The Rockaway upstairs apartment is now ready for it’s (not so) close up! The original goal was to start showing by the end of May. (The original original goal was to have the house sold by the end of 2012, but we all know how that worked out.) Ok, so this new deadline was somewhat delayed due to the fact that I mistakenly decided to have a life and go away for Memorial Day weekend. But whatev. I’m back up to speed.
I wish every room could be as interesting as doing a bathroom or kitchen. Remember my original pink bathroom that I was determined to keep? Well, it has been resurrected! Still on the to do list: vanity pulls, scrape paint off door glass, lock set, stain saddle and a few other things that don’t show up in the photo.
The decision to do a Mexican kitchen was born when I found the ceramic “terracotta” tiles at a Habitat Restore. The upper cabinets were there when I bought the house. Because of my not-so-great planning skills, the fridge, which was originally for the downstairs kitchen, was moved up here because it was too wide. It was meant to go on the opposite wall but proved too big for that also. I ended up tearing down some more cabinets to fit it in that corner. It works so much better there, but now I have to move an outlet. To do list: Move outlet, cabinet pulls, replace broken stove knob, switch plates.
This is the living room. I stuck the chair in the photo because it looked so empty, but now it looks even more sad. To do list: Hang crystals from light fixture, re-coat window trim and inner white, switch plates.
This is actually the small front room, but it looks bigger than the living room in this photo. It can be a second junior bedroom, an office or child’s room.
The main bedroom is Manhattan sized also, but it has a room off of it with a closet that can act as a dressing room. Nothing at all interesting about this corner photo. I just wanted to show off yet another vintage light fixture.
Related: Apartment One
Here are some “before” shots…
posted @ 8:33 am Comments (3)
Open living/dining/kitchen area.
One half of the two family Rockaway house will be liveable by June 1st! As in liveable for normal people, not someone like me who no longer notices lack of switchplates and doorknobs. The self imposed deadline was set for this weekend to take some pictures and start spreading the word. Although it’s ready for it’s close-up, it’s a few days from being ready to show. Show by next weekend? Yeah, probably!!
The entire house will be for sale or rent by the end of this month. I call it a two story bungalow. It’s a cozy (that means small in realtor speak) 2 BR over 1BR, just under 1000 square feet for the whole house. Gotta do some comps and math to come up with prices. The website will get started (but not finished) today.
I’m on a roll baby and it feels good!
Yeah, that toe kick needs to be painted and stove needs backsplash.
The old singer sewing machine base trick. A favorite of mine.
Long, narrow bedroom in the back of the house. I want to work a little magic on those plain, white doors if I get the time.
Kitchen area before.
Living room during demo.
posted @ 7:31 am Comments (5)
Not my hand. Came from Livestrong article.
Ah, ’twas only a week ago that a renovation deadline was mentioned. I’m not one to be superstitious but perhaps I jinxed myself. Oh, I’m going to be finished in May, dag nammit, but I’ll be crossing that finish line with one hand.
Last Wednesday I purchased the remainder of molding to be installed upstairs. Oddly enough, what seemed like only a few rooms cost nearly $700. All of my time consuming shopping at re-use stores went out the window in the interest of finishing quickly. So, Thursday I start painting all the pieces prior to installation. If I had only invested in a second sawhorse, you wouldn’t be reading this post, but because I had to keep moving the pieces from the sawhorse to the other room to dry, these long strips of molding took over the house.
So, I tripped on one.
I caught my fall with my hands, the way people often do. Only my left hand landed on a piece of corner trim. Had it landed on a flat surface like my right, I doubt I would’ve been hurt.
It was extremely painful but more than anything I was bummed about not being able to continue work. I put an Amy’s frozen veggie wrap (all I had in the house) on it and took 3 Advil, then waited about an hour. Nah, I really had to stop working. Couldn’t even change my clothes because I wouldn’t be able to tie my sneakers with one hand.
Yesterday I managed to do some work. I filled nail holes and caulked. I even lifted things with my good hand. I was feeling good that I could keep going. This morning I’m in pain from overdoing it but I think I’ll just suck it up and soldier on. I’m convinced that it’s just a swollen bruise and nothing is sprained or broken. I know because I’ve been there and done that too.
BTW, I’m right handed. Who needs the left anyway? It’s just a spare.
posted @ 6:29 am Comments (0)
A renovation that was supposed to take about two to three months turns into a nine month process when all is said and done. There were unforeseen circumstances along the way, like the worst storm ever to hit the Northeast and a car accident that kept me away from the house for a few weeks. Those things set me back about three months or so, but I have no one to blame but myself for the rest of it.
