A cheery, playful sleeping loft | Michigan lake house | via Yellow Brick Home

plaid sheets | shearling floor pillows | sconces | bookcase | framed art

During our visit to Tree House last week, we armed ourselves with so. many. samples of Kate Golding wallpaper, and we took to Stories to share our decision making process with you. Wow. You guys! Never have we ever received so much feedback from our Stories, and you gave us so much to think about. If you’re catching up, our plan is to accent the window wall in our sleeping loft with a subtle wallpaper. Although we’re not big on accent walls in general, we feel like this secret nook, tucked above our living room and with a view of the green, grassy yard, deserves a little something special and unexpected.

We were initially torn between Canadian Shield (trees) and Garter Snakes, but the biggest concern with the snakes was your overwhelming fear factor! We get it; makes sense. So, snakes are out – yet we found ourselves unable to commit to the trees. While beautiful – and obviously, it is our Tree house – it felt like too much contrast. We’re on the hunt, we think, for something that’s more tone-on-tone but still playful and with a subtle nod to our Michigan location. Easy, right?

And so, back to the drawing board! We’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of wallpapers, and we have a dozen more samples headed our way soon. During our search, we’ve considered everything from a wall mural (which was ultimately nixed, due to the window eliminating so much) to a soft plaid to grasscloth to a nature theme.

It’s still unknown where we’ll end up, but many of you pointed us towards new-to-us designers, including Kate Zaremba and this Etsy shop full of the most stunning murals. Other contenders: bunnies, windowpane, larkspur and miyuki. Fingers crossed that there’s a paper sample on the way that’ll win our hearts!

A Happy Discovery

Scott mentioned earlier this week that we found an old photo of our Tree House online. It’s an exterior view, and I stumbled across it accidentally when I logged into our account to pay the water bill! The photo was filed under a link for ‘additional information,’ and I’d never thought to click on it until a few months ago. Here’s the image, dated from 1992:

Here’s how Tree House looked when we signed those closing papers – not to say that she looks necessarily any better (ha!), but we’ve had so much fun playing What’s Different?

Tree House as she stands today is missing a tree in the front yard (and now the back yard, too), and there’s a significant amount of ivy and weeds that we’ve been shamefully turning a blind eye towards. The Tree House of yore had a screened in porch where our master bedroom currently sits, and there was no deck, no gutters and no window in the sleeping loft! But we were really, really excited to see what appears to be original clapboard. Currently, the house is covered in brown vinyl siding, but we’re looking forward to the day that we can investigate what lies beneath the surface and if it can be salvaged. It gives us so much hope for her future facelift.

What else do you notice?

Other Stuff

• We should totally save this house, right?!

• An old friend of ours directed this thoughtful documentary centered around teens and gun culture. It’s worth the watch, with the only downside being that we wished it was longer! We’d love to see the teens profiled in the film having a (moderated) discussion with one another. We want more.

• In other What We Watched news, Abducted In Plain Sight hit Netflix a few weeks ago, and we spent the entire 90 minutes with our jaws fully dropped. Actually, it probably took us two hours to finish it, because we kept pausing it to look at each other and say scream, this can’t possibly be real. Have you seen it? We’ve talked about it every day since, and we’re convinced that this true crime documentary is the very definition of ‘stranger than fiction.’ Our minds are still blown.

• A good – nay, great – wine glass is hard to find, don’t you think? Not long ago, a popular Chicago brewery opened their first full-service tap room in our neighborhood, and we can’t stop popping in for happy hour and fresh baked bread. But the best part is the glasses they serve their beer in! I found an etching on the stem, looked it up and found them. They’re the sweetest short-stemmed glasses with a thin (but not too thin) rim, perfect for wine of any variety, a sparkling cocktail or, of course, beer! I picked up our own set of 4.

• I’ll drop this here in case you need a Friday morning pick-me-up.

• Such a strong, beautiful reminder from Julia, in the midst of heartache:

Don’t wait. I say it often, but it bears repeating now, don’t wait to make memories. Don’t wait until the walls are painted or the holes are patched or the shiny new appliances arrive to make happy memories in your home. It’s the reason we do what we do, and it’s what we have left now. And I’m so grateful.

How Can We Be Better?

A big goal of ours this year has been to make our blog a well oiled machine. For far too long, it has felt too sluggish for our liking, and for several months, we’ve been working behind the scenes on faster load times without sacrificing quality (it’s definitely a fine line). And at the start of this week, we made the switch to a new dedicated hosting environment, which has drastically improved our site’s speed. We hope you’ve noticed this, too, although we are still working on a few kinks on the backend – such as getting our feed to catch up, for starters.

