Let the Repairing Begin

I can’t believe I’ve had this house for a full year. This may be a long post with lots of pictures because I really need to get you up to date given I’m now weeks away from getting out from underneath this house.

Getting an approved building permit took months. I started the process in August with an architect and didn’t get approved plans until end of November. Since I couldn’t start building, I focused on vital repairs that had to get done first. I started with low hanging fruit, the 2nd bedroom on second floor. That is where I had floating roof joist and mold because the box gutters had failed due to neglect and rot.

First step was tackling the mold and I used two products to get that job done, Mold Armor and Wet & Forget. I bought the Wet & Forget first, but after doing some research didn’t feel it was a tough enough product for what I was dealing with. I had planned to return it, but decided to use it. I applied both with my pump sprayer, Mold Armor first, scrubbing the wood with a brush after saturating it. The results were amazing.

The house was built with true 2x4s, so I used more of my porch demo beams to replace the wood that should be supporting the roof joist. Even though that wood was gone, probably for years, the new piece slid in with ease. I thought I’d need to jack that joist up, but did not. Fortunately I hit sound wood right at the wall stud, so there was only about 2′ of rot to remove. Unfortunately that stud was in bad shape, but easily cured by laminating it with new 2x4s and 5″ bolts I had left over from my pergola project.

The box gutters I knew would be the first blow to the budget. They are expensive to rebuild and based on all the rot on the inside, I knew that underneath the aluminum siding was rotten wood. The house had three box gutters. One on the front and rear of the asphalt roof; the rear was barely visible from the ground, and the third off the side of the 2nd floor. When I discovered the original porch post the project went from a renovation to restoration, so I decided to pay to have the front box gutter rebuilt. The rear and side I would convert to regular gutters.

I stumbled across Art Phillips, owner of Art’s Roofing and Remodeling, when his crew was restoring the box gutters on a house located on Colerain Ave, one block from me. Based on what I learned from my house, I thought they did a great job, so I got a quote from him and accepted it. Art is a 4th generation roofer and the 5th, his son, is part of his crew. They did a fabulous job. They impressed Adam Sangaret, owner of the house next door, enough that he hired them to do a facelift of the front of his house.

At the same time I started getting bids for replacing the roofs; I had massive leaks in the rubber and the asphalt work looked questionable upon closer inspection. I contacted nine companies and the lack of follow-up from the majority of them blew my mind. Eight of the nine were referrals or I had experience with:
HTK Roofing: Too busy, not interested
Ray St. Clair Roofing: Provided a bid, refused to answer any follow-up/clarifying questions. Stopped responding to calls.
Walt St. Clair Roofing: Came in with an astronomical high bid. He seemed shocked that I was a flipper willing to spend money and I guess he thought I had a ton of it to give away.
Perry St. Clair Roofing: Came out, never provided a bid
Cowboy Jones Roofing: Came out gave a bid, responded to my questions, great follow through. I disagreed with his assessment of the box gutters, so felt he wasn’t a good fit for this project. Very nice African-American owned business I’d consider using in the future; number saved in my phone.
Forest Park Roofing: Did the roof on my Inner Circle home. Short staffed couldn’t commit, stopped responding to calls.
Alma Cochran, AJL Group, LLC: Female/Hispanic owned I was excited at the opportunity. Came to look at job with a crew, but no ladder. Looked through tiny 3rd floor window, could have crawled out , but didn’t. Never submitted a bid.
Lady on the Roof: Another female owned company. Too busy, declined to bid. Would call her in future just because she gave an honest fast response.

The ninth was an out of desperation cold call Google search to HTC Roofing, who ended up doing the work. DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY!!! I will talk about this experience in a future post, but the positive part of the story is I got both roofs replaced for less than my next lowest estimate for just the rubber roof.

While the roofs were being replaced, I turned my focus on the elephant on the porch, the gapping hole on the right side of house that would allow you to walk into the living room without using the front door.  It looked bad, but for some reason I got a sense that it was not a big deal to fix.  The contractors I called thought otherwise and I was getting quotes ranging from $3500-7000.  I decided to call the structural engineer that I worked with on my house.  My instincts were correct.  The corner post wasn’t even load barring.  He told me to remove the rot and replace it with pressure treated wood that I wood laminate together to create the width and height I needed.  Armed with that I did the repairs myself.  It took two weeks of evenings and weekends, but it was thousands saved.  

The first weekend I worked on replacing the termite impacted mudsill (not sure that’s the right term).  The house rest on a solid 6″x8″ beam and I needed to replace about 4′ of it on the front, another 2′ on the side.  One wall stud on the front was resting on that area and it had termite and rot damage on the lower end.  As I did on the 2nd floor, I laminated it with a new 2×4 to strengthen it.  To create the mudsill I bought 2×8 pressure treated wood beams and ripped them down to 6″.  I glued and screwed 4 pieces plus a piece of 1/2″ plywood together to create the 8″ height.  I cut away the rot and set the new beam in its place.  I used construction adhesive to attach the beam to the stacked stone and not shown in these pictures I also used nails plates to connect the new to the old.

You may notice that the concrete porch is gone in the above pictures. The company that closed the hole in the foundation that I talked about in The Whole Porch and Former Outhouse Gotta Go removed it without a contract or my permission. That is why I did not let him do the project. I told him my priority at that moment was closing up the house, but he seemed to think otherwise. I paid him for his demo work, but ended communication with him. The positive outcome of his strong arm tactics is that I was able to get termite treatment done without needing to core drill through the concrete. Terry Murphy with Termites R Us did the treatment.

