Fixing the Back of the House: Part 2!

WELL. It’s December 16th, which is just a little crazy. I feel like we haven’t talking in forever. Hi! How are you? You seem well. Did you get a haircut? You’re glowing.

I know pretending to be shocked about what month we’re in is hardly an original way to dive into a post, but mid-December (oh my god, “mid-December”) feels particularly remarkable right about now because—as of this writing—I still have not wrapped up work on the back of my house. Usually we’re buried in snow by now, but ye olde mercury has been hovering right around freezing at night and in the 40s and 50s during the days, so I’ve been able to continue working on this project (and so many others, good lord) despite what the calendar is saying. This kind of weather is supposed to hold for another few days at least, so if I can keep squeezing some work into those precious few off-hours (when it’s actually light out! it gets dark around 4:30 nowadays), I should be able to get it all finished before winter really hits.

I’m so grateful for the weather on one hand, but to be honest this whole rush-before-winter-thing is getting wearing. I’ve been in that brand of crazy-mode since early September, and all I really want right about now is an excuse to curl up on the couch and write some blog posts and…I don’t know, do winter stuff. Basically, I’m losing my mind. It’s all good.

So anyway, exterior painting in December in upstate New York. That’s happening.


It’s been a while, so here’s where we left off with this whole endeavor. I ripped off all the clapboard on the back of the house, poached the old kitchen window sashes for reuse, replaced the kitchen window (yes, in fact that ladder is leaning right on the new one’s glass…whatever, everyone survived including the window), tore off all the original clapboard, removed all the brick nogging between the studs, replaced that with new rigid foam insulation and spray foam, ran the original clapboards through a planer, and then began the fun and exciting process of re-siding with the original boards. That all sounds like a lot of work, right? Yeah, well, it was.


Guess what’s difficult? Standing on a ladder, 12 feet or so in the air, holding a 10 foot long piece of clapboard in one hand and trying to position and nail it correctly by yourself with the other. So until one of you people finds me a husband*, I’ll be forced to improvise…and on this day, that took the form of erecting my own scaffolding. Scraps and leftovers! It looks like garbage but I swear it was shockingly solid and stable. This made things slightly easier…at least easy enough that I was able to do the entire first level solo! Boom!

*preferably super handsome, rockin’ bod, my mother would prefer Jewish and a doctor/lawyer/both, around my age, likes to be bossed around.


A few days later, I got Edwin and Edgar to come by and help me out with the top half of the wall. I’d already gutted this wall from the inside upstairs, so this top half had to happen relatively quickly since the house was literally wide open to the elements/animals/bugs/zombies. This part of the job was also a little more complex than the lower half since we also had to remove that door, frame in two windows, install the windows, patch the rake frieze, insulate, and install all the trim and siding. Obviously this was also happening high above the ground and all of those boards from the eaves returns upwards have to be cut at angles at the ends…this would have taken me FOREVER by myself and I probably would have died.


While Edwin and Edgar worked on pulling off the old clapboard and removing the old door and window, I built window jambs! I wish I had more and better pictures of this, but I can’t seem to find any. The original frame for the old kitchen casement window was still intact, so I took the whole thing apart and used pieces of it to create the jambs for the two individual casement windows. There was some trial and error but I figured it out and I think they ended up looking pretty good!


I also had to make the casings to trim out the windows after installation, but before the clapboard went back up. The casings are 5/4″ thick (1″ in actual dimensions) x 4″ pieces of wood that were easy to just rip down to size on the table saw, but that little drip cap on top of the casing took a little more effort. This is the kind of thing that tends to get hacked off when vinyl siding is installed, and my house is no exception. Argh! I was able to replicate them pretty easily with my table saw, though—first by ripping the board to the right width (I think it ended up being 2 inches?), and then by adjusting the angle of the blade and running the board through again.


Meanwhile, Edgar and Edwin put their brains together and figured out how to patch in the missing parts of the rake frieze—the restoration of which was a big part of why this project happened in the first place. They used scrap 5/4″ lumber (which was slightly thinner than the original board, so they had to be shimmed out a little bit) and somehow got the angles just right and fit the pieces into place. Those guys…they make me so happy.


How ya like them apples? Things were looking pretty nuts at this point, but look at how good that patch job is up on the rake frieze! The patches are nailed to the studs and screwed into the original boards—the whole installation seems very secure. After patching and paint…well, just wait!


While Edwin and Edgar worked on framing out the rough openings for the window jambs I’d just made, I planed more clapboard! I know we’ve been through this, but man…pre-planed board above, planed board below. SO. SATISFYING.

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t just flip the boards around and reinstall them with the painted side facing in, the backs of these boards are finished totally differently than the fronts—all rough and splintery and not made to be reversible.  Many of the boards that came off the mudroom appear to come from the 1930s or so and those are finished on both sides and could have been flipped, but not the originals. I just went ahead and planed all of them, because whatever.


YAY! Placing the windows wasn’t too difficult—it was just a matter of figuring out how large they’d be—including the exterior casings—and leaving enough room in the top corners that everything would fit nicely under frieze we’d just patched in. These windows need some restoration work, but they’re easy to remove (hinges just unscrew) when I have a second to do that later on.

