So, The Stoop

Just a note – I might not post on a particular schedule, but I promise I’m back. No more giant spans of time missing from action around these parts!

As I mentioned last week, I’m shifting priorities to the front of my house because the City of Newark has taken me to court over a few things.

What things? I’m glad you asked. There are 4 specific violations.

  1. Peeling paint
  2. Rust & loose newel posts
  3. Rotted wood
  4. “Hole in porch”

This is what the house looked like when I was cited –

And here’s what things look like now, after I’ve started demo –

Out front

Things always look worse before they look better, right?

Untitled Untitled

The peeling paint is really a by-product of the wood rotting & the cast iron rusting. As you can see, I’ve already removed most of the rotted bits.


The eyebrows above the front 2 windows are actually metal (cast iron, I believe). Both have been scraped and the far right one has had about 50% of it wire brushed. Time to break out the big(ger) guns. Just scraping & wire brushing is too time consuming.


The missing concrete is (I think) my “hole in porch”.


As you can see, I’ve already started chipping away at the loose pieces and prepping it to be patched.

The iron newel posts are loose and one is rotting away at the bottom.


I’ve spent the better part of 2013 thinking about how to address these issues and what exactly needs to get done. Here’s what’s on the old TO DO list:

  1. Blast/Strip/Sand/Remove old paint from the wood, as well as the paint and rust from the cast iron.

    This is obviously easier said than done. There is A LOT of surface area to strip before I can get down to a good solid surface. I’m also dealing with the highly likely possibility of having lead paint. I haven’t tested but c’mon; the house is OLLLLLLD. Like ‘feed your babies lead for breakfast’ old.

    The paint-removal part of the prep is honestly the biggest job of the whole thing. Literally everything needs to be stripped &/or sanded down.

  2. Fix newel posts & have a gate made.

    This is probably a job for the pros. I don’t know how to work with cast iron and repairing ye-old-newel-posts is not a job for a noob ironwork DIYer. I also want to have a gate fabricated. Back in 2009 (yup. 3.5 years ago!), we miraculously found the perfect piece to make a gate from but never got around to it. My circumstances may have changed but the house might finally get its gate back. Here’s a pic of where I should have a gate, along with a pic of the neighbors who do.


  3. Patch the concrete.

    This one is relatively straight forward. The inspector doesn’t want to see the bricks peeking out from underneath the stone step? Fine. I’ll patch the hole – when it gets warm enough. Have I mentioned February in NJ might not be the BEST time to tackle a major outside project?

  4. Replace the  rotted pieces of wood in the stoop surround & rebuild.

    This. This is going to be interesting. Part of this is already in the works but that’s going to be a whole other post. All I have to say is – my mother is one clever woman.

  5. Get new windows.

    Like how I just snuck this one in there? New windows aren’t a stranger to the overall House-To Do list. I actually talked about pulling the trigger on some back in 2010 (when there was a MUCH better tax credit than there is now. whomp whomp.). Needless to say, we didn’t get windows and they’ve only gotten worse. If you’re sitting on the couch in the living room, you can hear perfectly clear a conversation happening out on the sidewalk. Not a screaming match on the sidewalk – a normal conversation at a regular volume. SO yeah. Maybe new windows while we’re at it. (HEYYYYYYYYY, Project Creep!!)

  6. Repaint.

    Finally. Paint = Project is almost done! It’s a victory to get this far. After conquering the other tasks, I will relish painting. Now, if the weather would only do me a favor and get itself above 50 degrees. You can’t paint (or strip, for that matter) when it’s 30 degrees and snowing.

The most challenging part of this whole process has been the weather. The chemical stripper is to be used at temperatures between 65-85 degrees F and paint is supposed to be 50+ degrees F. Jersey isn’t exactly an arctic zone but we don’t usually see those kinds of temperatures in January & February. But, of course, the city doesn’t much care. I brought up the whole ‘you can’t paint below 50 degrees’ thing the last time I was in court. It wasn’t met with much sympathy. In fact, the prosecutor looked me in the eye and said, “Well they build houses in the winter all the time.”

Did I mention I go back to court February 25? I don’t have to have it completed by then but I do have to show progress – freezing temperatures & snow be damned. If you want sneak peeks at how things are going, you can follow me on Instagram.

So. I that’s what I’m working on figuring out how to do. Build this house in the dead of winter.

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6 Responses to So, The Stoop

  1. mary says:

    Good Lord, red tape. I’m fighting city hall in St, Louis over some similar non-sympathy about weather and repairs. I will say re: your metal eyebrows…. I have used rusty metal primer and rust-reformer from rustoleum (no shocker there!) both with good results. You don’t have to have a super clean substrate with either, but I prefer the rust reformer.
    Welcome back!

  2. kmliving says:

    Mercy me! Seems like a Herculean task to get one part of this stoop striped and ready for paint, to say nothing of the doing all the surfaces…. in February weather.

  3. Susan says:

    Can you use the drill piece on these as you did on the exposed brick? If it worked, it wouldn’t matter what temperature it is as it’s just a drill and friction on the metal….but you probably already thought of that-you are so resourceful! I know you’ll find a way to get it done in a timely manner that will satisfy the city!

  4. Wow! The city of Newark doesn’t mess around. Dealing with outdoor projects in February? Crazy talk. Good for you for taking these projects one step at a time and dealing with them.

  5. We have experience with cast iron stairs and newel posts, and our experience knows IT IS NOT CHEAP! The best bet will be to actually remove the pieces and take them (have them taken to) a shop that will strip and repair them. Then bring them back and install in place. Working with the cast iron where it sits will inevitably just be a patch that you’ll have to fix again later. Also, look around the area for a cast iron fabricator that might be able to help you out. Back when your house was built there were probably only a couple of iron foundries where your parts came from. They were all made locally and sold at local mills. We were able to find a guy here in DC that specializes in DC area parts only. It was a stroke of luck to find him, and we did so while watching This Old House’s DC project.

    As for your #5, I know this might sound crazy pants, but have you thought about pulling out the old vinyl windows (I think you have replacements throughout) to see if the old sash weight pockets and frames are still there? If so, what about having sash custom made and replacing your windows with true double hung wood windows and storms? That will give you the longest lasting fixing, some of the most energy efficient, and there’s actually a chance you could find the sash you need at local salvage yards, meaning a much lower price tag. It’s a massive undertaking, especially for how many windows you have, but you could do a few at a time.

  6. Ragnar says:

    I always find it surprising how much US cities can interfere with homeowner’s private property considering the general image of the US as THE home of individual freedom!

    Basically in most European countries the authorities can’t do anything about your house, unless parts are threatening to fall and injure pedestrians or damage somebody else’s property. They can also – to some extent – interfere if a historically significant (i.e. listed) building is left to rot but that’s about it. I’m not even sure how much teeth the Austrian legislation has in the latter regard – one moron in Vienna demolished parts of a listed building in the 70s(!) and the remaining part is STILL standing as they left it when they were ordered to stop construction.

    I guess this shows that there are as always two sides to the coin, so please don’t take my comment as a rant about the evil US! 😉

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