Sunroom Renovation Plans

In my last post, I detailed my window decisions. Now it’s time to get into the rest of our plans and the budget [gulp].

Hiring a contractor

In August, I posted on Instagram about needing a contractor who is skilled with window installation. A college friend messaged me to say “My folks got their windows done and were happy with the contractor, and my dad is truly a fastidious basketcase.” SOLD. She referred me to CKM/Mizener Construction, whose website says “The joy of a cheap price passes quickly. The sorrow of poor quality lingers on and on.” DOUBLE SOLD.

I’ve had several in-depth conversations with Chris (the lead contractor) and Paul (the superintendent) over the past months and I am thoroughly smitten. I’ve never immediately clicked with a contractor like I have with them: we see eye to eye, they understand my goals and my concerns, and we respect each other and this old house. Chris has already spent many hours onsite and gone through countless rounds with our window supplier to get all the details nailed down. Here’s a drawing Chris made on my wall to illustrate some window sill and moulding choices.


Header beam – womp, womp

Installing a continuous run of windows requires major structural integrity. It’s a 20′ opening.


In order to know what we were getting into in the sunroom – and to get accurate labor quotes – I demoed some sections of the sunroom paneling ahead of Chris coming out for final measurements.


I assumed our existing header “beam” was solid, but we learned that is not the case: it’s a hollow trough formed by three boards.


We have to install a Parallam beam across the sunroom’s west wall. That added significant labor to our plans. I’m grateful we found out before starting work and I’m glad to have hired a contractor with the skills to tackle this.

All the things

Bringing my sunroom plans to life is a major undertaking: we are essentially rebuilding the entire room. In addition to installing the new windows, we will:

  • Thoroughly demo the room – the ceiling, paneling, framing, etc. is all coming out
  • Install the Parallam header
  • Spray insulation onto the ceiling and brick walls
  • Install two new outlets
  • Install new drywall – though there won’t be much of it, because the room will be predominantly windows!
  • Shim the floor and install new subfloor so it’s level – there is currently a significant slope to shed rainwater because, again, it used to be an exterior porch
  • Install new oak floors and stain them to match the hardwood in the living room
  • Install trim around the new windows
  • Install a new wood beadboard ceiling

The sunroom ceiling is currently dilapidated insulation tile that is glued over the original beadboard ceiling. It was rotting in one corner and I pulled away the tile to find an old wasp nest!



The windows will take 3-4 weeks to manufacture and ship. The job will take 2-3 weeks all totaled. Fingers crossed, we’ll be finished by the end of April.

Cost – gird your loins

The 16 Marvin windows (3 in the bedroom, 3 in the dining room, and 10 in the sunroom) cost ~$17k. Labor and materials are estimated to run ~$26k. I’ll do a full budget breakdown once everything is finished, but I wanted to go ahead and get the $43k number out there now so we can all absorb the shock and recover from it. I’ve been saving for over two years for this, and I am willingly paying more for a perfectionist. Cutting open the front of our house is not a time to skimp.

Oh, and I’m also getting a new roof installed on the house and garage. That will cost an additional ~$10k. We’re currently figuring out the timeline re: having it done before or after the window installation.

Oh, and I’m also getting our brick tuckpointing repaired in several areas around the house where it’s failing. That will cost an additional ~$1,400. Hauslermo is getting the works in 2020!

DIY and cost-cutting

To save money where I can, I will be doing some DIY: demo prep, painting the new sunroom walls and ceiling, installing the sunroom baseboard and crown moulding, and installing the trim around the dining room and master bedroom windows. (Given the size of the sunroom window expanse, I’m having the crew do that trim work, but I can handle the other rooms.)

I also decided not to install new windows in the stairwell and guest bedroom during this renovation phase. It’s my hope we can order and install those windows by the end of the year, but I didn’t want to commit all of my project funds from the outset. The side benefit of this is that our entire house won’t turn into our construction zone.


So, that’s where we stand currently: a partially disassembled sunroom, awaiting windows, and equal parts excited and barfing about what we’re undertaking. I’ll keep you posted here and on Instagram!

Bungalow Window Decision Making

New windows for Hauslermo are officially a go! I’ve signed a contract with a general contractor I’m super excited about, finalized my sunroom renovation plans, and pulled the trigger on the window order. I have a lot to say on these topics, so I’m going to break it up into two posts. Let’s start by talking at length, ad nauseam, about windows.

