Brownstone Facade Restoration

Brownstone Restoration – Scaffolding is Down

After living behind scaffolding for 8 months, the scaffolding was dismantled this week. We can finally see sunlight into the front rooms of the house.

Next up are door installation and ironwork.

Brownstone Restoration – Cornice Painting

The cornice was previously painted brown but we painted it black to match our neighbors’ cornices. Now that the cornice painting is done, the scaffolding can be removed.

Brownstone Restoration – Acid Wash

After the application of the finish coat was completed, we had to wait a minimum of 9 days for the surface to dry. Once the finish coat was fully dried, the facade was power washed with a diluted acid solution. The purpose of the power wash was to remove the thin outer layer of the pigmented cement in order to reveal the aggregate and give the surface more depth and texture. Without the power wash, the brownstone finish would have had a flat, painted look. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but after the power wash, the surface gained a sparkliness that made it look more like natural stone.

The window installers will also come back to calk around the windows to seal up the gap between the window frame and the brownstone finish coat.

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 – 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 – 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.