413A – Our Biggest DIY Project



=== DATE OF PURCHASE 02/27/1992

Throughout our married life, Nina and I purchased several properties that we improved while we lived in them.  Afterwards when we took pictures of our handiwork, we regretted that we hadn’t taken pictures of the “before” condition.  With this property, however, which turned out to be the biggest home improvement project we ever took on, we shot video of the before, during, and after phases.


Pros:  Spanish style single family home, 3 bedrooms, 1 and ½ baths, LR, DR, kitchen with breakfast nook, 1st floor laundry, excellent neighborhood location

Cons: Horrid condition








The front porch, a Spanish style portico, with its flat roof had water damage, termites, and a raccoon’s nest.  The rear extension, which housed the laundry, also had a flat roof, and also had a leaking roof with water damage.

All the window frames needed scraping and the windowpanes needed glazing.  In many spots, there were large cracks in the stucco, especially along the eaves. Even the garage had problems: no door, tree limbs on the roof causing shingle damage, and the stucco was bulging on the side.






=== FRONT PORCH transformed to a FAMILY ROOM


We decided to replace the front porch with an enclosed structure on the same footprint.  The new structure could be used as an extension to the Living Room for large parties or as a separate Family Room.

We retained the doors leading to the porch to minimize the heating requirement (electric baseboard) and reduce any noise from an adjacent TV or stereo.  The new structure included five wooden windows matching the rest of the house and a pitched roof to avoid future water damage.








The 2nd floor addition over the first floor laundry provided space for a full bathroom and a shared study.  This new space was accessible from the kids’ bedrooms, allowing the Hall Bath to be dedicated to the Master bedroom.

To access the addition a door had to be added to each of the two bedrooms.  These doors and the framing woodwork came from doorways that were closed on the first floor (foyer entrance to the kitchen, laundry door entrance to the Food Pantry).  We did this to match the existing woodwork and door styles.

I take great pride in having anticipated the potential problem with the placement and the opening direction of the three doors related to the addition, i.e. from the two bedrooms into the bath and the study as well as the door between the study and the bath.  This arrangement of the doors also allowed space in the bathroom for a linen closet, or, as we chose, a wicker étagère.


Our contractor was planning to build an A-frame roof on the addition, but the township inspector suggested a hip roof that provided a much better match to the lines of the main roof.








The Hall Bath was antiquated, done completely in black and white with a dizzying, checkerboard of floor tiles.  And judging by the height of the showerhead, the original occupants must have been shorter than 5 feet tall.

We changed the décor.  Bright colors in the wallpaper and window treatment relieved the antiquated black and white look.

Because the kids’ bathroom included a tub, we were able to replace the tub in the Master bath with a walk-in shower – and a showerhead for a six-footer.






=== Master Bedroom


Master Bedroom – window.  There was a door in the Master Bedroom that opened onto the original porch roof.  It had to be replaced with a window because we chose a pitched roof for the Family Room to avoid future water damage.  But here’s the good news.  When the contractor removed the door and opened the wall to build a window frame, he found the window framing was already in place in the original structure.  Furthermore, the window we removed from Bedroom 2, to allow access to the 2nd floor addition, was a perfect fit and a perfect match to the dressing room window.

Dressing Room – closet.  The cedar closet next to the dressing room was a nice size.  However, because the door was on the short wall, the closet was very deep.  And although it contained two clothes poles, there was little value in having one behind the other.  By moving the closet door to the long wall, the closet now opened in the dressing room and doubled the access space.  I also mounted two clothes poles, one above the other, and doubled the hanging capacity.






=== Kitchen – first update


Making over the Kitchen was so important we did it twice.  Our goal was to have an eat-in kitchen with a baking center for Nina and the kind of food pantry that Nina always dreamed of.  It was easy to give up the breakfast nook in exchange for a baking center, but Nina insisted that we keep the hutch.  So, our first kitchen update included these changes: remove the breakfast nook, close the foyer door access into the kitchen, install laminated flooring, move the hutch to the Dining Room wall, install base cabinets with a new sink, disposal, dishwasher, and baking center, relocate the radiator, off-set the Powder Room wall to make room for a sink, close the laundry room door access to the Fridge Closet and build shelving in the Food Pantry.

The Hutch.  The hutch was not a freestanding piece of furniture.  It was a built-in, integral to the house.  One doesn’t simply unfasten it from the wall and slide it against some other wall.  Why not?  First, there is no back to the hutch.  Its back is the wall it’s built on.  You can’t remove it from the wall.  You have to remove the wall from behind it.  Then, there’s the height.  The hutch runs from the sub-floor to the ceiling.  So, before I could slide it to a new location, I had to trim 2 inches from the top.

Fridge Closet.  In its original construction there were two doors accessing the closet in which the previous owner kept his refrigerator.  Why?  Here’s a clue.  There was a drain in the floor of the closet.  And here’s another clue.  There was previously a door between the kitchen and the laundry.  Did you figure it out yet?  Why were there two doors accessing the closet space?  Because it originally housed an icebox.  The kitchen door could be locked while the occupants were not at home, but the laundry door to the outside could be left open.  So, if the iceman made a delivery, he still had ready access to the fill the icebox.






=== Kitchen – second update


The Kitchen Great Room.  The first update provided decent working space, but there wasn’t enough room for a kitchen table and chairs.  It was not an eat-in kitchen.  So, we made one more change – we combined the kitchen and dining room.  We were wary of making such a dramatic change because it might make it hard to sell the house.  But we did it anyway.

We removed the dining room wall (good-bye mural), moved the hutch again, and added a touch of wallpaper and trim to the kitchen and the laundry.

The Ceiling.  Knocking out the Dining Room wall meant we had to join the ceiling in the kitchen with the dining room.  Past experience made me wary of the finished look.  No matter how well you feather the plaster of this joint, I feared it would be an eyesore.  The same thing concerned me about the common wall along the foyer.  Our solution?  Put up a beam.  The beam worked well for two reasons.  It covered the distinction between the kitchen ceiling and the dining room ceiling.  And it hid the wiring from the new wall switch to the kitchen lights.  Furthermore, I love the look of the beam.  It allowed us to hang wind chimes in the kitchen.






=== The KITCHEN - completed








=== The 2nd Floor – Bathroom and Study



Copyright © Yale Schwartz, 2006