Phase One Almost Broke Us


Above is a photo I took of our storefront this morning as I got to work. Notice anything different? Me neither.

But we have a new roof on 837 Willard St., which took almost 10 months of wrangling and four roofing companies to complete. We removed four ersatz skylights, added a hatch to the roof (who doesn’t want a hatch?) and now we don’t have buckets located strategically throughout the third floor.

To celebrate, Lucy and I want to Pontiac barbecue last night and ate a cow.

This is the end of phase one of the work we are doing on the building. Phase one was about stabilizing the structure – concrete and French drains in the basement, new gutters, repair the deck, replace the rotting fence, caulk and paint the exterior, install a sump pump, new windows on the first floor and a new roof. Oh, and gutting the first floor for my workshop.

All that took about 18 months, hundreds of hours of work and more money than most families spend on a college education. And as our personal bank balance veered toward zero this winter, we began to get stressed. Luckily, a couple commissions and articles came through and we are back in the black.

The plan now is to take the next 12 months to work on the cosmetic stuff that doesn’t cost much money or require professional help. I’m going to install a new back door to the shop ($400), install a floating floor in the utility area ($385) and start demolishing the interior walls in the Horse Garage for the machine room (cost: paying for beer for my friends).

Oh, and I’m going to enjoy not writing huge checks for a while (knock wood that there is no Godzilla attack this spring).

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to Phase One Almost Broke Us

  1. nrhiller says:


  2. Yeah, welcome to my world, remodeling old buildings is ALWAYS more work & more money than originally planned.

  3. Looking awesome, I need to make a trip!

  4. tpobrienjr says:

    It looks great, sir. Borrow some period costumes and get a family portrait made!

  5. xxxmike says:

    Well it looks just marvelous!

  6. ziggy says:

    Don’t forget my favorite Chinese proverb… “Man finish house. Man die.”

  7. I am green with envy Chris. Well done to all – just wish I was close enough to help you.

  8. skilledno says:

    I think renovation only ends when you’re too old or too skint to do anymore.

  9. I wish I had the courage you have. Well done.

    • Ha! I’d say we’re more stupid than courageous. This is the third house we’ve rehabbed like this and we simply don’t learn from our past.

      This is absolutely the last time. (Remind me of this if I ever bring it up again.)

      • Jeff Hanna says:

        I live in an old Victorian and do all the work myself. Any time I have to spend money on it I just remind myself that you couldn’t build a house like it today. It would cost too much and wouldn’t have the same charm.

  10. kendewitt608 says:

    Having lived in 9 houses over the last 40 odd years I only said no more three times. Your place looks great, ENJOY it !
    Someday I hope to see it in person.

  11. bloksav says:

    Congratulations on the new roof.
    If you have a horse garage, perhaps you should get a horse?
    You could manufacture a nice stain to sell.

  12. toddje says:

    Are you living in this location now? Or was that never the plan?

    Thanks for writing the blog, it’s really great to read the ‘behind the scenes’ type of entries.

    • We will live there as soon as two things happen:

      1. Our 16-year-old daughter leaves for college.
      2. We rehab the top two floors.

      Very much looking forward to it….

  13. bengtn1961 says:

    The prospect of drinking beer and knocking down walls does sound like fun! Have sledgehammer, will travel.

  14. Salko Safic says:

    Your store front resembles Brisbane 69 km north of my home town, 80% of it is covered with historical buildings and homes from the 19th century. I marvel at their design whenever I go to the city. Good luck to you Chris, I hope you do well.

  15. fitz says:

    Phases? There are phases? I’m doing it wrong.

  16. charlie says:

    Some decrative lighting might be nice. The exposed conduit and flood lights are more noticeable since everything else looks so good. Its a small detail though….

  17. Kevin Thomas says:

    Looking good, Chris.

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