If you’ve noticed a glitch here and there, these big changes are the reason, and we’re so appreciative of every one of you who have shared screenshots of dead ends to help us problem solve. Thank you for bearing with us! In addition, I’ve been test driving a more updated blog on the back end, although I still have a bit of time to put in before it’s ready to go live.

We want Yellow Brick Home to be an inviting, happy place for you to stay, and we think this comes with a better mobile view (and a larger font!) and easier navigation overall, including source pages, room makeovers and renovations from start to finish. With the changes we’ve already made and the changes to come, we still want to know: How can we be better? How can we streamline the way you view our virtual home?

As always, thank you for reading, and happy weekend!

In This Post:

  • Emily - February 22, 2019 - 6:52 AM

    HI, first time commenter, love the blog. Thoughts on the wallpaper – what about a cloudy pattern? as it’s in ‘the loft’ might work well. I really liked Julia Marcums choice for her nursery. Very sophisticated but also subtle and has a childs play feel about it.
    EmxxReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 9:38 AM

      We looked at a few cloud papers! That’s definitely an option. :)ReplyCancel

  • southern gal - February 22, 2019 - 10:50 AM
    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 7:53 PM

      Hopefully it’s showing now?! There’s been some issues this morning that we’re working on. We appreciate you bearing with us!

      Those wallpapers are all so pretty! You guys are making this hard! 😂ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - February 22, 2019 - 11:27 AM

    Can you share the name of the tap room? I’m a big beer fan and live in Logan Square.ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 22, 2019 - 11:38 AM

      Middle Brow Bungalow! It’s near Armitage and California in the old DODD Camera building. So. Good.ReplyCancel

  • Zoe - February 22, 2019 - 11:40 AM

    It would be great if in addition to the “shop this house” area you had a section where we could find all the blog posts and DIYs associated with each home! I was recently looking for the skinny behind the sofa shelf post you did and wasn’t able to find it via the search function. I always want to go down the rabbit hole with the before and afters and that would make it even easier!ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 22, 2019 - 1:15 PM

      Thanks Zoe! We’re absolutely focused on improving the search function as a part of the revamp!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - February 22, 2019 - 12:38 PM

    I really miss being able to view in Feedly. Your site is full of videos that automatically play (the latest video appears in the middle- and had nothing to do with the post – then it moves over to the sidebar as you scroll down), ads both on the sides and in the middle of the content (many are videos that are playing at the same time as the other videos making it really hard to focus on content), and so much scrolling just to read a post. I get that you need traffic but the experience is making me not want to read and only follow along on Instagram.ReplyCancel

    • Emily - February 22, 2019 - 1:57 PM

      Same here. For other blogs that do this, they have it about halfway through a post, so I know if I want to read it (and they are mostly food blogs that don’t have many ads, so if i want a recipe i click over). I don’t want your videos autoplaying and there are a half dozen pop ups so I tend to avoid reading your posts, whereas I would end up clicking over half the time from feedly before for a link. I love your content, I love your voice, but this feels inauthentic to me.ReplyCancel

      • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 7:51 PM

        Hi Emily! There shouldn’t be any pop ups on our blog, but there is one banner ad at the bottom that you can always ‘X’ out of. If you’re seeing pop ups, could you please screenshot and email them to us? We’d need to block them ASAP! We’re sad to hear that you feel we’re being inauthentic. The ads are a way to support our projects, a direct result of support from our readers. We strive to be as transparent as possible.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 2:24 PM

      Thanks for the feedback! We were giving the in-content video player a try, so we’re not sure if that’s going to stay once we can get the new redesign up and running. We sincerely appreciate your support when you click over, it allows us to keep creating content at the rate that we do.ReplyCancel

    • Sarah - February 22, 2019 - 2:54 PM

      I kinda agree with this. I understand 100% about your traffic and ads, but can the latest video thing at least be removed? Maybe a page added to navigation instead would make them easy to access still…ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer - February 23, 2019 - 9:48 AM

      I don’t mind clicking over to read, and usually do to read the comments, but I agree that the video player is obnoxious. Autoplay videos are terrible in every possible way regardless of source and I suspect it’s the player that forces the jump back to the top of the page when it’s done loading content after I’ve already scrolled down to read the text of the post.

