Adam Sanregret, Lead Agent of Cincinnati Historic Homes, found his 6th home restoration project–3071 Sidney Avenue in Cincinnati’s historic neighborhood of Camp Washington–in April 2019. Nine months have passed…the work is done, right?
Well, not quite…
When Adam bought the nearly 2700-square-foot Second Empire home, the interior was already partially demolished. It had no intact kitchen, bathrooms, utilities, and no insulation.
Adam’s plan was to turn what was originally an 1885 multi-generational home into a single family home. He wanted to restore as much of its original features as possible yet also throw in some floorplan changes as a welcome to the 21st century.
To retain as much original character as possible, he planned to pay particular attention to the following features: windows; floors; doors; fireplaces; original moldings; and the home’s exterior stylistic elements.
The success of restoring a house relies on solid planning, being prepared for what lies ahead and, knowing that there will be some surprises (there always are with house projects!).
When Adam first saw 3071 Sidney Avenue, he knew that the scope of the project was beyond what he could plan and manage himself.
So he hired an architect to plan the project. And then he hired a general contractor. Only then could the work begin.
First Things First
There is an orderly process to completing a whole house restoration. Certain things should be done earlier rather than later because subsequent projects are impacted by them.
First off, make sure your foundation is good by addressing any structural problems and look to the roof and sides to see if things are remaining dry. You don’t want the house to collapse in the middle of your restoration! And we all know how damaging water infiltration can be–what’s the point of restoring something if it’s just going to be mucked up by water?
Luckily, 3071 Sidney Avenue has a good foundation and dry basement. There was evidence of water damage focused around some of the windows and doors so Adam planned to repair those earlier on in the process. The roof was relatively new so it didn’t need replacement straight off.
Adam’s Tip #1: Check that roof thoroughly. Even if you thought it is good at purchase, have a professional roofer check again!
If a house has exterior siding or stucco in such poor condition that water can infiltrate it, repair or replacement is also a good idea. 3071 Sidney Avenue is interesting because it has asbestos-cement siding that was put on in the 1920s.
Asbestos-cement, a mixture of Portland cement reinforced with asbestos fibers, was developed in 1905. It has a number of advantages. For example, it is highly fire resistant and pretty easy to clean and maintain. Unlike other siding materials, such as wood clapboard, asbestos-cement siding does not quickly soak up paint, which allows it to be easily painted. One disadvantage, however, is that it can be brittle.
Adam determined that some of Sidney’s siding tiles first needed replacement because they were too brittle or broken, and then he painted the exterior of the house as added protection. He painted the wood trim too, which is always a good maintenance measure. We are certain his new neighbors were secretly pleased this project was done too!
After the exterior and foundation of a house were in good shape, the remaining work began. To date, the project is probably up to step #4, with some of step #6 done:
1) Interior demolition. Although Sidney’s interior was partially demolished when Adam bought it, as one would expect, the word “partial” can be relative. Basically, he had to demolish any extra areas of the house that would be worked on and remove the debris.
Adam’s Tip #2: It’s usually better to err on the side of a larger dumpster than you think you need when doing demo work. The debris seems to expand like a goldfish in a small bowl!
2) Structural carpentry. Based on Sidney’s Master Plan, this work focused on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The second floor will have a study, full bath, and two bedrooms, one of which will have a large walk-in closet that opens up to the bathroom. This bedroom will also have an original pocket door opening up from the study. The third floor will contain a master suite with full bath, laundry room, walk-in closet, and sitting room.
3) Utilities. With the walls and ceilings open, it’s time for the HVAC ductwork to be installed for central heating and air conditioning. Sidney also needed new electric and pluming systems and this is the time to move or install any gas lines.
Adam’s Tip #3: If winter is coming, get your heating system installed and up and running. Your contractor’s will thank you!
4) Insulation. If there was insulation in the house, Adam never saw it. It is possible it was removed prior to him purchasing the home. After utilities have been laid in, the walls and ceiling can be insulated.
Adam’s Tip #4: Insulation goes fast, so make sure that your drywall company is ready to go soon after this.
5) Drywall. Time to close up the walls! After the walls are up and the drywall compound is dry, the walls get sanded smooth so they are seamless.
Adam’s Tip #5: Historic homes have done most of their settling way before you got in there, so at least that factor shouldn’t count toward any future cracks.
6) Additional window repair or replacement. Adam planned to retain the majority, if not all, of the original windows.
Sometimes people that buy old homes think installing new replacement windows is the way to go. However, the energy efficiency of restored and weather-stripped windows, when combined with a decent storm window, is usually pretty close to that of a typical replacement window.
They also don’t make windows like they used to. Most modern insulated glass will fail in less than 25 years because the seal between the sheets of glass fails and the glass fogs up. Modern sashes are also not easy to repair. If one breaks, a replacement is often necessary.
Historic windows have parts that are readily available and most handy homeowners can replace sash cords, fix a broken pane or install weatherstripping.
Adam’s Tip #6: In addition to how weathertight original windows actually can be, don’t forget to consider the aesthetic value that this historic feature brings to your home.
7) Fine carpentry. This includes baseboards, molding, trim around windows and doors, and built-in elements.
8) Interior Surface Finishes. This includes painting interior walls, and painting or staining molding and trim. This is very detail-oriented work and should be one of the last items tackled as this work would be damaged by other needed work.
9) Flooring. There is a debate: should you paint before installing or sanding your flooring or after?
Adam Tip #7: Undecided on whether to paint first or do your floors? Keep in mind that laying flooring first means that paint might get on the flooring; Painting first means that the floor sander may scuff your walls.
10) Additional exterior improvements. This includes things like gutter and porches. Adam did not have the existing front porch painted. The porch, which also has asbestos-cement siding on it, was built in the 1920s. He plans to re-build it to have a more “late 80s” look, late 1880s that is!
Stay tuned! This is the 4rd post in an ongoing series documenting Adam’s restoration project: an 1885 Second Empire home. If you missed our previous posts, click here. Join us as our story continues!
If you are in the midst of your own home restoration project, or, itching to buy that fixer-upper you always drive by on the way to work, give us a call! We would love to talk to you about it and assist you in any way we can.
Below is a gallery of Adam’s work-in-progress photos.
A Camp Washington Restoration: Adventures in Wood Stripping and Floor Refinishing