Brownstone Facade Restoration

Brownstone Restoration – Scratchcoat complete

The masons finished applying the scratch coat earlier this week and the facade will be left alone to cure for about 4 weeks. During this down time, the new windows will be installed and the metal work can begin. Someone came by to scrape off the old paint on the cornice as well.

Below are photos of what the facade and stoop look like right now.

The metal security bars at the garden windows (below) were cut off in preparation for the window installation.

Brownstone Restoration – Woodshop Visit

I visited the shop today to check on the status of the doors. The carpenters were able to work some during the the pause, so there was a lot of progress.

Custom wood doors
custom wood entry doors

Besides the double doors, the door jamb and transom will be replaced as well. I considered keeping the existing jamb and transom, but they were not in great shape and covered in layers and layers of paint.

I originally intended to paint the doors black, but decided to stain them instead. I figured I could always paint the doors in the future if I change my mind, but that it would be harder to strip the paint to stain the wood. Below are the stain colors I was considering (I decided to go with the one circled in red).

Brownstone Restoration – Work Resumes


After almost 3 months of pause due to Covid-19 restrictions, the masons came back to work on June 8th. With Phase 1 reopening, non-essential construction was finally allowed to resume in New York City. We had been living behind scaffolding and plastic sheets covering the windows this whole time, so we were very happy to have the work start up again.

Prior to the work stoppage, the masons had applied the scratch coat to the top floor and were halfway done with the parlor level. On Monday, the they picked up where they left off in March and are now working on the parlor level and basement level scratch coat.

The masons estimate that they have about 2 and a half weeks worth of work left on the scratch coat. After that, they will leave for about one month while the scratch coat cures.

Brownstone Restoration – Door Update


The woodworker sent me some progress photos of the doors and jambs at his shop. Typically, the lead time could be up to 8 to 10 weeks for custom doors, but the woodworker happened to have an opening in his schedule when I called. He was still in the shop drawing review process for another big job so he had guys available to work on the job right away. I’m hoping that the doors will be ready 6 weeks after I signed him on. I have to coordinate with the masons to see when the scratch coat will done so that these doors can be installed.

Brownstone Restoration – Scratch Coat


In the last week, the masons have started to apply the scratch coat. After they chipped off about 1 1/2″ of the damaged brownstone, they built the surface back up by applying layers of the scratch coat. Before they applied the scratch coat, they first applied a slurry coat as bonding agent. The scratch coat is composed of portland cement, lime, sand and water that was mixed on site. In order for the scratch coat to harden properly, it needs to cure for at least 21 days with temperatures above 40°. The masons started applying the scratch coat from the top down. Each scratch layer is scored for better adhesion.

Brownstone Restoration – More Demolition

The dumpster arrived today. This is messy work, so I’m grateful that my contractor is doing his best to clean up the work site at the end of each day.

During demolition, the outer layers of the damaged brownstone is removed with jackhammers until they reach the inner layers of undamaged stone.

Brownstone Facade Restoration - demo

Brownstone Restoration – Demo Starts

The demolition started today.  There are 3 masons assigned to the job and they will be making a lot of noise for the next few days.  I have a hose bibb and an outlet at the front of the house, which is great because I won’t have to string a power cord out the window.  The contractor wanted a second outlet though since the jack hammers take up a lot of power.  We strung a power cord through the cellar hatch to get to a second outlet.

Brownstone Restoration – Scaffolding is up

The scaffolding was installed today.  The contractor will return later to add more protection at the sides of the netting and cover the windows and doors with plastic.

Brownstone Restoration – Door Replacement

Parlor Entry Doors:
The double doors were drafty and not in good shape so I decided to replace them along with the wood door jambs.  The jambs had layers and layers of paint, so I couldn’t tell the condition of the wood underneath. I figured the wood jambs would probably get destroyed during the brownstone demo, so it made sense to replace them.  I considered ordering semi-custom new 2-panel doors from door companies such as Upstate Doors and Lemiux but decided to get custom doors to replicate my neighbor’s doors. I hired a local Brooklyn woodworker to build the doors after visiting houses with his doors in the neighborhood. Like the windows, I have to coordinate the delivery to make sure that the windows are ready during the scratch coat curing period. The doors will be 2-1/4” thick Mahogany. I am still deciding between staining or painting the doors.

Garden Entry Door:
To offset the splurge of getting custom parlor entry doors, I decided to get a factory painted black fiberglass door from Provia for the garden entry.  The panel options are limited, but I was able to find a simple 2 panel layout with an upper glass lite that will work well. 

Understoop Door:
I will get a basic flat, no panel factory painted black fiberglass door to replace the rotted wood door. There isn’t any ventilation under the door, so the fiberglass door will be good for moisture resistance. The fiberglass doors only have a 3 week lead time, so I don’t have to order them right away.