Guest Blogger: Peggy’s vintage Burbank cottage: Part 1

Peggywindowmontage2Today’s guest blogger is Peggy Olearczuk, who shares her experiences retaining the vintage flavor of her Burbank cottage. She writes:

I always wanted an old, Spanish-style house, because I fondly remember my grandmother’s home. I got my wish, but our 1920s-era Burbank house, although potentially charming, had so many problems that we didn’t know where to begin.

For instance, we knew we needed to replace our leaking windows, and knew we didn’t want cheap vinyl, but beyond that, we had no idea what to do. We were considering Pella windows until we found Mark Bethanis, a general contractor in Burbank who specializes in restoring vintage homes.

Mark told us that we could make the windows look just like they did when the house was new (for much less than Pella) and make them energy-saving as well. He also taught us the importance of things like preserving the bullnosing on both interior and exterior (the thicker Pella windows, he said, would have meant using flat frames on the interior) and how a triple window we were told to rip out might actually be holding up the roof!

Bethanis Inc. replaced the sashes (using dual-pane glass), re-used the old hardware, added weather stripping and even more amazingly, was able to restore the old sills, which we thought were completely unsalvageable.

The window project took about five weeks and cost $15,000. Staining and painting of the windows was included in exterior painting of the house (cost: $12,000) and interior painting of the living room, dining room and bathroom (cost: $4,425) and took place during the same five weeks.

The exterior paint may seem expensive, but consider this: Our house and freestanding garage hadn’t been painted in over 20 years, so the job required extensive prep work, including water blasting to get rid of loose stucco and paint, stucco patching (matching the old-fashioned pattern of the existing stucco), and repairing and restaining our existing front door.

Also, all of the window frames and sills were in terrible condition and needed to be cleaned, stripped, sanded and repaired before two coats of primer and two coats of paint were applied. The stucco also required two coats of primer and two coats of paint.

There was lots of detail work, like painting the little round vents on the sides of the house red to match the tile roof and removing and painting existing hardware (window latches, "speakeasy" door, mailbox) to restore the original wrought-iron look. The $12,000 also included interior staining of living room and dining room windows and interior priming of all other windows.

Also, since we replaced all 30 window sashes at the same time, the painters had to follow the carpenter as he worked, painting the exterior and priming or staining the interior of each sash (to keep the new wood from warping).

The four other bids we got ran anywhere from $4,900 to $11,500, but because they were painting companies, none of them seemed able to handle such a complicated job; they could do the painting but were vague about the prep work and wanted us to find someone else to do other parts of the project (like staining the living room and dining room windows and patching the stucco). We really liked the idea of having one company take care of everything for us.

We’ll paint the rest of the window interiors when we remodel our kitchen and add a master suite early next year.

Tomorrow: Part 2: Peggy takes on the bathroom

Your comments? Questions for Peggy?

3 Comments on Guest Blogger: Peggy’s vintage Burbank cottage: Part 1

  1. Brent

    Bravo! That’s a wonderful old/new look for some great new/old windows. I wish more people took that sort of care with their updates.

  2. Bill Bagnall

    Your new windows look perfect. I’m so glad to see that a few people realize how wrong vinyl windows are for a vintage house. Vinyl is the modern equivalent of cheap aluminum windows from the ’70s. At that time, those now-despised metal frames seemed like a brilliant choice. Now, they’re often the biggest turn-off when selling a vintage house.

  3. S. Crewe

    This blog has been unbelievably helpful. My husband and I are in the early stages of making plans to restore our vintage home in Pasadena. This blog really brought home the importance of finding the right contractor who specializes in restoration. Not that we were going to go with the cheapest price, necessarily, but now we’ll be mindful of addressing the specifics to our complete satisfaction! Good luck, Peggy, and thank you sharing your experiences! You may have saved our home!