Given the current out-of-control building material prices, I’ve shifted my work focus for the coming year. I was going to build a new house on speculation. Instead, I’ll turn my attention to another of my projects. The rebuild of a large wreck of a house. The wreck will be heavier on labor, but will take less material than a new build. In particular, less of the types of material that are currently triple what they were a year ago.

I purchased the house six years ago. I had been looking for a building lot when I came across a large house in a good location that had fallen on hard times. The house was too full of trash to adequately assess, but it did not appear salvageable. Shortly after purchase I cleared it out, decided that it made sense to save rather than demolish the structure, then promptly got wrapped up in other projects. I’m really happy to begin giving the house some long-overdue attention. The house was likely built in the early 1900s. It stands fairly straight and the exterior, less the wraparound porch, is relatively intact. The interior has some fire damage and has been gutted and pretty seriously beat on. There are no interior features to restore.

One of the few remaining original features is the paired front doors. I’ve got them scraped down, primed, and operable again. When restoring a door, I first strip all the hardware. It makes working on the door easier and allows you to deal with the hardware in a more manageable way. The hardware was heavily painted. To remove the paint I first scrape off what I can without further damaging the hardware. Next, I toss the hardware in a strong solution of trisodium phosphate, TSP. Don’t let the name fool you. The TSP I use is phosphate free. I’ll mix between a quarter and a half cup of TSP with water in a gallon pail less than half full. After an hour or so, wearing gloves, I’ll scrub the hardware with an old toothbrush. If all the paint doesn’t come off, it goes back in for a longer soak. Once the hardware is paint free, rinse it well.

Jim Bahoosh has been a solo house builder and designer since 1984. He lives in Unity.