30 Minute Zoom Made My Day!

I follow several of my favorite HGTV/DIY shows on Facebook and Instagram, but never in a million years did I ever expect I’d have an opportunity to interact with one of them. Well that is exactly what happened at 11:20 pm Monday night. Last June, Nicole Curtis @rehabaddict posted a fundraiser event on her page to raise money in honor of Tessa, the daughter of one of her construction crew members (Bobby) who lost her battle with cancer at age 9 in 2017. Love, Team Tessa proceeds go towards building projects for families going through similar battles. I’ve bought a t-shirt in the past, but last year anyone donating $150 or more would receive a 30-minute Zoom with Nicole. SOLD! I was in the throws of restoring Ms. Inez so of course I wanted to pick the brain of a woman who inspired me to want to restore old houses.

Needless to say she underestimated her fan base. I can only imagine the 1000s of responses she received, but my turn in the cue finally came up. I got an email from her assistant stating she had times Monday night at 10:40 and 11:20 and in the afternoon on Thursday. I responded that if still available, I’d take the 11:20, but I also sent exterior before and after pics of Ms. Inez and shared a link to my Restoration Complete post letting her know if the spot was gone it was OK to take me off the list since my project was complete. About an hour later I got a response “Gorgeous!!!!! We are adding you to the 11:20 est tonight. Congrats on the Sales!!! I was emailed the link and at 11:20 I had one of the best 30 minute conversations of life. I can ride this high for the rest of the year.

The 30-minutes went by so fast. She actually took time prior to go through my post. She admired the restoration of the front door knob and knew instantly the house’s age because of that hardware. I now can stop beating myself up over taking a year to complete my flip. Her first flip, where she did most of the work herself, prior to having a crew, took her five years! One of her houses in Detroit took over two years, primarily because she wouldn’t compromise on finding the right sized salvage door for the entry. I totally related to that. She found the door at Columbus Architectural Salvage, a store I used to find the last missing interior door at my house and the living room closet door at the flip. We talked about windows, wood vs. vinyl, and I shared how I was able to find a craftsman that made my diamond window. She said sometime she’s in need of people that can make wood windows, so I shared my contact (Tim Jansen, Cincinnati Wood Products) with her in chat.

She was so down to earth and so true to the persona you see on her show. We were just two women talking about our love of restoring old houses. I’m grinning ear to ear just writing this. Darn Zoom cut off right at 30-minutes, but within minutes she sent me an email that stated: “We got cut off. It’s Nicole and I just wanted to tell you that your zoom made my day.  Please keep in touch. And I will be sure to let you know when our next event in Detroit happens (come up and be one of the house guides -we make it a great party). Have a wonderful night!!” I am so there. We were on the same brainwave, as I sent a similar message to her assistant volunteering to make a run to Columbus for her if she needed something and her crew didn’t have time to go it. To that she replied “Will do!!!” and asked if she could share my blog. Of course I said yes.

This Zoom was more validation for me. Nicole said she hoped I’d work on another house. I hope20230213_123950 so too. My soul needs another old house to save. In the meantime I have at least been inspired to start writing about the Sidney house journey, something I was considering not doing. This call was the perfect ending to a great day as I can officially announce that Phase 2: The Garage project is under way at my Henshaw property. After weeks of searching and waiting JT King & Co., land surveyor, came out to stake the foundation corners. That allowed me to move forward with scheduling Wood Fundi Pavement, LLC, based in Camp Washington, and Neiman Plumbing to start the concrete and plumbing work on the foundation.  My goal is to have a tenant in the apartment by fall.

Print Screen from my Zoom with Nicole Curtis.

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.


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.


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.

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.

A Jewel in the Queen City

20210909_165121When I discovered the original porch post under layers of old siding I was ecstatic.  I’ve watched enough HGTV shows to know it could be replicated, but I didn’t have a clue on how to make that happen in Cincinnati, so I turned first to Gene Wiggs, a person I met that is a fabulous woodworker and member of the Cincinnati Woodworking Club.  He said I needed to find a wood turner, but he didn’t know any that could turn such a long piece.  Armed with the correct terminology I turned to Google where I found several options in the United States and Canada, but none in Cincinnati.  One company in Canada actually offered my exact post.  Shipping cost made them not an option, so I turned to Huber Hardware that stocks porch post.  They only offered two styles and many of the houses on the street and even Henshaw where I live had them.  

