Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Vintage Colonial: The Go Forward Plan

A few years ago, I wrote a post about how to plan a whole house renovation.  I still use the same criteria on every house.  It starts with looking at all the elements that involve safety and security - and ends with the fun stuff, like fancy fixtures, kitchens, baths and custom carpentry.   And while it’s tempting to start with the fun stuff, getting the fundamentals in place is critical for a quality renovation. 

So here’s the list for the Vintage Colonial - at least as we know it now (we will probably have some discoveries during demo).  You’ll notice there are some big issues at the top of the list, that require big budgets.   And this is work that in most cases is behind the walls, so you can’t even admire how it looks when it's done

Safety & Security

First priority - properly abating the asbestos that’s all over the basement, followed closely by getting the electrical updated.  Most of the electrical outlets are only two prong – and some rooms only have one or two outlets.  Try that in a house full of teenagers!  That means a nightmare of extension cords all over the place and 3 prong adaptors.  In other words, an issue waiting to happen. 

I’m also worried about the chimneys in the house – we have two fireplaces and an oil fired boiler using the chimney.  I’m waiting for my chimney expert to come tell me what shape we’re in.  This has the potential to be a big issue.

Energy Efficiency

We knew from the moment we walked in the basement that the boiler needed updating to something much more energy efficient.  But that’s not going to be enough to improve the ‘Green’ factor for this home.

When you buy a house that has curtains hanging in the foyer doorway and draft dodgers next to bedroom doors, you can guess that it’s not very tight.  The good news is the attic has blown in insulation and there’s evidence in the attic stairwell that the walls were done as well.  That means the windows and doors are a problem – which is no surprise.  The windows are all original, many lack locks and storm windows and of course with old-fashioned sash weights, they’re going to be cold and leaky (and then there are the spots that looks like a dog ate the mullions!!).   And it does feel breezy in the foyer, which makes me suspect the front door could use replacing or some serious weatherstripping

Floor Plan & Traffic Flow

This wall opens up the living room to the kitchen
Since this is a center hall colonial, we can’t get a full open floor plan – but we can do a lot to make it more open and modern family friendly.  A lot of that comes down to traffic flow.  By taking out a few walls, we can dramatically improve the livability of the house.

So here is the initial plan for the first floor.  I’ve learned from experience that this is preliminary, until we get the demo done.  We typically get a few surprises!


Okay, now we can talk about the fun stuff.  As you can see from the before photos – we desperately need a new kitchen.  Since it’s only 8 ½ feet wide, opening up the wall to the dining room will make it feel much bigger.  We also want to open the wall to the living room (see photo below). Of course we need to more the refrigerator, once that wall is gone. So that's something we need to address in our kitchen design. 

I want to install a powder room, but am still noodling over how to make that happen.  I’ve spoken with several neighbors that have the same floor plan and no one seems to have come up with a good, easy solution.  It’s a challenge!

Upstairs, we have an excellent layout to create a master suite.  By moving the sink/vanity to the other wall with a new doorway, we can have a private master bath.  That means moving plumbing, but it's worth the cost to create the suite.  We will leave the existing closet and add two more, for lots of storage space.  One thing I've learned renovating these old houses is that you can never create too many closets!!

Once the current bath becomes the master bath, there is room in the upstairs hall to install a family bath.  It will require us to steal a foot of so from the back bedroom, but won't dramatically change that bedroom. 

So now that we’ve got a preliminary plan, it’s time for permits and a demo crew.  We know from past projects that there will be some surprises once we get the walls opened up,  that might require changes and adaptations.  So stay tuned for updates!
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  1. The plans are great! Can't wait to watch you work your magic again.

  2. I love following your remodels! Today I noticed you mentioned a post you did about the order in which you decide priorities and you I guess summed it up with the infographic. However, I'd love to read that post but couldn't find a search tab. Is there any way I can look up certain things like the mentioned post?

    1. Sorry! I should have included the link! Here you go:

  3. Would you consider putting the kitchen/dining room in the current living room space? You could flip/flop the house plan and tuck a powder room opposite the back door.

    I would imagine a large kitchen with a fireplace would be amazing and completely charming!

    1. Well that's an interesting idea!! I'll give it some thought....although I have a feeling it's a pricey approach. There is a finished room below the living room (also with a fireplace) and it means we would have to rip out the ceiling and some of the walls for plumbing!

  4. Could you sneak a powder room underneath the first floor stairs or is that space too tight or still a problem running plumbing?

    1. I realized after I published this that I forgot to show the door to the basement - it runs right under the other staircase, so that's not an option!

  5. Nice to see you back to a big challenge. You got a nice little break with that cute ranch. This one will test you but my money is on you. It will be beautiful and I would do anything to have a powder room for guests only. Can’t wait to see. Mary Lynn


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