Baltimore is known for its iconic row-houses, so it stands to reason that there would be contractors to work on them. However, Baltimore is anything but intuitive, as we have seen over and over again during the course of my rowhouse renovation. It can be very hard to find contractors willing to work on little old ~1200 sf brick boxes. I suppose contractors prefer working in the county, where they can make more money on bigger properties, with fancier-shaped gutters.
Through trial and error, my partner and I have gradually pieced together a dream-team of Baltimore repair-people and resources that truly care about historic homes, no matter how small or old.
This hardware store is a neighborhood staple, and for good reason! They really know their stuff, and are quick to recommend great products and tools to aid in even the most outlandish DIY projects. The nice thing about Falkenhan's (or Belle Hardware, in Bolton Hill) is that they have items in stock that are made for smaller historic homes, rather than run-of-the-mill big-box store offerings that cater to larger suburban homes.
Robert's Lock and Key - 217 W Read St, 21201; (410) 728-7484
Did you know that there are more parts in a deadbolt lock than there are bones in a human skeleton? This probably isn't true, however, putting a deadbolt lock together from salvaged parts may as well be brain surgery. I was at wit's end trying to fit out a rare-size lock for a custom door when Robert' Lock and Key swooped in. By the way, if I'd bought the lock new, it would've cost around $400, but my "Frankenstein" lock set me back just $120.
Jay Justice Plumbing and Heating - 443. 845 2666.
Jay does a great job; you get the sense that he really enjoys his work. He is so honest and affordable that he secured a spot on our Christmas card list. Bonus: you are likely to hear some amazing and/or hilarious anecdotes from his adventures as a plumber in Hampden.
Roving bands of roofers
Many neighborhoods in Baltimore enjoy the phenomenon of "roofers" trolling around the streets each Spring. As the weather fluctuates between surface-of-the-sun and sub-Arctic, Baltimore's ubiquitous flat rubber roofs expand, contract, and crack. Thankfully, they are super-easy to patch, so anyone with a ladder and a need for beer-money will hit the street and solicit repair services. We invested in a big ladder and we patch our roof ourselves now. I go up twice a year to inspect the sitch-- not so much because it needs the work, but so that I don't have nightmares about the roof leaking.
Cullen's Roofing and Siding - I have not worked with these guys, however, they made the list based on the estimate alone! When it comes to water-proofing my house, I don't mess around. So, when our (admittedly bizarre) hand-made porch gutters started peeling away from the masonry, I wanted a pro assess the situation. Four or five companies snubbed me on the phone, refusing to even take a LOOK. Cullen's not only showed up, but they also explained that the damage was not as bad as it looked, and even helped us work out a plan to repair the site ourselves.