Buying Here: Dormont

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Can a house be lucky? You betcha. Just like a shelter dog that gets rescued into a life of luxury, the home at 3943 Belrose Avenue in Dormont has seen such good fortune.

It is on the market for $239,900 with an assessed value of $74,400 with Michael Bello of Buy-N-Sell Real Estate (412-833-5500) or

In 2008, it fell on hard times and wound up in a Sheriff's sale. Around then, brothers Sean and Paul Saunders, both contractors who own their own businesses, decided it was time to finally do a big project together.

"We both had some extra money and decided to go to the Sheriff's sale." Sean said

"We were looking at other neighborhoods. We never even considered Dormont." Paul said."We had the list and said 'Let's just take a ride by. It's on the way.' "

They were bowled over by the street, describing the trees and well-kept homes looking like those in Shadyside. They checked out the exterior and peeked at the interior through the windows, and went straight to Downtown to bid on and eventually rescue the big Colonial.

Even their wives -- who are sisters -- were in on the project.

"Our wives had a lot of input into the rooms they spend a lot of time in, like the kitchen and bathroom" Paul said.

"They showed us stuff we never pay much attention to, like a seat in the shower," Sean said.

They also had the invaluable assistance of William VeVault, a crewmate who was involved in the project from beginning to end.

"It was kind of in a shambles," Paul said of the home. "The soffit and fascia were falling off, but you could see the character of the house. The previous owner was like a hoarder."

They ended up disposing hundreds of construction-size garbage bags full of clothing. Anything salvageable was given to charities and what was left filled up seven large Dumpsters.

The brothers wondered aloud what they had gotten themselves into.

"For that first month, we had no utilities or heat," Sean said. "It was December and we were cleaning. It was 15-20 degrees in there."

That feeling abated as they got to the remodeling the home.

The original layout is pretty much intact, but walls were removed to allow for a more open plan.

"Everything needed to be gutted," Sean said. "We worked on the contracting part together [moving walls, replacing the porch, etc.] and hired licensed subcontractors for the mechanical systems [HVAC systems, electric and plumbing]. Every wall was opened up so that new wiring and plumbing could be run throughout."

In the large entryway, the brothers stripped all of the wood, repainted the paneling white and restored the rails and banisters to a deep cherry. A powder room was installed behind the staircase and features tan ceramic tile and a marble vanity tops.

The stately design continues through the first floor, where to the left of the entry way is a living room measuring 16 by 14 with a small doorway to the 16 by 13 dining room. The brothers gave the room a new look by removing a wall, arching the ceiling, bookending a pair of white pillars and installing Brazilian hardwoods on the floors.

They completed the design with custom wood panel wainscoting on half of the wall.

"We decided to replicate the 1920s woodwork of when the house was built," Paul said. "All of the trim is new, including the custom 7-inch crown molding and 10-inch baseboards. Only the window trim could be saved."

An original stained glass window is flanked by a pair of 30-by-36-inch windows, creating nice geometric lines. A fireplace has a restored mantel, and the new marble surround is visible from the living room. To the right, a door hides a laundry room, a suggestion by the wives.

Another wall was removed between the dining room and kitchen and turned into an island. The kitchen side features KraftMaid cherry cabinetry.

Stainless appliances by Whirlpool's decorator line and cool mosaic glass tiles fill in the backsplash areas.

Among the three bedrooms on the second floor, master bedroom has a fireplace and an en suite master bath that is model-home worthy. The wives had a lot of say there.

A corner whirlpool tub is placed far away from the double-vanity sinks. Ceramic tile and spotlights hang under a curved bulkhead. A separate shower has a built-in seat, while spotlights illuminate the neutral color scheme in tan and brown, highlighting the black granite tops. Fixtures in oil-rubbed bronze play nicely with the palette.

"It is one of those little touches" Sean said. "We wanted the fixtures to match from room to room. We even custom-ordered door hinges to match the lock sets."

The other two bedrooms have decorative fireplaces and closets were expanded in all of the bedrooms. A second full bathroom services those bedrooms. It has neutral tile with a tub/shower combo.

The third floor has another two bedrooms measuring 14 by 14 and 11 by 11.They are divided by a third full bathroom.

The house has a new 97 percent energy efficient furnace and central air. The new windows are energy efficient and there have been safety upgrades as well.

"The borough code states if you remove walls, smoke detectors must be hardwired and installed in the bedrooms and the common areas" Paul said.

Other notables include the basement that has been set up for another bathroom and a deck off of the kitchen that opens to a level backyard.

Even though the project stretched much longer than both had anticipated, they're glad that it did.

"Sometimes is helps to sit back, take a look to make some changes," Paul said.



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Rosa Colucci can be reached at 412-263-1661 or First Published July 14, 2012 4:00 AM


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