Doors, Decks and PBR's

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Doors, Decks and PBR's

Matt on his favorite job site - the start of the BRBF

The work done in the below post reflects a lot of work of a very good friend of ours that recently passed away. I would like to dedicate this post to Matt London.  Thank you for the years of friendship and the hard work on our project.  You will be missed.  

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Powerwash It!


Powerwash It!

One of my favorite things to do.  Hit a house with 3000lbs of presurized water.  Don't fall off the latter!




Making Honey Out of Horse $#@!

It has been a few weeks and a lot has happened at Chestnut Place.  Lets talk front deck restoration...

The front deck looks okay from far away.  Up close you realize the cheap composite decking is completely swollen and the rails are made of super thin plastic that actually pull off the posts if you lift them up.  This deck will be key to our curb appeal when a buyer walks up.  It will be the first thing that grabs their attention and we don't want a potential buyer to think we took the cheap route.  The rail is coming off to simplify the look and the decking is getting replaced.

After demolition we were left with good framing but the steps are going to need some work.  After removing the rails we realize that the posts are just sleeves on galvanized pipe.  This definitely does not scream quality.  My plan is to cut the posts off eliminating the rail all together.  In Massachusetts the building code reads if a deck has a max of 2 steps you do not need a railing.  My plan is to eliminate a step, make the risers 8" high and cover the entire thing with decking.  It will make it a much more appealing and simple design as well as open up the look of the entire entrance.  The best part is we are using existing framing saving tons of time and money.

We ended up going with a 1 x 4 Mahogany decking to give it a higher quality natural wood finish.  It also helped to find it on clearance at

Stonewood Products

in Harwich Ma.  They sell closeout lumber that is not only cheap, but really nice quality.  After toying around with the idea of hidden fasteners we decided it was proving to take too much time to execute than we originally thought.  I had a few coils of stainless ring nails left over so I ended up shooting it down with a gun to save time and money.  It's such a small deck that you don't even notice the nails until you are up close.  We are also hoping a buyer is already noticing the sleek black front door we are putting in when they are standing on it.  More on that later...

One large step leads up to the surface instead of two short steps  This makes the walk up much more comfortable and also keeps it well within the code.  The last think we need is an inspector making us rip this apart due to insufficient steps.

Once the decking is down we used a sealer so it doesn't crack or warp.  We didn't want to lose the natural look so we're using a hardwood oil that is almost clear.  Originally I was looking for

Australian Timber Oil

but had a hard time finding it locally.  This brand,


was recommended by a local paint store and ran $32 a quart, not cheap but it worked really well. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to soak up the end grains with several coats, or use a beeswax to keep the ends from splitting.

After lightly sanding by hand, blow off the surface and wipe clean with a dry cloth.  Use a foam pad to spread the oil letting it puddle up and soak in for a few minutes before wiping with rag.  If it still looks dry do it a second time.  I really like this method not only for the look, but for the fact that it goes on super quick and once you get one or two coats on you are done.  No need to sand and paint it again.  Moving forward you can let it weather and turn grey or wipe a new coat on once a year leaving it looking brand new.  (or for the occasional house party) If you choose to re apply make sure to give it a light power wash before applying.

The end result is a clean natural looking surface.


After...  And yes.  I kicked over the $32 can of oil.  Don't do that...

Next post - power washing and exterior painting!


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Walking Into the War Zone

Lets go through the inside.  The following will be a mix of photo’s pre and post closing to give you an idea of what we walked through when we first saw it and what was in store for us when we got to it empty.  I actually had my tools in the Jeep and ready to go the day of the closing.  Exactly 30 min after the closing we were at Home Depot and one hour later I was ripping the cabinets out of the kitchen.  Lizzy thought I was out of my mind…

When building our plan the goal is to make this a turn key, functional home for a young couple or family.

We want it to have high end finishing touches combined with an open layout to make it appealing to the young and modern buyer.  

Buckle up.  This is a long one.

First Floor

The first floor has a center staircase with living room on the right and dining room on the left.

When we first walked the house there was so much stuff in it that it made it feel super closed in.

After the closing we realized there is actually a lot of space the rooms are huge!

The living room has some quirks.

  There is a full steel beam running the width that will have to be boxed in.  

We originally thought we could save the floor but after seeing it empty there are too many spots where the floor was cut  By the time we try to splice it together we might as well just tear it up and replace it.

Because we want an open layout this means all the floors will come up so that we can install one continuous wood floor that matches throughout.

The entire first floor has wallpaper so that will have to come down as well.

Thats a lot of nutcrackers...

Next to the front door is a closet that takes up valuable space.

Since we plan on adding a mud room out back, the closet will go and a short 2 foot wall will stay to create an entry area or place to hang a coat on a bank of hooks.

On the right there is a random wall which used to have a piano on the back side.

The stain glass and wall are going to get ripped out opening the room up.

Between tearing out the closet and wall we hope to create a much better flow and open layout.

Currently an office/laundry room, the back corner of the house is the perfect spot for a mudroom.

