We’ve been talking to a few different people about their adventures in rowhouse renovation. ProjectRowhouse – whose basement renovation looks amazing! – and BaltimoreRowhouse – starting work on their backyard now! – both came through and gave us some sound advice and really piqued our interest. Our interest was so piqued, in fact, that we contacted Rantin’ from Canton blogger Patrick, who was kind enough to let us pester him with questions about his ongoing rowhouse renovation down in Canton.
This rowhouse entryway got a thorough makeover, Rantin From Canton-style.
Urban Discoveries Living: What have you enjoyed most about renovating so far?
Rantin’ from Canton: I have enjoyed learning about every aspect of working on my house. I never really built anything too complex before (topped out at a bike ramp that ended in a trip to the hospital when I was younger), so it has been great to learn more about carpentry, masonry, electrical work, plumbing, and design/layout. I think the most enjoyable part though, has been learning about the history of my house. As I removed each layer, another part of the story was revealed. When I tore down the ceiling I could see how the stairs used to be parallel to the front of the house. Exposing the brick revealed the outline of a wood-burning stove. The basement used to be the main bathroom in the house; the front window’s counterweights from a long time ago were still in the wall. These small reveals are what makes my house fascinating to me.
UDL: What inspired you to undertake a renovation project like this?
RC: When I bought the house I didn’t immediately think I was going to jump into the renovations the way I did (and I wish I hadn’t). I’m a very impulsive person and can be very stubborn (just ask … well, anyone), so once I pulled off the first piece of wood paneling, all bets were off. I didn’t really have inspiration until after I started doing some of the demolition. Doing things ass-backwards, I started researching after my drop-ceiling was on the floor. That’s when I was introduced to the world of blogs, (the first being Baltimore Rowhouse), and from there I saw what my house could be and got inspired. Also, being stubborn I felt like I could do any project on my own, as long as I researched it thoroughly and had experienced friends or family to ask for advice/assistance.
UDL: You’re at an earlier stage than other renovators we’ve talked to so far. What room(s) do you have big plans for/ are the most eager to start working on?
RC: I would have to say I am most eager about working on the kitchen. The current dimensions are so strange that I feel like creativity is going to be necessary to come up with a functional layout that will allow me to have everything that I want in there. I am toying with so many different options that I tend to get a little side-tracked from working on the rooms that need to be completed first. Another area I am looking forward to is the chimney. I am going to hang my TV there and want to incorporate all the component wiring in the walls while they are being built, but still allow them to be hidden if necessary. I am also looking forward to how the (currently non-existent) mantle will fit into the picture, and how I will fill in the opening (tile, mosaic, etc.).
UDL: On the flip side, what room(s) are you dreading?
RC: I am definitely not looking forward to finishing the dining room. When the previous owners installed a bathroom upstairs, they ran the plumbing for the shower through the middle of the room and it extends down beyond the joists. Also, when they relocated the stairwell, they did not level the supports from the old stairwell. I feel like it will take a lot of work to fix these issues before I can even start building in this room.
UDL: Are there any businesses (or contractors) that you would recommend for other people undertaking a project like this?
RC: I haven’t really used contractors much because I haven’t gotten to a point where I need a lot of technical work done. I used Alliance Property Group for the work I needed to have done professionally (electrical, some masonry, new water line from the street), and they worked out great; very flexible and fair pricing. One thing I learned is that, for the most part, Lowe’s seems to have better prices than Home Depot.
UDL: What do you like most about your neighborhood?
RC: I really like the proximity of all of my favorite places. While I live close to the square, I choose not to go there on weekends because of the crowds. I would much rather go to a place like Mahaffey’s, where you know the people and there is a neighborhood atmosphere (and a great selection of beers you can’t get anywhere else). I like that I can get my groceries and walk home, walk (or jog) to my gym in a few minutes, or walk to the water and follow it all the way to Fell’s Point, the Inner Harbor, or Fed Hill. I like that I’m close to Patterson Park and can get up there quickly to play BSSC sports (especially when we’re scheduled for 10 a.m. games), or go ice skating in that big dome thing (make sure your skates are sharp!), or play tennis on the multitude of courts. I like that I am close to Nacho Mama’s; a place you can go and just close your eyes and point at the menu and you are sure to get something great. I like that everyone has a dog, so when my house is at a point when there isn’t going to be piles of plaster around, I can get a puppy and will have plenty of people to socialize with.
I don’t like that my first floor is only 12” wide, or that my kitchen shrinks to only 9′. I’m not a fan of the small back “yard” I have. 1 – 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are not optimal times to try and fall asleep. These are some of the downsides to living on my block, but I think they can be worked around.
UDL: Any other big tips for people undertaking a project like this?
RC: I have to say that I agree with everything Corey mentioned in his interview 100 percent. I have learned that most of these tips are essential, because I failed to follow any of them when I started my projects. I would also add making lists to his tips. If you write down each step during the planning process, you can see how far you have come, even when the end seems so far off. I have found lists to be essential to keeping me motivated, otherwise, I tend to get overwhelmed and not feel like working when nothing seems to get accomplished. Everything can’t be completed in one day, it takes baby steps.