A conversion of the upper floor gives everything to a family on the wish list
Kusum and Dave realized that renovating their loft from the 1920s would be a challenge. They planned to set up a new bathroom in a walk-through area on the top floor of their house in Westchester, New York, where all the bedrooms were. After several non-starts with multiple architects and difficulties in finding contractors to carry out the job, they did posted their project on Sweeten. a free renovation platform that brings homeowners together with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects.
They found a partner in the Sweeten the contractor you chose– They were guided through a complete overhaul of the attic on the third floor (it had started with a new bathroom), new sprinklers required by the city ordinance, and more knowledge about hip rafters than Kusum ever wanted to know. Read on about the ups and downs of an old loft conversion that ended on the top.
Guest contribution by Sweeten homeowner Kusum
My husband Dave, an information security expert, and I, an intensive care doctor, moved to New York after I had just completed a clinical scholarship in Yale. We dragged our two young children into a two-family house from the 1920s, originally a guesthouse that we had renovated for the time being.
Five years later, my daughter was in her senior year of elementary school and we really had problems with only one bathroom in the top unit where we spent most of the time. (We originally lost half a bath after we found out during the building inspection that wastewater was escaping). Dave and I knew the time had come to renovate the third floor – a peculiar, remodeled top floor space of approximately 700 square meters that contained our three master bedrooms.
Based on local recommendations, we contacted four architects and some large general contractors. Unfortunately, the communication was incoherent, the estimates were very different and we repeatedly came to dead ends. I was also tired of the fact that contractors preferred to discuss with my husband rather than me, the decision maker of the project. This whole project gave us a huge headache and we were discouraged.
Enter sweets. A colleague of MOP (Mom of Pelham) and Sweeten’s CMO, Randi MacColl, had posted one of Sweeten’s recent projects on Facebook and I shared my saga with her. We were stressed that we hadn’t found an architect and then a contractor to carry out the plans.
Randi’s patience with my vent was incredible and her solution was even better. The Sweeten team literally responded to every frustration we had on this third floor renovation project. They immediately led me through creating a profile for certified contractors and supported the entire “dating” process to bring our vision of space to life.
This vision was complicated. Space was tight. Storage was minimal. The envisaged space for the bathroom was a walk-through area, which, however, enveloped Dave’s closet to maximize the square footage for a full bath. We also always dreamed of having a main bathroom in our bedroom. We only asked contractors about Sweeten for the bathroom project. In our thoughts, however, we hoped for so much more – new floors, fixtures, grinder work, etc. My husband’s wish list said that there was a permanent leak (despite attempts by two roofers to repair it), to isolate cold spots and weak spots to reinforce floorboards and new windows. And I knew little that he was thinking of exposing the dry-walled chimney.
They also had to work with an angled ceiling and what was behind it. Fortunately, our Sweeten contractor agreed.
We met with a very manageable list of contractors / architects and received offers. Ultimately, we chose our Sweeten contractor because of his enthusiasm, experience, innovation and openness to what he knew and didn’t know. The project quickly developed from a single bathroom addition to a comprehensive interior and exterior renovation on the third floor with a revised floor plan for two new doors. Our contractor suggested some innovative fixtures in the master bedroom and stairwell to maximize usable space. Storing all of our mess brought us a step closer to calm!
Hiccups and crises along the way were numerous (as with every renovation of an old house), but both Sweeten and our contractor supported us with patience and transparency with every stressor. There was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether we could install a bathroom with sufficient height clearance in accordance with the building regulations. They also had to work with an angled ceiling and what was behind it.
Fortunately, our Sweeten contractor agreed. A huge skylight helped create the appearance of height in the room. We installed a bespoke medicine cabinet with a sloping built-in cabinet, a vanity console with a professionally tailored corner, and wall lights from the UK to accommodate the hip wall. (I now know more about rafters and rafters than about certain diseases.)
We had another problem with sprinklers that were needed to renovate living spaces on the third floor. The cost estimates ranged from manageable to exorbitant. Our launch date was postponed by two months, but our contractors put together a completion schedule that seemed doable considering that we were still living in space.
During the renovation, we moved to the first floor apartment for six weeks, after which Dave and the children set off for the summer. In addition to the chaos, I worked in the intensive care unit most of the renovation. Thank goodness for a wonderfully reliable contractor and sweetening to do check-ins when I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with non-clinical issues.
Now the third floor has become a desirable space for our family. There is so much light! With the floors renewed, stroking light, recessed lighting and new windows, the entire floor is inviting and relaxing. My son’s loft bed offers enough storage space for his toys and a reading corner. My daughter has the perfect transition space, including a desk, privacy, and a creative space. We have a Zen master bedroom and an entrance to our “private” bathroom.
As I said, the project started on a much narrower scale, but because of the code requirements that required the sprinkler system and the decision to waste a significant amount of mill work, we went beyond budget. Apart from that, we as the homeowner made this decision and were able to do so without pressure due to the transparency and strong communication of our Sweeten contract partner. Both Dave and I were able to add all items to our wish list!
After thinking about the project – we’ve been looking for someone to manage the third floor for over a year – I give other homeowners the following recommendations: a) Clear expectations about the roles, timelines, and limitations of the individual people; b) Establish mutually agreed vehicle / communication format and a minimum number of contacts – endless email threads are the worst; c) Hire your own cleaning team because your cleanliness standards (especially for young children) may be much stricter than those of the contractor. and d) personality correspondence between the contractor and the homeowner is paramount to the success and satisfaction of a project.
This essentially makes this major renovation project number 6 for us as a family. To be honest, I think we have at least two more ahead of us (just don’t say Dave). We just call Sweeten.
Thank you Kusum and Dave for letting us know about your loft renovation!
BATHROOM RESOURCES: Review ceramics sInk console: American standard, Niche tiles in Oceanside Sanctuary and Summer Storm; an inch of white glazed hexagonal floor tiles; 3 × 6 white subway wall tiles; Sky blue penny round shower floor tile: Westchester Tile & Marble, Puristic fittings & bathroom accessories in chrome, Awaken Hydrorail shower fittings in chrome, veil toilet: Charcoal burner, Magnifying mirror: Simple man, Astro-0274 Tube wall lamp: Ideas4lighting.com, Shower glass doors, medicine cabinet, built-in closet: custom-made by general contractor. Painting in silver cloud: Benjamin Moore,
MASTER BEDROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Gray Owl, paint in Sea Haze on the back of bookcases / millwork: Benjamin Moore, Bedside lamps: rejuvenation, Brayden Studio Dailey 3-light flush mounting: Wayfair, Fitted wardrobes: customized by the general contractor.
CLOSET RESOURCES: color with a white touch: Benjamin Moore,
LIVING AREAS RESOURCES: Cantilever rack & HVAC door: customized by the general contractor. Early American Bottom spot: Minwax, Painting in white cream: Benjamin Moore, Shorten (all spaces) in Chantilly Lace: Benjamin Moore.
Here you can find out how to convert an old house for maximum efficiency, efficiency and modern living.
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