Why I’m replacing our windows

Our existing windows are cheap white vinyl, installed sometime in the 1990s. Aesthetically, they’re a poor match for a 1913 bungalow. I want wood on the interior; metal on the exterior. Functionally, they’re starting to fail – for example, the dining room crank-out casement windows fall of their track frequently, and we have to go outside to push them shut.

I’ve known ever since when we bought the house that I would want to remove the walls of our sunroom (originally an exterior porch) and install new windows across the front. That’s what this bungalow wants, and that’s what this bungalow is going to get. As a reminder, here’s what it looks like now:

Bungalow Window Before 1

And here’s approximately what it will look like after – although they won’t be white!

Bungalow Window Mockup 6 Windows.jpg

It will be a major improvement for our house’s appearance, both inside and out, and I can’t wait to get more daylight into our living room.

Window manufacturer selection

The three big options for our region are Marvin, Pella, and Andersen. I got quotes for Marvin’s Signature Ultimate series (via Next Door & Window as well as direct from Midwest Window & Door), Pella’s Architect series (via a Pella supplier), and Andersen’s 400 series (via Home Depot).

I wish I could share helpful numbers with you, but it’s impossible to compare apples to apples on the quotes because different companies provide different types of quotes: Home Depot and Next Door bundle all of the windows and the installation costs into one, whereas if you buy direct from a supplier you see the individual window cost and labor is priced out separately. Furthermore, Home Depot only does simple replacement work – they couldn’t quote for the sunroom portion because it requires enlarging the existing window opening.


If we look only at the dining room – where I’m doing three double-hung windows as mocked up above – I can share some rough numbers to give you an idea of how much the options cost:

  • Anderson 400 including installation = ~$5k
  • Pella Architect excluding installation = ~$3k
  • Marvin Signature Ultimate excluding installation = ~$2,200

Anderson 400 is a cheaper product, but Home Depot’s installation costs are steep. Pella Architect and Marvin Signature Ultimate are both high-end products and are comparable in cost, but the latter is a better value, in my opinion. I decided to go with Marvin Signature Ultimate because they are widely regarded to be the highest quality. Here’s what sold me: Pella uses roll form aluminum cladding, which means it’s a thin metal wrapped around wood, whereas Marvin used extruded aluminum. It’s like a soda can versus a quarter: Marvin’s metal is structural. Unless something unexpected happens, this is our forever house, and I want forever windows.

Once I landed on Marvin, it was time to make 100 other decisions.

Exterior color – Clay vs. Gunmetal

Marvin offers 19 exterior color options. Clay and Gunmetal were my immediate lead contenders.

marvin ultimite window brochure-6.jpg

I was leaning toward Clay because it’s a subtle earthy color that seemed perfect for a bungalow. But then I chatted with an architect acquaintance who has impeccable taste and makes window decisions regularly for projects. He encouraged me to consider Gunmetal because it will provide more contrast with our brick. Our face brick (the brick on the front sides of the house) is super red. The Clay color couldn’t hold its own against it. Furthermore our common brick (the brick on the back half of the house) is a light tan, and the Clay color disappears against it – they’re far too similar in shade. Gunmetal is a classic dark gray that is strong enough to complement both brick types.

Clay vs Gunmetal.jpg

Here’s a photo of a bungalow in a nearby neighborhood that I love and keep coming back to for inspiration.


And here’s a lovely bungalow that shows what our window style will look like, generally.


Other details

The interior wood will be factory-primed and I’ll have them painted white onsite. I selected matte black hardware. I’m doing simulated divided lite with an in-glass spacer bar – I don’t love the stainless steel they show on the Marvin website and was pleased to learn they offer a black option for a small upcharge.

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Excruciatingly exact measurements are required because these windows will be custom-made to fit an existing masonry opening – there’s no wiggle room with brick. There are also lots of other small manufacturing decisions that could make or break the project – brick moulding, mullions, jambs, sills, etc. The shop drawings look like an aeronautics design.


I wouldn’t know how to make heads or tails of these fine details, so I’m grateful to have found a contractor I trust to get this right. I’ll cover that plus budget and sunroom plans in my next post!

Front Yard Painting and Landscaping

My 2016 exterior blitzkrieg concludes here, in our front yard. When we bought the house, it looked dated and lifeless. The awning darkened the front (both inside and outside), the bushes didn’t offer much curb appeal, and the siding and stucco were in bad need of paint. Oh, and a section of our roof was on the walkway.


