Brownstone Renovations… just getting started

We are in contract on a 2000 sf townhouse (*FAR allows 1300 more sf) and looking for ideas/inspiration. The house in great shape, but we’d want to “spruce up” a bit.

Things we may/may not do based on time and price:

Expand the kitchen
Raise basement ceiling
Knock out a couple walls to open up space
Demo 2nd kitchen and convert to family room
Modern fence in back yard
Carpentry work on bannisters/railings
Add 2nd bathroom on 2nd floor

These are TBD based on cost and recommendations
*Central air install (no existing ductwork)
*Add 3rd floor as MBR suite
*Roof deck

With these type of general changes, should we start with architect, or can a good GC handle this. Knowing that there is a wide range, any general time/price guidelines for this level of work?


Need Some Advice: My Stoop Is “Spalling” to Pieces

We have a three-stair brownstone stoop that was redone along with the building facade within the last 10 years (prior to our purchasing the building). The brownstone work is of pretty high quality and was complimented on by our inspector when we did our original walkthrough.

There were a couple of spots over the last year or two where the metal banister met the brownstone that the stone looked a little rough but nothing too concerning. All of a sudden after this winter the entire stoop is spalling and splitting apart in various places on various stairs — it’s literally getting markedly worse by the day.

Is there any way to alleviate this degradation short of redoing the whole stoop (this was not in our short term plans). We’re not looking for the perfect solution right now, just a way to ease the pain.


Exposed Beams – Garden Level

Here’s a question for the y’all . . .The garden level of our (two) family brownstone was completely gutted (extremely cheaply) years ago before we bought it. It is essentially just one large open space with the kitchen towards the rear. We hate the ceiling. You can clearly see the outlines of the sheetrock panels and the HUGE can lights continue to depress us.


Looking to make an offer. Question about oil heat

My wife and I are looking to make an offer on a two-family. The building currently uses an oil heating system. Our broker has asked the seller for records for oil purchases so we can get an idea of the cost of heating, but we haven’t been updated.

I’ve done a lot of digging around these forums, and have seen some posts with people on the high side saying their costs of oil heating was in the $1K/month range for a similar home, so it could be a significant part of the financial calculations.

The seller has asked for a best-and-final offer we are generally inclined to make one. However, the unknown of the oil heating question has us a bit concerned. Is it unreasonable for us to push harder to get this number before making an offer? Or would you guys recommend any other strategy for handling this unknown?


Mapei or Bostik grout? Color suggestions?

What grout do you suggest for bathroom floor and wall tiles — Mapei or Bostik?

And we’re looking for a gray, similar to these photos. Does anyone know what color this could be?

And while we’re at it, what do you think of using the large subway wall tile with the octagon dot floor tile? (Click through to see the floor tile and some answers from readers.)


“Status: I – AWAITING INSPECTION REQUEST” – Permit from >10 ys ago Electrical

If a house being sold has an open (electrical, it seems) application/permit which is in the status “Status: I – AWAITING INSPECTION REQUEST”, from over 10 years ago, what exactly does that mean (they filed a permit to do work but ignored the request for inspection?) and what ramifications does this have for financing? Must be closed out before financing?

The request type is Application.
The Job Started and stop dates are about a week after the Application Entered date.
Last Change is a year later.
Work to be done is general wiring and “service work/notify.”


Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.


Last night, my heat wasn’t on, so I went and checked and saw the water in the little glass tube on the boiler (I’m sorry, I don’t know what it’s called) was low. I added some water, about halfway up the glass tube, the boiler came back on, and I thought everything was fine. But this morning, the radiators were cold again, I went back and checked, and the water was too low again, not empty, but low in the glass tube. I added water and the heat is on for now, but what could be going on? One radiator is leaking a little bit, but could that be enough to cause this?

One other possibly important detail: the other day, my husband thought the tube was empty, added some water and then realized it wasn’t empty, it was completely full (water came out of the relief valve, I guess). He doesn’t know how it would have been overfull any more than I know how it got to be so low. So the water level seems to be fluctuating weirdly.


Condensers on the Roof — Crane Cost Estimate and Recommendation:

Does anyone know what we can expect to pay for a crane to get three condensers on the roof and have someone they can recommend to do it? Would you bother getting a permit or just do it at 4 to 5 am for 20 to 30 minutes and call it a day?

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Still from the junkman via YouTube