Restoration Complete

The house is sold; it never went on the market. Mounting pressures and growing negative energy from too many sources pushed me to accept an unsolicited offer from an opportunistic real estate agent that has had a front row seat to witness the physical work and high quality I put into the house. What started as “I have friends that would like to see your house” followed soon after with an offer that was insulting in its amount and delivery. It was presented as a “first and only” and a veiled attempt to explain why I should accept. Paraphrasing: Venus, a few months ago I would have told you to turn this offer down, but given what is happening in the economy, with interest rates, you should take this. It’s the best offer you’re going to get. I turned it down with no counter-offer stating I would not show it to anyone else until it was completely finished. I was fully aware that the Feds decision to increase interest rates to fight inflation was diminishing my buyer pool, but I still had belief that the quality of my work stood above the limited “flip” product inventory in the market and could yield a higher price.

A few days later the agent returned with another offer, $20,000 higher than the “first and only” and a whisper just between the agent and me that I could counter $5,000 higher. After talking with some friends, one in the real estate industry, I countered that offer $38,150 higher than their “first and only” and they accepted a selling price of $288,150, which may be the highest priced single-family home sold in Camp Washington. This project was doomed to loose money almost from the start. Overpaying for a house that was riddled with unseen and unexpected rot, insect infestation, mold, not to code electrical rough-in and a layout in the original roughed-in plumbing and HVAC that yielded all that work useless was the first hit. Supply chain issues; soaring cost for building material (2x4s doubled in cost from the first one I purchased to the last), impact of Covid-19, poor contractor selections, and my unwillingness to deter from the path of “restoration” vs “renovation” elevated my budget thousands above my original projections. I knew I had spent more than what the house would appraise for given its location in Camp Washington. I’m still tallying receipts, but the early results support my first flip was a financial flop with 100% of my labor donated.

The contract was written with these terms: “Inspection period of 5 days shall commence at complete of construction. Intent to proceed and ordering of appraisal shall commence 7 days post completion of inspection. Closing shall be 25 days post completion of construction.” That was not what I was given. Prior to signing I was told the buyer needed to be under contract in order to lock in their interest rate. After signing I was presented with information the buyer only had 30-days to close to maintain their interest rate. They wanted to close on November 4. I was still laying tile to allow my plumbers to return for my scheduled appointment in the last week of October to set fixtures and get final inspection. My electric final inspection hadn’t been scheduled at all. I physically could not meet that date, nor the subsequent date request of November 18. The pressure placed on me was insane and I was on the verge of backing out. I was finally in my “wheelhouse” of finish carpentry and tile work and I couldn’t enjoy the process of getting them complete due to the whip lashes being struck against my back. A late revision in the contract that increased my take-home and a new date of November 28 was given, so I stayed under contract.

The buyers were closing on the sell of their house on November 23 and wanted to complete my purchase on the same day. I thought what a wonderful Thanksgiving Day gift to myself, so I set sights on that date too. Tim Miller, a general contractor that I will talk about more in a future post, reworked his clients to provide me 11 days of his service and thanks to him I held an Open House on Sunday, November 20. I felt I earned the right to show family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors what I had accomplished after a year of hard labor. I was still hanging molding and my painters were still painting the Friday prior, so I didn’t post the announcement it was happening until the day before. The house was not 100% complete, but Ms. Inez was still absolutely stunning. About 30 people, including the future owners and their friends, stopped by. They seemed genuinely pleased and repeatedly said its beautiful, you do beautiful work, which I appreciated hearing. Judith from the Cincinnati Preservation Association took these pics for me.

I had a fairly heavy punch list to complete and needed to clean out my tools from the basement by the 23rd. Three weeks of 4-hours or less of sleep per night and further eroding any chance to be profitable by hiring help to be ready for the close and 2 hours before I was texted it would not happen due to issues with the buyer’s lender. The appraisal came in at $249,000 and it was being questioned. I had no wind under my sails to tackle the punch list after receiving the news. I finished installing the three third floor windows, so the house would be secure and I left the remaining list undone. I went home, collapsed into bed and got 6+ hours of sleep for the first time in months. I had already rented a U-Haul truck to move out my equipment and it sat in the backyard until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I did little work at the house on Thanksgiving Day, trying to make the most of a day I thought would be a celebration of a job well done.

