Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Old House Trifecta - Asbestos, Mold & Lead Paint

Winterized in 2010!
My husband says I hit the jackpot on this house.....he calls it the old house trifecta:  Asbestos, Mold & Lead Paint.  And since the house has been vacant for several years, it seems particularly stuffy and unlived in.

Here's what we know so far:

Asbestos - The Owners Unit has asbestos wrapped pipes coming out of the old furnace and covering all the heat pipes in the basement.  And we suspect that underneath the cover, the furnace is wrapped in asbestos as well.  So that will need to be taken care of by a licensed asbestos removal company.  Cha ching cha ching.....that will be pricey!

Mold - We heard from the neighbor that she heard the house had mold.  Yeah, I know, not very definitive and we haven't seen anything that looks like a problem.  But the bathrooms are pretty nasty with mildew all around the bathtubs.  Good thing we're just tearing all this out for new tubs and bright, white tile!

Lead Paint - Any house built before 1978 has lead paint (My father always told me the higher the lead content, the higher quality of paint!!).  But of course, now we know that it isn't safe and needs to be handled carefully, particularly if you have peeling paint.  The good news is we don't seem to have peeling paint anywhere in the building, except for some of the ceilings, and they'll get covered with new drywall.  Want to know more about how to do a lead safe job?  Click here to see a project we did last year.

Of course we'll deal with all of this appropriately - once we really know what we really have.  Stay tuned as we start demo and learn what other surprises we have in store!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Duplex Floor Plan - 'Before' and 'To Be' Plan

The Demo Team is ready to go, so that put some pressure on us to finalize the floor plan.

So, here's the starting point.  As you probably noticed from the 'before' photos, the first floor units are mirror images of one another.  And these are big units!  The first floor of the building is almost 2000 square feet, so we have lots of space to work with.

Figuring out the 'to-be' design has been a challenge!  Thanks so much for all the input from a rental viewpoint.  I've also spoken with many landlords & tenants in the neighborhood to get their perspective.  And here's what we've decided:

The City records show the Owners Unit with 3 bedrooms.  And the Tenants Unit with 2 bedrooms.  But in reality, they each have one more bedroom than that.  So that's the challenge.  Should we have more bedrooms?  Or not?  

Some of the most helpful advice came from a local landlord who reminded me that more bedrooms is perfect for renting to college students.  Ah.....I used to be a college student and I wouldn't call myself an ideal tenant.  Unless you like the idea of loud parties, no yard upkeep and poor housekeeping.  So, after mulling that over for awhile and taking into account our unique mix of 1st and 2nd floor bedrooms, we decided to stay with the number reflected in the City documents.

But, and this might seem crazy, I hate the idea of keeping these units identical.  The needs of the residents will be different, depending on the number of bedrooms.  With the changes we're making, it gives us the opportunity to make each one unique!   We just want to meet our primary design criteria: create an open floor plan, while integrating the kitchen with the living space as much as possible.

So, see what you think of this plan for the first floor:

Now, there are some key differences between the two units!

Let's start with the Owners Suite - it will have a very large living room, since it has more bedrooms (and in theory) more people.  The new living room will be 24' x 12.5'!  We took the extra bedroom and used it for the dining room - which is open to both the living room and kitchen.  Don't you think it will be great once these walls are removed?
Owners Suite - Eliminate walls in Living Room & Dining Room

We will also made some big changes in the Tenants Unit.  I hated to do it, but we plan to eliminate one of the vintage built ins. We will move the other one to a more central location, which will create a feature point as you come from the living room.  These changes will allow us to open up line of sight from the kitchen to the living room and dining room, making the space feel much larger and friendlier. No more being stuck alone in the back of the house while you're cooking!

We will also eliminate the narrow closet between the two small bedrooms and create one large bedroom.  So, although we'll only have 2 bedrooms in this unit, they will both be large with their own bath!  And again, this will now be a big room - 23' x 11'.
And while there were a lot of similarities on the first floor,  there are a lot of differences on the 2nd floor.
 The Owners Unit has 2 bedrooms - one a large Master Suite with its own bath and a door to the back stairway.  The Tenants Unit also has a bedroom, but there wasn't much else on the 2nd floor.

