Mudroom Demo!

I hate my mudroom. Like lots.


This is the mudroom shortly after moving into the house. Look at Linus! So cute.

I’m the sort of person who tends to think most spaces are workable and potentially charming with a little bit of TLC, but the structure attached to the back of my house has never really felt like one of them. There was a time when I felt like replacing the floor tiles with leftover VCT from the kitchen re-do, painting the paneling, installing a cute-ish light, and building out some super simple storage would make this space sort of nice and useful. Clearly that never happened, and in the meantime I decided I just wanted the whole thing to disappear.


Oof…sorry, house! This is not one of your most flattering angles. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I think the front of my house is really pretty, but the side and back have suffered over the years from some weird additions, and alterations to those weird additions, and then the vinyl siding and chain-link fencing happened, and the trees in the hell-strip came down, and…ya know. It doesn’t look so great. This angle is the one that will definitely change the most during my time in the house, though, and I think I can make it attractive and much more cohesive with enough time and energy and, of course, money. Right now I’m sort of running low in all three departments, so while I wish I could tackle everything at once, it just isn’t possible.

The mudroom, though, is structurally unrelated to the house itself and should come down pretty easily, so you can imagine how much self-restraint it’s taken to even let it survive this long. It has admittedly been a nice place to just throw crap when I’ve felt too lazy to find a better spot for it and just want it out of the way, but that’s pretty much the extent of its utility as a room.



Anyway, back to before pictures…this room was pretty gnarly. The paneling was the cheap 70s luan variety, the floor was this super ugly vinyl tile, and I don’t even know what that tape on the wall was about. The roof leaked (and still does), the ceiling is only about 7 feet and slopes toward the front corner, the door had a broken pane of glass (I can’t remember if I put up that scrap of plywood or if it was like that…), the tiny window on the back wall was also broken…I think maybe the only nice things about the room are that it has a wide-plank beadboard ceiling and the old door, both of which I plan to reuse elsewhere.


Demo on this room actually started a while ago…like maybe a year ago. I’d just had it with all the luan paneling and the tiles popping up off the floor and figured that I’d at least gut the interior and get that out of the way.


One nice discovery was that the original clapboard was right under the paneling on the back wall of the house! I expected it to be there, but houses have a tendency to throw weird curveballs so I was still relieved to see it. I wonder if the whole was painted this mint green color at some point.

Since the foundation under this room is definitely old (stacked bluestone, like the rest of the house, but not part of the adjacent foundation under the kitchen), I always sort of figured that this used to be a summer kitchen. Having a covered but outdoor space to cook during the summer is relatively common in old houses, I think mainly as a means to keep the main house cooler in the warm summer months. Seeing the vent hole for a stove on the outside of the house (there’s a chimney behind that wall) is confirmation of this, I think.


The other walls were pretty much just paneling nailed up to the 2×4 studs—no insulation or anything. The whole construction of this room is super wonky—usually 2x4s would be nailed in with the short side facing the interior and exterior, and you’d see a top plate that support the ceiling joists, etc. etc.


It’s sort of hard to tell, but you can see here that some of the clapboards on this wall look to be newer, particularly as you get toward the door, and some are the originals. I think this is because the entire back wall (where the little window is) was added at some point to fully enclose the space and then the door had to be added to create access to the backyard.

Once I’d gotten all the paneling down, I could’t help but dive into the floor! The tile is laid on top of plywood, which is laid on top of what are essentially enormous shims that were put in place to level out the floor. Since this was a semi-open space originally, the entire floor slants toward the back corner to direct water away.


CHAOS! It’s amazing how gutting even relatively small, simple spaces seems to create so much garbage! I wish I could just have a dumpster rented in my driveway for the next…decade? This was back when I used Bagster bags (I’ve since switched to just borrowing my friend’s pick-up and hauling to the dump myself, which is MUCH cheaper), which are thoughtfully designed to hold 4×8 objects perfectly. I do miss the convenience of Bagster bags, but also a little sick over how much money I spent on disposal during the first year in the house by relying on them. It could’ve paid for my own rust-bucket pick-up truck! Oh well.


See how all the clapboard on the wall with the window is newer? Without this wall, the 2×4 ceiling joists would have been supported by a single 2×4 top plate resting on 2×4 posts in the outer corners. So flimsy! It’s sort of amazing that the roof has lasted so long, particularly through heavy snow loads and whatnot. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say this room is a structural hazard (after all, it’s been fine for many decades before I came along!), but it’s definitely a far cry from the way we’d build anything today! Even if I were interested in restoring this space as-is, I’d be looking at a lot of serious structural work (maybe even rebuilding it entirely), so I really don’t have any qualms with just losing it and giving the space over to something that will actually be used and enjoyed (porch! porch! porch!).