      Also, please take a look at your posts on mobile vs desktop. The ads on mobile detract from your content because they are far larger and take up more screen real estate than your actual post. They blend more into the background when I read on desktop. Maybe it’s possible to specify the maximum size for ads served to mobile devices?ReplyCancel

  • Mel - February 22, 2019 - 1:14 PM

    I grew up in MI and now live in MN, I miss Lk Mi everyday! Going with a pattern that gives a nod to the best part of your location seems like a good way to go. Here’s one I love.

    https://www.serenaandlily.com/skylake-toile-wallpaper/m11405.html?color=White%2FNavy&utm_source=adlucent&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=adlucent&gclid=Cj0KCQiA2L7jBRCBARIsAPeAsaOlGDHck8SDX-1Rl86nm47rO9eRLGGW9OfoHoxsW62SRUsSByhJzBcaAsSqEALw_wcBReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 2:25 PM

      So pretty, thank you! We have so many Serena & Lily samples coming our way, we can’t wait!ReplyCancel

  • Laura - February 22, 2019 - 1:58 PM

    I really love this wallpaper Etsy shop and maybe you might find something too — definitely a lot of nature-y papers! https://www.etsy.com/shop/musewallstudioReplyCancel

  • Kate K. - February 22, 2019 - 2:10 PM

    The link to the Etsy shop with murals is not working; not sure if it’s the link itself or the website that’s not loading.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 2:23 PM

      It’s working for me now, I wonder if it was a temporary glitch?ReplyCancel

  • Bari - February 22, 2019 - 2:19 PM

    Have you looked at Detroit Wallpaper – they’re a Michigan company which could be perfect for you Michigan treehouse
    http://detroitwallpaper.com/wallpaper/linework/foxtrot.html
    I personally think their foxtrot has some of the elements you liked in the snake print but without the scare of snakesReplyCancel

  • Kristi - February 22, 2019 - 4:34 PM

    Can we start a support group for people that watched that documentary?!?!?! Still in shock.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 7:47 PM

      Where would we even begin?!? There’s sooooo much to unpack.ReplyCancel

  • Karen T. - February 23, 2019 - 7:21 AM

    My hubby and I watched it last night after reading your recommendation and OMGeee, it was stunning and baffling and horrible. Those parents. No words.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - February 23, 2019 - 8:32 AM

    I also miss being able to read in Feedly. It’s usually a deal breaker for me, but I’m waiting for your new mobile view before I decide for sure. Right now the font is way too small and takes forever to load. And I do usually click over to read the comments, so you are still getting a click from me 90% of the time if you go back to allowing Feedly.

    When blogs don’t allow Feedly, it gives the impression that they are only in it for the money and don’t care about losing readers if the readers are not clicking over. Maybe that’s not fair because this is your job and you have to be motivated by money to some extent, but it still gives me a bad feeling.

    I also noticed that Chris Loves Julia did the same thing not long after you. I wonder if that’s a coincidence or something you guys talked about, but I know she has bigger things to worry about right now.ReplyCancel

BACK TO TOP

kitchen renovation: drawer hardware | pendant light | vintage rug (similar) | towel

As we begin the adventure of our own first floor bathroom renovation (yes, it’s finally happening!), it got us thinking about how lucky we are to have an amazing general contractor that we trust to work on our home with the same care he would give his own. Yup, we’ve ‘got a guy,’ and we trust him wholeheartedly, but it’s that winding road we took to find him that can start to wear anyone down. Choosing the right contractor is, in our opinion, one of the most important decisions a person or family can make as a  homeowner. The right contractor can make home improvements that positively impact your home and the way you spend time in it, whereas the wrong contractor can make life, well, challenging – to say the least.

We’ve all heard horror stories about the contractor that took a deposit and never returned, stopped showing up to the job site, or did shoddy work that needed to be undone by another contractor at the homeowner’s expense. Prior to building a relationship with our long-term contractor, we’ve made a few mistakes, and have learned a few (hard) lessons along the way. Over the years, we’ve received more than a few requests to break down the process that led us to our long-term right-hand-man, and we’ve even touched on it before. Still, it’s one of our most requested nuggets of advice, and while I need to preface this by saying it will vary based on your project and location, we thought it was time for an update!

How we organize our master bath | via Yellow Brick Home

master bath renovationmirror | vanity | drawer hardware | marble shelf | art

The Interview

We’re firm believers in the fact that hiring a contractor should be treated as a job interview – because it is a job interview. Your contractor and their team will be in and out of your home for days, weeks, or even months at a time depending on the scope of the work. We’ve landed on a handful of questions that we ask every potential contractor that we interview. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but is a great starting point to begin the conversation and mitigate surprises.

• How long have you been in business?

• Can you provide at least three local references? (Please call all of these references to learn about their experience!) *Bonus points if the references are for work similar to what you’re looking to accomplish, and double bonus points if the work was done on a home of similar vintage/construction to yours. 