Apart from spending my budget on some of the wrong contractors up front and having to redo some of their work, the real stagnation started after Sandy. I was in no rush to spend all my money and time on a house that nobody would want to purchase at the price I need to charge. Now that Spring is in the air and Rockaway is getting ready for the summer season, it’s a mad dash to the finish line.
The two apartments are very close to being finished. Now comes the tedious task of finishing work, making sure every small detail is in place. I should say that “small details” mean touch up repainting every room, a kitchen countertop, painting cabinets, bathroom vanity and installing all light fixtures. More than a day’s work, but we’ve come so far.
The exterior needs some prettying up, as does the basement.
Notice I didn’t mention a specific May deadline date. I’m hoping for the first week. Actually, between you and I, I’d like to see it done by the end of this month but I’m also trying to be realistic.
The house will be for sale or rent. I’m resigned to the fact that I will probably have to rent it for a year or two before Rockaway really bounces back. Doesn’t mean I won’t try to sell as that was my original intention, but the price I need to ask and where the market is at now are two different places.
But it’s all good. Either way, I’m going to take the summer off. A much needed break from the physical and toxic work called renovation. I’ll probably take that spare time to work on my Bed Stuy house. D’oh!
PS: About the photo above. It looks like a “before” shot, but believe it or not, that’s a progress shot. The floor is tiled. The cabinets are installed but not painted. The dishwasher and radiator are hooked up. It’s come a long way from the partially gutted room it was.
posted @ 8:16 am Comments (0)
On the road again. Looking to pick up the last of the building materials this week as Passover week is going to be a non-stop work fest bringing us closer to Renovation’s End.
Have ye ever been to United House Wrecking? If not, you shouldn’t be waiting. This is the kind of place that makes me so sad that I live in a silly little brownstone and not a mansion or huge loft. I mean, check out the carousel above. Who wouldn’t want a carousel in their living room?
UHW has some top of the line architectural salvage. Stained glass, mantels, newell posts, doors. They have been sifted through and all are in good shape. This is where you go when you don’t feel like spending hours restoring the inexpensive stuff. That’s not to say the prices are outrageous here. They are not shocking at all. I saw some decent sized stained glass windows for $150 and a really nice antique chandelier on sale for $500.
United House Wrecking isn’t just salvage. They do antique and reproduction furniture and design as well. Everything is staged so perfectly. A card table with a poker game already laid out, a bar, a child’s room, a mid-century living room that’s to die for. It’s kind of like ABC Carpet but without the cray-cray prices.
The Housatonic Habitat ReStore (Danbury) is 20 miles or so north of UHW. As with all restores, it’s hit or miss on what is needed that day. Yesterday I was in search of tiles because I remembered them having a bunch of awesome Waterworks ceramic. They did have the Waterworks and it was a lovely blue, except I need pink as I’m determined to keep the pink bathroom in the house as it was originally (well, when I bought it, anyway).
While I was there, an estate of some great Chinese furniture was coming in. Some real antique pieces mixed in with a few modern day made in China.
I loved this credenza that houses a stereo system. The side with closed door has room for a bar or record collection. The price was around $150 until the engineer comes around to get that system working and then it goes up.
Today I hit New Joisey.
posted @ 6:35 am Comments (1)
The old standby in renovation floor protection is rosin paper. There are so many drawbacks though. It gets dirty, it tears, it’s time consuming to put down and worst of all, it really doesn’t protect the floors all that well.
Back when I actually had a crafts room in my house, I bought some interlocking rubber tiles at Lowes to protect my hardwood floors. I’ve since gotten rid of the work room (It’s now just a junk room that dreams of one day becoming a dining room.) so I took up those tiles and brought them to the house that’s under renovation.
Sure, the initial investment costs way more than some paper but if the renovation is going on long enough that you have to keep changing the paper or if you’re doing multiple renovations, I say it’s worth it.
The tiles can be washed or mopped so you don’t have to live with the dust. They are water proof apart from the seams. They’ll last forever and they’re totally reusable. No need to install them around the whole house. Just pick them up and take them from room to room as needed.
I purchased Flexco (shown above) because I wanted it to look good in my house but there are less expensive tiles out there if design doesn’t matter.
posted @ 6:31 am Comments (1)
Remember when I was bitching about how time consuming the finishing work is? Well, tada! The windows are finally done!
Can’t find the real “before” shots. Those would be initially clam shell molding with wood paneling. Then there was no molding with new sheetrock. Ok, so fast forward to dirty, uncaulked windows with 1 coat o’ paint molding. That would be the photo above.