Underneath the vinyl tile and plywood and huge shims was more plywood! At first I was just inclined to leave it, but…curiosity. Weird bursts of energy. Little impulse control. Same old story.


Hey, cool! The original floor is old wide-plank pine. It’s in solid condition, too, so these boards will definitely get salvaged and reused somehow.


Outside, I finally started removing the vinyl siding a week or so ago! Removing vinyl siding is shockingly easy—you really just need a hammer and a pry bar. I think I had this whole wall un-vinyl’d in maybe 15 minutes? You just start at the top and work your way down.


Underneath the vinyl siding is a very thin layer of foam insulation, which is nailed into the clapboard.


Here is where I will mount my soapbox:

Vinyl siding is not good for old houses, and the last two pictures kind of sum up why. Often people think that covering a house in vinyl siding improves the appearance (agree to disagree there…), helps with maintenance, adds energy efficiency, and might even preserve the underlying materials, but very often that’s not the case! Regardless of how you feel about how vinyl siding looks, the fact that it’s so effective at disguising potentially very serious issues makes its continued use sort of alarming to me. When water and moisture get behind the vinyl, the vinyl and foam insulation are great at catching that water, trapping it, keeping it next to the wood, and even advancing decay by keeping it dark and warm up in there. Yuck! So what you get is a nasty hotbed of mold and rotting wood. And if pests like termites and carpenter ants aren’t already hiding behind the vinyl (which they totally might be and you wouldn’t really know it because you can’t see them), well…they’re known to enjoy chowing down on some decaying wood now and then so they might decide to join the party too. So underneath a wall that just looks like clean, fresh, wood-grain-embossed-plastic, there can be all sorts of crazy activity that can not only affect the clapboard but also wreak serious havoc on underlying framing and potentially anything else in the wall like electrical and insulation.


ANYWAY. As much as I’d love to rip down ALL OF THE VINYL RIGHT NOW, that’s a huge project involving careful lead-paint-containment and lots of time and potentially money and it’ll have to wait a while longer. I’m hopeful that most of the underlying clapboard will be in good shape and just need to be stripped, primed, and painted, but of course there’s no real way of knowing until I see it! For the sake of this summer, I think I’ll remove just the vinyl on the back of the house (leaving the vinyl “cornerboards” in place) and use that as a test run for how the rest of the house will be. I’m a little scared to look! I’ll salvage any of the good older pieces of clapboard from the mudroom for patching in elsewhere on the house if/when necessary, and hopefully it’ll all work out and be so beautiful and not so difficult and I won’t rue the day I wrote these words.

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. 6.9.15

    We have all clapboard that needs to be painted too. If we do it ourselves there is this really cool machine you can get to collect the paint shavings and get the old lead paint off, without it hitting the ground. A dream for me! I want one of these machines so hard. If you do the rest of your house, get one for sure. :)

    • 6.10.15
      Daniel said:

      I want to know more about this machine! Do you know what it’s called?

    • 6.11.15
      christine said:

      I think the machine being referred to is the “Paint Shaver.” Looks like it would work well, but very $$$

    • 7.8.15

      I found this and want this for inside paint stripping too. A girl can dream, right?

    • 6.10.15
      Lauren said:

      Yes, please post more info about this machine!

    • 6.10.15
      Sarah said:

      It’s called the Paint Shaver! Would love to see it in action.

    • 6.12.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Sarah!

  2. 6.9.15
    jill palumbo said:

    I think I’m confused…………are you tearing this down? Or started to and will finish later?

  3. 6.9.15
    jill palumbo said:

    Oops, I wasn’t quite done yet. Or are you doing a temporary redo to use the room?

  4. 6.9.15
    Ursula said:

    I love your blog. So glad to have a new post. Wish I lived closer; I’d come help. Really!

  5. 6.9.15
    Martha Smith said:


    Good to read your latest installment–you get an amazing amount of work done; when I accomplish about 1/10th as much I feel like I’m due some sort of medal. Also always glad to see a little dog face in the photos, so cute!

    You can add me to vinyl hater club. I live in a neighborhood of similarly aged homes and each year watch more and more sheathed in vinyl. (sigh)
    Besides the reasons you list to not use vinyl, its a very polluting material. A funny and informative film, “Blue Vinyl”, details the one woman’s response when her parents decide to go the vinyl route on her childhood home.

    Keep up the good work!

    • 6.10.15
      Daniel said:

      I’ll have to check that out!