• Can you provide proof of license/insurance?

• Will you be on-site for the entirety of the job? If not, how often will you be checking progress in person?

• Will you be using your own team or will you be hiring subcontractors?

• How long do you estimate the project will take?

• When can you start? Keep in mind that a contractor that can start tomorrow may be a red flag! As a rule of thumb, in-demand contractors are usually busy. Makes sense, right?

• What are other things we should consider during the work we’re planning? i.e., upgrading electrical/plumbing while the walls are open, adding outlets, insulating exterior walls etc.

• When can we expect a written quote?

We feel that interviewing at least two to three contractors the first time around is a great starting point. We’ve found our favorite contractors through word-of-mouth, but sites like Yelp!, HomeAdvisor and the Better Business Bureau can also be good starting points. The interview process is intended to get a feel for how each contractor works, if they’re punctual, and how well they know homes of your vintage and/or construction. You’ll really need to trust your gut here. You should be able to build rapport with a potential contractor and feel confident in the answers they provide. It’s a good idea to take notes during this phase – and to make sure your candidates take notes as well!

Which brings us to…

The Quote

You should receive quotes in writing from each potential contractor. The quote does not necessarily need to outline every single item and bit of material, but it should absolutely note every portion of work in a way that everyone feels comfortable with! The quote is also a good indication of your contractor’s level of organization and professionalism. Chicken scratch numbers handwritten on loose-leaf paper can be a sign of disorganization and lack of effort, and yes, we’ve actually seen this in practice. Here are a few questions to consider during this phase, ensuring that all contractors are quoting on a level playing field:

How will materials be paid for and sourced? Is there a markup? Who will purchase the materials?

Who pays for and sources waste/debris removal, if necessary?

How are any necessary permits acquired and paid for?

Do you bill by the job or by the hour?*

*This should be obvious based on the quote. In most cases, we’re not huge fans of hourly rates and prefer to pay by the job. While not always the case, our experience has taught us that paying by-the-hour can demotivate the contractor to work as efficiently as possible. We do not want our contractors to rush, but we also want them to work in the most safely productive manner possible. We also want them to be compensated fairly for quality work. Like most things in life, you actually do get what you pay for.

laundry room renovation: sconce | stool | vanity | wallpaper

Once we’ve received all quotes (and eliminated contractors that don’t meet our standards or keep their word throughout the quoting process), we take the time to truly dissect and digest them. Are there any glaring price discrepancies between candidates? If so, why? Material, overhead, and labor costs don’t vary too widely between contractors, so vast price differences should be viewed with skepticism. One contractor that we’ve worked with (and loved) even offers in-house design services in which a designer will visit material suppliers with the homeowner to aid in making decisions on finishes. This obviously comes at a premium and isn’t a service that we’d utilize, but could prove helpful for those uncertain of their options! That said, your own level of need should be considered strongly here. Contractors should be given an opportunity to bid fairly based on the expectations you’ve set out.

After we’ve decided on which contractor we’d like to hire, we ask our final question in this category, which is: Do you offer a cash discount? You should ask this with the assumption that no discount will be provided, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised on several occasions! It may be small – maybe 3-5%, or whatever rate they’d be charged if you paid by credit card – but it’s in your best interest to ask this at the very end, so that your potential contractor isn’t keeping this in mind while writing your quote.

Now that a quote has been accepted, its time for…

The Contract

Yes. You should sign a contract and put everything in writing. Every time, for every job. This can be provided by the contractor and they shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that you’ve requested a written agreement. We’ve found that while some great contractors are, you know, great at what they do, they might not be the best businesspeople. So if for any reason they’re unwilling to sign a contract – move on! But if they’re willing to sign but don’t have one that they use, make your own.

The contract acts as the outline and road map for the work and ensures that all parties agree on the expectations of the work. If something should happen to go south, the signed contract is the legal document proving that one party didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. So, again, it’s pretty important! This is also the time to lay out a payment schedule, as well as any unique requests or rules in writing. For example, ‘work to begin by 8am every morning and may not continue past 4pm’ or ‘contractors only to enter and exit home through back door,’ etc.

garden kitchen renovation: drawer + finger pulls | sconce | faucet

The Work

This is the fun part! Once you’ve interviewed, chosen, and signed a contract with the contractor you feel the most comfortable with, they’ll begin on the agreed upon date! Yesss!