Julian Collins has been our go-to guy for several projects since buying the house. He demoed our basement and hauled it away, he painted our exterior, and he helped us remove this hideous awning. I highly recommend him anytime you need extra muscle – he’s fast, affordable, and insanely hardworking.


Jarrod and Julian conquered this awning – my contribution was suggesting they use a board to hold it up and push it away. What I lack in muscle I make up for in smarts.


Removing the awning made a huge difference in our living room and sunroom.

Awning Before.jpg


Our landscapers dug out the bushes in early spring, and then it was time for house painting. (The landscapers took out that dead light post as well, after I had an electrician sever the power connection.)

Front Yard Progress.jpg

I came to a decision on the exterior paint color quickly, which isn’t usually like me! I tried three swatches and had a clear winner: Gunsmith Gray from Benjamin Moore (the bottom swatch). It’s a gray-green; Benjamin Moore calls it a “deep, blackened gray.” The color is from their Williamsburg Collection. The historical vibe works well on our 1913 bungalow: it contrasts the red brick really nicely, and I feel like it adds some much-needed life to the front of the house. The white is off-the-shelf Benjamin Moore white. We used MoorGard Low Lustre Finish in white for the trim, and MoorLife Flat Finish on everything else.

Paint Swatches.jpg

Julian power washed the exterior and then returned the next day to paint. He charged around $800 for everything: the siding, trim, stucco, and back mudroom. He and a helper knocked it out in a single day, working from early morning until after the sun set.

Siding Washing.jpg

When Julian found out I had bought Benjamin Moore Regal Select paint, he said “Thank you, thank you.” Apparently the coverage is significantly better than Behr, which makes his job easier. I definitely noticed the difference in quality when we used it on the garage. So, I’d recommend it and will use it again. If you’re on the north side of Chicago, JC Licht on Irving Park is a great paint store.

Painting Progress 2.jpg

After painting came landscaping. Here’s the plan Monica from Red Stem put together:

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We used all native plants and shrubs, as we did in the backyard. We disconnected our northern gutter downspout from the city sewer system, extended it to the garden area, and buried it so provides water to the garden area. (“DS” in the diagram above – we didn’t end up doing the southern one because we didn’t want to dig under the sidewalk.) This guide was helpful for us as first-time homeowners: Understanding Your Sewer: An Introduction to the Chicago Area’s Combined Sewer Systems. Did you know there are no ninja turtles in Chicago’s sewer system? That’s unique to New York.

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Of all the things we planted, I’m most excited about the multi-stemmed serviceberry tree. It flowers in the spring, produces berries in the summer, and turns bright reddish-orange in the fall. It will grow as tall as our front porch roofline. The cranberry viburnum bushes flower and berry as well, and they’ll grow at least 6 feet tall.

Landscaping Front Yard Progress.jpg

The Red Stem crew was great. Really nice guys, who shared a meal on our new patio and were so considerate of our yard. I love this photo with Doozy overseeing the job from the window.

Front Yard Before 2.JPG

Landscaping Front Yard Progress 2.jpg

Plants and sedges are interspersed between the bushes. Everything will fill in and fill out in the coming years. I will also replace and enlarge the windows someday with something more bungalow-appropriate (similar to this).

Landscaping Front Yard Progress 3.jpg

One last before and after:

House Front.jpg


And that is where I’ll leave you for now. I’ll return in early January with a list of everything I hope to tackle in 2017. Happy New Year!

Living Room and Sunroom: Progress and Plans

I did a six-month check-in of the kitchen and bathroom, and now it’s time to share photos of the living room and sunroom. This space is the one that’s changed the most since we bought the house. I know these photos may look stark in comparison, but that’s because my grand plans have not yet been realized. GRAND PLANS, Y’ALL.




The sunroom used to be an exterior front porch. It was enclosed decades ago. The pizzeria window arch crimes were committed in the 1970s or 1980s, I think. I would have totally kept them if they were in a basement rec room, but for our living room: nope. They also blocked a lot of precious light from reaching our living room.

What’s been done:

  • The plaster cake frosting ceiling was scraped, smoothed, and painted.
  • The ceiling beams were painted.
  • The plaster walls were covered with 1/4″ drywall and painted.
  • The window arches were made larger, squared off, and drywalled. The lattice, posts, and fluorescent lights were removed.
  • The panelling on the other side of the arches was removed and replaced with drywall.
  • The doorway to the sunroom was squared off.
  • The faux bricks were scraped off the wall.
  • Curtains were hung.