By the way, I decided to use these sashes instead of the ones from the window that was already up there because these were a little bigger—a few inches longer and about an inch wider—and I thought that scale seemed better. These windows had to be relatively small but I didn’t want them to be too dinky. I still want that room to feel really great when it’s done. I’ll do another post on how that room is looking from the inside now, but I really like it! The little windows really change things but it feels very cozy and authentic to this whacky old house. There’s a big dormer on the other side of the room, too, so it still gets plenty of natural light.


Moving right along! Edwin and Edgar installed the casings that I prepared and everything fit so nicely. Then they went about insulating the wall using the same method I’d used downstairs—2″ rigid foam insulation with spray foam around the edges.


And then, clapboard!! This went pretty quickly between the two of them up there and me on clapboard cutting duty down below.


This kind of goes without saying, but I’m so lucky to have these dudes in my life. I love that I can ask them to re-side my house with 150 year old splinters and they don’t even try to talk me out of it. That they also do nice work is a bonus! Cutting those angles at the top and getting the boards to fall with the right exposure (5.25″, if you’re curious) was sort of math-y so I’m glad Edgar was on deck for this part.


Look at all that glorious siding! Next, the guys worked on patching the rake frieze and the notched out components of the soffit. They nailed smaller pieces of wood into the notched areas and then approximated the curves of the molding with patching compound, which was contoured further with some artsy sanding work. The patches aren’t perfect up close but you can’t tell that from standing on the ground, so it’s all good! Short of prying the moldings off and getting them replicated, it’s about as good as it gets. edwinandedgar

We used Bondo for all the patching, by the way. There are better products out there for wood patching (Abatron’s line of products is kind of the gold standard now, as far as I know), but Bondo is cheap, easy to work with, and I had it on hand. I’m curious to see how it does—I’ve never had a problem with Bondo repairs and any old-school contractor/carpenter I’ve talked to about it (yes, I’m that guy that strikes up that conversation) hasn’t either, so I hope it all holds up. Worst case, I’ll spend a few days scraping it out and cursing my life and using the fancy shit in its place. Best case, I spent about $12 on Bondo instead of $150 on Abatron.


So we were all rocking and rolling as your dad would say, and feeling overly confident about our progress. Edwin asked me why we weren’t just doing more walls like this, and started picking at the vinyl siding on the adjacent laundry room wall. I reminded him that this was November in upstate New York and the weather could change and I did NOT need to make this job bigger, and he countered with pointing out how fast things were going with he and Edgar there, and that we were all wearing t-shirts. I reminded him that he was only planning to be there through the end of the day and then I’d be on my own with another mess on my hands, and he told me he could let me pay him for another day or two of help.

Then he batted those beautiful brown eyes and we decided to rip the vinyl off another wall. I mean, just look at that gorgeous man. He just does something to me.


Damnit. What’s wrong with me? Good news was that this wall was neither much better or worse than the other wall—no super nasty surprises. Ya never know what you’re gonna get!


I went about removing the clapboard, tearing out the brick nogging, and cutting my insulation to size for the laundry room wall. I was already kind of regretting this move but the damage was done and Edwin had promised me another day or two so I tried to calm down. It’s not that fixing this wall was particularly hard—it’s all basically straight cuts and the whole thing is less than 7 feet wide—but it’s just more work. I still have to patch and caulk and prime and paint this thing!

Edwin and Edgar did not return, by the way. I can’t fault them because they were off doing another job for me elsewhere (different day, different post) but I still like to pretend like this was their fault. Jerks.


Check it out! Primer! Much to the chagrin of Edwin, I wanted to use oil-based primer on the clapboard. Pro painters seem to agree that it performs better than latex in terms of adhesion, durability, and stain-blocking, but it’s a little harder to work with and clean-up sucks. I like to skirt this issue by wearing latex gloves and using cheap brushes that I can throw away at the end, but it still takes longer to apply than latex.

ANYWAY. It was really, really exciting to see this finally coming together. I tore off the mudroom back in June (!) and hemmed and hawed over this wall before deciding on a plan around early October, so seeing those windows in place with the clapboard restored and the rake frieze patched in…well, that was some gratifying shit right there.


And this is where they left me! I’m guessing some people will think this looks like a horrific mess and some people will think it looks like it’s almost done, and you’re both right! It’s amazing how long the additional patching, sanding, scraping, priming, caulking, more patching, more caulking, finally painting, then painting the trim, then final touch-ups really takes, but I’m finally ALMOST THERE. Give me good weather tomorrow and I think I can wrap this sucker up!


I’m having trouble figuring out how to end this post, so why not—it’s not a full before and after (yet) but it’s still fun to see the change! Almost there. Almost there. Almost there.

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. 12.16.15
    adrien said:

    Glorious! It really gives you a feel for what it looked like when it was just built. All those clean angles and edges…


  2. 12.16.15
    A. said:

    It looks magnificent.