The first time we work with any contractor, we like to have debriefs at the beginning and end of each work day to talk about the goals for the day (am) and to review the work that was completed and talk about the plan for the next day (pm). Remember, open and honest communication is key. If things are progressing well and the pace and quality of work are meeting expectations, the contractor should hear about it! If things are not moving as expected or work is not being completed as agreed upon in the quote and/or contract, the contractor should be made aware immediately. This could save potential expense and hassle for everyone – like if a light switch isn’t in the exact place you’d like it while the walls are still open, the remedy could be as simple as loosening a couple of screws and moving the switch box. If this wasn’t brought up until the final walkthrough, this scenario could result in drywall and finish repairs that could take days (and additional expenses!) to complete. Talk early and often, but be mindful of everyone’s time. Trust us, contractors appreciate this.

Once the work is complete, the final step is a walkthrough involving all parties. At this point, a ‘punch list’ may need to be created to itemize any remaining details or finishing touches. A timeline for completion should be put in place and the contractor will be given final payment upon completion.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that contractors are people. People with varying degrees of technical ability, communication skills, pricing structures, work ethics and personalities. People that will probably grow to love your dog as much as you do by the end of the job, and people that will always give the kitty a good chin scratch. All of these factors come into play when a contract is signed to exchange hard-earned money for services on an agreed-upon timeline. The selection of a contractor is personal. We’ve had really, really bad experiences with sketchy contractors, but we’ve eliminated the bad ones and learned lessons. We now have a go-to contractor for each of our home’s mechanical systems as well as a GC that’s practically family at this point, and we generally only have to make one phone call when we need assistance. It’s been a lot of work to get to this point, but all of the effort was worth it!

master bedroom renovation: linen bedding | vintage chair | velvet pillow | sconce

As always, these are our our experiences, and circumstances differ greatly based on more variables than we can count. Do your homework, trust your gut, and make informed decisions. Finding a contractor will certainly prove to be an investment in time and resources, but so is your home – and we think it deserves nothing less!

What would you add? What other questions do you have? Leave your own experiences or questions in the comments, and let’s be a resource for one another.

  • Karen - February 21, 2019 - 7:45 AM

    Contracts….keep in mind, they are mostly written for the contractor’s benefit.

    We’ve done a LOT of renovating at our house, with more to come, and we L-O-V-E our contractor. I’ve referred him to many people, including my parents and my sister. I learned a few valuable lessons with our first (and biggest) reno – before our contractor started, I had already found my “floor guy”. He was referred to me by a friend. I also had my own painter. I’ve learned now to let our contractor handle all the subs. Our contractor does most of the work himself (or with his crew), but there are some things he subs out – so let him handle that – he’ll be overseeing not only their work, but their performance. One less thing on my plate.

    After demo’ing the floors at our house (before install, which was part of the signed contract with the floor guy), there was a phone convo where the floor guy YELLED at me. I was so shocked, I decided right then I would not let him back in my house or finish the job. Well, $1,000 later in attorney fees, I learned he could easily take me to small claims court and win. It was a very stressful situation (on top of an already stressful situation – the renovation itself!), and thank goodness the letter from our attorney got him to leave us be. My contractor was also really helpful when it came to parting ways with the floor guy.

    Renovating is a wild ride – emotionally, financially, logistically. I was very into my reno – for me, it’s listed near the top of my life’s greatest achievements and experiences (when it was completed, angels sang! Haha). I was so into the design and planning, and had a very clear vision. My sister, on the other hand, would prefer to “snap” and have it be done. She and her husband are relying on the contractor to lead the design – I know he can do it, but it’s not a straight line. I would strongly encourage anyone who’s not really into design and material selection/shopping (or doesn’t have the time to do those things) to hire someone for that part of the project – either a designer, or a design/build firm versus a contractor.ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 21, 2019 - 8:58 AM

      Great point, Karen! A contract should be put in place to protect both parties, but you’re absolutely right that it isn’t always the case. The large print giveth and the small print taketh away!ReplyCancel

  • lak - February 21, 2019 - 7:51 AM

    Great Advice. I learned the hard way, actually had a guy demolish my bathroom with little to no knowledge on how to put back together. Then made a sketchy pass at me. This was 10 years ago, and I have never forgotten it. First I got him out of the house, and then later fired him over the phone! Now…I interview like you, and being an older single female, always have someone in the house with me. Thanks for the great advice as usual.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 21, 2019 - 9:54 AM

      Oh, what a horrible experience! And that’s another great tip – we don’t interview contractors alone. Even if you need to bring a friend alone, it’s much more safe to have someone along side you.ReplyCancel

  • Kerri - February 21, 2019 - 8:21 AM

    It’s such a tricky business finding a contractor you trust. Luckily we have found one we love who has worked with us on three major renovations so far. I knew he was the one when I came home early one day and he was mopping my floors to get rid of the dust (!!!), and another time found him sitting cross-legged on the floor installing drywall with my dog sleeping soundly beside him with her head in his lap.ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 21, 2019 - 9:07 AM

      It really can be tough, but absolutely worth the effort! We’ve definitely found our contractor taking a lunch break with Jack or CC snuggled up on his lap!ReplyCancel

  • Alli - February 22, 2019 - 7:15 AM

    Do you share his info for any local Chicago readers? 😊ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - February 22, 2019 - 11:12 AM

    This post is so so helpful as I hope to undertake some bathroom renovations in my little old house this year, but how do I know what a realistic budget is for my space to compare to quotes? And what have you and Scott found is the best way to finance bigger renovations? Do you save up till you can pay for it outright or take out a personal or home equity loan? Sorry if that’s a little personal, and I won’t be offended if you’re not comfortable sharing, I just find this to be a major stumbling block to knowing when I can even get started.ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 22, 2019 - 11:46 AM

      Hey Sarah! Lot’s of great questions here! The budgeting process is pretty fluid and might involve making a list of ‘must-haves’ versus ‘nice-to-haves’. Material costs can vary a TON, so it might make the most sense to have your contractors base their quotes on labor and mandatory materials (drywall, electrical supplies etc.) only, then help give you a rough idea of material quantities necessary. This would give you a nice baseline to compare quotes fairly and determine your budget for materials and finishes.

      Regarding financing, we’ve generally scrimped and saved our funds so that we can pay for our renovations out of pocket and in cash. This can also be helpful in negotiating costs, since we’ve found that many contractors give a pretty hefty cash discount. If this isn’t an option for you, many larger construction firms offer financing, so that could help also!

      Hope this helps and good luck with your projects!ReplyCancel

  • Weekend Links - February 23, 2019 - 10:49 AM

    […] Tips for selecting a contractor. […]ReplyCancel

BACK TO TOP

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

pendant light | bed frame | jute rug | vintage rug | sectional | door hardware

A favorite feature of our little Tree House is the set of French doors that separate our master bedroom from the main living space. Based on what we can determine from an old photo attached to our water utility account (which was actually quite the surprise, we need to share that with you!), the bedroom was a former screened-in porch. It was fully enclosed and insulated some time in the mid-90’s to create our current bedroom, and we’ve since replaced the old plywood floors with more Douglas fir, helping to make it feel more intentional with the rest of our home.

But back to those doors! The doors were in pretty solid structural shape, but the weathered former exterior hardware made it fairly difficult to keep them closed and latched properly when Lucy needed dark and quiet to sleep, while the adults wanted to stay up and have fun. The doors (and hinges, and parts of the hardware) had also been painted a few different shades of white-ish and beige tones over the years, so they weren’t winning any points in the style department, either. This is how they looked prior to going in for surgery – not glaringly terrible from the living room when closed, but the bedroom side was a different story altogether:

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick HomeHow to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

While we do love the look of the hardware that we inherited with the house (that is, once it’s been freshly boiled and cleaned up), we were thwarted in all of our efforts to find functional matching parts to create a perfect pair, which was our goal. We scoured several vintage and architectural salvage shops and finally threw in the towel when we realized we were spinning our wheels. We ultimately decided to go with vintage reproductions, but we bagged up the old hardware and tucked it in our closet for safe keeping. Not all of the hardware in our home matches, but we can always pull from the bag if we’d like to swap a knob or need to replace a part elsewhere!

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

Beyond the mis-matched hardware and paint, we were also dealing with a CC-sized missing pane of glass, which made for an easy escape hatch any time she decided that the doors should no longer do the work of containing her. A quick aside – we didn’t actually realize the panel was missing until our first night sleeping at the house. We brought the dogs’ bed into the room and pulled the doors shut before heading to sleep. We were baffled to wake up in the morning to find the doors still latched, but CC on the other side of the door. We looked at each in disbelief until CC poked her head through the hole as if to say, g’morning, guys! CC had decided that she couldn’t be held back by mere physical barriers and – up until this past week! – we’d been stuffing a pillow into the opening ever since. Never again, CC! *wink*

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

These doors have been waiting for their makeover for long enough! We set aside three days to complete the job (doors are no joke), and we completed the job in two. We’re calling that a big win.