      It drives me nuts when I see vinyl being put on old houses! It really seems like one of those things we should know better than to do by now. One of my favorite houses in my neighborhood just got the vinyl treatment and it looks horrible. The amount of detail and dimension that you lose with the install is tragic!

    • 6.10.15
      CHRIS UEBBING said:

      100% with you on the vinyl/fake siding. When I was a youngster, my fam decided to cover the house with aluminum siding. Hated it then; hate it now. The prohibitive workload of pulling it down & rehabbing the established clapboard was a contributing factor in selling the house (it was also too big). Now I’m in a bungalow with wooden shingles. It needs to be painted (autumn??), but I’d rather deal with that than be in a house that CAN’T BREATHE!!!

  6. 6.9.15
    Sterling said:

    I can’t remember if there was discussion in the early days of the house, but you’ve had the soil around the house, etc., tested for lead contamination? It’s not so much about the paint chips themselves as the fine particles the lead degrades to over time…that’s what makes lead abatement such a bitch. I fully support you in ripping that hideous siding down (inside and out), and a porch space will be great so you can view your future beautiful landscape.

  7. 6.9.15
    Cindi M said:

    Yes, vinyl siding hides a multitude of sins. Usually asbestos siding around here for the 50’s houses but just about everything hurricane damaged, like the second story of my parents’ old home. But I didn’t realize it could case damage to new construction (for storm restoration) as well. Is this different from aluminum siding that everyone hated because it dented with hail, etc? Well, enough of that. I admire your courage. I over-analyze everything and picture catastrophe before I even see it! Not that I have your ability to spin silk from sow’s ears. So, keep on doing just what you’re doing and letting us see the blood, guts and gore along the way. Good to have another post. Thanks.

    • 6.10.15
      Daniel said:

      I don’t think that vinyl siding is all that different from aluminum siding, except that it’s much cheaper to make! They can both cause (and hide) the same kind of damage, though. At least you can bring aluminum to the scrap yard!

  8. 6.9.15
    Wilma said:

    yay! new post! that is all…i know nothing about vinyl and clapboard (except that we have wood siding on our 60s bungalow, and i love it)

  9. 6.9.15
    gretaclark said:

    That mud room has no style at all–saying good bye is a good idea!

  10. 6.9.15

    You have the cutest puppies in the world! He looks like such a little helper. I’m always happy when I see one of your posts in my inbox. You could talk about just about anything and I think I still would find it amusing. Good luck on the rest of the demo!

    • 6.10.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you! Linus is also flattered :)

  11. 6.9.15
    Bonnie said:

    I can’t wait to see the porch!

  12. 6.9.15
    Wendy said:

    Love your blog. Can’t wait for an update on your various projects:)

  13. 6.10.15
    Luna said:

    Vinyl hater +1
    Even with it’s flaky paint the clapboard looks a hundred times better than vinyl. So glad you will keep and reuse the door, pine planks, etc.
    Linus is indeed cute.

  14. 6.10.15
    Rasmus said:

    Had to look up “luan”. Best definition:

    And Daniel, I know the “it could’ve paid for my own [x]”-thoughts very well, but remember what the great philosopher, R. Williams said: Regrets only hurt. Had you bought a rusty old pick-up truck, it might have broken down. It would have required fuel, mechanical checkups, oil, parking, insurance and you would have spent an immense amount of time finding the best value for money-deal.

    Sometimes there’s greater value in not going the long way round.

  15. 6.10.15
    Doorot said:

    Yay! A post :)

    You are so right Daniel, that horrible mudroom sticks out like a sore thumb and makes no sense whatsoever.
    I don’t know how you get so much demo-ing done, we’ve been at it for 5 years and still not finished…

  16. 6.10.15
    Mary Sane said:

    Oh my god I looove the paneling with the new york boards mixed with white and brown boards (pic 8 from above). Seriously you have to reuse them!! It will turn into a great table or wall decoration. (Imagine if you could just cut that section off and mount it to something to keep the mix of boards in that specific order)

  17. 6.10.15
    Martha said:

    I grew up in a 100 year old brick home and was indoctrinated from an early age to hate vinyl siding by my dad. I totally agree with you. When my parents put an addition on said home, they used that hardy-plank cement fibre board siding, which seems like a great alternative. I can understand the temptation of vinyl siding though, scrapping and repainting clapboard can be expensive and onerous and requires a frequency of attention that a lot of people don’t want to commit to. A friend of mine once said that he would rather take all the clapboards down from his house and reside the entire house rather than attempt to scrape all the paint off and repaint, because getting all the paint off (which is best practice) is so fussy.

