On HGTV’s new show “Home Inspector Joe,” Joe Mazza helps homebuyers spot problems in a house that may be invisible to all but his trained eye. He also helps homeowners understand what it’ll take to repair these issues—and his latest clients need a lot of guidance, because they’re former renters living in a huge house for the first time.
In the Season 1 episode “Correcting a Charmer,” Mazza meets with Kate and David Barton, parents of two who are tired of their tiny one-bedroom apartment. They’re moving from New York City to Greenwich, CT, in order to gain more space for their growing kids.
The new home they’ve bought for $520,000 is larger and has a huge backyard, but the house is far from perfect. While bigger than their apartment, the house is not that huge, clocking in at only 1,109 square feet. It’s also a hundred years old, with a rotting front porch and other dangers and eyesores galore.
Mazza and his go-to designer, Noel Gatts, have $85,000 to turn this old home into a family oasis. Here’s how they pull it off, with plenty of lessons you might be inspired to apply to your next house hunt or home renovation, too.
Giving a home some character doesn’t cost much
This old house has a certain charm, with the big front porch and the classic look, but Gatts agrees that the exterior could use some work.
“As much as it’s a great structure, it doesn’t have a lot of life,” Gatts says. “So we can actually do a lot for very little money, if we just clean it up, sand it down, [give it] an interesting color, something to freshen it up, and just changing the light fixture and maybe the door color. And then you’ve instantly got character, personality for a few hundred bucks and not thousands of dollars.”
Gatts does a lot to freshen up the exterior, but perhaps the biggest improvement is in the lawn. She plants some flowers and adds white oyster shells to create a bright white planter.
“It’s organic. It’s like a beautiful, affordable material, and it makes everything bright,” Gatts says.
Replace rotting wood on a porch
When Mazza first sees the house, he finds one big issue even before stepping in the front door.
“I can tell you right now, this floorboard, this is shot. This has to get removed,” Mazza says, inspecting the edge of the front porch. “Below here is probably wood rot, and it’s a trip hazard, too. Someone’s going to walk up, trip on that piece of wood. Or if your kids have no shoes on, they’re going to get a splinter. You don’t need that.”
Mazza will need to replace the rotted boards and the porch joist underneath, but he reveals a way homeowners can save money.
“If you’re thinking about replacing your front porch ’cause you have a couple of sections of rotted wood on here and the rest of the wood is fine, just replace this front section right here with new. Save yourself a ton of money,” Mazza says.
In the end, replacing the joist and some of the floorboards costs $4,300. It’s certainly an investment, but it’s a lot cheaper than a brand-new porch.
Make sure stairs are safe
Inside the house, Mazza spots another issue right away: the stair railings. Mazza puts his head right between the railings, saying, “If I can stick my head through here, a little child can stick their whole body through.”
The team replaces these spindles with new spindles in a modern black color. These new spindles are no more than 4 inches apart, making them much safer for the whole family.
A Murphy desk creates a flexible work-at-home space
Kate has a children’s clothing business, so she tells Mazza and Gatts that she needs a spot to work from home. While Kate and David will certainly have more space in their new house than they did in their apartment, Kate still won’t have a dedicated office. So Gatts tries to create a workspace in the living room that won’t take up too much room.
“You’ve heard of a Murphy bed? All I can think of is something like that, but a desk,” Gatts says.
She has a custom fold-down desk made for $500, and it provides just enough space for Kate to work. It folds up easily once she’s done. Gatts even finishes it off with a couple of coats of magnetic primer and then two coats of chalkboard paint so that it can be decorated with magnets and chalk.
“I’m really happy with how this Murphy desk turned out,” Gatts says. “We didn’t have a lot of space to work with, but sometimes, challenges like that generate the most creative solutions.”
Dark colors can look great in a big kitchen
Kate says she would love a kitchen island, so Gatts makes sure to include one in the home design.
“My design inspiration will come from Kate’s aesthetic,” Gatts says. “She loves deep blues and golds, unique but classic, and this will allow me to go bold with the design while still maintaining the classic character of this 100-year-old home.”
She chooses deep blue lower cabinets, dark quartz counters, and a black-and-white accent tile for the island. Kate loves the look, but David is a little nervous about the moody colors.
Gatts reassures him, saying, “There’s going to be a lot of white trim throughout the space, and with all those windows, you’ll be shocked at how much white it brings in. It’s all going to be very balanced, very classic, but there’s going to be little moments of fun.”
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