Our first home was purchased in 2003 by a then-single John.  The two-story house was located in Manayunk, PA and was 100 years old and very run down.  Amazingly enough, the previous homeowner indicated that her and her SEVEN siblings were raised in this 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom 1500 square foot home!!  Yikes.   That’s 9 people sharing one bathroom the size of a broom closet.  I’m just glad I didn’t have to clean it.

The renovation:

Almost immediately after closing, John and his dad then set to removing the shag carpeting exposing the century old norwegian pine (aka red pine).  Although this flooring is from an evergreen and therefore is considered a “soft wood,” due to its age it had to be from an old growth tree and was very hard, making for a strong and beatiful floor.

John’s dad ripping out carpet. Note the “Wall of Mirrors” to the left.

In addition to the shabby carpet (not shabby chic, just shabby), the house was in general need of an overhaul. Most of the electrical was knob and tube and worse yet, was wired into an old Federal Pacific Electric panel (aka spontaneous combustion panel). The home was entirely plaster with the added feature of paneling over rotten plaster in some rooms. The kitchen was not salvageable: busted metal cabinets, ripped vinyl floors, broken windows. I think you get the drift.

Back then John didn’t have me around, so naturally he took his time and only got done the electrical, the floors and a good deal of the drywall. Once we started dating and got engaged, he went into high gear and gutted the remainder of the house, including the kitchen and the bath. He also added an additional bathroom to the basement to survive the few months with the other one demo’d.

Other wall of the kitchen featuring the rest of the demo team.
The upstairs hallway before the renovation.
The kitchen-dining room wall set to come down.
Wall gone. Beam inserted. Kitchen gutted. Keg empty.
A better view of the steel holding up the house.

Once the house was gutted, John did the framing, insulation, replaced the windows and outsourced the electrical, drywall and plumbing. The loading wall removal and beam insertion was also contracted out. Philly doesn’t like to let homeowners do any plumbing or electrical work, in fact, you can’t get a permit for these jobs unless you’re a licensed and insured for the task. Most of the wall work was completed by masonry guys. While the drywall was going up around him, John started construction on the kitchen cabinets. He figured he could save some money and get the custom look we wanted without the custom prices. Building cabinets is a fairly simple process if you have the time and space. The hardest obstacle to this build was planning the layout. Once we agreed on a floorplan, the rest wasn’t too bad. He used a software package to help him with the cutsheets and to minimize the amount of waste material. The custom look we were going for was an inset cabinet door. Inset doors are hard to come by unless you’re dealing with custom cabinet builders. You’re just not going to see them at the local building supply store. Actually building inset doors isn’t that different from building overlay doors, so it wasn’t particularly challenging for John.

Living room as the work center. Note the band saw which he saws he needed, but he didn’t use. Hmm.

After all the major projects were completed, we sold the house to a lovely couple in May of 2010. Below are the “after” photos.

The completed living room sans mirror wall.
Completed Hallway.
Dining room looking into the kitchen.
Kitchen completed.
Sink counter.
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