And this would be the “after”. Shush, I know there’s still touch up to do on that uneven line, but I swear I’m impressed with my cutting in skills. Never use tape. My hand is steady, Freddy.
So, when it’s not so steady (see mark on wall, left side of window) nothing a little touch up can’t fix.
posted @ 6:41 am Comments (0)
It’s been six months since renovations started on the Rockaway house. Yeah, I thought I’d be finished within three. Although most of the big, nasty damage was dealt with immediately, I ignored the worst problem until recently.
The rear deck was built into the house without thought of water infiltration. One stair stringer was supported by the house with vinyl siding cut around it and caulking to fill gaps. Gutters on the second floor were not properly cut and pulled away from the siding. Both the first and second floor rear mudrooms had mold and wood rot.
It’s not that the problem was ignored so much as put off. The two rooms were gutted and the deck was repaired to a point months ago. The tough thing was figuring out what to do with those stairs that were part of the house. Just patch it up the way it was?
Nah. Here’s where I needed an experienced company to come in. This wasn’t a DIY or jack of all trades handyman job. After a few phone calls, I went with Topline who does windows, siding and doors. We agreed that the best thing to do would be to take the stairs out completely and redo the entire back wall of siding and gutters, then rebuild self-supported stairs.
(Funny story. I left the room for 10 minutes and my husband created a “skylight”. Totally rotted ceiling/side replaced.)
But this isn’t about the vinyl siding or deck stairs. This is about the two mud rooms that can finally be dealt with because there are no longer leaks.
The entire house was not gutted. Probably should have been, but there were things I wanted to salvage, such as the floors. Anyway, whatever WAS gutted, we took great pains to repair properly.
What does that mean? It means replacing rotted wood. It means adding extra support where there wasn’t any before, including wall studs and flooring joists. It means new insulation.
It’s almost easier to rip everything out and start from scratch but if I did that, I would have to call this blog “Newly Renovated Home” rather than “Reclaimed Home”, now wouldn’t I?
posted @ 8:08 am Comments (0)
Contractors can eat away at a renovation budget until there’s hardly anything left for materials. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to have a barter system? The idea itself isn’t new to me. I’ve often said “I wish I can find a decent contractor who needs a place to live while working on my house.”
Decent being the operative word. I’ve seen Craigslist barter ads from hacks who probably couldn’t get real work anyway.
Enter Ben Erickson. I received an email from the furniture designer/builder saying he will be looking for a new place to live and work within the next year. He currently has a five year lease at one of the most gorgeous mansions in Bed Stuy and with a year left to go, he’s planning ahead.
Ben’s current situation is as follows: “Four years ago, as some of you know, I gutted and renovated the top floor of this very unique freestanding brownstone at 247 Hancock St. in exchange for reduced fixed rent on a 5 year lease. I invested approx $60,000 upfront and we divided that over the 60 months of my lease. The landlord and I assessed the current market value of the apt at $2250 and simply subtracted the $1000/mo. making my rent $1250. “
So, what makes Ben different from these Craigslist guys? Um, he’s got mad skills. Check out his website.
This time around Ben would like to work on a raw loft space. He seems really into Bed Stuy but perhaps he would consider other neighborhoods if it’s the right project.
Know of anything?
posted @ 7:55 am Comments (0)
*The cabinet is level but the wall isn’t.
1. Measure. Start from the bottom up. A standard base cabinet including the counter is about 36″ high. You want at least an 18″-20″ backsplash. So we’re talking setting the bottom of the wall cabinet at 56″.
2. Mark it and level. In an ideal world with perfectly level floors, I’d tell ya to measure left, right and center for that 56″ and draw your mark with the level. It’s good to do that anyway, but the level overrides the measurement. For instance, my floor had 1/2″ settlement on the right side so we had to shim up the base cabinets. Unfortunately, because the ceiling isn’t level either and the cabinets are, that slopey ceiling is pretty noticeable, but whatcha gonna do?
3. Find the studs. Maybe the guys helping you are studs, but I mean the ones in the wall. You can buy an electronic stud finder but they don’t always work 100%. If the walls are sheetrock, it’s sometimes possible to see screws and tape if there isn’t tons of paint. Also look for the outlets as they are usually screwed into a stud at the side. If all else fails, knock on the wall. Studs should be 16″ apart so if you find one, there is a good chance you can measure 16″ for the next one. Our crazy house was 24″ so we had to add extra support.