  3. 12.16.15
    Caro said:

    Wow! It looks so fantastic. I can’t describe what a relief it is to see this looking so ….. right.

    I’m really in awe of your energy and hard work.

  4. 12.16.15
    Beth W. said:

    This is amazing. It hasn’t taken you long at all (by DIY-what-will-I-find standards), and it looks so original. Kudos to you! I’d run down from Canada to help paint if I didn’t have to go to my 9-5 every day. Keep going, you can do it! Consider it your Christmas present to yourself :)

  5. 12.16.15
    AnnMarie said:

    This is truly amazing. Also, considering we just had, oh, about a sixteen inches of snow dumped on us in the last few days, I’m jealous that it’s warm enough to be wearing t-shirts where you are.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Yowza, 16 inches! I think we’re done with t-shirt weather but sweater weather is still pretty remarkable for this time of year. Bonkers!

  6. 12.16.15
    Suzen said:

    I’m on the lookout for a husband for you, something along the lines of Edgar, I’m thinking. Smart, handsome, likes to be bossed around. Knows you can’t paint an entire wall with an edger. Yup, I met you and you deserve someone really special! I’ve got until 1/5 when we move into our Victorian so I best get a-hustlin’. PS It can NOT snow until after we move so I’ve put in a special request to the weatherman. For all our sakes, let’s hope it doesn’t.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Aw, haha, thank you, Suzen! Good luck with the big move!! Did your house sell yet? So funny—my friend sent me the listing a couple of weeks ago and I was like, “hey, I know that house!!”

    • 12.18.15
      Suzen said:

      Yup sold to a lovely young couple, first time buyers. Will miss so much about the house and this area…onward and upward though!

  7. 12.16.15
    Liz said:

    Yay progress. I’m sitting in the middle of a snow storm so I am so glad to see how much progress you’ve made. Thank the Lord for a mild winter!

  8. 12.16.15
    Sterling said:

    Nice. Very nice. The windows turned out great. And that frieze…so cool. This side of the house is going to look f’ing amazing when you’re done with it. Fingers crossed the weather holds! Oh, and happy belated Hanukkah.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Sterling!

  9. 12.16.15
    Suzy from CA said:

    OMG, Daniel, the transformation is spectacular, even at this stage of completeness or incompleteness. I can almost hear your house sighing deeply and saying “Ahhhhhhhh! This feels sooooo good!” Fingers crossed for a couple more days of good weather so you get it all primed and protected before Old Man Winter arrives.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Suzy! Luckily I’ve actually gotten it primed and mostly painted…it’s just down to trim and the door! I literally need ONE more nice day. I think it’ll happen! If not, well, everything is at least protected enough to withstand the snow if it ever comes…

  10. 12.16.15
    CC said:

    God god DANIEL!! I will be your husband! I am afraid I am not Jewish, or a doctor/lawyer/both, and unfortunately, have the wrong fun bits… But I will hold the other end of your clapboard for you. Just look at that progress! Imagine what your lovely freshly painted white wall will look like when the snow begins to fall! I am so excited for you! xx

    • 12.17.15
      GD said:

      CC, you CRACKED ME UP! :)

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Eh, I think I can work with that. Let’s set a date!

    • 12.19.15
      CC said:

      Hmm… Not sure your mum will approve of my centre-right political views. But does that matter in a marriage of convenience? I mean, free labour!
      And… I am worst (or best depending how you look at it) enabler when it comes to making design choices. “It costs HOW MUCH? Oh screw it. We need it. We will have and cherish it forever. Our grandchildren will appreciate our frivolous lack of concern for budgetting. Put it in the cart…”
      How does Dec 27 sound? ;)

  11. 12.16.15
    SLG said:

    (1) Please stay well.
    (2) This is freaking amazing. So much work, so fast!
    (3) You have an incredible eye! There’s a sense of calm about the “almost-after” pictures, in spite of the chaos. It already looks fantastic.
    (4) I drink up every blog post, but once the snow actually does come, rest before blogging, obvs. Every blog post is that much better for the suspense. See #1.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you so much, SLG! I appreciate the kind words! :)

  12. 12.16.15
    Kelly said:

    It’s beautiful. You’re doing the right thing for that gorgeous house.

  13. 12.16.15
    Lynne said:

    Yay! It’s always a good day when there’s a MN post! I’ve missed you but knew you were cranking pre snow. Been there. But get this buttoned up and then spend some time resting and reading and puttering inside. Maybe bake some cookies or something. I’ll read a post about that.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Maybe I will! Probably dog cookies. :)

  14. 12.16.15
    Michelle said:

    Go Daniel!!! Looks awesome. Always enjoy reading!

