Brownstone Facade Restoration

Brownstone Restoration – Finish Coat


After a few weeks of waiting, the masons came back last week to work on the finish coat. Contractors typically provide a few color samples for you to review, but I knew what color I wanted and didn’t get a sample. Since my contractor had restored a few brownstones on my block, I selected a color based on reviewing my neighbors’ finished projects. It was easier to select a color when it’s on a whole facade rather than on a small sample patch. 

Brownstone Restoration – New Windows

The new Marvin windows were installed on the 2nd floor and the garden level last week. Timing and coordination was critical since the windows had to be installed within a specific time frame which is after the scratch coat is completed and before the finish coat is applied. We were lucky that the window order was placed early enough so that the fabrication was not affected by the pandemic. These windows typically have a lead time of approximately 8 weeks. The windows had already been delivered to the window dealer in Brooklyn prior to the shutdown. A team of 4 installed the 5 new windows in just one day.

Below are a few before and after photos of the master bedroom windows.



Below is a photo of the exterior side of an upper sash. The exterior is clad in aluminum which is more durable than painted wood. The interior of the window is painted wood. I selected a stock black color for the exterior cladding, but Marvin offers some other color options as well. For the interior, I selected a stock factory painted white, but you can order the windows to be factory primed and then site painted match your exact trim color.

And here is the inside view of the sash.

Traditionally, the divided lites in a window sash would be comprised of smaller individual panes of glass held together by mullions. For energy efficiency, these windows have simulated divided lites that replicate the look of real divided lites. Simulated divided lite bars are adhered to the exterior on both sides of the double pane glass. Spacer bars are inserted on the inside in between the glass panes to make the faux mullions look solid.

The windows at the garden level are plain double hung windows and don’t have divided lites. The iron security bars were cut off so that the windows could be installed from the outside. The bars will be reinstalled later. Since the windows were installed from the outside, the pocket shutters on the inside were not damaged.

Spray foam insulation was added around the perimeter of the windows.

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.