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.

Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 8.47.32 AM.png

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!

My Favorite Purchases of 2019

‘Tis the season of mass consumption and year-end best-of lists! I enjoyed rounding up my favorite purchases in 2015, so I thought I’d do it again.

I’ve sorted the list by purchase price in descending order. I linked to where I purchased each item myself. Mostly Amazon, but if you’re anti-Amazon (understandable), you can surely find them elsewhere. Note: none of these links are sponsored or referral.

#10. Rejuvenation Hood Pendant Light

Price: $439 / Link. I thoroughly documented our staircase renovation on Instagram (everything is saved in my stories highlight), but I know not all blog readers are on IG (hi, Dad). I owe you full recap! In the meantime, here’s a peek. Installing this Rejuvenation light fixture was the crowning glory of finishing the renovation. I didn’t let myself install it until I finished all of the less appealing tasks on my to-do list (hi, baseboard painting).


Ordering custom-made light fixtures is daunting because you can’t return them: I stressed a little over the length – thanks to Jarrod for helping me visualize it!


I wound up ordering the Hood fixture in the Aged Brass finish, 32″ length, with the 14″ Opal Globe Shade. It’s lovely.

#9. Ryobi 40-Volt Cordless Mower

Price: $279 / Link. When we bought our house in 2015, our former landlords sold the apartment building we had been living in. The landlords used to pay me to mow the lawn of that property, and they didn’t need their plug-in mower anymore, so they gave it to me. I kept hoping it would die so I would have an excuse to buy a cordless one. It never did, so this year I finally decided to pass it on to a coworker-friend who had purchased her first house (hi, Katie!) and treated myself to a new one.

All that to say: I love this mower. It uses the same 40-volt Ryobi battery as our string trimmer. It easily mows our front and back yard on a single charge, and it’s so nice to not be tethered to a power outlet or to worry about mowing over an extension cord.


#8. Eley Garden Hose Reel

Price: $189 / Link. Speaking of treating myself: this hose reel is luxurious. It’s one of the sturdiest things I’ve ever purchased. Five stars.


I took a “before” photo but failed to take a photo after I installed the reel, and I can’t take one now because we put it away for winter. You’ll just have to trust me.


Please ignore the tuckpointing cracks in our front stoop’s wing wall – that’s what I do everyday. It’s fine. It’s probably fine.

#7. Foresake Patch Hiking Boots

Price: $140 / Link. We went to Ireland in April to visit my younger brother, who was shooting a movie there (Green Knight). I bought these boots for the trip.


Very comfortable for hiking and they look cool/streamlined enough to wear in the city, too.


Jarrod bought these Danner boots, by the way, which are also very nice. If you don’t wear brand new hiking boots in Ireland, how will they know you’re American?


#6. Bunkerwall Parking Guides

Price: $48 / Link. We used to have a hanging tennis ball as a guide for backing into our garage, but it kept getting pulled down when we’d shut our Subaru Forester’s back hatch. I bought these parking guides after the forever-accident-prone Jarrod closed the garage door onto the front of our car… twice.


When we back in, we bump into these things – they’re heavy enough to stay in place without being affixed to the floor. Now we always park perfectly: staying clear of the garage door while maximizing space in the back.

#5. Sloggers Clogs

Price: $28 / Link. Ashley at The Gold Hive recommended these outdoor clogs on in this blog post. I always keep them at the back door in our mudroom. They’re easy enough to slip on that they’ve stopped me from going outside in my socks or slippers, which is what I used to do anytime I wanted to quickly pop outside – e.g. when I want to take a photo of the parking bumpers in our garage.


#4. Floor Register Grates

Price: $12 / Link. Last month I replaced all of our tan floor grates with these dark oil-rubbed bronze ones. A cheap, super easy upgrade! They look so much nicer.


I spray painted our return grates to match.


True story: I left a grate off while it was drying. Lola, our cat, had been in mudroom all afternoon and I wasn’t thinking of him. He came into the living room and immediately went right into vent. Not a moment’s hesitation – it was like he had been waiting his whole life for the opportunity. Jarrod just happened to be standing there when it happened. He plunged his hand down the vent and pulled Lola out by his tail. Phew!


You can see Lola’s claw marks in the dust above. He spent the rest of the day staring insolently at the covered vent, as though he had been denied something rightfully his.

