I’ve promised a few times to update you on the progress of my studio space, so here we go! The last few months of the renovation went by at such a fast pace. Not that things got done extra quickly, but there were so many things happening at once. It was a full-time job to keep up with scheduling contractors and doing some of the work ourselves as well. It really was a full-time job in itself.
I think the last time I showed some video of what the space looked like just before the drywall was scheduled to go in. If you go to my Instagram stories it’s saved under “Studio”. So it took about 9 months to get to that point! And up until then it’s all the ugly uninteresting, expensive stuff. We had really started from scratch once we got all the demolition wrapped up. A few unexpected surprises came up along the way.
Early in the spring we removed all the aluminum siding and a large awning from the front of the building. That was hard work! Underneath was the old brick facade, which was very exciting! It was so fun to see the year the building was built – 1890! It was a happy surprise because none of the pictures we had of the building showed a clear view of the date. We hired a masonry restoration specialist come in and try to remove the layers of paint from the brick. I had high hopes that the paint would be stripped away to reveal the beautiful brick. Unfortunately that’s not what happened. Over the years there were many layers of paint applied by previous owners. The first few layers were probably latex paint which came off fairly easily, but the much older layers were oil based and then finally a layer that was much more like tar. It wasn’t going to come off! I felt really sad that the old brick was damaged so much, but there wasn’t anymore we could do without completely ruining the face of the brick. They tuck pointed all the loose joints and repaired some of the damaged brick. Then they recommended a special masonry coating (we chose a gray color). I’m hoping this coming spring we can have some of the details brought out a bit more with some hand painted details, but for now I think it looks classic and much improved from its previous self.
When we first purchased the building, we had crossed our fingers in hopes that its original iron columns were still in place and they were! Over the years, the building’s facade had been completely covered with layers of paints and then with a whole front of aluminum siding. So it seemed to preserve the posts quite nicely. I spent a lot of time stripping the layers of paint (a taupe color, and under that was a grass green/gold layer and then finally a layer of white) and cleaning up all the details. It was kind of fun actually and a lot of time on a scissors lift! The columns are 12 1/2 feet tall, so the lift was essential in getting the job done. We removed the remaining aluminum siding and heavy!!! windows and doors. It was so hard! So at one point the whole front of the building was wide open (from the iron beam underneath the brick and below) with only the columns left. Not sure when but there was a fire in 1912 in our downtown area that may have originally damaged the original facade. So the only original parts left on the front of the building was the brick, the columns, and the front foundation wall – which is all now preserved. I painted the columns with an oil based primer and paint specifically for the iron.
I painted all the new front siding that was installed below the windows. We tried to mimic the original details of the building the best we could. While this wasn’t a totally accurate restoration job, I feel like the front facade turned out so well. The week the windows were being installed was sooooo stressful for me. I almost couldn’t watch! I think I was mostly worried that they wouldn’t fit or they would break, but the installers were so talented and skilled – they made it look easy and it turned out beautifully.
Before the front windows went in, our carpenters had worked on installing the back wall. When we purchased the building, it had no back wall and had been condemned because an addition in the back had collapsed. There was a temporary wall installed, but as part of our plan, we set the new back wall back on the original foundation. An old collapsed stairwell into the basement had to be patched with concrete block and backfilled. It was definitely exciting when the new back wall was finally up! The slow spring weather definitely played a part in slowing things up a bit.
The interior got framed out. We have a sort of ‘divider’ wall that separates the inventory area from the main front areas. We have two bathrooms (for code) and a mechanical room. In the mechanical room there’s a hatch to get to the basement which is really nothing more than where the plumbing pipes and drains exist.
We ended up replacing half of the building’s concrete floors, too. It was definitely unexpected. There was an extra layer of leveler that had been put down by a previous owner that ended up cracking and shifting large plates of concrete. Once we removed that layer we discovered the concrete underneath was in worse shape than anticipated. It was very old concrete that had many large areas where it had sunk down and cracked. Not something you’d put a brand new floor on. We had to jack hammer and hand carry the old concrete from the building. Luckily we had quite a few friends to help with the heavy labor. It took a lot of sweat and work gloves!
Even though the metal roof was in okay shape, it still had lots of repair work. We applied two coats of a specialty roof sealant to hopefully allow us to keep the roof for a few more years before it might need to be replaced. It was of course during the most humid and hot part of summer that we were up on the roof, of course!
Next the back wall was sided and we (eventually) added an awning. During that time the floors inside were being prepared for the new flooring. There was a fair amount of grinding and leveling that had to be done. Thankfully we had a flooring specialist that did that work! Also the new electrical was installed and the plumbing had been roughed in.
So the last step in the not so pretty stuff was the drywall which totally transformed the space! It was so amazing to walk into the space that we had spent so long doing demolition and repair work on and finally see something look improved! I was mind-blowing!!! That took place in the middle of August.
I think I’ll leave the update at that for now. It was a lot! So even though the final product makes everything look simple, this will hopefully be a good reminder of some of the trials an tribulations of renovating and repairing an old building! Next time we’ll get to the fun stuff, I promise! 🙂
In case you’re curious, here a couple previous posts that I’ve written: