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tjbingha 01-08-2013 12:03 PM

NJ Colonial - Family Remodel
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I have been creeping on the forum for a while and have asked some questions and gotten good feedback, so I have decided to go a little further and start a project showcase.

Our house was built in 1910's sometime, although my deed says 1932. I found newspaper in the house from the 1914, so that is my guess but I guess I may never know.

Here are a few pics of what the home looked like when we first got it.

It is a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath house with a finished attic. The entire house was plaster. In addition, approx. 5 out of the 12 circuits were knob and tube wiring.

We knew when we purchased this house in a small town outside of Philly that we would be in for work. Something about the house just screamed "buy me" to us (by us I mean my wife). However, I felt up to the challenge.

That was September. It took me approx. 2 months to demo the house, at which time we uncovered some unsettling structural problems, which we knew would happen (to be discussed in later posts).

So three months later and 60 tons of plaster and debris later, we are finally getting to putting things back in.

Here are some photos. Hope you all enjoy and feel free to post any advice, recommendations, suggestions, or anything else you would like to throw my way!

*Disclaimer: I have obtained all necessary permits and have consulted a structural engineer, promise!*


tjbingha 01-08-2013 12:08 PM

Here are a few more of the original pics...
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And yes, in the one bedroom that is just carpet samples which were nailed (yes, nailed) directly to the hardwood floor....

tjbingha 01-08-2013 12:19 PM

Demo Time -
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From the pictures you can tell that something drastic had to be done.

As I stated, two stinkin' months of tearing this place down, and 3 30 yard dumpsters.

After having it tore down, it became evident that there were two renovations done to the house, one in the 50's (again found from the newpapers) and one in the 80's or early 90's. When they did these renovations they compromised a lot of the structure, which I fully intend to fix with a little help from you guys (and the SE).

Anyway, attached is some of the same views in the before pics. We made a bunch of changes by just knocking down some of the partition walls and drop ceilings. With the 9 ft. ceiling height, (they dropped to about 7 ft. 6 inches), it made a huge difference.

We loved the bannister and had to keep it for some of the charm. We also kept all the trim from the windows so that we can put it back on at the end of the project. We wanted to keep as much of the original as possible, which ended up being just trim and a bannister, haha.

The bathroom, (on the second floor), was completely suspended by studs that were attached to the stairs. The renovations in the past had completely notched through three floor joists including the header those joists were toenailed to! Amazing that it was still standing.

And for whatever reason, we had to keep that fireplace in there.

Thanks for looking and I will post more as the progress continues and I get my pictures organized.

Til next time,


tjbingha 01-08-2013 12:23 PM

Just a few more...
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Here are a few more pics after we finally got done the demo work (sorta).


dougp23 01-08-2013 07:39 PM

Holy Smokes, that kitchen!! Wow! You could get vertigo walking in there....

You are pretty daring for taking on a project that huge! Hope you have fun with it. Should look great when it's all done.

joecaption 01-08-2013 10:26 PM

If you try using that fire place you'll soo see why you see so few of them.
Very little heat output and will use wood as fast as you can load it.
Replace it with an airtite wood stove and get some real heat and fraction of the wood.

TheEplumber 01-08-2013 11:27 PM

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Is the exterior as nice as it looks?

gusherb94 01-09-2013 01:39 AM

Wow! can only imagine the look on visitors faces when they went from charming Colonial on the outside to Psychedelic era late 1960's explosion on the inside! Some very nice styles of decor came out of the 60's and that house saw NONE of it.

As for the actual age. It seems kinda hard to tell. I could see it being built before 1925. Were there any traces of gas lighting at one point? An early 1910's house may very well have had gas lighting, or electric and gas together (as was the case with our 3 story 3 unit apartment building in Chicago built in 1915)

Sometimes but not usually the heating system is a clue. Is that hot water or two pipe steam I see?

and that fireplace, I think those have come back in fashion...

tjbingha 01-09-2013 07:37 AM

Joe - the fireplace is actually a gas fireplace, so I believe once we get it all checked out and it is good to go we will keep it. If not, a wood burning stove would be a great option, especially as in that area (kitchenette and kitchen) there will be vaulted ceilings, so it could get cold. Something to look at in the future for sure.

