|Clearing away yard debris and dirt that was piled against the back wall of the house.|
|The living room and ornate staircase.|
As I considered the significant expenses involved in the restoration of the house, that day after closing, all of these thoughts crossed my mind. In spite of the costs involved, the house deserved to be saved and cherished, rather than thrown away, like so many other modest older homes in Pittsburgh.
|Original wood four-panel door and hardware|
Like homes that I have seen on city demolition lists, Woods Cottage was in a marginal state of repair. If it had been neglected for just a few more years, the roof would have inevitably failed, and potential repair costs would have drastically increased. Home renovation costs are sometimes higher than the after-repair value of a home, particularly in depressed neighborhoods. This means that many homes are consigned to demolition lists, if their after-repair value or value as a rental property is not sufficient to make a profit. I have hope that I have caught this house in time, and that repairs now will be sufficient to preserve the house for the remainder of my lifetime and beyond. I also believe that the house has not reached the point where its after-repair value is less than the cost of a sensible and practical restoration. More importantly, the house is historic, and deserves to be restored for reasons other than profit!
|View showing the cliff and landing, after it was cleared of trees and overgrowth.|
Next priority was a huge Oak tree overhanging the house. Behind the house is a small cliff, with many trees sitting on the edge. There were numerous branches hanging over the house, some with vines hanging down and touching the roof. I intended to have the Oak tree pruned, as there appeared to be some dead branches. This proved to be a daunting task. As I met many tree experts, each one told me of the dangers the tree presented. Many told me that the tree was unsafe and needed to be taken down. I was given quotes to remove the tree, which were above $4,000. According to inspectors, the tree had two trunks, which meant that the tree could fall at any moment. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I had received quotes from unscrupulous tree guys, who were perhaps looking to make money and cut down a tree that did not need to be taken down. This was my hope, anyway, as I really did not want to spend a fortune removing a tree! Needless to say, this became a huge dilemma, and my stress levels were already high.
I was fortunate to receive advice from an arborist who worked for the city, thanks to a friend who provided a referral on my blog. I was assured that the tree was healthy, and removal was unnecessary, although trimming was advised. This eased my fears for the time being, and I was confident enough to move on to other projects.
Of paramount importance, aside from the tree and roof, was removing the large amount of dirt and yard debris which had been piled against the back wall of the house. This was necessary in order to prevent and discourage rot, moisture, and wood destroying insects from attacking the house.
|A friend helping me clean up yard debris near "the cliff." These steps go up to a landing adjacent to the cliff behind the house, which connects to a rear porch on the house. The landing was completely overgrown with trees and brush.|
|Brick walkway and patio discovered underneath decades of dirt!|
The interior of the house was also filled with junk. I was told that the previous owner was a hoarder. Sadly, there was little of value among the many items stored in the house. As a collector of vintage items and antiques, I was hoping that there would be some valuables hidden in the junk, which would have offset restoration costs. I was not so lucky! I did salvage some 1950s metal kitchen stools, a small maple end table, a vintage Sears vaccuum, and assorted small, kitschy items. Friends also came to take some of the things I did not have use for. The junk hauler took the rest. Within a couple weeks, the house had been emptied, except for the basement, and the yard cleared..Underneath decades of dirt piled behind the house was a beautiful brick walkway and patio.
|The junk inside|
There is still junk to be removed from the basement, as the basement stairway steps are in disrepair. This is a small project that my dad will help me with. He also agreed to help me repair the toilet, replace the exterior doors with antique wood four-panel doors, and other assorted repairs. My dad has always been a huge help with old properties I've purchased. He is a true handyman, skilled in almost every form of building repair, and always taught me to do things right.
|Close-up of trim profile and fiber cement siding.|
This last evening, noticed some carpenter ants around the exterior of the house. I was able to find some ant traps at Home Depot, and placed them around the perimeter of the house. Hopefully, this will be sufficient until I am able to have the house completely treated for potential insect pests.
As I look forward to tackling the two biggest projects as of now, the roof and the tree trimming, I am also aware of the looming electrical inspection. The utilities have been off for some time, and I will soon be turning them on, one at a time. First will come the updating of the electrical. Next will come inspection of the (newer) furnace, and the plumbing system, which is fortunately intact.
I will continue to provide updates here over the next several months, until the house is up and running. I hope to have this project mostly completed by next summer, but if expenses run over-budget, I may not meet that goal. Either way, the house is saved, and I love it.