A little while back we spoke with the kind folks over at ProjectRowhouse about their adventures in renovating. We learned so much from those guys that, well, we wanted to learn even more. Thankfully, ProjectRowhouse isn’t the only renovation blog in town. We managed to get a hold of Baltimore Rowhouse blogger Corey and asked him a few questions about his Canton/Highlandtown rowhouse.

UDL: What do you like most about your neighborhood?

Baltimore Rowhouse: I like that I’m close enough to the restaurants and hang outs of Canton and Fells Point, but far enough that we don’t have to deal with the bar noise and parking issues. I like the wider rowhouses in my Eastern Canton area — mine is 13’3″ on the outside — and how they’re so spacious compared to the skinnier homes in some neighborhoods. I like being so close to Patterson Park so I can walk the dog and be reminded that Baltimore isn’t just rowhouses and concrete.

UDL: What inspired you to undertake a renovation project like this?

BR: I guess my inspiration was three fold — wanting to create something and learn, an unwillingness to be constrained by not knowing how to renovate a house… and of course the lack of funds to buy a home that had character AND was in my budget.

UDL: What have you enjoyed most about renovating?

BR: Watching the transformation of a house going from barely livable, just an idea in my head, to seeing it torn up and then totally rebuilt. We spent a lot of time planning to get the maximum use out of every nook and cranny, while doing so affordably. I look around the house now and am amazed that we have a separate shower area from the new double vanity, built-in bookshelves, a dining room, two extra usable closets, an extra half bath… all of this without having added on.

UDL: What surprises/challenges have you come across while remodeling?

BR: A few challenges have been rotting out floor supports, termites, a main roof truss that was completely cut through, wires terminating inside the walls, and NOTHING in the house being plumb or level.

UDL: Are there any businesses (or contractors) that you would recommend for other people undertaking a project like this?

BR: I’d recommend Pickett’s Choice Home Improvement. He did a great job on our bathroom, and was excellent for helping us finish up some odds and ends that we had to get done before our re-appraisal.

UDL: Any other big tips for people undertaking a project like this?

BR: If you are going to do the job yourself, plan for it to take twice as long as you had previously thought.

  • Also, the job will cost 30-50% more than you expected.
  • Make sure you think about how you are going to pay for projects (cash, credit cards, HELOC) as money at some point will get tight.
  • Be careful of planning on a full renovation of a place that you’ll be living in at the same time. Not everyone can handle it. If you are a “neat freak,” do not even try it.
  • Plan out the order of things.
  • Be patient. It sucks having to do work twice, so make sure you get it right the first time.
  • Do LOTS of research.
  • Start a blog. When you don’t know how to do something, having a blog can help tie you into a whole community of other folks that can offer guidance. Also having contractor friends would help.
  • Live in your space for a while before renovating. This will help you understand what really bothers you, and where you should focus your time/money/effort.

Last two questions are again for you readers out there. Would you buy a home if you had to renovate it? What room would be most important for you to renovate first?