Vacant Home Renovation

Type: Residential
Location: Irondequoit, New York
Embarking on a shared dream, my wife and I began renovating a home that had been vacant for two years following a foreclosure.  We are nearly complete with restoring the original 1920s detail and floor plan and have updated and fixed all appliances and utilities.
Current Status: In progress

The Rochester area has been hit hard following the housing collapse in late 2000s.  A number of houses turned into what have been called "zombies."  This is when a foreclosure process has been started but is not carried through to complete bank ownership.  The homeowner is now gone (left or was removed from the property) and the bank has yet to actually take possession of the home.  Irondequoit has suffered more than most suburbs of Rochester.

The map to the right shows a portion of Irondequoit's zombie"properties as of 8/19/2016.  The house purchased by myself and my fiance is listed on this map.  Fortunately, the bank completed the foreclosure process because the mortgage was government insured.  Therefore bank was able to recover the lost money and then transferred the ownership to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HUD then turned around and listed the property for sale in the amount of the remaining balance of the mortgage that it had to pay out to the bank.  The property was sold as is to us in August of 2016, around the time the Democrat & Chronicle was publishing articles about the zombie home problem in Irondequoit and the surrounding suburbs.

Although renovating and adaptive reuse is a common theme in architecture and the Rochester area, it appears that we are one of the first to actually rehabilitate one of these zombie and vacant properties and protect it from the wrecking ball.

While the exterior was resided in vinyl from 2012-2013 and relatively maintenance-free, the interior of the home was not in nearly the same shape.  Some of the initial problems were:

  • Missing and boarded windows

  • Damaged (original) doors with missing glass panes

  • Water could not be turned on, 20 inches of copper piping missing somewhere in the structure

  • Sagging floors surrounding the stairway area

  • Water damaged kitchen and cabinets

  • No ceiling in the kitchen

  • Damage from second floor leaks on first floor ceilings

  • Water damaged basement corner

  • Furnace and water heater had not been serviced since 1997

  • Overall odor of urine, moisture and mold

Although planning to do much of the work ourselves to save costs, a contractor was necessary a part of the process in order to secure 203k funding.  A bank would not lend on the property as it was deemed "unlivable."  Therefore, a 203k, or renovation loan, was the only option outside of buying the house in cash.  The 203k required a set list of proposed changes and fixes and a bid from a contractor in order to secure the mortage.  After a long process, we finally secured funding and the closing was held on August 16, 2016.  No keys were exchanged for the property.

I prepared several documents for the renovation of the property and conveying of ideas to the contractor, High Point Construction.

See the below galleries to see the before images and in-progress images for each major room of the house.  At this point, a majority of the interior work is complete (2018).

* Denotes items completed by High Point Construction


Luckily, the roof had been replaced a few years prior to the property's foreclosure.  However, the previous tenants let their two young children play in the attic in fiberglass insulation.  Therefore, the attic was strewn with shredded batt insulation as well as old food and toys.


  • Addition of bathroom vent.

  • Removed all old insulation and garbage, reinsulated to R-45.

  • Fixed electrical junctions (no more loose tape!)

Show More
Office (Floor 2)

Located on the second floor, this room will soon be my office for work and school related activities. In 1994, the owner of the home decided to renovate the bathroom next door and incorporate a standing shower.  Due to sloped ceilings, space from the office was taken to add closet space, a linen closet, and a standing shower.  The shower was never installed properly, and had been leaking ever since.  The floor of the office was badly damaged, and the space of the room was cut down by 1/3, rendering it nearly useless.  Our goal is to return the house to its historic character and usage, and so the shower had to be removed and the space would be reclaimed to its original footprint.


  • Demolished closet and shower and wall framing.

  • Removed of old carpet nails and screws

  • Sanded, stained and refinished hardwood floor.

  • Patched of various holes and damage on the walls and ceiling.

  • Removed and capped off old plumbing.*

  • New framing and drywall in original wall location.

  • Metal plated and reinstalled vent grate.

  • Removed water damaged flooring and sub-floor.

  • Replaced of sub-floor and hardwoods with matching material.

  • Complete shellac priming.

Panel Room (Floor 2)

Aptly named for the dated panelling on the walls, this room was in the best condition at the time of acquisition.  It is currently on the back burner for a more dedicated remodeling once more imminent issues are resolved.


  • Scraped and patched holes and damage to walls and ceiling.

  • Removed carpet, including nails and screws and tack strips.

  • Sanded, stained and refinished hardwood floor.

  • Removed wood paneling.

  • Traditional replastering of damaged exterior wall.

  • Updated all electrical outlets.

  • Install new craftsman style baseboard and shoe.

Pink Room (Floor 2)

This was where the children of the last tenant must have stayed.  Through information gathering from neighbors, the previous tenants had several dogs which were kept in the house for up to 12 hours in some instances.  There must have been confined upstairs as a terrible smell of urine and dander clouded the air.  This room was the root of it.  We never wanted to remove flooring and so we worked hard in this room to save it.


  • Removed carpet, including nails and screws and tack strips.

  • Patched all holes and damage to walls.

  • Removed damaged ceiling plaster from prior roof leak.

  • Shellac primed of all walls and ceilings.

  • Dried out the hardwood floor and spots of severe staining.

  • Sanded, stained and refinished hardwood floor.

  • Patched of ceiling damage.

  • Painted  ceiling, walls and trim.

  • Metal plated and reinstalled of vent grate.

  • Installed lighting fixture.

  • Updated all electrical outlets.

