Paper Anniversary Retrospective Part 2: Destruction

With a new floor plan sketched out and handed to my plumber, I turned a few minor repairs into gutting half the second floor. In other words, I had my work cut out for me. But what was the next thing I worried about? Doors. The interior doors upstairs in my house were a bit of a mess. Half hollow flat, half hollow raised panel. One was a different height than the others, the flat ones were beat up, the raised paneled ones were poorly installed, and they all had mismatched crappy hardware and sloppy paint jobs to boot.


And yes, that is a door connecting two of the bedrooms. This is a thing in Philly, and these things give the city charm, but I didn’t keep it that way. Anyways, back to planning for the future, I wanted big tall doors to go with the big closets I just committed to adding to the bedrooms. Trouble is, I couldn’t find anything except hollow raised paneled doors, and even those would have cost 300 bucks a pop. My first instinct was to cut my losses with the upstairs interior doors, admit that in the mid-century era the awesome original doors were ripped out, and instead restore the house to that period with solid flat doors cut from Apple Ply, a high end plywood that I could order in the right thickness with a good veneer.

Then, bis surprise, salvage yard had 5 matching Victorian doors! This was enough to have all the doors in the upstairs hall match. I took them without even checking the sizes. The bedroom closets could wait till later. And what do you know? They were all the right sizes! And this one’s even the right shape!


Now I still needed to figure out the closets. How exactly does one put historically accurate doors onto usable (read: historically inaccurate) closets? My answer? Buy awesome doors from a mansion. They don’t match anything in the house but they’re great. And because thrifting my doors (which were still three times the price of cheap new doors and in need of extensive restoration) a road trip to North Jersey to buy Marvin windows on Craigslist.

And in between all this was the demo. Here’s what used to lie beneath my bathroom floor. I don’t miss it.


I thought this path of destruction would be limited to a few parts of the house, but over time it spread.

June 2013: I bit the bullet and realized I had a lot of demo to do. Those living room ceilings have to go. They were 3 layers thick, the visible layer nailed directly to old Sunday school ceiling tiles. That’s what I’ll call them, and they don’t remind me of churches’ best architectural choices. Here you can see all 3 ceilings.


I should have done that before having the new bathroom plumbed, but too late to worry about that. Anyways, do you remember just how much mess this demolition work made? Want to be reminded again?

P1010511So my plan was to have someone with a truck cart this out. I looked into places that would recycle construction debris, and although moral, they’re really expensive. But at least if someone else picked it up it wouldn’t all have to go in bags. If I lived in the suburbs I’d have gotten a dumpster, but can’t see how that would work here. Half the city would be throwing their trash in. But the removal estimate was a whopping 8 grand! The solution? A bagster! It got rid of half the mess in one day; the other half went bit by bit into my parents’ and their neighbors’ trash cans. I put it out in front of my own house even though I know the city won’t take it. Eventually I got caught. They asked for a bribe and threatened me with a ticket if I had that stuff out again without one. So hauling it out of the city was the answer. Well, at least it worked.


There we go, $200, a month and a half of my life, and 6 months of putting my trash in other people’s cans after this. That’s more like it. And I lost weight to boot!

And through all this mess, I also craved pretty things, so when I wasn’t at the house I spent some of my time doing something useless: stripping hardware for interior doors. P1010422

And what exactly are those awesome art deco back plates doing in the coffee maker? Well, hot water with baking soda or soap is a good way to get the paint off. Normal people use crock pots but I’m too cheap to pay Goodwill prices for something I’ll use only a couple of times, and my parents happened to have a beaker from a broken coffee maker in the basement. Using it for this gave a purpose one of the more useless things in their hoard.

August 2013: Pretty dismal, eh? Well now that we’re past the demo it gets worse. I knew having a 6 inch height difference across a bedroom floor (in a small bedroom) was too much slope. I knew, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do something about it. In the end I did. Well I decided to do it, but my dad and I did it. This new wood is cut curved to fit onto the old joists and make their tops flat. Then the original floor will get glued onto the new subfloor to make it look like it was always like this.


Oh and I finished obsessing over tile for the bathroom and let Craigslist (and a great bargain) do the choosing for me.

September 2013: All right, let’s wrap up this subfloor and get the windows in. I need to be ready for insulation before it gets cold so we can work in here during the winter. If not I’ll never be able to meet my February move-in deadline. I was still getting rid of construction debris too. But it was almost gone.

Then I realized how bad the stucco was. Water getting behind it, flashing installed backwards, lots of other siding underneath. I couldn’t just cut a hole in this and stick the new, bigger windows in. It all had to come off.

All right, we should be able to get these windows in in a day right? Well there, we got the wall cut open. Tomorrow then. Nope? How about Wednesday? Let’s get that plastic up again. There! Finally! And they’re gorgeous. Really, they made me pickier. I love them.



4 thoughts on “Paper Anniversary Retrospective Part 2: Destruction

  1. curt

    Great job Chad! That’s the way an epic renovation goes – it’s one thing after another if you want to do it right. I’m glad you highlight the trash disposal dilemma. People talk about renovations and not enough about all the efforts needed to get rid of all the debris in a big city. It’s pretty easy in our area- I’ve used four 40 yard dumpsters plus lots of building rubble put in the weekly trash. It’s hard work getting rid of the stuff.


  2. Pingback: Looking back over year 2 | Chad's Crooked House

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