    • 6.10.15
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, painting a house is no fun! The Hardi stuff is great—much lower maintenance than wood, takes paint well, and surprisingly affordable…apparently it’s not that much more expensive than vinyl. I was never a huge fan of the boards with the faux wood-grain texture embossed on them, but now they make smooth boards as well that I think look way better.

  18. 6.10.15

    Hi Daniel… needs to go…maybe a nice porch leading off the kitchen door?
    Please re use those boards with NEW YORK stencilled on them….maybe a table or install them on top of something….
    Was in Rhinebeck and Hyde Park over the weekend..just love the Hudson Valley.

  19. 6.10.15
    Dan said:

    While we’re all piling on vinyl siding — there are so many beautiful Victorian houses in my neighborhood that have been stripped of all external ornamentation and covered in vinyl. It kills me to see mansard roofs, which were originally clad in decorative slate shingles, and paneled bay windows covered over in vinyl. I’m looking forward to seeing your house vinyl free at some point in the future.

  20. 6.10.15
    Eileen said:

    yay, a new post”¦was worried that you’d keeled over from overwork with all the projects you have going.
    Buh-bye ugly accretion on back of house! (and yeah: vinyl is the worst)

  21. 6.10.15
    Shauna said:

    Glad I’m not alone in tearing down “good” siding to free the original wood siding underneath. We got about 1/4 of our house siding torn off last summer and the wood painted…so it currently looks like 2 houses. Work in progress though and the neighbours can see our vision luckily! Your place will look amazing when you’re done!!

  22. 6.10.15
    sarah said:

    Oh, I’m so happy to see you tackle the siding! It’s such a huge project, but the payoff is similarly huge. We removed steel siding from our house last summer and while it was a filthy, exhausting, and intimidating project (renting scaffolding! getting dumpsters! getting more dumpsters! black mucous! filth, filth filth, etc etc etc blah for months on end) I like to think our 113 year old house breathed an enormous sigh of relief when we were done. We were pleasantly surprised by the condition of the wood underneath, and shocked by the amount of character that was covered by the siding. Why why why?

    One small tip that may be helpful to you: If you are able to remove some of the siding on the south side of your house (the side that often gets the most weather abuse–driving rain, beating sun, etc), that may give you an opportunity to tell how bad any underlying damage may be. We started our project on the south side in order to evaluate whether it was even worth moving forward with the project ourselves or whether we should hire it out to professionals. We lucked out–no underlying damage anywhere. When does that ever happen?

    Anyway, it’s such an exciting project, this beautiful house of yours. I can’t wait to see your progress and cheer you on from the west coast!

  23. 6.10.15
    Leanna said:

    Oh boy I don’t know a ton about lead paint abatement but I did see an episode of Flip or Flop where it was $12,000 to remove it per EPA standards, and that was on a really small house. Hopefully you can get by for less – the vinyl really creates some awful hidden problems.

  24. 6.10.15
    Suzen said:

    This vinyl siding hating club is getting one more member. Egads! I actually saw a house on Albany avenue this week that has the siding falling off of it and underneath it is (why???????????) brick. What in the name of…..? I’m thinking the other home you are talking about in the neighborhood is the purple Victorian that they just put the nasty faux stained glass steel doors on and are now busily covering up the beautiful shingle work and peeling paint with said siding. Sickening. PS Can Linus come and live with me? He’s cuter than my own dog. Maybe you could send him to Doc’s daycare and I could accidentally take him home with me when I go to get my Henry?

    • 6.10.15
      Daniel said:

      Yes! That brick house on Albany is so bizarre. The siding has been that way the entire time I’ve lived here!

      And yes…the purple Victorian. It broke my heart! I loved that house…I even stopped when I saw what was going on and asked if they still had any of the stuff they ripped off. Original shutters, porch spindles, doors, windows…all at the dump. Between that and the two amazing white houses on Albany that someone just ripped all the windows out of and replaced with vinyl ones in totally different sizes, this town is killing me this summer! If anyone ever rips the green tile roof off that other one, I won’t even be able to drive down that street!

    • 6.10.15
      Suzen said:

      the dump? Gah!!

    • 6.18.15
      Joann said:

      Hi, there is something going on in New Haven on Sunday that may be of interest. Sponsored by the Historical Society.

    • 6.23.15
      Joann said:

      Went to an interesting talk on Sunday at the New Haven Historical Society by a contractor who does deconstruction in the area. He says at this point the cost of demo/dump is cheaper that what he can do to deconstruct and save/store for reuse these materials and asks that people patronize salvage markets when possible to enable more materials to be saved (and become available on the market). In the meantime if you see or know or suspect a scheduled demolition of any type, just assume the materials are headed to the dump and do what you can to get ahold of anything you have the space to hold onto until it can be passed on for repurposing because otherwise it will simply go into the ground as a permanent loss.