  15. 12.16.15
    Alicia said:

    Oh Daniel! I just had one of those terrible holiday fights with my sister and was feeling generally awful until I saw that you had a new post! Thank you so much for picking today to say “Hello” (okay… now Adele is playing in my head). You’ve made great progress. And left me thinking, “Well, things could be worse, I could be freezing my butt off trying desperately to paint a house before it starts snowing”. I’ll be mentally sending you some Texas warmth. Take care & lots of luck on your projects.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Aw, hope the family feud gets resolved, but I’m glad this helped! haha! BTW, never thought about it but that Adele song is totally whats going on in my brain after a month of not posting. HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  16. 12.16.15
    Elisa said:

    This is so fucking awesome. You are my doityoself hero. Well done. Glad you found some helpers to speed things up. Fingers crossed for delaying winter (as we get slammed here out west).

  17. 12.16.15
    Lori said:

    AHHHHHH!!!! I saw that pic you posted on IG and am pretty thrilled to see that you’re making so much progress and that the weather’s cooperated so far. Looking good, dude! Crossing my fingers that you can knock out the final coat of paint before winter really gets here. And go you for making those window casings! It brings a proud tear to my eye!

    P.S. I also saw that framing pic you posted on IG…did you guys decide to just knock Olivebridge down and start over? I am only joking a little. Well, maybe 20%. ;)

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Lori! Making the window jambs with the sills was actually much harder than the casings…I felt like a magician! I’m so mad I wasn’t taking pictures. You’d think I’d know better by now, but sometimes when you’re just trying to figure it out you forget. Whoops!

      P.S.—pretty much. only joking a little. it’s been quite a saga behind the scenes here.

  18. 12.16.15
    C said:

    You don’t need us to tell you how absolutely awesome it looks. And thatnk you for posting now, even if it’s not quite done.

  19. 12.16.15
    Sarah Jane said:

    You’re house is looking amazing! Watching you rebuild that house is so satisfying for us readers. Thanks for the posts. You crack me up!

  20. 12.16.15
    townerson said:

    The before photo after all of that glory looks like she took several hard punches to the face!

  21. 12.16.15
    Sara L. said:

    That looks incredible! I was really hankering after a new post, and so I was super happy to see this today. Fantastic job as always.

  22. 12.16.15
    Furpants said:

    Courage, young Jedi master. Almost done you are.

  23. 12.16.15
    Mom said:

    I’m willing to give in on the Jewish part if the guy is a good solid Democrat. That is non-negotiable.

    • 12.17.15
      Simone said:

      Haha, that would be something Daniël with a Jewish republican.
      Wouldn’t a hands on architect suit Daniël better than a docter or a lawyer? At least they would have more in common.

    • 12.17.15
      Mom said:

      I think Daniel made up the part about the doctor or lawyer. That’s just the stereotype that most Jewish mothers would say. I don’t recall those words ever coming out of my mouth. I’ll own the Democrat one though.

    • 12.17.15
      GD said:

      What about a moderate….someone with the views of the right bits of both sides? I think Simone has something there: an architect or a antique restorer…. :)

    • 12.17.15
      Simone said:

      Or a cute vet. Patient, calm, kind and good with animals. That could work.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      I guess while we’re fantasizing, vet would be my top choice. Ears to the ground, folks!

    • 12.17.15
      Andrea said:

      As a fellow former Highland Parker, I can attest to the difficulty of a Republican marrying into the family. Or even a conservative Democrat. And my father (!) voted for Reagan twice (!!!!) and W against Al Gore (!!!!!!!!!). We haven’t yet disowned him, but we are *extremely* nice people.

      Daniel, as usual, you’re a goddamn rock star. The Keith Richards of clapboards. I feel like we should all send you cookies.

    • 12.17.15
      Simone said:

      Apparently Kurt Russell is a republican and Goldie Hawn is a democrat. Although I always wonder how you can make and endorse a fantastic movie like Silkwood as a republican.

    • 12.18.15
      A said:

      Dear Daniel’s Mom,

      You have raised a mensch of a son and whomever is lucky enough to end up with him will be a lucky guy indeed! I think we all hope for him to find a match who will support him in pursuing his passions, to be there when the going gets tough, and to share in his great number of joys and achievements that are to come.

    • 12.19.15
      Mom said:

      Amen and Amen.

  24. 12.17.15
    cate said:

    Looks great. Big improvement. Do those two identical giant holes at the top you uncovered mean there were once enormous floor to ceiling windows here or do I just have no idea what I’m looking at?

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Well, one of those giant holes is where the door was, and the other is where the old window was…unfortunately because I’m guessing both of those elements are much larger than what was here originally, there really weren’t any clues inside the walls to go off of! I think it’s possible that there just weren’t windows here at all, but if there were then I think this probably comes pretty close. I’ll probably never know!

  25. 12.17.15
    Lisa and Tate said:

    AMAZING!!! Such good work, Daniel! Hope the weather stays good so you can get this painted then I am hoping you can sit back on the couch all snuggled in and do some more blogging.

  26. 12.17.15
    Lucinda said:

    Oh my goodness you are finally back!!! Time for the happy dance. Look for a new post everyday. Hope once you get the back wall finished the snow flies and you will be forced to slow down and will then have time to write lots of post and get us caught up on everything that had been happening over the past couple of months.

