Editor’s note: Welcome to the 80th installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at www.thebrownstoneboys.com.
Some of the most iconic features of historic brownstones are the front stoop, iron railings and newel posts. Without that these houses just wouldn’t be the same. The week we closed on our house, now almost two years ago, we were shocked to discover that one of our two front iron newel posts was missing! We probably walked by it twice before we even noticed. We were in such disbelief that we had to look up photos that we took only a few days before to make sure it was there to begin with. It stood there for 130 years before someone ripped it from its home within three days after we owned it. It was upsetting because it has been our dream to live in a brownstone, and this is one of the things that makes it what it is. We were determined to replace it. Fortunately the design is a popular one in Brooklyn and it wouldn’t be too hard to find. We weren’t in too much of a hurry since we had a big renovation to get through, but now it’s time! In fact, our stoop project had even grown since then.
The first thing we wanted to do is learn what made it an easy target so that the same thing wouldn’t happen to the other one or the one we replaced. What we learned is that there is a steel rod that extends from the very top all the way into the cement base it sits on. After decades that steel rod can rust and then completely sever. The small cap that sits atop the post can then spin and wiggle. This is what gives away to would-be thieves that it is loose and ready for the taking. Fortunately our other post is solid, and we’ll keep an eye on it to make sure it stays that way.
The new post that we found at a salvage yard matches ours exactly, except it’s painted brown. All of the paint is flaking off. The iron railing and posts need to be painted every few years anyway to prevent rusting. So we are going to install the new post and put on a fresh coat of black paint.
Our stoop stairs have also been slowly chipping away as well. We find that it’s a common occurrence during a renovation. Once it starts it doesn’t stop. So our stoop repair plans include replacing a layer of brownstone over the entire stairs. That’s not a DIY project we feel comfortable to tackle ourselves so we already have a few quotes, ranging from $2,000 to $4,000.
This is the project we were always coming back to once we wrapped up all of our living spaces inside. So it feels great to be moving on to it. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
[Photos by Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]
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