share my experience with Lowes.

    Back in 2011 I was doing a home plumbing job (with no real experience to back it up), and I was able to get the advice and parts I needed from the seriously knowledgeable people at the Lowes in Pacoima, California. They were patient and able to translate from my lame attempts at describing my problems. I used to drive 10 miles out of my way (past their competitors), just to go there. To this day, no mater what community I am living in or working in, if I need some solid advice and available inventory, Lowes is my first stop.

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      That’s so nice to hear, Bonnie! That’s really been my experience with Lowe’s, too—really knowledgeable, patient employees, on top of having a more organized store with nicer merchandise than their main competitor. I’m glad your experience as a customer has been so positive, too! I also travel a little further than I have to to shop there, but it’s worth it!

  49. 10.11.14
    Karen said:

    Love the diary! Makes my days look so unproductive. Well, they are, compared to yours. SO enjoying this journey you are taking us on!

  50. 10.13.14
    SPT said:

    I feel so selfish, but I want you to post MORE! MORE MORE MORE! I find that I come back to the same post more the once just to read the gems in your comments. Seriously, Daniel, your blog is the best. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  51. 10.13.14

    What Dogger said, only I have a house and am a lame DIYer.

  52. 10.13.14
    Sarah said:

    So enjoying the blog and looking forward to the cottage’s transformation. I can relate to the baby/mono things since I have a baby and mono. Only my baby won’t let me sleep – there’s been no sleep for this mono, so we’re in the persistent mono place…6 months and dragging. Take care of yourself, go slow, pace, listen to the fatigue. At least, that’s what I would do if I could! Wish us luck with our house updates and future move – it’s time to leave our neighbors barking dog…the mono demands it.

    • 10.16.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh man, Sarah!! I’m so sorry!! That’s too much to deal with! I hope things get easier!!

  53. 10.14.14
    Shelby said:

    Loving all the progress you’ve made so far! In just the little amount of work I’ve done on my own home I know that it doesn’t happen in a day. :)

    Love that front door…and cannot wait to see everything all painted and pretty (again).

  54. 10.15.14
    Catherine said:

    I love that you’re saving this sweet little house! I can’t wait to see the progress. I’m also gonna chime in on the warnings about free mulch. My city has a similar program, and I bought a huge truckload of the mulch for like $20. Aaaaaand now I have powdery mildew in my yard. Powdery mildew is the worst. I had to dig up and burn my entire herb garden.

    • 10.15.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh no!! Really good to know. I wondered about that kind of thing…free mulch just sounded too good to be true! I guess I’ll stick with paying for it. :/

  55. 10.15.14
    Kristan said:

    So glad the repairs weren’t crazy expensive. I held my breath until I read what the total was. I had hidden termite damage and my house was being supported just at the corners on one side. I was blissfully unaware for a few years and then hit panic mode when a contractor friend pointed it out – and shelled out $10G for repairs. I love seeing how you deal with the issues of old houses and the balance between replacing and restoring.

  56. 10.16.14
    ChrisC said:

    I never comment,but I wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday.Having grown up in Western New York(Niagara Falls) you are making me miss NYS.Until the snow flies.Then I’m glad I live in Florida….I envy you renovating an old house.My dream job.But most of all,Happy Birthday!