The photographs of Dignowity Hill and San Antonio used within this blog are the property of Juan A Garcia Eastlight Photography. All rights are reserved to the owner. Copy and use of these images are forbidden without written permission. Contact Juan at for permission.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Demolition Day!

Living Room-Before Demo
Living Room-After Demo

Dining Room-Before Demo
Dining Room-After Demo

Ok, so after getting 3 bids for the interior tear out and the demo for the exterior of the house we decided that we could do the demo work ourselves and save about $5k in demo costs.  How hard can it be to tear down sheet rock, remove old molding, remove old doors, take up old carpeting and take down tacky drop ceilings? Well, it's actually a little harder than you might think even though it requires relatively little skill. If you decide to do the demo yourself invest in a a good pry bar, sledge hammer, a reciprocating saw, some good gloves and make sure you use a good respirator mask. You'll be amazed at the amount of dust and other nasty particles that become airborne when you do a tear out!  Be safety conscious at all times. Be careful of electrical wires. It's a good idea to cut off power if you're working near or around live electrical outlets. After we took down the drop ceilings we discovered 12 foot ceilings!  We also uncovered beautiful long leaf pine flooring underneath the carpet and vinyl. In some rooms we found where doors had been removed and walled over! It took about 5 days to do the interior demo and to be honest, it was a lot fun despite the hard work.  Now the next step is to remove all the demolition debris and dispose it properly.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

So You Want to Restore an Old House

Restoring an old house is not for the faint of heart but I highly recommend it if you have an interest in historic preservation, you like old houses, and have a vision for bringing back to life an old house or building. The reward is unbelievably immense. OK, that's the romantic part of historic restoration. The reality is that you need to have an appreciation for the hard work that goes into the planning and execution of a restoration project. The planning piece can be fun but it does require attention to detail. You need to get educated on building codes and permits.  If you acquire a property in an historic district then you have to be prepared to deal with design guidelines for historic districts. On a more practical matter, you need to know what you're getting yourself into in terms of the property you're buying and restoring. Does the house have good "bones"? Is the foundation failing? Does the roofing need to be replaced? Will you contract the project out or will you be your own contractor?  Do you need the services of an architect?  How will you finance the project? Can the structure be insured?  These are some of the many questions that need to be answered as part of the decision and planning process. I strongly recommend that you develop a restoration or rehab plan that includes the scope of the restoration of the property, an inspection of the building to assess any damage or failing systems and a realistic budget.  Having a written scope of work is critical especially when working with the historic preservation office and to meet design guidelines for historic districts.

Every restoration project is different and you always learn something new during the project. The one thing that we've learned is to expect the unexpected.  For example, when we bought the old house we're currently working on we were able to get the property insured. However, shortly after the we closed we received notice from our insurance carrier that we needed to remove overhanging tree limbs over the house, repair a severely cracked concrete driveway and remove a large vine that had grown through the vinyl siding on one side of the house. The insurance company gave us 30 days to remedy those issues otherwise they would cancel our policy  We knew that we would have to fix those issues as part of the restoration process but did not expect to be hit with a cancellation notice on our insurance policy. We decided to address those issues to satisfy the insurance company. Expect the unexpected!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

There's Beauty in this Mess

This is what we're facing inside our old house.  Pretty grim.....but there's beauty lurking underneath! Beneath that old carpeting and vinyl is long leaf pine flooring. Most of the trim work is in decent condition. The hardware on most doors is original. There are several transoms scattered through out the house that can be cleaned up and made functional again.  Once the sheet rock or paneling is torn out we'll get down to the bones, which are in pretty good shape.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Old House


My wife and I are surely nuts! A couple of weeks ago we became the proud owners of another old house in need of desperate restoration. This is the third house we've bought in the last 3 years in our old historic neighborhood of Dignowity Hill on the near Eastside of San Antonio, Texas. In 2006 we bought and restored a house that was built in 1909. We moved into the house in 2007 after a year long restoration. We named her Rose and she's a beauty!

"Little Louie"

Then in July of 2010 we bought a small cottage on a foreclosure sale. The house was built in 1912 and was originally servants quarters for a grand old house that no longer exists. We named this house "Little Louie". Fortunately, the house did not need major restoration and the project took about 7 months to complete. We sold "Little Louie" in February 2011.

"Another Old House"

So after waiting a respectable amount of time between projects, we've set our sights on another old house. Ok, it doesn't look like much but through our research we found out that the house was built around 1912. At one time it had 2 porches, front and back. Someone had the bright idea of enclosing the front porch with rock walls......pretty ugly! The interior of the house, well, let's just say that it needs a lot of help!
Over the next year or so I'll be chronicling our adventure with yet another old house as well as sharing restoration stories from our neighborhood. Stay Tuned!