  25. 6.11.15

    Our new house is wood clapboard (and a little hardi in one section) without a sheathing or wrap beneath it. It’s the wood claps right on the house’s framing. It’s drafty, without insulation, lets bugs in, and is not efficient…but I’m so happy nobody ever covered things up with vinyl or aluminum to resolve these issues. I’d much rather take all of the negative than deal with the downright damage the covering siding materials can do to an old house.

    • 6.12.15
      Daniel said:

      My house is built the same way! I’m interested to see the difference between living with and without the vinyl in terms of upkeep and energy efficiency. The foam under the vinyl is so thin and it just seems like even just clapboard in decent condition over the framing would be better than rotting clapboard over the framing with a tiny layer of foam and vinyl, right? We’ll see. Short of stripping off ALL the siding, taking out all the nogging, insulating, and then doing sheathing and weather wrap and new siding, I don’t really think there’s a better solution!

  26. 6.11.15
    threadbndr said:

    I’ve been thinking about your back porch plans. (When at a standstill on my own place, it appears that I dream about other people’s houses!)

    I know you said that you’d move the back door into the laundry. I was thinking that would mean that you’d be coming and going from a door that is open to the weather. If you leave the back door where it is, you’d be covered from rain/snow by the deck overhang. There’s also the entertaining/outdoor cooking side of things. If you have an outdoor dining area set up on the new porch (where the mudroom is now) and the door is where it currently is, serving from the kitchen is just ‘hand things out the door’. If you move the door, you’d have to take food through the laundry, out the door, down one set of steps and up another. (If I understood your sketch from the prior post.)

    I think your hate of the current mudroom is maybe shading your planning process a bit. If it was me, I’d do the porch and hold off on moving the door until I’d lived with that change for a while.

    Even if you do move the door, I’d extend the ground level of the porch over allow for direct access to ‘entertaining’ area. The location of the stairs in your sketch are the only thing I don’t love about it.

    • 6.12.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks! I’m still tossing around ideas for the porch, for sure. I actually think the door will probably (someday) just switch to the other side of the kitchen, where the sink currently is, but it’s staying in place for now regardless!

  27. 6.11.15
    Maria said:

    Ok, in aesthetic terms I totally agree with the vinyl haters. But at the same time, I’ve lived in a number of old clapboard (18th, 19th, and 20th century) houses where the water simply comes into the walls, leaving the plaster, or insulation wet and wonky (after all, that’s a huge part of why people installed the vinyl in the first place) and causing mold problems. It’s not necessarily visible unless you are forced to rip out a wall at which point you realize how damp it is inside, due to the fact that the water penetrates again and again. The reality is that any wall (including brick) will eventually be compromised if enough driving rain hits it during a big rain (think today’s crazy Global Warming storms). I have lived in more than one building where this happened.

    So removing the vinyl and going down to the old clapboards may or may not waterproof your structure. One way to go is to strip off the old clapboards, install a membrane to prevent water penetration, (during that process it is also possible to insulate the whole thing from the outside). Then you install new cedar clapboards and paint them. That way you have the charm of the old wood clapboards, without the dampness and water penetration that led people to install the vinyl in the first place.

    I would really suggest that you do some reading (possibly through the library) in building science. There are tons of great sites on line–and in your area there is Dan Friedman at His site design is hilarious at times, but has lots of great information about water penetration. There are also good building science consultancies in Boston and CT with great websites.

    Finally, there are some really beautiful non-wood sidings out there, especially cementitious. They do not need to be painted routinely, and they look great (there have been a number featured in “This Old House” Magazine). Some of them also have insulating properties.

    I love your site but I’ve learned the hard way that one needs to be careful about simply returning things to the good-old-ways of home building technology. Those old homes were leaky, moldy, and drafty, and I’d really think carefully before removing the old siding without reading up on the alternatives and the very real complexities of waterproofing and old structure without making it so tight it does not breathe.

    • 6.12.15
      Daniel said:

      I hear ya, Maria! I have looked into this quite a bit (but will continue—thanks for the recs!), and I do think the house will be better off with the original clapboard than with the vinyl, simply because you can see and identify problems as they happen than the current situation where all this potential damage lurks right beneath the surface. I have had to remove some or all of various exterior walls around the house, and I gotta say everything I’ve seen seems to indicate that the clapboard has done its job really well over the years—I haven’t found any wet framing (aside from those resulting from roof leaks), and the brick nogging in the wall cavities has been in good, intact condition. Lots of exposure to water and moisture would have caused those bricks to crumble over time, but that hasn’t happened! I think the vinyl was installed primarily because the owners were getting up in age and didn’t want to deal with painting the house and stuff, not because there was anything particularly wrong with the clapboard.

