Brownstone Boys: Woodwork Plans and Dreams

Measuring the original spindles

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 29th 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

We’re at a very exciting point in the project! Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to make some serious progress on finishes that we’re actually going to see rather than pipes and electrical that will be behind the walls. Bathroom tile, flooring and woodwork will start going in. We’re currently trying to decide how much of the original baseboard we should keep and how much will need to be replaced.

Right now the place has about 30 percent of the original baseboard in place. Really just in the foyer, up the stairs, and also below and between the windows. Much of it is missing for various reasons (kitchens and bathrooms being moved…etc.).

We had hoped that a New York City lumber supplier known for stocking a wide variety of wood molding profiles would have it. Our woodwork is very common and typical in old Brooklyn houses. We also have a couple of missing spindles on our staircase railing we hoped to find too. Unfortunately we struck out on all of them. But we have a plan.

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Mismatched spindle

We heard about a carpenter who can make us new spindles by copying one of the existing ones. The cost is about $100 each so it’s an acceptable fix since we’re missing only two. We think they are mahogany, and we will match the wood as best as we can. We think two new spindles matching the existing ones will look beautiful and certainly much better than the completely mismatched ones that are there now.

The baseboards are a different story. Since our baseboards are no longer stock profiles (although the gentleman at the store said people have come in looking for it hundreds of times), our only option would be to have it custom made. Since we have only about 30 percent of the original baseboard, that would mean making quite a lot of it. Probably 250 linear feet. It would cost thousands of dollars.

Alternatively, we could buy all new solid oak baseboards for a few hundred dollars. We have made our best effort every step of the way to retain original features even when it was considerably more expensive than replacing it. This time, though, we are leaning toward the latter. Since there is so little of the original baseboard left, and the cost is so much more to reproduce the missing sections, it just seems to make more sense to replace it all.

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We visit a local lumber supply shop to look for replacement woodwork

Right now we are thinking that there are a couple of places where we’ll keep the original. Especially up the staircase. We’re going to wait until the new baseboard is in to make the call, so we can see what it looks like with the original next to it.

The good news is that no matter what we decide to do with the baseboards we’re absolutely keeping all of the window casings, door frames, shutters, and the OG banister! The wood strippers are still in the process of working on them, and they are coming out beautifully!

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The shutters have been stripped and dipped. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome

It’s hard to believe that finishes are being installed. We’re really excited we are so close to the end.

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