Category: diy

DIY For the Masses

The #1 question I get asked on this blog is “What’s your #1 piece of advice for a novice DIYer?”   I sort of hate that question because every situation is unique. Is it “prime before you paint?”  Or “measure twice, cut once?”  Or “dull blades are dangerous?”  Or “make certain the breaker is really off?” Fact is, you’ll find lots of sites with lots of Top Ten lists for do-it-yourselfers.   Just read the first thing on the list, I guess. My answer is usually to reject the question.  Or maybe it should be, “If you think that a #1 piece of

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Doesn’t it always work like this?

Sunday morning, a neighbor down the block called the fire department for what was apparently a minor fire. I saw FDNY parked down the street as I returned from walking the dogs. One of the firefighters was flushing out the hydrant as another rolled up the hose. They weren’t there long. The water pipes in the street here are very old and they also supply those hydrants. Whenever one of those hydrants gets flushed the houses on the block get brown water for hours afterward. I don’t mean rusty looking water. There are literally flakes of rust and (for lack

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“Wow, I’ve always wanted to renovate an old house!”

The popularity of home improvement shows demonstrates that people are fascinated by the idea of taking something old and beat up and making it new again. But as anyone who has undertaken a large scale home renovation knows, the reality of doing it yourself lives on another planet from the romantic, everything-works-the-first-time impression that these shows portray. For one, you won’t have a professional contractor standing out of the shot, ready to yell “Stop! Stop!!” before you slice through a BX cable with your demolition saw. Nor will you have a bunch of off-camera laborers to unload the truck, clean

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Hey, boss, it was in da plan!

I was walking the dogs down an unfamiliar street this morning when I saw four old row houses, obviously constructed by the same builder. What caught my eye were the wrought iron doors under the front stoop, accessible by three steps down. One of the doors was open so I could see that the stairs continued down to the basement level. Nothing interesting there except that the doors are only about 30 inches high. Is it possible the architect specified a 30″ door and this is what the builder gave him? I’ve been collecting these shots for a while for

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Cheap digs

Jeannie from Houseblogs.net challenged us blogger monkeys to write a show-and-tell post. Considering the probably millions of bucks that we housebloggers collectively squander annually on new roofs, new additions, central air and glass door knobs, if there was a ever a low, slow ball over the plate for this group, this was it! Bragging about my tool collection was the first thing that popped into my head. but I just got off a nine-month bedroom reno project and I’m tired of talking about tools.  I wish I could boast about my auction and flea market finds but I’ve been pretty

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DIY War Story

There was a recent forum post on Houseblogs.net asking for DIY disaster stories. I’ve had more than my share of them. But I’m such a long-winded writer that I didn’t think I could reduce any of them to a sound bite paragraph. Here’s one of my more verbose ones: My previous renovation was a downtown Broadway loft in Manhattan, where I converted a 5000sf paper bag factory to a residence and a commercial audio recording studio. This was a very early progress picture. The place was a mess when I took it. The floor was wired only for DC electricity.

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“I’ve always wanted to own an old house!”

The popularity of home improvement shows demonstrates that people are fascinated by the idea of taking something old and beat up and making it new again. But as anyone who has undertaken a large scale home renovation knows, the reality of doing it yourself lives on another planet from the romantic, everything-works-the-first-time impression that these shows portray. For one, you won’t have a professional contractor standing out of the shot, ready to yell “Stop! Stop!!” before you slice through a BX cable with your demolition saw. Nor will you have a bunch of off-camera laborers to unload the truck, clean

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Last Lap Crash

Most people will experience a major home renovation only once in their lives. This is my third one and I think I’ve discovered a thus far unreported affliction which I call Home Stretch Complacency. Let’s give it an acronym so it sounds official: HSC. HSC doesn’t appear to be a unique defect in my genetic makeup. I know several tyromaniacs like me who have suffered and are suffering from this dibilitating condition. The symptoms of HSC are, after spending years on a difficult and time-consuming renovation project, crashing on the last lap. That final room doesn’t get done, the trim

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    Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

    This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

    My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

    I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

    This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.