The next weekend I tackled the corner post and side of house. Unlike on the front, the rotten mudsill on the side of house impacted one floor joist. No rot or termite damage on the joist, but it was not resting on sound wood. As with the mudsill the new corner post was created by laminating pressure treated wood. The post was 4×6. The engineer said I didn’t need to make it exact so mine was 4×5 1/2 because I bought 2×6 beams.

I had to remove an approximate 12′ section, basically up to where the porch roof and the hole that caused all this damage was. With that easily and securely in place I turned my focus on the side of the house. To make that repair I had to have the existing electric meter removed from the house, which created the need for a temporary electric pole. I chose this route over pulling out my generator for electric. That was a pain working with when I used that with my house. The rot did not, thankfully impact wall studs on that side. I used the first stud as my guide for removing the rotten sheathing, but I nailed a new 2×4 to it for attaching the new sheathing. Because I was so focused on this work and I was alone I missed some photos, but at this point I no longer had a second entrance and new sheathing is in place level with the front windows. I could see rotten sheathing under the vinyl siding above windows, so my work was not done.

My cousin Greg made himself available to help me remove more of the vinyl siding. I was really curious to see the condition of the framing around the second floor front windows. A pleasant surprise was finding the original moulding still in place and evidence that rosettes were once in the corners. Greg was nimble and strong enough that he was able to hang out of the small third floor windows and remove even more vinyl with the long crow bar. I screamed with delight when he revealed the original fish scale cedar shingles and evidence showing where corbels and more rosettes once adorned the roof line. Channeling @nicolecurtis “why in the world would anyone cover that up.” We ended that day by installing Tyvek house wrap on the lower front of the house. I had to add more sheathing to side where I made the repair to build it out even with the asphalt siding before that wrap could be permenantly attached.

There was still more rotten sheathing above the door and windows that I needed to replace, so that was the next task and it was made more difficult because of the unstable ground. I got it done and decided it was time to get the concrete repair work done. I learned that concrete companies have minimums to keep the rate low. They’ll bring less, but your cost per square yard goes up. With this knowledge I did not only the porch, but sidewalks and added a parking pad in the back to provide the future homeowner with off-street parking.

Based on the additional rot found and wonderful discovery of the home’s original features I decided the only course of action was to take the entire front of house down to the sheathing. This was the 2nd blow to budget and unexpected expense. That meant removing the remaining asphalt and original wood siding then replacing any damaged sheathing. I never sought bids for this as I knew I could handle demo if I could figure out how to deal with the height. I decided to rent a boom lift to let me do this work. With that equipment I could also remove all the vinyl siding from the side and rear of house as the rebuilding of the windows (taking them back up to their original heights) couldn’t happen until the vinyl was gone.

There is only about 20′ between my house and my neighbors, so I needed smaller lift. I gave all the dimensions to the rental company and of course they sent the wrong size machine. Since it was their mistake, I was able to have the machine for a day before they picked it up. It gave me and my cousin Greg an opportunity to remove all the vinyl from the back of the house. For the life of me I don’t understand why they covered two windows on the rear of the house when the vinyl siding was installed, probably some time in the 70s. The person I purchased house from, it seems, was going to leave the upper left window covered. He actually put a brand new window in the upper right, but as you can see from the filler above it he had no plans to restore the original height. Clearly he had no plans to remove the siding. From the inside it appears he was restoring the first floor window, but again not capturing the full height.

The right lift had a smaller bucket and it was articulating, so from this point forward I became a solo act. I had it delivered to the front and with a quick learning curve on the controls I was able to to remove the remaining asphalt and wood lathe siding from front, the majority of vinyl siding from side, patch any areas needed in the sheathing, scrape/prep the cedar shingles of the fascia to apply exterior wood primer, hang missing rosettes from corners of 3rd floor windows, missing trim from above the windows and complete the Tyvek wrapping. Yes, all this by myself, I am woman hear me roar! This project went great with the exception that the weight of the lift caused a crack in the new sidewalk. I was told it was cured enough and could handle the weight, but clearly it could not. Fortunately since the steps didn’t pass inspection due to not being uniform heights I was able to get that section of sidewalk repaired at no cost since the steps was contractor error and had to be redone.

The final project I’ll cover to close out this post is the installation of new siding on the front. Again, since this is now a restoration I decided to use fiber cement siding (LP Smart Siding specifically) on the front. It would replicate the look of the original wood lap siding allowing the original window molding to be pronounced.  My house is only 16′ wide and LP comes in 16′ lengths, so that is why I chose it over another brand.  It meant I’d have no seams on the front. I got primed siding vs. painted because I would need to paint the front to match the vinyl siding.  I was able to take my vinyl siding sample to Sherwin Williams to have them color match it.  Their machine is able to tell you which of their paints is a close match.  My vinyl siding color was Cypress, a light green.  Due to Covid the darker forest green, which I would have preferred due to it being the original color of house, was not available.  Sherwin Williams had two greens that were close to my custom color, At Ease Soldier and Honed Soapstone.  I pulled the companion colors for them and decided I liked the color combination of Honed Soapstone best.  My exterior color pallet had been chosen; Moderne White, Aged White, and Subdued Sienna and my custom green.

Huber Lumber Co. recommended Jaime Spencer with Spencer Construction to install the siding. They did a great job. I tried to get at least one coat of paint on the boards before they hung them, but the delivery was delayed by a day and with the cold, the paint didn’t dry fast enough to get it all painted. From the beginning I was pleased with their work ethic and performance. With the vinyl siding gone from the side of the house I discovered the side door once had a portico over it. I started discussions with them to rebuild that, a new landing for the side door, and the front porch. I gave them a positive review, paid the before the job was finished (by only a few hours) and thought I had a great rapport with them, but they fell off the face of the earth after the siding. Repeated calls and emails went unanswered, so they became a one and done contractor. At this point I knew I was creating something special. Inez looked stunning half painted and without the porch.