They would cost about $325/post, but I wanted my unique original design, so I kept looking. I found Art Woodworking and Manufacturing located in the Northside, so I gave them a call. They didn’t do that type of work, but they suggested I call Custom Woodturning located in Saylor Park and the search was over. I spoke with owner Dan Hogan, shared measurements and pictures and within a few days I received a quote to duplicate my exact post. Well not exact. The bottom, squared, section will be extended to accommodate modern code for railings, if I elect to add them. Due to height of porch, they are not required. The cost only $90 more per post, well worth it in my opinion.

I strapped the one, damaged post I had to the top of my Ford Escape (like I was towing my kayak) and found my way to his unassuming shop. If I would have been allowed and had the time to do it I would have gone to his shop everyday he worked on them just to watch his artistry live. Instead Dan was kind enough to share pictures through the various stages.

I actually have not seen the post in person and I can’t wait. Ben has been kind enough to store them for me as I continue to deal with mounting setbacks of unexpected discoveries at the house. This aspect of the project has exceeded my expectations.

Additional comment:  The owner of the house next to mine is elevating its exterior, which should bode well for my resell value.  Like with the front of mine there was extensive rot, so he will be tearing off the porch and rebuilding.  His contractor brought his porch post to the site today, purchased from Huber Lumber and I captured this picture of the ends of them……hollow.  Validation I made the right decision shelling out a few $100s more extra money well spent.

Time to Bless This Flip

I’m tired. I honestly feel like I’m working multiple full-time jobs, so keeping my post up to date has just not been possible. Progress is happening and I will back track and write post to share this experience. I think people can learn from my naïveté. If you can think of an extreme roller coaster and the thrills and chills it provides, that has been my experience thus far on this flip. The looks on the face of the two front seat riders are point on. I hope I’ll be all smiles at the end.

Some of my long time followers will remember that for my house I held an event called Bless This House Gathering, where I held a reception and invited family and friends to write words of encouragement/scripture/positive messages in the walls before I closed them up. I can’t stop progress to throw a party now, but I am inviting everyone who wants to email me any positive message and I will print and place them in the cavities before drywall begins. I’m hopeful I’ll be at that stage in the next 6-8 weeks, sooner if possible.

I am still amazed that people from around the world, 60+ countries, have read my blog. I’m looking forward to receiving international entries, so I hope they will come through. This is my home away from home most weekday evenings and weekends, so if you’re local, have my cell or personal email(s) (that way I know, I know you) and you want to stop by and handwrite your message, send me a text or email and I’ll make that happen.

Thanks in advance and here are a few pics to show the progress being made.

The Whole Porch and Former Outhouse Gotta Go

$1000 is what two contractors wanted to demo what remained of the porch off the front of the house. I felt I had done the hard part already, the front and side rails. I decided to save that money and tear down the ceiling myself. One of the contractors offered advice, go purchase some sheets of plywood, cover the windows, and take a sledge hammer to the two post and let gravity have its way. Such a manly way of handling things. I took two weekday evenings and a more systematic approach. I had a gaping hole on the front of the house that needed sheathing and I knew I’d have another hole on the rear of the house to close up once the bump out on the back was taken off, so I looked at the porch as building material, IF, the rot didn’t go much further. The decking for the roof ceiling was the same material as the house sheathing, old pine 8″ tongue and groove. If I could keep the pieces long enough I could use them to patch.

When I’m working alone on a project that could cause injuries taking photos is low on my priority list, so again my apologies you can’t see the true progression. The guys that bailed out my demo day were able to get all the bead board ceiling boards out. I could have saved some of the boards for a woodworking project, but they were so filled with paint that I pitched all of it in the dumpster. It left me with just true 2×4 rafter studs, the tongue and groove sheathing, and the metal roof. The metal roof was attach to a ledger board that had clear signs of rot across about a third its length. I installed a temporary 2×4 post in the center and selected a spot on the house where I thought I’d hit sound wood.

Using my reciprocating saw I cut through all the layers starting at the house and working my way through the box gutter. I then freed each 2×4 rafter in that area, which freed the sheathing. Any nails that held the metal roof to the sheathing had rusted and weakened rendering them useless. It really didn’t take much effort. With all the wood and weight gone I hit the left post with a sledge hammer and the metal roof folded down. I used a a crow bar to free it from the house. The next evening I returned and followed the same steps on the remaining section. $1,000 saved, no injuries. It was clear to me that from the porch ledger board down I would need to take the house down to the sheathing and I was contemplating doing the entire front. It was starting to feel like a Good Bones TV show house.