Other than curtains, I did none of that work. Our amazing painter did it, and he did it for less money than some contractors quoted me for the paint job alone. Eduardo wasn’t cheap because he did shoddy work, either. He was a total pro. I am very grateful that our first experience hiring a contractor was so successful!

I’ve got a lot of progress shots for you. Eduardo started by sawing into the wall to square off the windows.

Living Room Arches During 8.JPG

After removing the fluorescent lights, I asked him to cap off the electrical wires in the wall so that I can use them to install sconces. Don’t know if I will, but I like having the option.

Living Room Arches During 2.JPG

The walls were covered in a yellowed-with-age wallpaper that was bubbling in some areas, and melded with the plaster in others.



I learned while gathering quotes that I had three options for the walls:

  1. Attempt to remove the wallpaper, which would damage the plaster and require laborious work from a skilled plaster contractor.
  2. Remove the plaster walls entirely and replace them with 1/2″ drywall.
  3. Cover the existing plaster walls with 1/4″ drywall.

Different people had different ideas about the best way to proceed. I chose #3 because it was Eduardo’s recommendation, and because it seemed like the correct middle-ground approach. My only regret with this option is that it may have been helpful or interesting to see what it looks like behind our walls. But it also may have been horrifying.

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After the drywall was up, Eduardo slayed the cake frosting plaster ceiling. This is what he used to scrape it off. I can’t even imagine the arm exhaustion.

Living Room Ice Scraper.JPG

Bless this man.

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Ceiling smoothed, drywall hung, and beams primed:

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Living Room Arches During 3.JPG

First coat of paint:Living Room Arches During.JPG

Now let’s step back in time for a proper Before:downstairs4

Now:Living Room Sunroom.JPG


Now:Living Dining Room.JPG

Obviously this is not our permanent furniture arrangement! That’s a junk table left behind by the previous owners that I’ve been using as a desk. And nothing has really been decorated yet, though I did hang up the furoshiki scarf that I framed and my engineering prints.


Now:Living Room Fireplace.JPG

What I plan to do, short term (within a year or two):

  • Figure out the living room furniture arrangement and start buying pieces as I find them/can afford them. It will be a mix of new and used things. I’ve got a lot of Craigslist alerts set up!
  • Create a desk area on the south side of the room.
  • Lamps and light fixtures and plants and art.
  • Tackle that terrible sunroom ceiling. Those tiles are glued to the original(?) beadboard ceiling. I’ll use that if it can be restored.
  • Tackle the sunroom floor. The peel-and-stick tiles are in bad shape. Not sure what I’ll do yet: hardwood, tile, linoleum (real linoleum, not vinyl), or I might try peel-and-stick tiles myself as a budget-friendly option. There will be a lot of rugs going on throughout the first floor, so I kinda like this floor space left bare. Especially since it will be filled with plants!
  • Paint the fireplace brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with gray paint mortar).
  • Rebuild the bookshelves and condition that wood – it looks parched.
  • Add trim to the windows and doorways.

The openings look starkly modern and characterless right now. They’ll fit the bungalow style better once I add substantial Craftsman trim, which I’ll be doing throughout the house — something like the trim in our previous apartment, or like this:

Craftsman Trim 3.jpg

I didn’t really hesitate to paint the beams white because the color was a gross reddish-brown and because this room doesn’t get much natural light. The only moment of regret I’ve had was upon seeing Jessica Helgerson’s amazing work in this house:

JH Interior Beams.jpg

Those awesome black beams had me second-guessing, but that ceiling is higher than ours and that space is one thousand times (and one million dollars) cooler than ours. More pics of this former library-turned-house are available in this NY Times feature.

Back to reality!


Now:Living Room Window.JPG

As I mentioned previously, the brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “bricks” on the interior side was not. They were plastic!



Now:Sunroom Wall.JPG


Now:Sunroom Window.JPG

What I plan to do, longer term (within two to, I don’t know, seven years):

  • New windows! That huge plate glass picture window is a straight-up Don’t in the Design Guidelines for Historic Chicago Bungalows. I won’t follow those guidelines to the letter — for one thing, they’re overly preachy; for another, this house’s preservation levy was breached decades ago — but it’s a helpful resource for bungalow details.
  • Install a transom-height window in the south wall of our living room.