    Great progress. Miss renovating so your realistic post are a welcome temporary replace

    Merry Christmas to everyone

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Lucinda! There is SO much to catch up on, I almost don’t even know where to start. Here’s to better blogging in 2016…2015 was a doozy of a year and so many things took attention away from the blog, but hopefully it’ll be worth it as we get caught up. :)

    • 12.18.15
      Ashli said:

      Well, to be fair you had a lot on your plate…

      House looks beautiful BTW.

  27. 12.17.15
    Kerrie said:

    Just wonderful – I know you’re exhausted but you still must have a huge smile. I can’t end by saying it again tho’……. your mum is the best!

  28. 12.17.15
    Niki said:

    Yay, MN post! You’ve done SO much work. I can’t wait to see it when it’s done!

  29. 12.17.15
    Heida said:

    Yay! It has become a part of my daily morning routine to check for a post from you and it finally came. I brewed myself some coffee, set my work aside and read every word slowly as I didn’t want the post to end. In conclusion (if you hadn’t already figured that out), I love your blog!
    Side note: I’m really jealous of the weather you’ve been having. It’s been a snowstorm after a snowstorm here in Iceland.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Heida! That’s very sweet!! Sorry to make you wait so long!!

  30. 12.17.15
    GD said:

    It is looking amazing. The windows turned out incredibly perfect! Great choices made. You made me laugh about the husband thing. This was such a “smile” post. So glad you are almost done with this section. You must feel proud!!!!

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Ya know, I am! This was a really big project but I feel like I (mostly) stand by my decisions along the way and I’m very happy with how it’s turning out, and tackling the majority of it myself has been…idk, encouraging? There’s been a lot going on in the midst of this project that has been less confidence-inspiring so having this go well here has felt really good! :)

  31. 12.17.15
    Bonnie said:

    That Edgar … so gorgeous, such a tease.
    Oh, and the back of the house — beautiful! But honestly, I’ll be happy if you can curl up on the couch for at least the whole month of January. You completely deserve it!

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Ha, fat chance! There are still two other houses happening in the background of this! Life is nuts. :)

  32. 12.17.15
    gretaclark said:

    This house is turning out so new and clean. it is so great that you got rid of that complex building mess in the back.

  33. 12.17.15

    That’s a serious improvement, makes the house looks so much better. Can’t wait to see what it’ll look like once painted.

  34. 12.17.15
    debbie in toronto said:

    oh Daniel…

    hope you have some time to relax over the holidays…..

    those windows are so so great..can’t wait to see the inside.

  35. 12.17.15
    alix said:

    Wow, this looks great! What a happy house.

  36. 12.17.15
    Diane said:

    Congratulations on getting all this work done! I really understand where Edwin was coming from about trying to finish the adjacent wall at the same time. Viewing the vinyl next to the restored clapboard would have made me twitchy, too. I hope you can finish it before the weather turns on you.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Oh man, you have no idea how much restraint it’s taking to not just rip off all the vinyl at once! It’s funny…the clapboard is basically the same color as the vinyl and the scale of the boards is about the same as the vinyl, but the difference now between how this wall looks and the rest of the house is sort of insane! Definitely encouraging to keep going, but definitely not this year!! :)

  37. 12.17.15
    LD said:

    Just fabulous!!! It’s a house!!

  38. 12.17.15
    Hana said:

    Full disclosure: I scrolled down to the before and after before reading the full post, and my first reaction was OMG DANIEL MADE EYELASHES FOR HIS WINDOWS!?! So I’m extra happy those drip caps got mentioned :D

    Looks great, can’t wait to see it done-done.

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Eyelashes, haha!!

  39. 12.17.15
    Laura in NC said:

    You’re alive! So glad for another post – absolutely love your blog. Whenever I get annoyed about having to disrupt another room in my tiny 1934 Tudor so that I can take the doors off their hinges to crock-pot method all the hardware and repaint all of the off-white trim, I just think to myself: “What would Daniel do? Daniel would do this shit. I will do this shit!” And I’m always glad for the end result. Love knowing there’s another crazy-for-old-houses, tear-apart-all-the-things-to-make-them-better person my age fighting the good old house fight. Sending nice weather vibes and good project luck your way!

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Aw, well shucks! That makes me feel good! :)

  40. 12.17.15
    Michele said:

    I have been waiting for this post for what seems like forever! Fantastic — you inspire us all! Keep on truckin’ and Happy Holidays from Philly!