4. *Adding support* You need to take this step if your studs are too far apart. What we did was take two strips of plywood cut about 2″ wide and screw them into the length of the wall. Make sure they are fully secured to the studs. Now these strips will take the weight of the cabinets along with the studs.
5. Hang the cabinets. There are two ways to go about this. First way is to screw in a temporary ledger board just under the level line so you can rest the cabinets on it as you’re about to screw them in. Take the first two cabinets and screw them together. You’ll want to clamp the front of them together and make sure they are plumb and level. The second way only works if you have more than two people. Forget the board and hang one cabinet at a time, leveling and plumbing them up as you hang them. I say three people because it will take one to screw the cabinet and two to hold it up and check the level.
A few tips. It’s a good idea to pre-drill holes. Make sure to secure the cabinets at the thickest point. I hope you’re not trying to do this with the doors still on. I also hope you know that you should do the wall cabinets before the base.
6. Base cabinets. Well, this is a breeze since you don’t have to hold them up over your head. As mentioned earlier, not all floors are level so let’s assume yours is not. Start from the highest point to make your level mark and then you can always shim up. You’re pretty much going to follow the same directions as the upper cabinets. Just keep in mind that your sink base needs to be aligned with the plumbing and holes should be drilled before you install. (Duh)
posted @ 7:34 am Comments (0)
It’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Rockaway has been through Sandy and the ongoing aftermath. Now the streets are being ripped up to install what I assume is new sewer lines. Totally not complaining about upgrades! If they are needed, then of course we should all be grateful.
It’s just sort of bad timing, is all.
Take yesterday for instance. I had a guy coming to reglaze a clawfoot tub in the morning, then I was going to buy a bunch of molding and studs for the house.
Guy starts stripping tub and sez he worries it won’t be warm enough to paint. I try to turn the heat up but wait…what happened to the heat? So, I borrow an electric heater from the neighbor so tub guy can get started and I begin the quest for firing up that boiler.
Batteries in thermostat are ok. I go outside to ask the crew digging up the street if they shut gas lines. No. Go back in to see if I have hot water. No water at all. Go back out to ask if they turned off water. No. “But your pipes may be frozen.” Let me say here that they were very helpful! Came in and told me they would put a torch on my lines to heat them up. I said I can do it with the heat paint stripper. So, Miss Wit and I sat there like schmucks in the freezing basement for nearly an hour heating the pipes. Nothing.
Here’s where I have the problem. Just like the plumbers who installed my boiler and couldn’t admit there was a gas leak (even though they actually fixed it), these guys would never acknowledge that they made a boo-boo. “Oh, it’s doubtful it’s on our side. We insulated the pipes as soon as we dug up the trench.” Finally, they knock on the door and tell me to keep my water running because they are starting to heat the main line coming into the house. Viola! Five minutes later I have water. And heat.
So, day wasted running around trying to get heat. Finally got to pick up some molding. Had to park in the middle of the torn up street up the block and run it into the house. Thankfully, Miss Wit was there to help.
Although this renovation definitely has more hiccups than any of my others, the whole episode yesterday was kind of just another day in the life of renovations. Unfortunately.
And yet. I live for this stuff.
posted @ 7:50 am Comments (0)
Light is one of the most desirable things a home can offer. You may ask why someone would want to close up a window. I believe I can answer that now since we actually got rid of not one, but two windows this weekend.
First of all, both windows had a view of the neighbor’s vinyl siding two feet away. It’s my guess that the neighboring house was built after our 1920 2 story. But we didn’t close up the windows because we were appalled by the view of ugly siding.
One window was in the kitchen. At first, there were thoughts of extending the counter and putting in a smaller window. That could have worked. Then we were like “Wait. Why not get rid of the window completely?” We opted for more cabinets instead of a bit of light, making this tiny kitchen that much more practical.
*Don’t look at my bad taping job. It will be covered by cabinets!*
The second window was in the bathroom. A small window looking out, again, on to the neighbor’s siding. There is a normal sized window right next to it with an unobstructed view of the bay. The sheetrock was already finished but this small window looked totally weird butted up against the wall built around the pipes and sewer line. When we took said sheetrock down to let the plumbers get at the gas lines they were replacing, we thought that was our window of opportunity (You like how I did that there?) to make this area look less…what’s the word I’m looking for?….stupid.
The window in question sits behind the bathtub. I was thinking about some built in shelves which still would have looked uneven. Then hubby was like “Eh, what if we get rid of this one too?” Fine.