Eplumber - Yes, the outside is truly as good as it looks. There is relatively new siding, brand new roof (including the plywood), and all of the doors are functioning and seem in pretty good shape. We are replacing about 13 of the 20 windows as they are the original wood windows with the counterweight system, pretty cool stuff. They actually all still work too!

Gusher - We certainly have the gas lighting traces in there (actually all of the piping still). We had the knob and tube as well, which has been ripped out. Yes, those fireplaces are actually very expensive and trendy right now! We will ride that until the trend ends and maybe in the future replace with a wood burning to get some more heat if needed. We will see I guess.

Touring that place was very comical. It is in a very nice area and was an estate sale, so we feel that we definitely got a steal on it comparison wise. Although I am a newbie as far as a lot of this stuff goes, this is our second house and we did the same thing to the first one (which we sold in December), just on a much smaller scale. We were excited as to what challenges this house would bring...which it certainly already has!

I am sure that tons of people came through this house b/c of the great exterior, park like yard (which actually backs into the park), and dead end street. I will tell you it was difficult to get past the 7 ft. ceilings, horrible carpet, god awful kitchen, etc. but for some reason the wifey just had to have it!

Hopefully I can get some more pics up today and share some of the things I am currently working on.


tjbingha 01-09-2013 09:21 AM

First Structural Project
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Our first structural project was the entranceway. You can see from the original pictures how the entranceway first looked. When we removed the plaster we noticed a few things:

1) The entrance way "bump out" was an addition put on. Instead of putting any sort of support in to cut four or five studs out of the existing exterior of the house, they thought it would be a swell idea to leave them as is, simply hanging. I guess they figured the 1x header they have running through there is sufficient.

2) The plumbing for the bathroom had notched through completely three floor joists. When I say completely I mean completely. Sorry for the quality of the pics, I did not realize I would be documenting this at the time when taking this in December, so the problem is not 100% clear here.

To fix this, the SE had advised us to put a 2-2x10 header up where the entranceway studs were cut. After completing this, we had to do something about the cut floor joists. B/C the old floor joists are 7 7/8 inch's, we had to rip 2 x 10's to replace the old ones. The engineer wanted these doubled up, so we gladly obliged.

Since these pics, we have added a few more nails, hangers, etc, and even one more floor joist in the bathroom in between the wall and the first joist.

Another issue we had is that the house sags slightly, so I had to put these joists in slighly unlevel in order to match what was there, or else my whole bathroom would have a ripple type effect when the subfloor goes in. It is flat, just not 100 percent level. We will be jacking up the house in an effort to regain some level back, but most likely it will still not be perfect.

Also, anyone know how to post pictures and then put text before or after the pictures? I would like to comment on the pictures directly above or below them but am having trouble doing so.



tjbingha 01-10-2013 08:00 AM

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As I was sitting here admiring the thread that I have going, I took a closer look at the pictures in the last post and it dawned on me that I made a mistake, hopefully a fixable one without re-doing everything.

This is a ballon framed house. In my SE drawings, there was no mention of how this would effect my measurements for the headers or the king stud. Notice currently I have no king stud. The reason is simple, there was none where I needed the header to be. In a platform house, I would simply have just placed one there. Notice also there is no top plate.

My proposed solution - cut the 2 x10 Header flush with the trimmers. The reason we through the trimmers there is that there is a floor joist right next to the trimmers to the left. I would like to essentially create a king stud here by adding both a bottom plate and top plate, which would hopefully sufficiently secure the header as well as create a fire block as required. My plan was to run the top plate on top of the header, fasten down to the header as well as the king ballon stud to the left and the first ceiling joist resting on the header.

If anyone has any insight or has run into this in the past, please feel free to share your experiences.

In hindsight, obviously we should have used the existing stud as the king stud (as we did on the other side). For whatever reason I decided not to do that and either have to come up with a code-proof solution or redo. Bummer. The trials and tribulations of a DIY'er. When I started this thread I promised to not only put the good parts up but also the bad...oh well.


kickarse 01-10-2013 09:25 AM

Looking forward to the next update! Looking great!

jagans 01-10-2013 01:25 PM

Been There, Done That, Dont ever want to do it again. You buy old stuff with hard earned money, then tear out most of what you bought, throw it into a dumpster, and pay to have it taken away. Nothing is plumb, Nothing is level, There is usually Asbestos somewhere, The plumbing all has to go, the Electric all has to go, etc etc etc. and the dirt, where does all that black dirt in the walls come from??? At the end of the day you paid for a nice bannister, and for some reason, they did not have any closets back then. I guess they just left all their clothes on all the time, cause they didnt have insulation.

It is so much easier to build a new home than refurbish one of these that it isnt even in the same Galaxy, but good luck, and I hope you get through it with a couple of bucks and your sanity in tact.

PS They straightened those walls with the brown coat. Buy a power plane, you are going to need it.

jagans 01-10-2013 01:57 PM

I just looked at your house from the front view. Where are the posts that should be holding up the front porch????? There is no way to cantilever like that without steel??? Did your SE see that?

tjbingha 01-10-2013 02:49 PM

Jagans -

With regards to the porch, honestly I could not tell you. Perhaps this is a project down the road that I can look at. However, this porch was an addition in the 50's and has stood firm every since, so I do not feel as though it is something that I need to address at this minute, especially given the current situation in the house. That being said it is a very interesting point, and one that I appreciate you finding!

In response to your first post -

For the thread's sake, I will provide a little background as to why we bought how we bought, where we bought, and our decision to renovate as extreme as we are.

Way back when I was 23 I bought my first house (just turned 27) and took some of the Obama money that came with it. It was a beater, so we decided to renovate. The stuff we found was pretty shocking. For example, mold, no insulation, dangerous electric, etc. We kept tearing out further and further until eventually it was a complete renovation. We renovated into a really gorgeous little duplex in Philly and sold it and made quite a decent profit, more than we could make at our jobs anyway. That was three years ago (purchase) and sale was three months ago. Time went quick that's for sure!

We decided to do another fixer upper (bigger scale) for a few reasons:
The first was family. I did not want to live in a duplex where I did not like my neighbors and could not send my kids to public school. I wanted to be in an area where my future kids (wife is prego) could thrive and have as good of a childhood as I did. If you know anything about the Philly suburbs then you know they are pricy. At 27, I am priced out of most of those neighborhoods, even with the good job and decent down-payment we had. Which is the second reason: Finance. As an accountant, I take this stuff pretty seriously. We got this house (estate sale) at about 1/2 of the price of some of our neighbors homes. This also means 1/2 of the property tax, which in NJ is the highest in the country. My neighbors with the decent house are about 15K+ a year. Too much for me. We got this house for less than the small duplex we sold in Philly, so we have a reasonable (but still strict) budget to deal with. The third reason we are able to do this with a relatively sane mind is our in-laws. They have a very comfortable 4500+ sq. house within 20minutes of this location. We stay there, and in the mean time can save even more money for the renovations and live comfortably in the meantime. We also truly enjoy making it our own and being in control of the process from start to finish, including being in control of the subs and the whole she-bang. Perhaps that is the control freak side of me...

Obviously we are aware that this is a monster project, which is why I figure I get friendly with some people who know what they are doing ASAP. Bottom line is we like doing the work (for the most part) and we like knowing even better that everything that should be there is there. Even if I double my renovation budget, I will still come in about 120K under what the new construction on a crappier lot in a less desirable street is currently listed at. I am sure I could have found a very small nice new condo or townhouse for my budget, but that was certainly not what we were going for.

I am sure that answer was just about 75 lines longer than you needed, but hey. I always here on here the more descriptive the better.:thumbsup:

Question: How did your project turn out?

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