With the back door directly next to the stairs to the driveway, this room will end up being the main point of entry for anyone who lives here.

A tile floor, and built in bench/storage wall will be created in order to make this a useful mudroom.

By the way this is the room that is considered the 4


bedroom on the listing.

Obviously a reach, so we are eliminating it but feel the usefulness of the mudroom is worth it.

Here are some shots from right to left with the room empty...

The layout of the kitchen is just not practical.

The refrigerator is isolated in the far corner and the peninsula/hall desk makes it feel really closed in.

The plan here is to gut it to the studs.

The layout will change completely moving the stove across the room and adding a bank of cabinets on the outside wall.

We will change the slider to a single French door, adding a larger window above the sink and making this a useful layout for every day life and entertaining.

The cabinets in the hall will go leaving a more open walkway

Sneak peak of the new kitchen layout.  

The wall between the dining room and kitchen is going to come down as well.

It’s a 12 foot load bearing wall.  This will require a manufactured beam fit into the ceiling to hold the second floor up.

A new peninsula will be added where the window on the outside wall is, creating a breakfast bar.

That window will also be eliminated. Who wants to look at the wall of the house next door?

These changes will completely change the layout and feel of the home.

It exposes the fireplace nicely and creates a large open living space!

Wall coming down / window being eliminated

I just don't get it...

The brick will get a facelift with some rusty granite tile

Finally the first floor bath is more than disgusting…

The tub doesn’t drain, the window is completely rotten and the sink is falling off the wall.

Complete gut job.

The plan is to push the right wall into the mudroom picking up 12” and making it larger.

A walk in tile shower, Kohler toilet, pedestal sink, new window , new door and open shelves instead of the closet will finish this puppy out.

Second Floor

The second floor is not so bad.

The stairs and hall hardwood are in good shape so a quick refinish and new lights and this is good to go.

The bath is going to be gut and a new larger tub will go in.

The left wall will push 12 inches over making more room for a new vanity and larger layout.

Tile floor and some nice finishing touches will make it pleasant room to walk into in the AM.

Sorry guys I only had one pic before it got gut...

The master bedroom needs some help.

After the rug goes the slider will get changed and a large walk in closet will be created in the front half of the room.

Double glass French doors will lead you into the closet and still allow for light to come through the gable window.

  A r

ug will finish the room off for a soft feel.

And of course more wallpaper!

Lizzy is looking forward to all that stripping that’s for sure…


The two bedrooms need some cosmetic work but overall are not a ton of work.

The first will get a paint job, some minor tweaks to the heat and a rug.

The second will get a paint job and that strange box in the wall will come out as well as the skylight.  New lights and a rug will finish both.


The basement is a mess.

The previous owner installed walls and lights all over the place creating an illegal apartment.

Our goal is to take a bunch of the walls down and create a large open layout.

The good thing is that it is HUGE.

After a day of demo we should have a full 1000S.F. of usable space!

As a walk out this is a great selling point and will be the perfect play area or man cave for sure.

Fuzzy shot of this dark and dreary basement...

With all this work comes a lot of gutting, electrical work and plumbing.

In fact we are most likely going to re pipe the entire house minus the heat system.

But even that will get some updates.

The wiring is not terrible but there is a 100 amp service to the house.

  Today's digital world really demands a 200 amp service so we will update it.

All the plugs will get updated and both baths/kitchen will get rewired.

So basically we will end up rewiring the entire house.

I just keep telling myself that the profit margin is there.

Just get it done and back on the market!

Now I have to order a dumpster.

Spoiler Alert – we are currently on our fifth...  

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What To Expect When Expecting...

Lets start with an overview of what we are getting ourselves into.  To recap this house had smokers in it for about 20 years.  I will be honest when I say it was hard to even walk upstairs the smell was so thick.  Our realtor said it was the number one reason people walked away, but being able to see through the worst of a property is the key to flipping.  You have to see the potential and know that everything on the surface can be fixed.  It's what is under the surface that ends up surprising you and what can cost you a lot of money...

House Stats:  Located in Hingham Ma.  1741 S.F. living space with a 1000 S.F. walk out basement.  3 bed (4 according to the listing but we are turning that into a mud room) 2 full bath.  .15 acres that backs up to 5+ acres of tidal marsh land.  Not in the flood zone.

I know I said the posts would not be long but lets be honest... There is a lot to talk about here. Lets go over the outside and start to put together the exterior checklist.

Front -

New Roof, new siding/trim on the dormers, new gutters and the front porch will see a facelift for sure.  The blue on the front was someones choice and I'm sure it was great when it was new, but we might make an update there as well.  The skylight will go entirely and all the lights will be new but the bay windows will stay.  Lastly, something has to be done with that front walk.

Sides -

Both sides need new window trim and the shingles are super dirty.  Nothing a good power washing will not fix.  Luckily the windows look like they are acceptable.  One may need to be changed due to some rot but it looks like we lucked out with the windows.

Side note - How sick is this thing?  I worked hard to get this as part of the negotiation but the owner wanted nothing to do with my shenanigans...  OK on to the house...