      So anyway, we’ll have to see! That’s the nice thing about not trying to do the entire house at once. Removing all the clapboard and nogging to insulate and sheath and weather-wrap and install flashing and replacing the clapboard is a HUGE project, so I’d like to give the original construction method a shot first. If it’s a disaster, I can always reevaluate my plans for the rest of the house! I wouldn’t be opposed to doing smooth Hardi (I can’t stand the fake wood grain on the non-smooth variety!) or something if it really came to that, but I’d love to stick with the original if possible. :)

  28. 6.11.15
    Mark said:

    absolutely one of your best neologisms!

  29. 6.11.15
    Kara said:

    My little ranch house was built in 1964 and is made out of cedar boards. Some of them are split in places & painting is expensive, but it has been great siding.
    PS. I love the dog cameos.

  30. 6.11.15
    Erin Fay said:

    I love your posts. Just absolutely love them. I wish you had the time and energy to post so. much. more. I love your soap boxes… I so agree!! Keep all the old wonderful things in tact! Please! (I’m a real estate agent, I see SO many bad horrible “fixes” “updates”.) Keep up the utterly fantastic work!!

    • 6.12.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Erin! :)

  31. 6.12.15
    Juliska said:

    aargh, my eyes! Having 70s flashbacks … Horrible, wood-paneled basement rec rooms. And this one is above ground. Shudder.

    Thank you for killin ….I mean, remodeling it.

  32. 6.12.15
    Suzanne said:

    I am so curious about what is going on with your friend’s home you are redoing! No sneak peeks huh? In the meantime, glad to see the last couple posts, you are aspirational! After 4 150 year plus renovations, I’m renting, so I live vicariously through your posts! Only an hour away, so if you see someone working in your backyard, it could be me!

  33. 6.12.15
    Meghan said:

    I can’t comment too much on vinyl siding except, well, ew. BUT, in defense of wood siding, I think the quality of original clap board changes from home to home, too. Don’t automatically assume yours will be in bad shape! We just bought our first home, a 1951 mid century modern that was in TERRIBLE condition on the outside- I don’t think the exterior had been painted since the 90’s, paint was peeling everywhere down to the wood and would flake off to the touch. However, the clap board seemed to be in pretty good shape despite having been exposed to the elements for probably the last decade, so we took a gamble to fix it up. We (and by ‘we’ I mean our trusty contractor) stripped the paint down to the bare wood in order to prep for new paint since pretty much every wall was a mess. And let me tell you, that clap board is FLAWLESS. They used something gorgeous like cypress? It ended up being so damn pretty that we couldn’t bear to cover it all back up again. So, we decided to leave all the street-facing walls natural wood and just sealed it with some crazy-strong boat sealer. The wood looks sick next to our black-trimmed two-story corner windows. I’m in MCM heaven. Cheers to old houses, beautiful materials and good solid construction!

  34. 6.13.15
    meredith said:

    This was so satisfying to read. We have the same mudroom falling off the back of our house. Like the EXACT SAME. Shitty 60s wood panelling? Check. Rotting floorboards? Check. Leaks/flood every time it rains? Check. Jaunty angle? Check. Even the same mint-green paint! It’s the next thing on our list to deal with and I can’t wait. You’ve inspired me to go at it myself with a crowbar.

    I also feel your pain about the siding. Our 100-year-old red-brick house was covered in unfortunate harvest yellow aluminum siding (why?!) until we ripped it off this spring. The brick was in perfect condition except where the freaking siding was trapping moisture (and where the jerk who installed it rammed nails through the brick).

    I love your posts. My husband and I come and check out your blog every time our poor old house threatens to make us crazy.

    • 6.18.15
      Daniel said:

      Ahhh, ripping aluminum siding off BRICK must be EXTRA exciting!! The idea of someone doing that in the first place is just so crazy—good on you guys for making it right! :)

  35. 6.14.15
    Mike E. Perez said:

    The lower portion of my 1925 Craftsman home is brick, while the upper half is asbestos siding. I’m sure that went up over the original siding in the 50s. And thanks to the storms we get here in North Texas, much of that siding is cracked and chipped. I’ve read a lot of blogs that say the cost and hazard of removing asbestos siding is so high that it’s better to just, once again, cover it up with new siding. What are your thoughts on that? I can’t imagine covering up all that crap with yet another layer of siding. I can only imagine the horrors that will fester in there over the years with all the heat and humidity.