In the Tenants Unit, we're going to change all that!  We are taking more knee wall space and dramatically enlarging the space to create a true Master Suite on the 2nd floor.  The bedroom gets much bigger, with a large closet.  And a full bath will complete the space.
  Won't it be great to eliminate this wall and open up this space?   And we're adding two new skylights to flood the rooms with light.

The biggest change for the Owners Unit?  We are adding a large walk in closet, opening up the existing bathroom to make it feel more spacious (with a nice big new skylight)  and adding a private deck off of the back door.  It's going to be a beautiful, large suite!

What do you think?  We can't wait to get started!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Before Pictures - The Owners Unit

So here's what the rest of the duplex looks like!  The Owners Unit has a lot of space - 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths.  And like the Tenants Unit, we're trying to figure out how to best utilize the space.  The floor plan of the first floor is a mirror image to the unit next door, but there are some key differences upstairs.

Living Room and Dining Room
Good sized rooms with lots of light.  Oh, and we have beautiful hardwood floors hidden under all that old carpeting!  
I really love the built ins, there is one in the Dining Room and the other is in the Back Hallway.

Hallway leads to the basement and 2nd floor staircase
Kitchen - hmmmm......I guess I'll be dragging out the wallpaper steamer!  And the maple cabinets are nice, but I'm trying to figure out how to add a dishwasher.
In this unit - like the one next door, we also have 2 small bedrooms on the first floor.

And we have a dark bathroom on the 1st floor.  My plumber keeps reminding me that we'll need to keep this same footprint for the fixtures.  There isn't enough space to move things around!
Upstairs, there is a lot of space!  The long hallway connects two large bedrooms.

The front bedroom is a nice room with a large closet.  But that ceiling fan makes me laugh every time I see it!  Isn't that the saddest fan you've ever seen?  I think the one in the garage was nicer!

At the other end of the hallway, we have a large Master Bedroom with its own Master Bath.  It also has a door to the back stairway (you know, the one to nowhere, with the 6 foot last step!). 

And there is potential for a big walk in closet, we just need to build some walls!
There is a master bathroom with light flooding through the skylight (which appears to leak, as evidenced by the brown paper towels wedged in the corners).  See the holes in the bathroom drywall?  We have a feeling someone was looking for leaks.  We haven't gotten brave enough to turn on the water yet!  That promises to be exciting!
Like the Tenants Unit, the City has one less bedroom on the books than we have in this unit.  So again, I'm grappling with whether to stay with a 4 bedroom unit, or match the city records and have 3.  It's a big unit, but it might be nice to have more living space on the first floor.  Stay tuned as we finalize the floor plans!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Lucky Number 7 - The Tenants Unit, Before Pics

I keep trying to figure out how to share this property with you, since it's 2 units that are similar - but different!  While we're working in the house we keep getting confused and I can see that happening in these posts as well.  And the easiest approach I've come up with is to give them names.  So from now on, Unit 1 is the 'Owners Unit'.  It's the bigger unit and I keep thinking when we sell the house, the owners will live in that side and rent the other.   And you guessed it, Unit 2 is the 'Tenants Unit', which is a bit smaller.

So, for today's post, here are the Before Pictures of the Tenants Unit.  It has some lovely features, but some challenges as well:

There is a nice sized Living Room.  The walls and molding are in great shape.  It's obvious the house has been well cared for in the past, but sitting empty for 4 years is never good for a house.....which leads us to some of the surprises we've found.
Here is the very red Dining Room.....with a mysterious hole in the ceiling.  There isn't any plumbing above that spot, so we're not exactly sure what caused it!  But I'm sure we figure it out during the course of the project.  It's a great room with lots of windows.  And don't you love the built in china cabinet?
The kitchen.....well, let's just say it's a bit tired...... and it's hidden in the back of the house.  It would be better if we could tie it to the rest of the living space with a more open concept.

Right now, it's down the hall from the dining room.
Bedroom 1
There are two small bedrooms off of the kitchen.
And I know the one room looks gold in this photo, but it's really a very odd green/gold.  Don't get too attached to these colors - they will change!