Before I could start tearing off the back I needed to close the hole in the foundation that was made, I’m guessing, when the house was plumbed for indoor plumbing. What was once an outhouse became a plumbed toilet. That was a fine idea for the early 1900s, but why someone would think it was fine to keep it and add a shower pan and vanity to make it a 3pc bathroom in 2010 is beyond comprehension. I knew I was going to need new sidewalks and a porch top (with the center post removed all the weight transferred to the outer post causing the porch to crack on each end), so I called a friend who a few years earlier had her driveway and porch done. I am not going to mention the company by name as ultimately I did not use him and I would not recommend him, but he came through in closing up the hole. Actually he even helped me out by hauling away another load of bagged debris.

The window, wood, is the structure that was the toilet, located outside of house.

Criminal is the word I’ll use for the decision to leave what was once an outhouse as one part of a three piece bathroom that sacrificed half of a kitchen. I so wish I had taken pictures, but I was focused on tearing it out in a timely manner as I needed to make sure I had time to close the hole.  I found one that I took to capture original wallpaper, but the wood you see in the background was the toilet room.  The wood structure wasn’t crafted to any modern code and yet newer insulation had been stuffed in the gaps. It was a hot mess that was fortified because the poorly constructed frame had been covered in asphalt siding, a thin layer of foam insulation and then vinyl siding attached by what seemed like 1000s nails. I thought it funny that the owners who installed the asphalt siding wanted a toilet with a view (see glow on left), but the owners who installed the vinyl siding covered, but did not insulate or close the opening on the inside. Can you imagine how cold it must have been using that toilet in the winter. At any rate, it took me the better part of a Saturday to rip the structure off. My footing was precarious as I was working over an open pit that was once a latrine.

I used the true 2x4s I salvaged from the front porch to stud out the opening. I used the porch roof sheathing to close the hole. Two layers of the sheathing brought the opening even with the original wood siding of the house, which was in pristine condition. That would have made a nice feature wall in the toilet room, but not nice enough to keep it. Another layer of sheathing will be needed to make that section even with asphalt siding. The vinyl will be replaced as underneath it are two windows that had been covered. WHY??????? Based on bids I had gotten I’ll claimed that I saved myself about $6,000 doing this work myself.

Demo Days

The pee pot has been resurrected.

The rot on the front porch and wall of 2nd bedroom left no doubt as to my need take the house down to the studs, despite the previous owner passing his plumbing and electrical rough-in by cutting channels in the plaster.  Most of what he installed I’m not using, so my first task after closing was removing the framing and HVAC ducts he had placed on the first floor.  Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses, but not a full 3pc bathroom located off a kitchen you cut in half to accommodate said bathroom.  Tearing all the framing out took the better part of a weekend, but I was able to do it by myself and man what a difference it made to the space.  This is going to be one gorgeous kitchen.

After exposing brick in my house I was curious to find out what was behind the plaster of the living room fireplace. Gorgeous condition and unlike at my house the plaster gave way with ease. I had the entire fireplace freed in about an hour. My guess is this house had a pot belly stove for heat when originally built as the square hole you see held a round pipe that had been filled with concrete. The inside of the fireplace has been bricked shut, so it will not be functioning, at least not with my money. I’ve got plans to close the opening that will leave my mark. I’ll also need to complete the row at the top as the ceiling drywall won’t completely cover the gap.

A neighbor who purchased and restored the house at the corner of Sidney and Stock, referred me to two brothers that he used for demo projects he had. I gave them a shot and they cleared the drywall, insulation, and nails from the 3rd floor in less than 3 hours. Everything was bagged and on the first floor when I returned. Unfortunately their quality of work ended with that project. I gave them two more shots and now have deleted them from my phone.

My cousin Greg and his wife Roneisha

Thankfully my cousin Greg and his wife Roneisha made themselves available. They demoed over half of the second floor by themselves giving me a few hours several weekday mornings. We made three trips to Rumpke with a rental 15′ U-Haul truck. At that point it was time to get a large dumpster. Based on my house I felt a 30-yard would get everything left, but I could only find a 20-yard. I had Greg and the brothers from the 3rd floor project lined up to work on a Saturday and the brothers didn’t show up (that was the final straw). In a panic I called Greg’s brother, Cameron, hoping he either had his schedule free or would be willing to change it and more importantly could round up some of his friends at the last minute. Anyone that followed my house restoration posts knows Cameron. He was highly instrumental in working with me and my father during the first year of that project.