Friday I started tackling the punch list. One major item I had not done was installing the shelves in the kitchen pantry. I planned to use the same melamine drilled boards I used in my pantry. This pantry is deeper than mine, so I decided to spend a little extra and get the 15.75 wide boards. Tom Milfeld installed my units, but I watched and learned. I knew only one side of a panel would hit a stud, so I purchased Hillman pop toggles, which is what Tom used. Only finished photos, but I screwed a 2×4, leveled, into studs of the back wall. This ensured both sides would be even and provided me a third hand. Next step was checking my wall for squareness. I remember this being a problem at my house, if the front and back of a panel aren’t close to alignment your shelf cuts will be off. The left side was very close, I would just need to shim the outer edge before adding the screws that would go into the stud. The right side was way off, so before I hung that panel I glued a 3/8″ strip of wood (that was the gap I measured) to the outer edge.

I rested a panel on the 2×4, pushing it tight to the rear corner and put my level on the edge to make sure it was close or on the mark to be straight. Once confirmed I drilled through 3 of the peg holes (top, middle, bottom) until I hit the drywall. That provided me the mark to anchor the pop toggle. The screws that came with the pack were not long enough, so I went to Ace Hardware in Clifton and bought six, 2.5″ screws. I put the panel back on the 2×4 and drove the screws through the drilled holes and into the pop toggle. Worked like a charm. I marked where the stud would hit on the outer edge and drilled pilot holes at the top, middle and bottom; then drove in Hillman, white headed, wood screws. All the shelves measured close to 31 1/4″ in the front and back, which means my checking the squareness was spot on. I taped my cut line before running the boards in my miter saw. I ran 3/4″ moulding on the sides to hide the shims and buildout. Less than an hour this project was done.

I needed to grout the gap between the tile and the transition moulding I had installed. It meant mixing three different batches as there was a different color of grout in each area impacted. I absolutely loved how those strips turned out. I had them custom made by Arts Woodworking & Manufacturing. The original plan was to use some of the pine flooring I had harvested from the house, but I had to ensure I had removed all the nails and I didn’t trust I had. They made them out of yellow pine, that I stained with Old World Masters Wiping Stain, color Early American (same stain I used on the handrail and pony wall top cap) that I bought from Oakley Paint and Glass. I then covered with two coats of polyurethane. They blend seamlessly into the original pine floors.

I put the knobs on my salvage doors. I, unfortuntely , splattered some of my cleaning solution from the doors on the walls in a few areas, so that added touch up painting to the punch list. Those were the most time consuming projects, so with them complete I started cleaning up the basement. My trash pile was larger than what I had told my trash hauler it would be. I knew he’d need to make two runs or bring a second trailer. I’ve had piles that big before and knew he’d charge more than what taking it to Rumpke myself would be. Since I had the U-Haul I made the decision to haul it myself. Doing that also gave me an opportunity to clean out my basement. It was 3am by the time I got everything loaded and unloaded into my basement and my trash loaded into the truck.

Rumpke is only open 8-11:30a on Saturday, so I hit the ground early as I had a lot of trash to load in that truck. I actually filled it completely. This project started with me making trash runs with my cousin Greg to Rumpke. It seemed a fitting end that I made the final Rumpke run by myself given I had done so much of the restoration work by myself. It would not be an exaggeration to say I did 80% or more of the construction related work as a solo act. I still shake my head in awe of what I accomplished.