Tools + Supplies Used

Chisels of varying sizes
Hammer (for chisels)
Phillips head screwdriver
Flat head screwdriver
Putty knife
Durham’s rock hard water putty (and water to mix)
Drill
3/4″ Spade bit for drill (to make quick work of mortise pockets if not already present)
Painter’s tape
2″ Angled paint brush
4′ Foam mini paint roller and tray
Orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper
a pair of ORB interior handlesets (1 x privacy, 1 x dummy)
4 x Ball-tip door hinges

What We Did:

We started the project by removing all of the hardware to assess the condition of the doors themselves.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

The mortise that came with our new privacy handleset was sliiightly larger than the outgoing unit, so we carefully chiseled out an extra 1/8″ of material on the top and bottom of the mortise pocket. The strike plate also had a slightly different shape and thickness, so we also used our chisel set to enlarge the opening slightly.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick HomeHow to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

Prior to starting the project, we measured the CC opening and had a pane of glass cut at Lowe’s. We then lightly caulked the glass into place and then trimmed the opening out with matching 3/4″ trim and a couple of 1″ finish nails.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

We weren’t terribly concerned with how the new glass and trim looked at this point, because after a quick bead of caulk and a coat of paint, we knew it would look seamless! Caulk is the secret sauce that holds old houses together, we’re sure of it.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

Because these are no longer exterior doors, we were ready to say goodbye to the deadbolt – but that means we were left with a large, gaping hole! After scouring online woodworking forums to determine the best way to fill the hole, we ended up using a hole saw to cut a near-perfect plug from a scrap 2×4, and I gently tapped it into place. One long finish nail through the edge of the door and into the plug held everything firmly in place, which brought us to here:

How to plug a deadbolt hole | via Yellow Brick Home

On the opposite door, the deadbolt latch left behind this cut out:

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

But not to worry! We mixed up a small batch of this putty – a product highly recommended on the forums, and now we can see why! – to a toothpaste consistency and filled the gaps from the old hardware as smoothly as possible. Durham’s is a powder, and it can be mixed to whatever thickness you need. And since it stays dry as long as the lid is on properly, it never goes bad!

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

The putty was the perfect filler around the deadbolt and old backplates, but we didn’t go crazy – old pocks and chips are a part of the charm, we think. While the putty dried (the yellow areas below), we took time to tape off each window pane individually. We knew The results wouldn’t ever be 100% perfect, since there are about 90 years of paint layers stacked on top of one another, but we find taping things off prior to painting is always faster than trying to scrape off all the excess after the fact. (To be honest, we wished we had FrogTape on hand!)

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

The next day, we removed the doors from the hinges, then removed the hinges from the door frames.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

The oil-rubbed bronze hardware we chose will start off looking almost like a matte black powder coat, but as they’re exposed to natural oils from use, they’ll gradually wear to reveal a lighter brass/bronze finish underneath. It’s a fun process to observe, but happens over many years and hundreds, if not thousands of touches. The hardware in our Chicago kitchen is the same finish and has just stared to show some beautiful wear patterns on the more frequently used handles.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

The new hinges were the exact same size as our old hinges, but with the opposite screw pattern. That’s an easy fix; I marked them all and drilled tiny pilot holes to allow the screws to bite properly into the aging wood, and I did the same thing to the doors.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

Once the putty was completely dry, we gently sanded all of the patched areas to a smooth surface, and we were ready for paint! Using Valspar Ultra White paint in a satin finish, Kim used her favorite angled stubby brush to brush the grilles and followed up the flat areas with a 4″ foam mini roller to cover each door in three sequential coats. While she had the supplies out, she even went on a bit of a painting streak and was able to put a few coats onto the exterior of the guest room and bathroom doors as well! She’s a painting machine, I tell ya! Tip: Pull the painter’s tape off while the paint is still wet. If doing multiple coats, peel after the final coat, but don’t wait too long between coats (no more than an hour – tops).

More than once, we debated between white and black paint for these doors, but decided that the ‘rule’ for the house would be that all exterior windows and doors would be painted black and all interior doors would be painted white. This allows the interior to flow more seamlessly and remain cohesive. The black finish on our exterior windows and doors frames our view to the outside nicely.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

That evening was spent scraping off small bits of paint, installing the handlesets and shining up all the glass. Aaand, the doors were done! We love how the ORB knobs and hinges tie into our matte black bed frame and the living room light fixture.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

Below, you can see that formerly missing glass panel on the bottom left. No more CC mystery escapes! It’s obviously impossible to convey in photos, but this new hardware is incredibly solid and heavy. It gives the doors a hefty weight that was formerly lacking. Everything feels like it’s always been there – just how we like it.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick HomeHow to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick HomeHow to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick HomeHow to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

The doors! They match! Sorry if you’re feeling stuck now, Jackson McDogg.