You can see the rot on the trim (center first floor window).

Back -

The back is a project to say the least.  The deck has decent redwood decking on it but it needs a lot of repair.  Also, why would you stain such nice decking??? We think it is useable so hopefully some sanding and a good paint job will do the trick.  The rails are also suspect... Not sure what the plan here is.  Railing systems are super expensive so we may have to get crafty on those.  One thing I can guarantee is that those 2x4 horizontals are absolutely going.  Lattice work may stay?  Not sure yet. I just can't wait until all this clutter is gone so we can really investigate.  The bright side?  Those 5 acres of tidal marsh land are going to look amazing without chunky railings and a giant roof over your head.

The downstairs bath will get a new window (above the cooler) along with the kitchen sink.  Also the slider will go and we are thinking a french door will replace it. After all that and dealing with the monstrosity of a deck above us and you realize repainting is pointless so you guessed it!  All new siding and trim on the back of the house. (Que the "Money Pit" thoughts...)

Upstairs -

The upstairs deck is a train wreck.  Not really sure what the heck they were thinking but the deck has very unstable rails and there is no decking!  It's just asphalt shingles on a pitch with a sliding door that doesn't latch.  First thought was to just add decking.  After investigating we realized the plywood is loaded with rot, there is no height between the shingles and the door to fit decking and honestly the whole thing is WAY too big.  The consensus at this point is to tear it off and start over...  We will see...

Shed -

This thing may look like a mess but let me tell you... It may be my favorite part of the house.  Look at that view!  AND it has electricity run to it.  This is the perfect motorcycle workshop if you ask me.  Power wash the outside, patch some trim and paint the door.  Done.

Landscaping -

Lets see if we have any money left.  We are thinking some work on the lawn and very basic plantings with mulch.  That fish pond behind the deck will disappear as well.  

So yeah, its a lot of work.  Especially when you work full time.  I can't do it all so there will be some subcontractors involved on the big stuff, and many a nights and weekends working our butts off.  Stay tuned for a tour of the inside and soon enough the gut job after it!

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Flippin Out


So here I am sitting here thinking... How the heck do you write a blog?  What is it "suppose" to look like?  So what do I do?  Naturally, I google it!  What I learn is that people want to know all about you first of all.  Then they want to know why you are writing one, and most of all they want to see some cool photo's of what you are talking about.  Most of all they don't want you trying to sell them anything.

So here is my first post.  You are going to see who I am, why I am here and some shots of what I like to build.  I may also walk you through how you can do it yourself.  You may even see how I screw things up a bit.  (but a good carpenter can always fix his mistakes right?)

Disclaimer: I am the worst speller in on the face of the planet.  No really, its bad.  So just suck it up and we will realize that bad spelling is not the end of the world....

My name is PJ and I like to build stuff...

I have been building things my whole life starting with very poorly designed tables and crooked treehouses when I was a kid.  I was terrible in fact.  I think my biggest issue is that I had absolutely zero patience growing up.  Some would say I still have close to zero - but I have found ways to deal with this disability and recently have been building some pretty cool shit.  (here is where the photos come in)

Some of my smaller projects...

Custom built in cubbies with wainscot backing and bench with glove box.

Solid 2" thick Oak Farm Table

One of the few (not crooked) Treehouses I have played around with..

But that brings me to what really motivated me to establish this blog anyway.  This fall my wife Lizzy (thats her admiring her handy work above) and I decided we wanted to invest our money in a life sized mutual fund, or money pit, or whatever you would like to call it.  We purchased a disgustingly filthy, cigarette smoke filled, badly updated house in Hingham MA.  Our original plan was to buy it, fix it up and move in eventually.  But after seeing my 2+ hour commute the mutual fund started to look more like a day trade.  Thus we are flipping our first house...  

Here she is...and our realtor Suzy... She is great.

This gem was a short sale.  Basically if you decide to not pay your bills for seven years like this owner did you can find yourself in a load of trouble.  Banks hate when you do not pay them.  Usually they foreclose on you, but somehow this owner dodged the foreclosure bullet and in the end presented the idea of a short sale to her lender.  Normally this is tough to get done, especially quick.  But with a good agent and fast mortgage broker we got it done in 6 weeks start to finish.  This meant a good deal for us, and a good deal for her.  She got to walk away free and clear with no bad credit issues like you get with a foreclosure.  One thing I really like about short sales is that you are helping someone else get out from under a terrible situation and come out ahead of the game.  It was great to get a good deal, but it was even more great to know that we helped someone get through a very tough time in their life.

The last thing I read was to keep your post short.  So this is where I tell you to follow me!  In the next few weeks I am going to post a bunch to get caught up to where we currently are in the process.  We have a roof, siding, doors, a few windows, floors, beams, decks, water heaters, a kitchen and two bathrooms to rip apart.  My goal is to share how we are doing it and what to expect if you try it yourself.  I am doing this on the side in between my day job so it's been a long couple months so far, but here's hoping it is all worth it...

Oh yeah... Copper will be here for the ride as well...