Cameron came through BIG TIME. I wish I had pictures, but these men had every room, but the living room down to the studs and the dumpster filled in 6 hours. I was right about the size dumpster. A 30-yard would have taken it all, but it worked out for the best because as they worked inside, I worked to see how far the rot on the porch went. It went far. I was able to get the front and side railings off and what I uncovered made my flesh crawl; carpenter ants and termites. The ants scurried like roaches in light with each piece of vinyl and asphalt siding I removed. I pulled a section of wood about a foot long that had hundreds of termites. I’ve actually never seen live termites before. Thankfully all of the insect infested material went in the dumpster. If you look to the far right corner of house in this picture what you see next to the window is the plaster and lathe from the living room, not house sheathing. If they had removed that area you could enter the house from that corner.

Now if you’re thinking, oh man she must be so disappointed and upset finding all that rot. That reality sunk in later, but on that day I was ecstatic over finding the original porch post. Once again, channeling one of my favorite DIY show host, @NicoleCurtis, “Why in the world would anyone cover that up!” The post on the left was destroyed with insect and water rot. So much so I had to attach a 2×4 to it to make sure it continued to support the porch roof. The one on the right would have been in pristine condition if not for the section someone cut out of it to create a flat surface to attach the asphalt and subsequent vinyl siding. Inez (remember that’s what I’ve named the house) revealed to me some of the beauty that had once been. I know where brackets on the porch once were. I know half post were once attached to the house. I know three post use to go across the front and that she had picket railings. All these things will be returned, so officially this is no longer a first flip, it’s my second restoration, that I hope I’ll be able to turn a profit on.

Or as Kathleen calls it…your terrace is flipping gorgeous

My friends Joan and Rick offered me their gorgeous teak bistro set, one they had for years. When I asked why they said because the chairs were hard to slide in and out due to the concrete surface of their condo terrace. I suggested sliders. They had tried those, but the concrete eventually wins the battle. I then remembered Cassandra telling me about an Ikea product she was considering for the floor of the greenhouse I helped her build. I found the product on my phone and shared the link with Joan. They decided to go for it, but needed some help from their Sista Girl with Skills friend. I love lying tile, so thought this click system would be a piece of cake and for the most part it was.

It took two full days (6-8 hour days) to do the entire terrace largely due to their desire to run the tile to the edge of their terrace, which curves and forced a need to cut around railing anchors. Rick found a couple of of videos people had posted showing the installation. One was cute, the other unrealistic if you have a bunch of cuts to make. No way would a $2 hack saw get their project done. I brought to the job my jig saw and new to me scroll saw, a friend and woodworker Gene Wiggs gifted me his when he bought a new one. I ended up using the scroll saw for the entire project. They wanted the plain tile to be in a crisscross pattern and discovered it doesn’t work when placing around the ceramic tiles set in even rows. They originally had the ceramic tile starting right at the door, 6×6. I ended up changing it to 5×6 and placed the plain plastic as the first row out the door. Joan ordered enough that they were able to repeat the ceramic at both doors to the terrace even thought that was not the plan.

Overall fun project and it did turn out pretty cool. I did suggest they get new sliders for their teak furniture, which they plan to do.

The Taj Mahal in Comparison

I have wanted to work on another old house ever since I finished my home. I put in offers on a few, but lost them all to higher bids. When 3067 Sidney Avenue, next street over from me, went on the market I jumped. From the sidewalk it look to be in decent shape, I have driven on street many times and never noticed it was vacant as the grass was always cut. The inside was a different story. I would learn the seller had purchased it in 2010, started his flipping work, but then stopped in 2014 and let his permits expire. He was asking $110,000, which was way too high for the visual condition. He had his electrical and plumbing roughed in, but his plan was flawed; seemingly based on maximizing the number of occupants (at closing he told me he wired 3rd to be two bedrooms, so potentially a 5 bedroom house). I offered $60,000, was rejected, but came back at $75,000 with no inspections. I really wanted this house…..I needed this house.

