Crafton man rehabs worst-looking house on street



The parade of people who rented apartments in an old Crafton house aggravated Chuck Gigliotti, a longtime neighbor who lives across the street. After it became Section 8 housing in 2003, shingles fell off the roof regularly and loose bricks threatened to avalanche from a tall chimney. In 2006, Mr. Gigliotti watched from his home as two dozen police officers and a SWAT team broke down the door and arrested one man.

Finally, in March 2012, he bought the house at 24 Mildred St. for $18,900 and tackled his ninth property. His wife, Lindy, was not thrilled, but Mr. Gigliotti, 56, was ready for another challenge -- rehabbing the worst-looking house on the street. He formed a company called Crafton Redux and hired three Triangle Tech graduates to restore the 1904 house that is a near mirror image of his own. Nearly two years later, they're finished. The four-bedroom, 21/2-bath house is for sale for $220,000.

Mr. Gigliotti has a long history with old houses. At age 19, he joined the local carpenters union. Since 1988, he has been buying houses to remodel and resell. For six years, he was a glazier at Rex Glass in Robinson; for another six he was a self-employed remodeling contractor. Since 2010, he has taught carpentry at Triangle Tech.

Although he has done his share of working on roofs, he had no interest in going up on the high-pitched roof to remove the chimney. So, he cut a 16-inch hole in the wall of a third-floor bedroom and put a ladder through it. Gradually, he and his crew removed bricks, ending up with enough to build a 21/2-foot-wide walkway that parallels the property's upper side.

In the first-floor foyer, living room and dining room, the crew installed 3/4-inch oak floors. They also removed three walls and rebuilt the staircase landing from scratch. A first-floor powder room was installed off the foyer. The project was a carpenter's dream or nightmare, depending on your perspective.

"We made 1,000 feet of wood casings for doorways and 500 feet of baseboards," Mr. Gigliotti said.

A wall divided the living room into two bedrooms. The men removed 100 2-by-4s that held up that wall, creating a 5-foot-high pile of debris. They also built a chute that went out of a living room window. One day when the chute became clogged with debris, Dennis Parr, one of the Triangle Tech grads, stepped in to help.

"I got this, G," he told Mr. Gigliotti.

He took a running start and slid down the chute, holding onto its 2-by-10 railings to stop before landing in the dumpster. The jolt broke up the clog.

Off the living room is a large dining room and a kitchen with new KraftMaid oak cabinets, a breakfast bar and a large granite-topped island with deep twin sinks. A mosaic backsplash made of granite and painted glass tiles matches the tan granite counters flecked with black and gray from Choice Granite in Spring Garden.

Removing walls on the first floor took time; installing them on the second floor, which had only one wall, was essential.

"We rebuilt 100 linear feet of wall upstairs," Mr. Gigliotti said.

The second-floor master bedroom has a walk-in closet with room for a washer and dryer. Off the closet is a small balcony deck that overlooks the backyard. The only original brass door plate left in the home is on the master bedroom door. Mr. Gigliotti made a mold of it and replicated it in plastic on other doors throughout the house.

The third floor includes two bedrooms, an 8-by-12-foot bathroom with a double shower and a skylight where the hole was in the roof.

A previous owner had repeatedly slapped green and brown paint on the cedar shake shingle exterior, giving the home a camouflage look. Mr. Gigliotti and his crew replaced most of them with new ones from Artcraft Wood Products in Spring Garden. On one side of the house, they flipped the old shingles and reinstalled them. This phase of the project lasted four months and was the toughest, Mr. Gigliotti said.

The house lacked a garage, so he hired a contractor who removed dirt beneath a portion of it to create a one-car garage with an attractive carriage door. The crew took the sandstone left over from the earth-moving job and used it to build two retaining walls. One parallels the sidewalk, and the other runs alongside of the house.

In a curtain wall that separates the new garage from the basement, five steel beams provide new structural support for the home. New Romex wiring was installed along with a high efficiency gas furnace and central air conditioning.

Mr. Gigliotti cut a new transom window out of frosted glass that announces the home's address. It's just above the double oak front doors that he found at Construction Junction and restored.

New landscaping includes azaleas, boxwoods, a row of Knockout roses, rhododendrons and burning bushes. Mr. Gigliotti also prevailed upon Crafton officials to plant three serviceberry trees along the sidewalk.

"This was like the hardest thing I've ever done, and we got it done. If I could do this, I could get through most anything," Mr. Gigliotti said.

Mr. Gigliotti will host an open house today and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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