  41. 12.17.15
    Dan said:

    The restored rake frieze and corner return look amazing. But I can’t help thinking that all that chunky molding along the roof-line looks a little unbalanced. I assume there was originally some chunky cornerboards (or maybe paneled pilasters?) that gave the roof-line some visual support? Any plans to add cornerboards? Although now that I’m looking at it, it looks like corner boards of the proper width would end up overlapping the door frame and window on the first floor…

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Oh man, you have no idea how long and hard I’ve thought about corner boards!! The weird thing is that I’m pretty certain the 4″ corner boards and siding *are* original, but I came very close to widening them (I’ve seen old houses and churches where the corner board is about half the width of the fascia below the eaves returns, with a small decorative molding along the top, and it looks really beautiful) because I agree with what you’re saying! But then you run into the problem of the window/door trim, because I definitely don’t want corner boards touching the window/door casings, and I couldn’t picture having a slim run of clapboard between a corner board and the casings…so I decided that maybe the original builders had a point. The front section of the house (which has a more elaborate cornice and is likely a bit older) has the same 4″ corner boards, too, so if I was going to do it to the back then I’d DEFINITELY want to do it to the front when I get there, but I wasn’t ready to commit to that right now since that has its own complications with adjacent trim/pilasters. So I’m still thinking, but for now I just had to get it done! I don’t mind the idea of adding a lil somethin-somethin to fancy up/formalize the house (I also debated more ornate molding for the tops of the door/window casings on this wall, like what’s on the front and side, but again ultimately just went with what appeared to be original), but if I do then it’s not a decision I want to rush, ya know?

    • 12.17.15
      Dan said:

      Interesting, I guess it makes sense that the current 4″ corner boards are original — otherwise the clapboard wouldn’t extend as far as it does. And if that’s the case, maybe it’s not worth messing with the corner boards? Like you, I was just thinking about some Greek Revival buildings I’ve seen that have thick corner boards/pilasters that seem to give the structures a sort of monumental presence (which I think looks very classy even in a modest residential application). In any case, you have plenty of time to make up you’re mind. I’m sure replacing the corner boards would be at the bottom of the list of exterior details that need your attention. Either way, the back of the house looks awesome; exposing the old clapboard makes a massive difference!

  42. 12.17.15
    Kaia said:

    Oh my god amazing. I love Edwin and Edgar. They just seem like the best people to hang out with and get all this done.

  43. 12.17.15
    jody marie said:

    those two little windows are REMARKABLY satisfying.

    the whole b and a is just encouraging–I mean you took that mess and made it BETTER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN BEFORE with just a little patience and time.

    WOW. go you!!!!

  44. 12.17.15
    Rachel said:

    Oh man! Your house just looks so happy in the almost done pic! Congrats on getting it to this point before the snow comes. And I echo everyone else that said you should just bake some cookies and chill by a fire for a while once winter sets in. You deserve it!

  45. 12.17.15
    Amy said:

    I missed you! I kept looking for where you were, figured it had to be awesome (and it was!). Great job, its so nice to see your idea work so well! I have to admit, I agree that you should over time, do the rest of the house like this. But I know time and money are always a bitch. :) In any case, great job!

    • 12.17.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Amy! I think I probably will do the whole house more or less like this, with a few tweaks. It’s been time consuming but honestly not THAT bad for a first attempt (just stretched way out because of how busy I’ve been), but now that I know the process and have the right tools and stuff, it might go faster in the future. And really, it’s very inexpensive! The insulation for this wall was probably around $200 (maybe less), and I did not buy a SINGLE piece of lumber (clapboard, framing, trim, anything!) for this entire thing, so the biggest cost was really paying Edwin and Edgar for a couple days of help, which was more necessary here that it would be elsewhere because I don’t really plan to be moving more windows and doors around on the majority of the rest of the house. So I don’t know! I think it could be done!

  46. 12.17.15
    kmkat said:


  47. 12.17.15
    Sandy said:

    Fabulous progress!!! I’m not surprised though. Can’t help with the construction part (only decorating) since I’m not handy like that … BUT … I do have a mighty handy good looking hunk of a 21 yr old son (resembles singer Prince Royce everyone says) that seems to have similar interests as yours from what you have shared with your followers. In NJ too! “Wink” Just saying! Keep up the great job.

    • 12.28.15
      Daniel said:

      Ha! Send him here! I’ll have dinner waiting.

  48. 12.17.15

    Amazing. BEYOND amazing. You are seriously a master of bring your vision to fruition.

    The “after” looks so unreal. I just love it.

    I’m in the process of buying a 100-year-old character home that’s quite similar to your place, and I can’t wait to do some similar updates to what you’ve done!

    • 12.28.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you! Good luck with the house purchase and big congratulations!! Have fun with it!

  49. 12.17.15
    Alison said:

    OMG it looks Goo! I have been waiting for this post and so happy to read it. Congrats on the back of the house. Will u decorate for Xmas?

    • 12.28.15
      Daniel said:

      I didn’t decorate for christmas! Partially because I’m Jewish, partially because I’ve been so busy trying to finish this up, I haven’t had any time (or daylight!) to get it done. Maybe someday, just because I think the house would look nice. :)

  50. 12.17.15
    Anne said:

    You will never know how frequently and fervently I have been checking for updates. The waiting was about to do me in. But this is so totally worth the wait. I wish I had words to describe how fantastic this is looking, but words fail me. Stupendous is the best I can do, and it completely fails to capture the splendor and awe.

    • 12.28.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you so much, Anne!