How to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick HomeHow to repair and paint French Doors | via Yellow Brick Home

This project was truly a labor of love – we happily spent two full days on a pair of doors that we feel deserved it. The meticulous chiseling (while wearing a nerdy headlamp to see what I was doing, mind you), hole-filling, taping, and painting have restored these former exterior doors to full interior glory.

We’ve kind of, sort of kicked around the idea to complete replace the identical set of doors at the back of the house in favor of a set of sliding French doors similar to those in our Chicago kitchen, mostly for ease of use out to the fire pit and a more open view. But now? Now we’re second guessing ourselves. Do we restore those doors using the same hardware as well? (Kim thinks yes.) We’ll need to figure out some sort of screen door option, and they’ve seen a lot more wear from weather, but they’re worthy of love, too, don’t you think? Plus, they’d look pretty stunning painted black.

In This Post:

  • Aminah - February 19, 2019 - 7:14 AM

    Never commented before. I don’t know why but I absolutely loooved this post. It was such a great detailed tutorial and the doors look amazing now. Good job and your dog is such a cutie, I can just imagine her poking her head through the CC-hole in the morning to greet you 🤣ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 19, 2019 - 3:15 PM

      CC really has the best guilty face of all time! It’s like she’s saying ‘Who, me? what are you gonna do about it?’ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - February 19, 2019 - 10:11 AM

    Hi – long time reader, first time making a comment! Please research sliding glass doors first, I know that another blogger has issues with snow causing the track to freeze as shut. Love both your houses, and your family is adorable!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 19, 2019 - 3:21 PM

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! We have glass sliders in Chicago and we’ve been good with the winters here. But now we’re thinking we’ll save the other French doors, some way, some how! (Even though they’re a little drafty…)ReplyCancel

  • Allie - February 19, 2019 - 4:03 PM

    I would love to see the little bit of bronze peeking through on the kitchen cabinets! I love that you guys often choose something that shows love over time.ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 19, 2019 - 4:09 PM

      Hi Allie! Great Idea! We’ll post something to our IG stories in a few minutes.Thanks!ReplyCancel

      • Allie - February 21, 2019 - 8:30 AM

        Shoot! I think I must have missed it but I am sure its beautifulReplyCancel

  • Vivian - February 19, 2019 - 7:28 PM

    I’m sure you’ve got a link somewhere else, but I can’t seem to find it at the moment! Where is the lovely off-white pouf in the living room from?ReplyCancel

  • Brandi - February 19, 2019 - 7:47 PM

    I’m wondering if you had to sand before painting the doors or remove previous layers of paint? We have doors in our house that are ~100 years old, with layers of paint. When you’re close to the doors you can see where they painted over imperfections or chipped paint because there are some divots and grooves. I’ve been dreaming of working on the doors in our house because they need love but I’m scared; what am I getting myself into?!?ReplyCancel

  • Megan - February 20, 2019 - 7:52 AM

    I love the CC story (and photo!)ReplyCancel

  • Stacy - February 20, 2019 - 11:12 AM

    This is unrelated to basically everything, but I just inherited my first record player from my parents and I’ve been thinking the first thing I buy for it is going to be that album on your bookshelf from the xx…it was the first thing I noticed in that second photo!

    Doors look great, too ;)ReplyCancel

    • Scott - February 21, 2019 - 9:02 AM

      The self-titled debut from the XX is pure magic from start to finish and it sounds GREAT on vinyl. It sounds like we have similar taste in music, so keep your eyes on the blog as we’ll be announcing the YBH Spotify page soon… and there just might be some heavy representation from the Jamie and the XX!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - February 20, 2019 - 12:48 PM

    You guys are magic!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - February 21, 2019 - 7:19 PM

    Do the repro locksets come with a key or are the locks privacy only? I saw the keyhole on the living room side but it looked white inside so I wasn’t sure.

    I lived in an apartment with french doors to a balcony that had a pair of screen doors to match. The glass doors were on the interior and opened to the inside and the screen doors were on the outside and swung out. This way you could open the glass doors and get the breeze through the screens.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 22, 2019 - 9:38 AM

      We chose the lockset to have an outside emergency access, so the keyhole is mostly for looks, although it can be accessed with a skeleton key that comes with the lockset (or a flathead screwdriver). There’s the option to have a lockset without the keyhole, but we definitely wanted that emergency option!

      Good call on the screen doors! There were actually screen doors like that on the exterior French doors, but we took them off because they were SO destroyed from the weather. We may need to look into another pair.ReplyCancel

BACK TO TOP