So, what’s the process of taking away a window? Skipping over the DOB legalities and heading right over to the how-to: It’s not as bad as I thought. Of course, it was Hubby doing all the work. And I should let you know that you shouldn’t try this if you don’t consider yourself a handy person. Bottom line is that you need to know what you’re doing enough to keep the moisture out of your house or you’re opening up a world of problems.
1. Take out rotted wood (in our case) and re-frame. Oh yeah, take out window first. Duh.
posted @ 9:34 am Comments (0)
As of last weekend, we finally hit the reset button on the renovation. The house has heat and electric. The basement is cleaned out. Now, where were we before the storm?
Oh yes, I was down in the basement painting the kitchen cabinets I intended to recycle. Ok, so those were trashed. I ended up finding 2 cabinets to recycle at a PA ReStore and then I caved and bought new unfinished ones at Lowe’s. The good news is that I don’t have to clean maple syrup and mouse shit from the insides of the cabinets. New has it’s charms. So I’m doing the cabinets again. How deja vu.
As mentioned, twas only our basement that flooded, so all of the new sheetrock was fine. I say “was” because since we had licensed competent plumbers over to install a new boiler, we had them run new gas lines throughout the house. That means cutting into some sheetrock. We hate doing sheetrock but we’re not getting the schmuck back who did it in the first place. That didn’t end well. It never does. That’s why we DIY.
So where’s this step forward? Got a clawfoot tub! Yay! It needs some work. “Some” is an understatement. Oh, and I finally bought some bathroom tiles. New slate. No overstock or discounts but like $1.48 per square foot. Not bad. Again, Lowe’s. So much better than Home Depot. The bathroom will be ready to tile once we re-frame and sheetrock that pipe area we demolished.
Funny. Don’t know if I ever mentioned that this house is my project and the hubby wanted nothing to do with it. Now here I am all “we” this and “we” that. Guess I dragged him into it, huh?
posted @ 7:59 am Comments (0)
The Rockaway house is a two family, so one of my biggest budget concerns has been the purchase of appliances times two. AJ Madison has been my appliance source for a few years now. There are always running good deals and they will deliver and haul away the old.
I got away with one kitchen of all stainless for under $2000. That includes the fridge, stove, dishwasher and over-the-stove microwave exhaust combo. The microwave makes sense when you consider it’s not that much more than just a fan. I figured we would save ourselves some money on take out during renovations. No, we won’t be using the stove. Let’s not go nuts.
My only disappointment was with the shorty refrigerator. Purchasing online, one has to remember to look at the dimensions. I looked at the width and assumed I was buying a standard size fridge, but it’s actually shorter than me. And I’m short! At the end of the day, who the hell needs a huge refrigerator for a one bedroom apartment? Plus, the smaller, the more efficient. Right?
Well, those were the brand new Energy Star appliances for the downstairs kitchen. While at Build it Green one day last week, I did spot this second hand dishwasher which I purchased for upstairs for a mere 25 bucks. It’s returnable if it doesn’t work but I’m ready to accept the loss as it’s not worth $25 to schlep it back to Astoria. Fingers crossed!
posted @ 7:59 am Comments (0)
Original deck was taken down.
There’s an old warning about home renovation that goes “Expect to pay twice as much and for it to take three times as long.” I’ve always found this to be true except this time I was prepared for the worst.
Case in point is the back deck. It’s not even so much a deck as steps with a landing. Whomever built this thing must have been on some hard drugs at the time. The stairs are cutting into the house and one landing leans on a roof without any other support. It’s a nightmare.
This is the final “big project” to tackle on the house. I left it for last because I knew it wouldn’t be simple. I’ll survive because my hubby is a structural engineer who has a penchant for removing rotting wood to add support. But I just want to warn others out there that this is what it’s all about. Opening up a can of worms. You remove a wall or a floor or a deck and chances are, what you see behind that won’t be pleasant.
As it’s been said on this blog a million times before, previous homeowners (in my experience anyway) tend to cover things up rather than correct them. The deck is over the basement. We are not only replacing the deck but the damage has spread to the side structures of the house and the basement.
I can’t imagine how much this would cost someone if they were paying a real contractor to do it. Then you have to consider that the contractor is doing the right thing because they sometimes like to cover things up also.
My point? I don’t know if I have one. Oh yeah, maybe it’s this: Expect to pay twice as much and for it to take three times as long.
At the end of the day, I’m gonna have me a nice new deck that will stand longer than the house itself.
Some rotted wood that was removed
Roof that supported the landing
Side of house once vinyl was taken off
posted @ 6:39 am Comments (0)