Adding a high, south-facing window would let in so much light that we’re not currently getting, while maintaining privacy. I actually hung a mirror (which you can see in the photo above) to help me visualize it. It will be approximately 6′ wide by 12″ or 16″ tall. Something kind of like this:


Cutting a hole through a perfectly functional wall is incredibly daunting, but I think it’d be worth the nerves and the money. I need all the natural light I can get.

Speaking of more light: we removed the awning from the front of the house! I’ll include photos of that change when I do an exterior post. It made such a big difference.



I’m currently building a long console table so the cats can enjoy the window.

Painting original trim tends to bring out the DIY blog trolls. If you think I did something sacrilegious, please make any comments foul-mouthed and funny.


New House Tour: Main Floor

Thanks for dining at Palermo’s Pizzeria! Jarrod’s your waiter and he’ll be taking care of you this evening while we tour the first floor of our new house.


Let’s start in the kitchen. It’s the best room of the house right out of the box, which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s functional and is the closest to being pretty decent!

In case it’s not obvious, that’s not our table nor our curtains. The house had been vacant since October 2014 and was mostly empty except for a lot of junk in the garage and basement. I think this table was an attempt at staging, to make the place seem homier. It disappeared the day before we closed; the junk unfortunately stayed put. (The house was sold as-is, so they didn’t have to clean it.)


We’re not going to talk about that enclosed back porch right now: please pretend that moldy mess doesn’t exist. That’s what we do every day.


The kitchen cabinets are kinda nice: the drawers are full-extension and everything’s sturdy, but they were also put together poorly and some weird choices were made. That upper cabinet to the right of the sink, for example, is a base cabinet: it’s way too deep to be up top and Jarrod is definitely going to ram his head into it while loading the dishwasher.


That island is gigantic. I’m excited to have so much counter space on either side of the stove and four matching stools lined up at the bar.


Another “Good ’nuff!” paint job from the previous occupant. That door on the right leads to the basement.


Past the kitchen is the staircase I love, terrible beast of a project that it is. Looks like someone started stripping that sixth baluster and then said “Fuck this!” A few months from now, I’ll probably do the same. My only saving grace is that I don’t want to strip to the point of re-staining (that would kill me and/or I’d set my house on fire), just to the point that it can be a clean paint job. I want the risers and balusters to be white, with the handrail and stair treads stained brown.


There’s a half-bath next to the stairs. The toilet flushes and the sink drains water, and that’s about all it has going for it currently.


I’ll make it as nice as possible with a minimal amount of money, and then do a full renovation down the road. This bathroom renovation will take priority over the upstairs one because more people will use it and it currently feels crummier.


downstairs11Moving on to the living room. I love this view.


Blogging is weird: it’s hard to know what balance to strike between “We’re excited about this house we bought!” and “Look at this messed up thing! Here’s another bad choice! And why in the hell would someone do this?” Just know that while I point out all the flaws, I’m excited about the overall promise of the house and still think (85% of the time) that we got a good place! Like George Harrison said in that weird music video that creeped you out as a child: It’s gonna take time, a whole of precious time, it’s going to take patience and time, to do it right and undo all the things some idiot did before you.


This decorative fireplace will be nice eventually. I’ll paint the brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with hand-drawn gray “mortar” lines) and rebuild the shelves. Art — not a TV — will go over the mantle. Nothing against TVs, I just don’t like them up high.


I’m a little overwhelmed by how to arrange furniture in the living room. There’s a lot of room to work with, but the space is divided visually by the entryways. Neither half is big enough to contain an entire seating area, so whatever couch + chair arrangement we come up with will have spill into the middle of the room. My friend’s mom (hi, Mrs. Priebe!) is an interior decorator and I’m roping her in for advice.


The front sunroom used to be an exterior porch. It was enclosed a few decades ago, with cheap linoleum on the floor and cheap acoustic tiles on the ceiling. All of it will get changed in time. It’s a sunny bonus room and I look forward to having some comfortable chairs out there for reading and coffee. And lots of plants!



The brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “brick” on the interior side is not.


Those are plastic bricks, glued to a thin layer of concrete, which was applied to a piece of wall panelling, which was stuck to the plaster wall. Yeesh. This was one of things we were able to tackle prior to moving in, so it looks quite different now. Pics to come!


The next post will tour the basement and outside, where we’ve already done a lot of work, so there will be before & after photos of some unglamorous but very necessary changes.