#3. H&M Waffled Hand Towel

Price: $7 / Link. I bought this H&M hand towel for our half-bathroom. I like that the hanging loop is in the middle of the long edge (instead of on the short edge) – that makes it look nice and full when it’s hanging on a hook. The material is pretty yet utilitarian.


That is all I have to say about this hand towel.

#2. Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves

Price: $6 / Link. Jarrod and I attended the Basic Tree ID class at The Morton Arboretum this fall, which I highly recommend if you’re in Chicagoland. It taught us simple ways to identify trees. Tree Finder was one of the books they recommend. Jarrod likes that it’s small and lightweight – much easier to carry around than most field guides.


#1. Crunchy Cheetos

Price: $2 / Link. When I was reviewing all of my 2019 Home Depot purchases – so many Home Depot purchases – I saw this receipt and laughed. Crunchy Cheetos are amazing, obvs, and the Home Depot purchase history is, too.


If you save your credit/debit card to your online Home Depot account, it automatically pulls in all of your in-store purchases – even ones you made prior to linking your card to your account. It’s super handy if you need a receipt for a warranty, or if you need proof of spending $1.93 on Crunchy Cheetos at 11:39am on September 21.

Staircase Refinishing: That’s What the Money is For

In my last post, I outlined my house plans for 2019… and then I disappeared. I’ve been working on our home a lot since then – nothing especially blog worthy – but I’m back with an update on the staircase project! And that update is: I decided I value my time more than my money on this particular project, and I hired someone to do it.

Stair Progress 4.JPG

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen my lurching progress on this stairway over the past two years.

Stair Progress 5.JPG

I’ve removed cove moulding, stripped paint with heat and chemicals, sanded, and more. But I’ve barely made a dent in this 105-year-old beast.


It’s telling that the previous owner also started this project and never finished – he stripped the handrail, one baluster, and gave up.

Stair Progress 6.JPG

Stair Progress 3.JPG

All totaled, I’ve spent easily 40 hours on the stairs, and every hour has made me less certain of the path forward. Usually, I’m motivated by that “the only way out is through” feeling, but that was the not the case here. Once I admitted to myself that this project was never going to bring me any DIY joy, I started looking for a wood refinishing contractor.


I hired Peter’s Wood Refinishing, which has great reviews on Angie’s List and is affiliated with the Chicago Bungalow Association. I will share an honest review of their work afterward here, of course. I don’t mind over-sharing financial details, so I’ll tell you: this job was quoted at $3,375.

Peters Wood Refinishing Quote.jpg

You’ll also notice in the quote above that it will take 6-7 days. That’s a full week of labor from a team of professionals:

  • Let’s assume (conservatively) that it’s 3 workers x 7 days x 5 hours a day. That’s 105 hours.
  • Let’s assume (conservatively, again) they’re twice as efficient as I am – because they’ve done it before, and because they’re working longer hours without having to set up/take down the job site every day. That’s 210 hours of my time.
  • If I managed to work on these stairs for 7 hours a week, I would be finished in 30 weeks. NOPE. (Actually, not even finished: parts would still need to be painted, which I am also hiring out. DOUBLE NOPE.)

When I did that math, it was a pretty easy decision: that’s what the money is for. No shame!


The crew starts this Thursday. They’re going to strip everything, and then stain the following parts to a walnut color (similar to our first floor hardwood floors):

  • Newel posts – the big posts on the corners and ends
  • Handrails – self-explanatory
  • Stair treads – the part you step on
  • Cove – the concave pieces of moulding immediately under the lip of the tread
  • Fascia – the large pieces of vertical wood


The stringers, risers, and 72 balusters(!) will be painted white. I learned from stripping the balusters (AKA spindles) that they’ve always been painted – there wasn’t stain or lacquer beneath the decades of paint like there was elsewhere. This week I’m obsessing over where exactly the stain will stop and the paint will begin: the wood profile is so detailed that it’s not as straight-forward as you might think.


I’m excited to do right by this vintage staircase. It’s a big part of why I fell in love with our house, and I’m grateful we have the means to restore it. I will post regular updates on Instagram Stories over the next week – follow me at @martipalermo to follow along!

