Questions we are commonly asked about our bungalow restoration

We are frequently asked lots of questions about what we’re doing, how we are doing it, why we are doing it, and if we would do things differently. Here are the answers!

1. What did you use to strip your woodwork?
This is the question we are most frequently asked and here is the answer folks: Master Strip, Formula A Remover sold in 5 gallon drums from the McBride Company (Los Angeles, CA 818.507.8900) is our weapon of choice. Be sure to wear a respirator and to have good ventilation because this stuff is toxic.

Read more about the paint stripping process. There are lots of other approaches out there (and we’ve probably tried a lot of them) but this is what works best for us.

2. Can you recommend a contractor?
I’d be happy to! We have a long standing relationship with Juan Reyes, owner of J & C Home Repair. Juan is a true craftsman. He has done a lot of work on our house and we are extremely happy with the results. Juan does plastering, interior and exterior painting, drywall, carpentry, and wood conditioning and refinishing. ph: 626.793.7091

For full disclosure, we have heard back from one person who had a negative experience with Juan. I have given his number out to tons of people over the years and have only heard one complaint. Several people were so happy that they emailed me photos of the work Juan did at their houses. We have known Juan for years and never had a bad experience. I feel comfortable leaving him in my house when I am not home. I think that says a lot.

Feel free to mention our names. Please know we do not get any type of discount or kickback for recommending him. We would never do that.

Note: It is always a wise idea to interview and get bids from at least 3 contractors for any job.

3. How much have you spent on the restoration so far?
My own friends and family don’t even ask me that! Although my gut reaction is “none of your business” inquiring minds must want to know because we are asked this often. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume people want to know for planning purposes when they tackle their own restoration. Short answer: It ain’t cheap!

Our motto: Projects cost 3 times more than you think they will and take 2 times longer to complete.
I wish our motto was more inspiring. I need to work on that!

• New roof: $5600
• Cedar shingles on the dormers: $1800
• Asbestos abatement: $1500
• Rebuilding front porch (including taking down the brick columns and having them rebuilt): $3000
• Refinishing wood floors: $1200
• Refinishing rooms: I estimate we spent between $5000 – $8000 per room (this includes materials, electrical work, replastering, labor, any unexpected problems we run into, etc.). This doesn’t factor in the cost of eating out or picking up take out because everything in the house is covered in plaster dust, but all that adds up.
• Bathroom: $14,000 this includes all new fixtures, tile, electric, plumbing, structural changes and labor
• Tools: estimate between $1500-$2000

In order for the house sale to go through the previous owner paid for a new foundation and to hook the sewer line up to the main city line.

• New foundation: $18,000, The work was done by White Castle Construction
• Connect to the city sewer line: $10,000

4. Do you regret buying an older house that needs so much work? Should we buy one?
Original Answer: No, not at all. I appreciate all the charm and quirks of our older home. If anything, I wish we didn’t have to live in the house while we are restoring it. On the plus side, we are pushed to get projects completed.

Heh, I was so optimistic when I wrote that! My opinion has changed through the years. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house. I just had no idea what a restoration as extensive as ours would require. I would never want to do this with kids. I know people do, I am just saying I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to.

My tips for buying a fixer.

5. Hey, where do I find that?
Our Favorite DIY Resources
Bungalow Bathroom Remodel
Living Room
Dining Room
Favorite Home Improvement Books

6. What did you use to remove the paint from your fireplace?
We used a chemical stripper called Master Strip (see question 1 for more info) to remove the paint. We used vinegar to remove that final film of paint/paint haze. If your bricks fade, here is a tip to darken your brick.

7. What has been the most difficult or challenging thing you have faced during the restoration?
Every project has had difficulties and challenges for a variety of reasons. I will say living in a house that is in a constant state of construction and half finished projects can be a big challenge. It eventually wears you down. I believe people are influenced by the environment they live in, and lets face it, this environment is depressing.

8. Aren’t you scared living in the hood?
For those of you who don’t know, West Adams is located in South Central LA (we call it South LA now). Yes, this is one of the areas where the 1992 Los Angeles riots happened.

Does this affect our everyday lives? No. Are we afraid? No. Our area is urban, but many young families and couples are moving into the area. Our neighbors have been nothing but wonderful and welcoming to us.

Update: The street prostitution that has invaded our neighborhood does not make me afraid, but it does make me angry. I would like to see more of a response from our elected officials.

David says you know you live in the hood when you hear your neighborhood get a “shout out” in a rap song! People in LA often brag about being Beverly Hills adjacent. I like to say our neighborhood is ghetto-adjacent. The other day someone called our area hood-storic (instead of historic) which I thought was clever.

If you don’t see your question here, please don’t hesitate to ask. Others are probably wondering the same thing. Contact me at: heather [at] 1912bungalow [dot] com.