Bedroom 2
As you can see, the bathroom needs some updating
The second floor has a wide hallway and a bedroom with cool angled ceilings and a large closet.  But that's all that's up there.  So if you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night - you guessed it!  Dash downstairs.  So.....  I'd like to add a bathroom.  It looks like there is space to do it.  But we need to decide if that's affordable.

There is only one window upstairs, which translates into dark spaces!  It would be so much nicer to get more light in there.

For now, I'm working hard to figure out how to update the Tenants Unit.  According to the City records, this is a 2 bedroom unit, with one bath.  And yet we really have 3 bedrooms.  Should we keep all 3?  Or consolidate the two tiny rooms into one large bedroom?  For those of you that are renters, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  What do you think we should do?

Want to see the Owner's Unit Before pictures?  Click here!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

An Eyesore No More - The Craftsman Bungalow

Shortly after we started this project, my friend Debra came to take a peek and promptly dubbed the house 'The Eyesore'.  At that point, the house had already been demo'd and it was looking pretty rough!  But that's all behind us.  We turned the keys over to their new owner last week and I thought it might be nice to take a last 'Before and After' look.

Our goal?  Take a bland, nondescript 1920's bungalow and give it some Craftsman style with lots of architectural interest.  Did we achieve it?  I'll let you be the judge.

The Exterior

With a new porch overhang, new siding, new roof, new windows new stair masonry and chimney - there's not much that hasn't changed here!

The garage also received an overhaul with updated doors and vintage style  lighting.

The Front Porch

The front porch had started as a catch-all space, with a front door that opened awkwardly into the room.  By installing a new front door and swapping the door & window into the house, we got a very usable, sun drenched porch.  Perfect for reading the paper with a cup of coffee in the morning!

The Living and Dining Room
Living Room - Before moving door and adding Foyer
Living Room with Walls Removed and Open Floor Plan

The whole first floor got a dramatic makeover, when we moved the front door and changed the first floor bedroom into a foyer with a new staircase to the second floor.  It opened up the entire floor plan and gave us the opportunity to add some beautiful woodwork.  The guys from Waterhouse Builders did an amazing job building this custom staircase with its secret storage space underneath!

Secret Door Opens to Large Storage Space

The Dining Room was updated with wainscoting and a plate rail,
as well as a custom china cabinet and oak colonnades.  

The Kitchen and Breakfast Room

The kitchen and breakfast room were updated with lots of recessed lighting, new countertops, hardware and appliances.  The custom made backsplash over the stove continues the Craftsman elements. Best of all - we discovered original antique maple flooring under the old vinyl floor!

The breakfast room is next to the garage, so it's the entryway the homeowner will use the most.  We installed a Craftsman mud bench and coat rack, which will be helpful during our snowy Maine winters.

The Craftsman light fixture is a dramatic accent with the high, wood planked ceiling.

The Bathrooms

We thought the bathrooms were only going to get a facelift, but as the project evolved, the scope kept growing.  In the end, we were really pleased with the final results!

Original Clawfoot Tub with Stained Glass 'Window' Above 

The natural slate accents added a lot of interest to the tile work in the upstairs bathroom.  

And the Craftsman vanity continued the style used throughout the rest of the house.

The Bedrooms and Loft

Master Bedroom - Before
It's probably hard to tell that this is the 'before' photo of the master bedroom, but once we moved the old staircase out of the way, this room became spacious and we had room for a walk in closet!

We made a few changes to the front bedroom, to make room for the new staircase.  But this room probably saw the least amount of change than the rest of the house.

The other big addition to the house - adding 'the loft'.  We had a big space at the top of the stairs that we decided to accentuate with a skylight to allow light to flood upstairs and down (there aren't any 'before' photos, since a wall ran through this area).  It's a versatile spot, with room for a desk and chair or whatever the new owners want!  And it has a built in bookcase with a vintage cast iron header.

This was a big project, that took us over 6 months to complete.  But we're really thrilled with how it came out.  The new owner loves it and asked me to autograph the completed house.   It made me think back to a big Maine 'Cottage' we renovated a long time ago......when we stripped the dining room wallpaper, we found that everyone that ever worked on the house had signed and dated it.  So I was thrilled to carry on this tradition in this house.  Pretty cool, don't you think?

Want to see our next project?  Be sure and 'like' us on Facebook for more photos and updates!

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