  51. 12.17.15
    Ashley said:

    I was so excited to see a post from you too! Nice work. I dream of owning a fixer upper and getting to do some big changes, but I did get a little overwhelmed just putting up picture frame molding- haha! So pretty much what I am trying to say is you are amazing! Also, the part about your dream husband made me laugh so hard. Good luck! Maybe 2016 will be extra magical for you ;)

  52. 12.17.15
    Nichole K said:

    It looks f-ing amazing!! Those two upper windows look like they should have always been there. I’ll keep my eyes open for a Jewish Democrat for you, but, like century-old homes, they’re not in great supply in the Inland Pacific Northwest. We do have some veterinarians though! ;)

  53. 12.17.15
    Sayward said:

    This is looking so great. My husband and I closed on a fixer upper in PA last Friday, and this insanely warm weather, although possibly a sign of the end times, has REALLY been working in our favor. I’m wishing you the warmest January in history.

  54. 12.17.15
    Chance said:

    I know you’re beyond busy and I’m sure someone else has already said this…but please post more! I love seeing all of your updates!

  55. 12.18.15
    Pippa said:

    Simply glorious Daniel. Once again you are forgiven for the interminable suspense you put us all through with yet another stellar post. Keep ’em coming.

  56. 12.18.15
    Sharon Turner said:

    Faithful follower, but infrequent poster here … but, just had to comment on the great job that you’ve done so far! I am very, very impressed with your courage to tackle this project. And, the fencing (previous posts) looks terrific, and has really upped the curb appeal for this fantastic property. Hope to also hear more about Bluestone (assuming that you’ve any “free time”). That is a magical, little fairy-tale cottage, and can’t wait to see what you do with it. Keep up the brilliant work!

    Regards from Greece (no snow in the southern part yet, but pretty chilly nevertheless).

  57. 12.18.15

    You ARE almost done! You might even be done by now! Looking so, so good.

  58. 12.18.15
    Joann said:

    Thanks so much for the details, they are enjoyed so much. Love the insulation and you will too. Right now just imagining the impact of the new warmth and cozy inside during a cold winter spell while the outside will appear like that’s the way it should have been all along.

  59. 12.18.15
    Rosie said:

    I know exactly what you mean about being thankful and bitter (that’s not quite the right word – un-thankful?) all at the same time about the crazy warm weather – it’s exhausting! We broke ground on the house we’re building in April. I managed one blog post about the project per month until July….and then we had gorgeous, non-rainy weather non-stop until September. It was amazing – we were able to get so much done – but oh my god, what I would have given for a rainy evening just to go home and do some laundry – and blog posts definitely weren’t happening – just one more thing I felt guilty for not doing. In September we finished with the roof, so rain wasn’t an excuse to go home anymore…and now with this amazing warm weather, cold isn’t an excuse either. We put in the last door and officially finished “drying in” last week, so now that we’re not pushing quite so hard, I could actually sit down and write something about it all. But how do I summarize everything that’s happened since July? I mean, we built most of a house! So, basically, this is just to say that I know exactly what you mean about everything :-)

  60. 12.18.15
    Kristin said:

    I’ve actually been thinking a lot about something you mentioned in this post. I do think the seasons are important to us – more so than maybe we give them credit for. We all need to hibernate occasionally.

    Anyway, fantastic work – I know it’s not easy, but it’s looking great!

  61. 12.18.15
    Aisha said:

    I feel like a lunatic cooing over windows – but they’re sooooo cute! The back of the house looks amazing and I am so impressed by everything you’ve managed to do already. I’ve got my fingers crossed for warmish weather for you

  62. 12.20.15
    Helen said:

    I don’t know how you do it but you can literally make a post about paint drying interesting. I love the details and the tone (but a whole month without a post gives me the sads). :-)

  63. 12.21.15
    Katie said:

    Every time I read your blog I’m amazed every single time by the fact that you were inspired enough to take on this massive endeavor in the first place. If I saw a house in this condition, I’d walk away without even thinking about it, but you… you saw it and thought “yeah, I can make this work”. That alone is really just amazing.

  64. 12.21.15
    Kelly said:

    I don’t know what it looked like originally, but it must have been very close to this. It just looks right. Everything you have done – in and out- has been respectful to the history and architecture of your home. :)

  65. 12.23.15
    nancys said:

    Just popping in to say Happy Holidays & New Year to you and your family – fur babies included :)
    Stay safe & happy in the new year and thank you for another wonderful year of enjoyment reading your blog :)

    • 12.28.15
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Nancy! Same to you!! :)

  66. 12.25.15
    Eylem said:


    You gotta let me (and probably many other people) know how you manage to keep going. I have a 1950s home that needs minor renovation in MA standards, a total renovation job per my criteria and believe me I cannot even get one thing done. I am not particularly a lazy person but I feel overwhelmed even by thinking. I hate dealing with workers, everything costs 10 times more and takes minimum 10 times longer. It is exhausting, especially if you are not in your 20s and work FT.

    On the other hand, I also want to find out about how you deal with the town/city building office. Whenever I want to get anything done (including replacing a faucet) I am scared by repair guys that I need to get a permit and it needs to be inspected afterwards… I live in an old house! code means $20K spent for every single repair cause nothing is obviously up to code since there were no code 50+ yrs ago… So tiring!