House Goals for 2019 and Beyond

After all of 2018’s work, our house (AKA Hauslermo) is feeling really good. My make-it-work kitchen makeover was definitely the right call for us, in lieu of a full kitchen renovation. The mudroom was an impactful, budget-friendly overhaul. And replacing all of the moulding makes the entire first floor feel more finished.

At this point, the finish line for Hauslermo’s renovation is kinda visible on the distant horizon, so I’ve been thinking about how to plan and budget for the remaining to-dos. In 2019, I hope to focus on some lower-cost improvements while I gather information and save money for the major renovations to come.

In addition to the goals listed below, there are three big, looming expenses: replacing the roof, the furnace, and the water heater. All of those things are functioning fine now, but I know they won’t forever. The roof will likely get worked into my 2019 or 2020 plans, and all three will impact the available funds for my other goals. (And, of course, this house or our lives could throw us an unforeseen curveball at any point in the game.)

Here goes:


  • Finish staircase, for real this time
  • Move junction box over dining room table and install new light
  • Repair brick tuckpointing – it’s failing in a few areas
  • Landscaping
    • Plant another backyard tree
    • Replace front yard bushes (three of them gave up on life – womp womp)
    • Pare down backyard bed
    • Get back into vegetable gardening (Jarrod plans to take the lead on this in his official capacity as our Food Procurement Officer)
  • Finish guest bedroom – it’s a hodgepodge of furniture and decor right now
  • Eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI) from our home loan – this is an aspirational financial goal for 2019 or 2020. We purchased our house with less than a 20% down payment, so we have to pay $125 for PMI each month. This bums me out because it’s totally wasted money. I plan to explore all of the options for eliminating it (e.g. getting our home reappraised).
  • Sunroom Phase 1
    • Level floor – because our enclosed front sunroom used to be an exterior porch, it slopes downward (just like our mudroom – it doesn’t bother me in that space, but it’d be nice to fix it here)
    • Install new floor
    • Replace or cover ceiling insulation tiles with new beadboard

For reference, here’s our sunroom currently:


  • Sunroom Phase 2
    • Replace bungalow-inappropriate picture glass window with wall-to-wall windows
    • Install new shades
  • Replace all other windows

On Christmas day, we walked around Ravenswood Manor (a nearby neighborhood that has a lot of lovely vintage bungalows) and looked for window inspiration. I took photos for my Home Renovation board on Pinterest. Here’s our house now:Bungalow Window Before 1.jpg

And here’s a slapdash mockup:Bungalow Window Mockup 1.jpg

But it won’t really look like that because the window trim most likely won’t be white and it won’t look bonkers. It’ll look good, I promise. It better look good, because it’s going to cost one million dollars.

2021 and/or 2022

  • Basement renovation
    • Install French drain and sump pump
    • Finish half of the basement with a guest bedroom and bathroom – because our house only has two bedrooms (and they share the upstairs bathroom), it would be nice for hosting to add an additional bed and bath. It’s a walk-out basement with decent ceiling height, so it would count toward our house’s property value.
    • Reconfigure the other half of the basement for improved storage and a nicer laundry room


  • Second floor bathroom renovation
    • At the minimum, I would keep the existing layout and replace the tile, bathtub, toilet, etc.
    • At the maximum, I will investigate the possibility of reconfiguring the layout and enlarging the bathroom to accommodate two sinks – we don’t need some fancy luxury bathroom, but having a sink for both of us would be really nice

As a reminder, our bathroom currently looks like this – totally fine, but not my long-term goal:bathroom-after-1


  • Hauslermo is finished and I never do any work again
  • J/K
  • I don’t know what happens then!
    • We could likely sell our house for a modest profit, but I don’t know if we could buy a different house that’s as appealing – I’m not sure what, if anything, could be gained if we tried to trade up. I’m happy with this being our forever house, but I will want ongoing projects of some sort.
    • Maybe we invest in a two-flat as a rental property?
    • Maybe we buy a vacation house with our other childless friends? (We’ve daydreamed about a house in Michigan that we’d call The Sink Inn, with SINK standing for “Surplus Income, No Kids.”)
    • Maybe I start helping other people with their homes, as a for-profit venture and/or I get involved with a not-for-profit house-focused charity?
    • Maybe I start an entirely different hobby? Weaving, I’m looking at you.

Happy New Year, everyone!