Bathroom (Floor 2)

The footprint of the bathroom was huge and similar to the size of the pink room.  The configuration was awkward and wasted a lot of space.  The 1990s shower was not level and the evidence of a leak and the stolen space from the office led to the decision to remove it.  Upon demolition of the floor, evidence was discovered of the original wall framing.  The plan was adjusted to bring the bathroom back towards the original layout.  The original asbestos tile floor was beautiful but damaged beyond repair in key spots leading to its removal.  The sub-floor under was discovered to be Douglas Fir with a rich red hue to it.  In a cost saving and aesthetic move, the sub-floor was selected to become the finished floor.


  • Demolition of shower and associated wall.

  • New framing and drywall where shower was placed (back to original wall placement).*

  • Demolition of 2 layers of flooring down to sub-floor.

  • Removed old toilet and installed new.*

  • Repositioned of claw foot tub.*

  • Ran new plumbing to fixtures.*

  • Removed of old vanity, new sink installed (purchased from Rehouse Architectural Salvage)*

  • Drywall patch over former linen closet (office).*

  • Patched various holes and damage to walls and ceiling.

  • Shellac primed.

  • Installation of new light and fan.*

  • Repositioned outlet and switch.*

  • Installed new light over sink.*

  • Installed new mirror.

  • Installed new door handle and lockset to match all other originals.

  • Metal plated and reinstalled of vent grate.

Hallway(Floor 2)

The hallway was in good shape except for the flooring.  Like the pink room in was stained badly.


  • Removal of carpet, including nails and screws and tack strips.

  • Patching all holes and damage to walls.

  • Shellac priming of all walls and ceilings.

  • Drying out the hardwood floor and spots of severe staining.

  • Sanding, staining and refinishing of hardwood floor and stairs.

  • Installation of new ceiling light.

  • Installation of new base shoe.

Living Room (Floor 1)

Aside from the boarded window, the living room was in a decent condition.  Trim along the stairway was peeling due to improper painting. Therefore, the decision was made to strip the section down to its original wood.


  • Removed of old carpet nails and screws.

  • Patched all holes and damage to walls.

  • Shellac primed of all walls and ceilings.

  • Replacement of boarded window, saving original trim.

  • Sanded, stained and refinished hardwood floor.

  • Installed new ceiling fan and light.

  • Complete repainting

  • Metal plated and reinstalled vent grates.

  • Refinished wood trim on stairway.

Dining Room(Floor 1)

Aside from the boarded window, the living room was in a decent condition.


  • Removed carpet, including nails, screws and tack strips.

  • Removed of wallpaper covered in several decades of paint.

  • Patching all holes and damage to walls.

  • Patched damage on ceiling from shower leak above.

  • Shellac primed of all walls and ceilings.

  • Sanded, stained and refinished of hardwood floor.

  • Structural bracing of bay window.

  • Replacement of bay windows.

  • Replacement of other window, saving original trim.

  • Installed new lighting fixtures

  • Metal plated and reinstalled of vent grate.

Kitchen(Floor 1)

Water leaks in the kitchen had destabilized a majority of the cabinetry and led to a removal of a drop ceiling before the house was foreclosed.  We opted to completely redo the kitchen and upgrade the appliances.


  • Removal of old appliances.

  • Demolition of existing cabinetry.

  • Demolition of remaining ceiling.

  • Demolition of drywall and plaster and lath.

  • Removal of blown in insulation.

  • Demolition of tile floor.

  • New electrical outlets and fixtures.*

  • New batt insulation.*

  • New drywall.*

  • Priming of all new drywall.

  • Enlargement of window over sink.

  • Replacement of larger window, saving original trim.

  • Installation of new slate tile floor.*

  • Installation of additional lighting fixtures.

  • Install Barker custom cabinetry.*

  • Install butcher block countertops.*

  • Install sink and various appliances.*


A half-complete renovation by the previous owner left the basement in disarray.  Mold had crept in door to poor grading on the side and a lack of adequate drainage from the roof.  A wooden support for the pivotal corner of the stairs had broken through the concrete and was the root of the sagging floors and stairs above.  The furnace and water heater had not been serviced in nearly 20 years.  Local kids had gotten into the house at one point and written on many of the walls.


  • Temporary supporting of floor joists in key areas.

  • Temporary supporting of stairway landing.

  • Removed all old appliances (including water heater, furnace, two dryers, and one washer).

  • Demolished of the 'graffiti wall,' drop ceiling, additional framing and walls.

  • Re-ran water service line from town connection.

  • Fixed all water shut off valves (leaking) and new spigots to exterior of house.

  • Installed new hot water heater and 97% efficient furnace.

  • Updated windows to vented glass block.


  • Pouring a deeper footing for new supports.

  • Installing new supports.


The property surrounding the home was overgrown and peppered with holes and pits. A shed had once stood in the far corner of the lot and had been removed several years ago.  The location was now overgrown and still had active electricity running out from the house.  Removal of the chimney had left a depression in the yard that collected water.  That, along with the fact that no gutters were ever installed over the chimney location and either side of the enclosed porch, led to water in that corner of the basement.


  • Installation of three new gutters to redirect drainage from roof away from the foundation.

  • Removal of overgrowth in the back yard.

  • Removal of electrical conduit to former shed site.

  • Removal of rotting fence gates and locks.

  • Installed  new fence panels and gate.

  • Created raised garden beds

  • Regraded of site surrounding foundation.

  • Planted of 10 trees within the yard.

  • Constructed new shed and greenhouse.


  • Removal of vinyl siding and restoration/spot replacement of original wood clapboard.

© 2021 by Douglas J. Templeton