    • 6.14.15
      Cindi M said:

      Wow, Mike, that’s tough. I’ll be interested to hear what Daniel and others say. The comment above about starting with the side most likely to be hiding damage makes sense, if you can do this in stages. I don’t know if asbestos removal is cost-effective in stages but if so, you could also deal with any underlying issues at the same time. Good luck.

    • 6.18.15
      Daniel said:

      I feel your pain, Mike! Asbestos siding is a tough one. Laws about asbestos removal/abatement vary between states, so that’s the first thing to check. In New York, I guess homeowners are allowed to DIY it, but if you want to hire it out then the contractor has to be professionally certified and all that jazz. If you could legally DIY it, then I guess it’s kind of up to you…opinions vary A LOT on how dangerous asbestos really is, particularly when it’s encased in something like the siding you’re talking about, or vinyl floor tiles, or whatever, so it sort of depends on what you’re comfortable believing, unfortunately.

      Personally, I *really* wouldn’t want to cover it up with a new layer of siding, so I guess if you’d have to or just prefer to have it professionally removed/abated, I’d probably opt to try to save for that, and then hope that the underlying clapboard was salvageable (thereby at least making up for the alternative cost of re-siding).

    • 6.23.15
      Mike E. Perez said:

      Makes sense. Thanks so much for your input!

  36. 6.15.15
    Heather said:

    I too love your posts!! Wish you vlogged! Oh heavens the joy it would bring to the world!!. No really! Just looked at youtube about paint removal!! Not pretty!!!

    • 6.18.15
      Daniel said:

      Ha! If I vlogged, everyone would know I have no idea what I’m doing half the time! the jig would be up!

    • 6.22.15
      Heather said:

      Perfect!! Then it’s a plan!! Have you visited you tube lately…no one knows nothing! You’d fit right in. Plus they get paid to do it!!

  37. 6.17.15
    Andrea said:

    I love your blog so much and I’m not even close to home ownership (my husband and I are on our way to a home-free travelling existence). It’s kind of funny ”“ I check back so often for new posts that I’ll read comments to get my fix.
    You’re lovely, your home is lovely.
    It’s so inspiring how you manage to make old things beautiful again.

    • 6.18.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Andrea! Very kind :)

  38. 6.23.15
    Simone said:

    Hi Daniel, I hope you are OK and not trapped in some “clap-board/ vinyl siding” nightmare, enjoying the summer. Kind regards; Simone

  39. 6.23.15
    Karin said:

    Daniel- are you sick of blogging?

    • 6.26.15
      Melbournite said:

      It’s been so long, hasn’t it?

  40. 6.23.15

    Hi, Great blog! I don’t see a sign up form, so I’m leaving a comment and checking off the notify me of new posts by email box. :]

  41. 6.24.15
    Amy said:

    I really love watching the progress you make! And I’m incredibly impressed by the amount of hard work you do.

    My house is an 80-something year old farmhouse, with (sunflower yellow!) steel wood-pattern siding – I have no idea if it’s original to the house or was added later. I’ve had a couple of contractors (one put on a new roof and the other replaced a rotting back porch) react with pleased surprise about it; they both told me it’s great stuff and well worth keeping. I wonder if it is less damaging to the wood structure than plastic would be?

    I also have that paneling in most rooms too; it covers the original plaster walls and in a lot of cases layers and layers of wallpaper. My bathroom is a tiiiiiiiny closet of a space that was converted, at some point, from a little porch. So, watching your progress and the things you’re learning r.e. old houses is helping me understand some of the things I will be dealing with as I very, very slowly renovate bits of the house here and there.

  42. 6.27.15
    Rebecca said:

    I just wanted to drop by to tell you how much I love your blog. My husband and I are in the constant state of working on our home, and I often evoke your authority–as in “My guy upstate says…” We’re now even hooked on sketch-up! Hope you’re enjoying the summer and all the projects you have going on.

  43. 6.27.15
    Jo said:

    The photo of your back porch is so ugly and depressing that I have to shield my eyes so I can only see a corner of the screen when I check to see if you have a new blog post. That paneling brings back such bad memories of crappy rental houses.

  44. 6.30.15
    Susan said:

    Hi Daniel,
    I do not know if others have already commented on this (and I am at work and do not have time to read all comments) but Vinyl Siding as you know it, has come a long way.

