Hazardous radon gas? Check.
Seepage in the basement? Check.
Old plumbing and cloth-wrapped electric? Check.
Chimneys in disrepair and in need of new liners and tuck-pointing? Check.
Some new windows needed here and there? Check.
Who would buy a house with all these shenanigans? Oh I know, us! After nine months of renovations we can almost see the finish line.
Our third home renovation has been a long road to say the least. Our North Shore Reno Part 1 told the backdrop of how we ended up buying this old house and here we will look behind the walls and spill our guts on our grand plans. Renovations one and two were much smaller, quicker and under budget. With a closing in November 2020 our contractors originally thought we would be moved in by April. Then it was June, then August, then September. I'm writing this at the end of November and the latest timeline has been pushed to the end of December. I'll be shocked if we get in by 2022. What is going on and what are we doing to this 110-year-old Howard Van Doren Shaw house? Let's start with the fact that we were not the only people who decided to pack up and try a new venue in 2020. City permitting was delayed because of Covid and the sheer number of people doing the same thing. Lumber and labor shortages and a booming housing market have shown us several delays but outside of that we came into some unexpected structural issues. Ouch. Not only did it cost us time, but also extra money we planned on using for phase 2 (landscaping and painting the exterior) which is now pushed to 2022.
(before and during for the living room, an upstairs bath, and kitchen)
We planned for unexpected hiccups, but we were just too optimistic we wouldn't run into this many snags. Old houses have great bones but many of them have closed-off rooms that don't make a lot of sense for how 21st century humans live. Naturally we wanted to open up the walls. We opened up the kitchen on either side to flow from the dining room through the pantry, and we added an opening to the other side of the dining room so it could flow into the family room. A modern, open concept created structural problems upstairs and a new header and the entire ceiling in the dining room needed to be replaced. We also had not planned on totally renovating one of the bathrooms that sat on top of the dining room. Because the beams in the ceiling needed to be replaced, the weight of the bathroom needed to be lifted and therefore 100% demolished. The silver lining is we will now have 3 new bathrooms—woohoo!
(before and after floor plans for our two floors. We're obsessed with how Jessica Margot opened up the first floor, and turned half of our second floor into a massive his-and-hers suite. Click on each photo to enlarge it!)
The upstairs original layout was a complete hodgepodge. They called this house a 7 bedroom (hardly). We are turning it into a functioning 3 bedroom (with two still in the attic that we aren't touching for now, so technically you can call it a 5 bed but that attic is scary and I probably will never go up there). I can just hear my father who has been a Realtor for 30 years saying, "You never want to eliminate bedrooms for resale." Hopefully the next buyer will love the modernized floor plan as much as we do. In the days before air conditioning, big houses employed "sleeping porches," rooms attached to the bedroom with lots of windows that are cooler than the rest of the house on those hot summer nights. Our house had 3 of them. While beautiful and sun-drenched, the sleeping porches no longer serve their intended purpose. Instead we have decided to update many of these smaller rooms into other things like a laundry room, closets, and even a workout room. You read that right, some rooms are getting turned into closets. Inspired by one of our co-workers downtown listing, we decided to make his and her bathrooms and closet areas. For those keeping track: one bedroom is now Charlie's closet, one bedroom is my closet, a sleeping porch is now my office, another one the laundry room, and finally the primary sleeping porch will be a sitting room off our bedroom. Whew! Talk about an upgrade.
This project has taught me so much as a real estate professional. I never knew chimney liners were so expensive (around $10,000 depending on who you use and if you need to do any tuck-pointing and use scaffolding). I never knew adding electrical can lighting in an old home with plaster walls could be such a nightmare, but completely worth it. I have to say this whole process has felt like a roller coaster. My husband Charlie and I have gone through so many emotions from sheer excitement to extreme anxiety over the delays, budget and the simple fact that there are SO many choices. I've only cried once so far. Thankfully we have had a fantastic team behind us which has made it feel less terrifying. We hired Jessica Margot from Jessica Margot Design and she helped us source our GC and has helped with everything from selecting paint, cabinets, slabs of granite and furniture. I couldn't recommend her enough. See below for some mood boards with some of our selections for the laundry room, entryway, dining and kitchen/mudroom areas.
Where We Got Them:
Where We Got Them:
Backsplash from The Fine Line
Where We Got Them: