Sometimes you just need a little more room, and what better time to blow out some walls than right after you’ve been cooped up with family for the holidays!
With our first big project of the new year we’re pushing the knee walls back about three feet on each side of this master bedroom to make room for a desk and bookshelves. There’s even some talk about getting crazy and putting a couch up here.
While the work moves along on the new knee walls we’re also opening a wall out in the hallway to change the direction of a small stairwell. This house has about 75 tiny sets of stairs and much of a pain as hauling drywall up and down and up again, these stairs were awkward and made access to the attic incredibly inconvenient.
We remembered to snap a picture of how the stairs were laid out so you can see that the stairs go up directly into the wall with the landing of the attic space to the right. With that kind of awkward maneuvering the attic space was unusable for storing anything substantial. Did I mention that this house doesn’t have a basement? There’s just a crawlspace so this attic is the only serious storage it offers.
The new stairs will run parallel to the staircase leading up to the hallway, and we’ll be reusing that door on the right. Once we rebuild the stairs they’ll extend past the existing wall, so that means more drywall fun.
🧰Visit us at preferredserviceswny to see more of this home improvement story and find out how it all turns out!
You can’t go far in Buffalo without tripping over something historically significant, or randomly meeting the guy who’s grandfather built your house. Or something like that.
It’s always interesting to open up these old porches and see for ourselves why there are now so many building codes and regulations. One reason we have to get our foundations inspected and plans drawn up and approved before getting a permit is because back in the day people would just throw a 2×4 on top of an I-beam that was anchored in nothing but heavy clay and maybe some rocks and call it a day. If you need any more convincing that this is nowhere near enough to support that porch roof, take a look at how that 2×4 is bowing under the weight.
During our Greenfield porch project last year our on-site inspector made us swap out the 4×4 posts the permit inspector had approved with 6x6s because of concerns that the porch roof would be too much for them to carry.The framing around those posts that the shingles were nailed to was all tied in and carried some of the load, but that’s probably the only reason this porch wasn’t in worse shape. And by worse, I mean it hadn’t started to collapse and take the porch roof and part of the second story with it.
That’s even more surprising when we learned a little about the house and its neighborhood. It turns out that Matt, who rented us the dump trailer to haul away the old porch, had some history with the house. His grandfather had actually helped build the house we were working on back in the 1920s, as well as many more on the street. It was a company neighborhood, with the houses being built first for the executives of the Pierce Arrow Company and later, as the neighborhood expanded, for the rest of the workers.
The Pierce Arrow complex at Elmwood and Great Arrow, which is undergoing massive renovations, was designed in 1906 and operated until 1938 and during that time produced some of the most powerful and efficient automobiles in the country. President Taft ordered two Pierce-Arrows and two White Model M Tourers to serve as the first official cars of the White House, in addition to many Hollywood stars and tycoons of the day owning one of luxury cars.
One interesting feature of these executive homes that Matt learned from his mother was that apparently the porches sported a steel I-beam as the header. This explains why there is absolutely no sag to the front of the porch but makes it even more baffling that with a steel beam running along the top there would be only a 2×4 at either end supporting all that weight. But who knows, those columns could have been rebuilt later by someone who didn’t realize what was hidden above. Either way, I’m glad that I’m some cases they don’t make them they used to.
After a seemingly endless cold and rainy spring, we’re ready for summer and the start of our big outdoor projects.
It isn’t summer unless we’re tearing out another porch. Not that it feels much like summer yet, but the cooler days have been nice and the rain hasn’t set us back too much.
This shingle-clad North Buffalo Craftsman is getting a full tear-down. The new design is going to feature some smaller profile columns but retain the wide flare out at the bottom of the stairs.
Demo is always fun since were never quite sure what we’re going to find, and this project has surprised us a number of times already. The rotting joists and decking wasn’t too unexpected, and there had been some attempts to reinforce it. But once we pulled off the shingles and opened up those columns we were really shocked at what was (or wasn’t) holding up this porch.
Molly was having a problem with her front porch; the railings were bowing out, you bounced across the deck boards as you walked. Once we started pulling up deck boards we realized the porch was in much worse shape than we’d thought.
What we assumed would be securing a few joists and replacing the deck boards turned into replacing them entirely. Nearly all of the joists had completely rotted out and broken away from the nails that should have been holding them in place. The deck was bouncy because it was missing most of its joists; there weren’t more than three left in place supporting the weight of the deck boards.
As it turned out, those posts the railings are secured to aren’t just supporting the railings. Those are eight foot posts that rest on the concrete pad the entire porch was built on. The problem with this is that the garden that surrounds the porch had started pushing against the side of the porch, and as that weight pushed on the walls, it pushed on the railings as well, kicking them out. We had to dig out around the wall in order to push them out. Once we pulled up the deckboards we could get in there and push the walls back out and then add additional supports to tie everything together to keep it from shifting again.
The stairs had been in in pretty bad shape, too. While we had everything ripped apart we rebuilt the stairs entirely, adding a third stringer down the middle that should have been there to begin with.
We wrapped up by repainting the new deckboards the same color as the old ones. At first glance it may look the same as when we arrived, but with the new joists and additional supports throughout to keep the structure squared up and tied together, this rehab should definitely hold up for years to come.
We were fortunate enough to do some work for Molly, the owner of Buckminster’s Cat Cafe, this past summer. We don’t know about you, but our Facebook feed has been blowing up with people resharing the Buffalo Rising article profiling the forthcoming Buffalo cat cafe. But, if for something reason you haven’t heard about it, we’ll know what’s going on.
Buckminster’s Cat Cafe is going to be located in the ground floor of the beautifully renovated 577 Niagara Street, and will be a combination neighborhood coffee shop and cat adoption facilitator.
According to Molly, the cafe is intended to be an “appealing space for humans to relax, socialize, or study, as well as offer a unique habitat for the free movement of cats.”
Recently we completed work on a half bathroom in North Buffalo. The challenge on the this project was that this bathroom was going to be nowhere near any of the existing plumbing work, and required quite a bit of time in a crawlspace under the house. The half bath was going on one side of a front room off the living room.
For some reason, although the house’s front door was adjacent to this room, there was a separate entrance, so the first thing we had to do was take out that door and wall it up.
Once that was done we could start framing in the room. The windows at the front of the house and the sidelight in the French doors leading into the living room kept us from expanding too far into the front room, but it worked out to just enough space for what we needed.
We’ve installed a few macerator toilets, and we’ve done them each a little different. Depending on the project and the space we have, we might hide the macerator tank or leave it exposed. It also depends on the type of macerator.
We’re more likely to hide a Saniflo since the ones we’ve worked with have been a little louder and looked less finished. They’re not intended to be seen, which is fine, since hiding them will dampen the loud, clunky noise they make kicking on. That’s not to say they aren’t a great product, and we’d use them again. Liberty Pumps, however, have a better appearance and run quieter. The unit itself doesn’t stand out so much or look like a piece machinery that would take away from the appearance of the bathroom itself.
This time around, although we were working with Liberty, since we had the room, we built a box to hide the tank. Building out to hide the macerator also worked well with the existing elements in the room. We tossed around a few ideas for access to the macerator, and finally settled on keeping it simple; the top of the box slides straight out in case we ever need to service the unit.
We played around with the placement of the vanity and mirror before settling on their somewhat offset position. They may seem too far to the right at first, but there’s a soffit running along the left side so we’re actually centered from that. The plumbing and studs also had something to do with this decision but this position also leaves room for a small trash can if needed.
There was trim running low along the exterior wall that we liked. Rather than tear it out when we pieced in the new exterior wall, we continued it along. We thought it was a cool detail, tied things together and broke up the wall a little.
We had a great prairie style glass door we’ve been dying to use. When we saw those French doors on the living room, we had to use it. Once we frosted the glass on that door, it complimented the windows and French doors on either side of the room and tied together the old and the new.
Outside, we matched up the shingle pattern and added some additional trim boards to carry along all of the existing design elements to make this new work as indiscernible from the old as possible.
Check out the photos below to see our progress throughout this project and follow us on Instagram to see what we’re working on now.
Perhaps hoping to learn from past mistakes with the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Western New York, the Preservation Board has moved ahead with landmarking two of the homes he built in Buffalo.
Two Buffalo houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were recommended for local landmark designation Thursday by the Buffalo Preservation Board. While the board has often been criticized for not acting quickly enough to protect the historic and significant buildings throughout Buffalo, not everyone is happy with their decision to move forward on these two properties.
Both the William R. Heath House and the Walter V. Davidson House were granted landmark status despite the owners’ objections.
Although the homes met seven of the nine criteria for landmarking, Nancy Schmid, who has owned the Heath House for 50 years, said she did not welcome the added tourist attention she feared landmarking could bring. People often come to her front door asking for tours of the home, unaware that its a private residence.
Likewise, Russ Maxwell, owner of the Davidson House and a former member of the Preservation Board, also objects to landmark status, claiming, “The property at 57 Tillinghast is in the finest condition in its 110-year history.”
Both Schmid and Maxwell have said they believe the homes should be landmarked in the future, but assert that since they have maintained the integrity of Wright’s designs and continue to use the homes as private residences, their wishes should override the Preservation Board’s decision.
The final decision will be up to the Buffalo Common Council, which will rule on the matter following a public hearing. Since the Preservation Board has stated that their only responsibility is to the buildings themselves and the significance they represent for the community, perhaps the Common Council will be more willing to take the owners’ opinions and track records for stewardship of the properties into account.
As home ownership and repair becomes an increasingly expensive and time-consuming affair, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has embarked on a program mission of creating building materials that have living organism attributes. Their goal is to not only grow building materials on site but for the structure to be a self-healing, essentially repairing itself as needed.
That means we’re that much closer to living in self-repairing sustainable, custom grown Hobbit-holes.
And once we’re on that path, it’s only a few hundred thousand years until we’ve evolved into the subterranean-dwelling Morlocks HG Wells predicted in “The Time Machine”.