My $10,000 fixer was the Taj Mahal in comparison to true condition of my first flip. They have in common starting with no plumbing, electric, or HVAC, but even with the crumbling foundation at my home the bones were solid. I had a brand new roof. I knew there was a roof leak at Sidney before I purchased, but the extent of the leak didn’t manifest until after the close and I entered the house after a hard rain. The floor of the back bedroom was saturated and that leaked down to the first floor kitchen which leaked down to the basement. The rubber roof had about 15 holes in it. Laughably at closing the seller said I could fix that myself. Although not as severe, the asphalt roof over the third floor showed signs of leakage too. Depending on which roofer contractor you listen to the box gutters were shot too (spoiler alert: the box gutters were shot too). Oh yeah, I had snakes in the basement. The pics make them look bigger than they really were. I just hope I never run into their parents.

I’m a house restorer, not renovator, so the one thing I had decided to do from the first walk through, before purchasing, was to restore all the windows back to their original heights. All of the original wood windows, except for the two in the front, had been removed and the openings reduced in size. There was filler, approx 18″, above every window, but you can see where rosettes and moulding once resided. There were two windows on the back and the only window on the right side of house completely covered. This meant I would need to remove the hideous faded yellow siding (oh darn) from the entire house to make the proper corrections.

I had this naïve notion that under the vinyl siding would be perfectly preserved original wood siding that I’d clean up and then paint as I could see mint condition original siding inside the the toilet room the seller left as part of the full bathroom he was creating on the first floor. After the closing I started pulling the siding from around the front door just out of curiosity. Unfortunately it revealed that under the vinyl was fake brick look asphalt siding and under that the original wood siding not in mint condition. The margins on this project would not allow for the removel of all the asphalt siding, so I would need to re-side the house once the windows were reframed.

I stopped removing the asphalt siding, but continued pulling the vinyl when suddenly the right corner of house crumbled to the ground. I thought the entire porch was going to fall on me. Uncontrolled water has got to be one of the worst enemies of any home. For years the down spout from the roof gutter was left to dump water on the corner of the house and to make matters worst there was a hole in the metal roof of the porch right in that area too. The vinyl siding was the only thing keeping the house in tack. The rot had gone through the asphalt siding, the wood siding, all the way to the corner post of the house. My first project was connecting a corrugated extension to the down spout to channel the water away from the corner.

Believe it or not, as bad as it looked I wasn’t overly concerned because the plaster on the inside at that area was in tact; showing no signs of water damage. Now that was not the case in the upstairs bedroom where the floors were wet from roof leak. That plaster was peeling and flaking so I decided to start removing it. For the life of me I don’t know why the seller cut channels in the plaster to run his electrical and plumbing instead of taking the whole house down to the studs. What I uncovered was wood erosion and mold, so extensive that the first roof joist was floating. I knew then I’d need to go down to the studs in the entire house. It would be my only way of knowing the full extent of years of neglect the house had endured. Now I am starting to feel concerned and I most definitely over paid for the house.

Earlier I said I needed this house. This house needs me too. I can see the finish clearly in my minds eye and she’s going to be beautiful again. What isn’t as clear is if she’s going to yield profitability, but as my sign states….I’ll do it right or not at all.

Penofin, Does a Pergola Good

This is a very delayed post and I almost decided to not write it, but Penofin deserves the plug. I’m a real fan of the product line. Staining the pergola was my first maintenance project for my home. I did this work in May. The natural wood was so pretty when I built it, I thought about leaving it natural, but wood greys as it ages. I decided to stick with the plan and applied Ultra Premium Red Label Penofin in Mission Brown, to match the porch ceiling.

When I did the porch I followed Penofin’s suggested three step process, Cleaner, Brightener, Stain. That was a small, solid, area of almost 100 year old wood that had been covered in layers of paint.  Of course that process was needed. I was hoping that would not be the case with a barely 6 month old pergola, but I called Penofin just to make sure. The agent held firm to their process, so I followed and started by removing the top course of the pergola. I thought it would be easier cleaning them and applying the stain to the entire structure with them removed. I leaned them on the backyard fence and proceeded with the Cleaner. Immediately I could see why the agent stuck to her guns. The beauty of the first two steps is that you can go immediately from Cleaner to Brightener. With the top course complete I moved on and did the same steps on the rest of the pergola after wrapping my columns in plastic and draping plastic on front of house.

That was all I was able to do on the first weekend because the only store that carries the product locally, Doeppes Lumber, did not have Mission Brown in stock. They would have to order it in, so I decided to get it from Amazon where I knew I’d have it delivered to my door in two days. The mistake I made was only ordering one gallon. The project took two, so two-weekends stretched into three. I finished the staining on Saturday and re-installed the top row on Sunday. That was the most tedious aspect of this project. I don’t know if I’ll remove it again when it’s time to reapply.