Reader Renovations – Replacing Brick Wall with Windows


I love seeing people’s renovations and projects. If you’re doing/have done anything interesting and have before and after photos please send a brief description in an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com

Thanks to HG for sending these shots. He writes:

“I managed the project including hiring an engineer, getting drawing, getting permit, hiring three different contractors, negotiation the best deals from each (window installing company, Marvin, for material and labor; brick demo and structural support installation company; then finally drywall and other finishing company). The project spans enlarging window openings on three floors, not just the top floors (the pic) so I haven’t really calculated the final cost yet, but definitely more than half-off of prices I was given by general contractors when I was shopping around.

Before – As you can see there were two small windows and a door that takes you to a deck.”


“During – They used drill to loosen the brick, but picked one brick at a time… a very length process.”


“After – we love the outcome. The sliding window/doors are great.”

39 Comment

  • Crazy awesome. Totally changes the feeling of your house and probably added way more value than the construction price.

    The home owner managed the project him/herself?

    • Yes, I was between projects at work so I decided to manage this project myself. I spent a lot of time researching and picking products and services. I enjoyed every step of it and the result is that I know everything that had happened and was available for every decision process.

  • Very nice job. We did a similar project a few years ago, but had a general contractor do everything.

  • Stunning! I would never even think to do this but what an incredible difference it makes.

  • Did you just tarp the hole in the wall while it was getting done? Were you able to live there while the project was happening?

    • Yes, blue tarp was used every night. The demo contractor had excluded about 5 ft of the room with a plastic room divider with a zipper in the middle. The construction happened last fall and amazingly the weather during that time was amazing.

  • What’s up with getting architects/engineers, etc., and getting drawings? Can’t I just get a general contractor and tell them what i’m looking for, generally, and have them work it out?

    • gotryit

      You need drawings to pull a permit. A general contractor will probably get those from an architect so that they come out right for DCRA.

    • I think that’s OP’s point. He could have hired a GC, sat back and write one big fat check. Instead, OP decided to get off his butt, do all the legwork himself, and write lots of little checks. Basically he was his own GC. And for that effort the GC thinks he spent half as much as what GCs were telling him it would cost. It shows you how much a GC skims off of projects.

      But GCs do more than just hire and coordinate subs. They also take on liability. For instance, what happens if there’s a quality control problem, like next year those windows spring a leak and ruin the floors. In the OP’s situation if he blames the window sub, the window guy will point at the mason and the mason will point at the engineer and round and round you go. Every sub will wiggle out of the blame and leave the OP on his own with a big mess. At least when you hire a GC the GC is also taking on the liability of getting the project right and if something is wrong with it blame goes squarely to the GC. There’s a better chance of getting some redress in this case.

      Some people are comfortable with risk so being their own GC doesn’t bother them. Some people are uncomfortable with risk and want other people to take if from them so hiring a GC gives them comfort. Some people don’t know what risk is until the safe lands on their head.

      • “It shows you how much a GC skims off of projects.”

        it’s called having a job.

        • Exactly! Hardly “skimming the profits!” OP wanted to, and was able to do the work. A good GC earns his or her money through hard work and expertise.

        • Skim, overhead, profits, use whatever synonym you want but OP said he saved 50% by doing the GC’s job and keeping his own risk. As I explained, for some people hiring a GC has value that’s worth paying for. For others, like the OP, not so much. In fact he’s the one essentially saying that GC’s are a waste of money.

      • Nice breakdown of the pros and cons.

        • For me, I made sure that it was all Pro. I did that by having a clear transition between the various development stages so that each is accountable for their part of the work. For instant, my contract with the window company states that I deliver a plumb and level opening with strong support. Well, I made sure my mason and the carpenter produced the required opening by rebuilding the two sides of the brick openings and by installing the correct number/size of engineer recommend LVL to support the roof which span 24ft wide. When I was satisfied and after the structural step was approved by DC government, I then scheduled the window installation work.
          The window installation folks accepted the opening and did their installation. My drywall person finished the entire drywall work after the window people insulated and did all the drywall returns.
          It is hard work and you have to have interest in this type of thing, otherwise I can see how it can become the most painful thing ever.
          I was with them measuring, discussing, advising, and even helping throughout the process and I loved it.

  • i’d dreamed about doing this in my back bedroom. but i don’t have the awesome view you have.

  • David Garber

    Umm wow, that is an incredible improvement.

  • Makes you wonder what they were originally thinking with the oddly shaped and strangely located windows.

    • Sleeping porch conversion? That’s what ours was, and has a similarly odd door/window layout. Mostly because back when some of these were done they just used the existing wood framework for the enclosed porches and crammed rough openings wherever they fit.

      The big question for the OP: what was involved in getting a new load bearing header to replace that whole wall with sliding doors?? I’m assuming that is what the bulk of the engineer’s time went towards.

  • Very nice!

  • Ha! I know exactly where this is…we’re sort of neighbors. In fact, I commented on your windows/balcony to my wife a couple of weeks ago after I walked down the alley to the cleaners. I didn’t know it was a new renovation (despite having lived here for 4 years). Nice work!

    • Hello neighbor… funny, I guess we did a good job not disturbing our neighbors during construction. It all happened last fall.

  • Stupendous! How long did it take? And what was the final cost?

  • Very cool. I have definitely thought about projects like this and wondered whether this sort of thing would be possible. Are there any concerns whatsoever about a change in structural integrity? Obviously those bricks were holding something up, I’m just curious whether this is much of a concern for projects like this.

  • Was this done in a house or apt/condo?

  • @ Willylomangetsdown – yes, it is very much a concern. It is a good idea to properly investigate and support before attempting to remove any existing structure. In our case the brick wall was supporting the roof (this is a top floor of a house). The engineer sized it and designed the correct amount of support (LVL) to support the roof and things like snow, etc.
    @Rayul – Yes this particular picture is the third floor of a house (top floor).
    @@All – Glad to hear you guys liked what you see. Great feedback!

Comments are closed.