    I am starting to resent TV renovation shows where they make everything seem sooo easy and very sophisticated, well-mannered, hard working, honest, easy on the eyes guys come and do things in a jiffy. UGH! I just went to the office I started painting 8 months ago and never could do the trims… hence the vent…but then I think, if you can fix all these houses I should be able to tackle just one. New Year Resolution!!!

    Well thanks for great tips, and sharing your experiences, though it is such a disappointment to see how untalented I am it sure is a pleasure to watch you create something pretty. Too bad Santa didn’t bring me talent or patience:(

    Happy Holidays!

  67. 12.26.15
    Molly said:

    Amazing progress! Is the room warmer now that it’s insulated with foam instead of brick nogging?

    • 12.28.15
      Daniel said:

      Thanks Molly! Yes! There’s a noticeable difference in the room now, even with only one wall insulated. It’s pretty incredible! I wasn’t expecting it to make such an impact.

  68. 12.30.15
    Cindi M said:

    I have a question about the brick you remove from the house, the original nogging. You said it’s unfired so it can’t be reused as paving or edging or building walls. Does all go to the dump? Could you stack it and refire it, the old-fashioned way? Use it to fill holes in the yard? If you put it in a pothole and it melts in the rain, is it better than asphalt? Inquiring minds want to know, you know!
    Happy New Year!
    Cindi M

    • 1.4.16
      Daniel said:

      My understanding is that the bricks are fired, but perhaps not close enough to the flame when they were originally manufactured, or something with the composition of the clay was off, or something like that…so it varies. I don’t know anything about trying to re-fire them, but some of them do OK outside and some of them just crumble, so I try to save the whole ones and see how they do over the course of a winter, then weed out the bad ones.

      The bad ones are definitely good for fill (I’ll probably use some of them in the bottom of my planters, just to fill up some of the space), and anything I don’t use can be brought to somebody who needs free fill—there are lots of folks up here who just want anything (bricks, cinderblocks, concrete) for whatever they’re doing, so it works out! Nothing goes to a landfill, and I don’t have the incur crazy disposal costs. Bricks are heavy!!

      Hope that helps! :)

    • 1.4.16
      Cindi M said:

      You know I never knew about nogging until I read about it in your blog. But now have seen pictures of it in old houses here in Virginia. It does sound like premium fill. Maybe you could charge to haul it away!

    • 1.6.16
      Simone said:

      When bricks are fired, they have to pass a certain point where the clay melts as it were and becomes the brick. You can compare it with glass that is made from moulten sand with a bit of soda.
      It sounds like the nogging has not become warm enough to solidify into a permanent brick. It probably has to do with the kind of ovens they used in the past. Oldfashioned brickmakers here (Europe) build ovens in the field and stack them with clay bricks fire it up and then close the whole thing off for a certain amount of time. The reason for choosing this methode is that die to temperature differences in the oven they get bricks in all doets of colours, even in one brick. But they probably get more faulty bricks as well.

    • 1.6.16
      Daniel said:

      Yep, I think you’re exactly right! I wonder if they COULD be re-fired 150 years later…oh god…might have to try that…

  69. 12.31.15
    Luna said:

    Young man, you are a wizard! Lookin’ good.

  70. 12.31.15
    S@sha said:

    Well, it would look great if you’d added dentil moulding to match the original section of the roofline. Just kidding, of course it looks great. But maybe you can ruminate on dentil moulding along with the wider corner boards discussed in a previous comment. ;) Happy New Year!

    • 1.4.16
      Daniel said:

      trust me, I think about it all the time! Ha! I think I’ll just keep the dentil on the other section of the house, though—this back section was likely constructed a bit later and the cornices don’t match (more than just the corbels), and I’m OK with that—feels like part of the story of the house, which I also try to respect, even while trying to bring some more cohesion to the overall architecture. But what do I know! Maybe I will! haha

  71. 1.1.16
    Robin Fink said:

    Hey Daniel, you have done an amazing. As a serial renovator, I have such respect for your careful choice of materials used. Ingenious reusing the kitchen window, and replacing it with something inexpensive, until you get what you really want. Way to go. Robin

    • 1.4.16
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Robin! That’s much appreciated! :)

  72. 1.3.16
    Melissa said:

    Daniel, just a quick note to say thank you for your fantastic blog. Your writing and projects have been an absolute treat, and I look forward to another year of greatness. Best wishes to you and your mom as well as your puppies. Xx

    • 1.4.16
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Melissa!! Happy new year to you and yours as well! xoxo

  73. 1.6.16
    Angela said:

    This is the greatest blog of all time! Seriously, so satisfying and inspiring at the same time. You keeps it REAL! Every time I read one of your post, I feel a burst of resolve to get my life together finally. My popcorn-textured, scribbled on walls are beckoning me, what once seemed overwhelming, suddenly seems like an adventure, I will skim coat, prime, and paint all the things!

    • 1.6.16
      Daniel said:

      Jeez, thank you, Angela! Good luck!! Skim-coating ain’t so bad when you get the hang of it! :)