    I currently own and am fixing up an old 1915 home. I recently had the entire home re-sided with CertainTeed Vinyl Siding Cedar Impressions. From the street or even up close, the siding looks like real cedar shakes, only it’s not. It’s CertainTeed. The installation process involves tearing down the existing cedar shakes right down to the barn board. Then the house is wrapped in Typar and lastly the Cedar Impressions are installed. The house is water tight — no chance of water getting in and creating rot. You have to see the process to understand it.

    If you live in New England like I do, you know that painting a house will only buy you maybe 10 years, depending. The Cedar Impressions completely changed the look of my house and now I never have to worry about painting. During the installation process, people would drive by, stop and ask about the product. Some people couldn’t believe it when I told them, “No, that is not real cedar, it’s vinyl.”

    I get where you’re head is at in wanting to keep with the authenticity of your home but most of us cannot afford to repaint a home every 10 +/- years.

    Lastly, my Ex husband builds million dollar homes on the South Shore (Massachusetts) and people request their homes be finished with the CertainTeed Cedar Impressions. It’s worth the investment.

    Hate the old style vinyl siding but give the new stuff a chance. Please. :-)

    Anyway. You’re doing a great job and I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog.


    • 7.1.15
      Daniel said:

      I hear ya, Susan! What I’m really talking about is this particular style of vinyl siding, which unfortunately both looks bad (nobody in their right mind would ever be fooled into thinking it’s actually wood!), is bad for houses, and is still produced and applied pretty much exactly as it is here. I see it go up ALL the time over old wood clapboard or beautiful scalloped shingles and it breaks my heart—both for covering the historic character of the home and for the damage I know it can wreak down the line.

      That SAID, while I’m not familiar with the exact product you’re talking about (although it does look quite nice online), there have certainly been huge advances in wood-alternative siding products over the past decade or so. I actually plan to use some Hardie products on various exterior restoration projects for all the reasons you’re listing—basically indistinguishable from wood, very long-lasting, and hold paint very well (or don’t need to be painted at all). I’ve been told it’s only very slightly more expensive than vinyl but looks a million times better (than the crap covering my house, I mean”“not knocking yours!)—if I were looking at re-siding my house rather than restoring the original clapboards, that is probably what I’d do, in all honesty! It’s definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind for restoration projects down the line if I’m crazy enough to do another house…or 12. :)

    • 7.2.15
      Susan said:

      Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for the reply. I have heard of Hardie. CertainTeed Cedar Impressions are similar to Hardie; although, price point-wise, Hardie is more $$$.

      Believe it or not, my house was covered in the same ugly siding as yours. It was so bad that it every time it it rained it would ooze this white chalky substance all over my windows. The contractor I hired to install the CertainTeed explained to me the “whats’ and ‘whys’ of the old siding oozing this chalky substance. Yuck!

      Once all the siding was removed, I actually liked the shingles underneath and they were in decent condition. Unfortunately, by that point, I was already locked in. Besides, as previously mentioned I do not want to have to deal with painting my house ever 10+/- years. :-)

      In any event, I agree with you 100%. It is a shame that there was a surge of siding in the 60s/70s and every house was covered in this characterless product in order to save the homeowner from having to paint.

      Like you, I am a fan of old houses and wish more of the could be restored. :-)


  45. 7.2.15
    rue said:

    Hi Daniel :)

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, but haven’t commented.

    I’m thrilled you’re thinking of taking of the vinyl siding! I did the same thing about 7 years ago on my last house, that was built in 1908. I was lucky, because the siding had only been put on about 10 years before, so there wasn’t too much damage, but a lot of the original woodwork and a front porch was missing. It looked so much better afterwards and I would do it all over again. If I’d been able to stay in that house I would have put the porch back on too, but it wasn’t to be. You can see the old house here:

    Anyway, just wanted to show support and wish you good luck. You’ve done an amazing job so far :)

  46. 1.12.21
    Jake said:

    What a cool project! My own house (1900, Colonial in Massachusetts) has a room like that currently serving as a laundry/utility room. It’s a little sketchier than yours because it’s higher above grade (about 4′) and doesn’t have a real foundation; the whole thing is supported by some 4x6s on compacted gravel (we think).

    Did you ever finish removing the old siding and reconditioning the clapboards? Our entire house (2-story, 1900 sf) has ancient vinyl over clapboard that is undoubtedly covered in lead paint. I dread the thought of replacing the siding at some point and I’m curious what your slightly smaller scale experience was like.

    • 5.6.21

      I haven’t finished doing it around the house, but yes! There are several posts on the exterior restoration work. It’s kinda a beast! But very often the siding under vinyl really just needs a scrape and paint job, but to be fully removed or anything.