Sunday I did my touch up painting and final clean, so that I can take the after pictures that matched the before pictures I had from the real estate listing when I bought the house. Roughly 15 months from my purchase date, Ms. Inez was complete. If asked what are my favorite parts of the restoration? Easy, restoring the original fascia (putting the corbels and rosettes back on the front), installing exact replicas of the original porch post, and the last minute decision to obtain skeleton keys for the front and bedroom doors, so the deadbolt portion of the mortise lock would work. All of those doors were in their original jambs with original strike plates. I asked the owner of Camp Washington Hardware if it were possible to find skeleton keys. He told me the only place that would have them is Hartke Hardware. I’ve been told about this place many times and have always wanted to stop in. Another jewel in the queen city. The front door lock has slots for two skeleton keys. He explained to me that the top slot was for the servant’s key. The functionality of that area could not be fixed, but the main deadbolt he was able to get working along with the two bedroom doors. Again in awe I even thought to make this happen.

I’ve already been asked if I would do another house. In the midst of the battle my answer was an emphatic NO. However meeting Tim Miller and having the opportunity to work with him changes that answer. He was the missing contractor link for this project. If I had met him at the start of this project the added stress of rising interest rates would never have come into play. My radar antenna is up for sure, but the economy needs to settle first.

So here is the moment you’ve been waiting for, before and after photos.

The Exterior

The front was a manual color match of vinyl siding used on the sides and back. The accent colors are the companion colors to Sherwin Williams’ closet match to the manual. Main trim is Modern White and accent trim is Aged White (corbels and window rosettes) and Subdued Sienna.

Living/Dining Room

I played around with all the companion colors from the exterior colors and landed on Aesthetic White as my primary interior color. All the ceilings throughout the house and the walls in the living/dining rooms, hall , laundry, and closets are painted with this color. The trim is Pure White. Powder room is the exception where I pulled in the exterior colors as they matched the cool, clearance wallpaper I found.

Kitchen

I have kitchen envy and mine is pretty cool. The previous owner had roughed in a full bathroom with the toilet on the outside of the house in what is now all kitchen. The walls are Accessible Beige, trim Aesthetic White. The cabinetry manufacturer is Merillat and is made of maple. Dovetrail drawers and soft close. The wall units are finished in Chiffon and the island is Pecan. I’m adding designer to my resume. A trained professional could not have done this design better.

Upstairs Hallway

What was a middle bedroom I converted to a 2nd floor laundry room and master bath.

Master Bedroom with Ensuite

People that are familiar with my master know I like a nook project. I converted dead space into a linen closet and recessed an old dresser into a wall. I was able to do a similar project in this master. Both bedrooms are painted with Chelsea Gray on walls. Both bathroom walls are painted in Fleur de Sel. Aesthetic White for trim. The lights, shower and vanity fixtures are Miseno. I do not like the shower heads, spray is weak in my opinion. One light fixture arrived defective, I was sent wrong light as the replacement. The screws for mounting were soft and stripped easily. I would not use this brand again, so not going to bother adding the link.

Second Bedroom

The closet system in this room and master I got from Easyclosets.com. Very affordable and very easy to install. I would not hesitate to use this product again.

Second Bathroom

The vanities in the master and second bath are from the Wyndham Collection. The tub and sink fixtures are Moen. AllI bought on Build.com

Third Floor Bedroom/Flex Space

Blue is my favorite color, so any project I do will have it placed somewhere. This is Aqua Verde, trim Aesthetic White.

Basement

Finally the basement. Nothing to scream home about, but it’s a dry basement for the most part. Will be great for storage with easy access thanks to the Bilco cellar door I installed. The owners should paint the walls with a water sealer paint. Now is the time to do that before the spring rains come again. The walls need to be completely dry to take that type of paint.

That’s it. Ms. Inez returned to her former glory. The closing happened on November 30 with a reduced appraisal value of $220,000. I’m going to look forward to writing the posts that led me to this ending. It will be nice to reflect upon all that I was able to accomplish. Restoring old houses is not what I’ve been trained to do, but I’m good at it. I’ve found purpose for existing in the two houses I’ve restored. They speak to me, guide me and give me a since of appreciation I don’t find in other aspects of my life. Plus, I need something to fill my evenings and weekends with, LOL.

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.