Reflections on a Petworth full house renovation

A lot of love and work goes into renovating a home, mixing old and new.

by Roshani Kothari (guest contributor)

Note: Roshani Kothari bought her Petworth home in 2007, in love with its charm. Ten years later, she's finished a major renovation of the property, a renovation that she undertook acting as the general contractor. Now Roshani plans to rent out part of the house and live in the other part.

Here's the story of the renovation and some tips if you're considering doing something similar to your home.

The property before the renovation.

Once upon a time, many moons ago when Upshur Street was still a sleepy street with no gourmet dining options and there was no Yes! Organic Market or Annie’s Hardware Store in Petworth, I came across a Wardman rowhouse on 4th St. NW.  I worked with Marc Dosik of Help U Sell Federal Realty to submit a contract in September 2007 and settled on the house in October right before Halloween. The house had beautiful wood floors, an amazing view, a big backyard and a garage. It was also close to the H8 and 64 bus lines and a 10-minute walk to the Metro.  I had done a home inspection and was aware of the old electrical wiring, plumbing and other issues that would need to be addressed.

Garden Experiments
Over the years, I made small improvements to make the home more comfortable, but nothing major. I really enjoy gardening, so I converted the lawn in the backyard to a garden oasis. I planted a Brown Turkey fig tree, a dwarf Fuyu persimmon tree, raspberry canes, and more. I planted a grape vine that didn’t do too well and a pear tree that failed. I had the backyard landscaped and divided it between a pea gravel area for sitting, and another area to grow vegetables and herbs.  I planted dwarf Gerardi mulberry in the front yard. I took out the grass next to the sidewalk and converted that into another garden planting sunflowers, zinnias and other flowers. I work with Felipe with Okra Tom to help me weed and maintain my garden. I highly recommend them! I am also a big fan of Love and Carrots.

An outdoor oasis of gardening and relaxation.

Behind the Walls
Over the years, the galvanized pipes in the house started getting clogged up. There was very little water pressure in the bathroom on the second floor. I knew I had to bite the bullet and upgrade the plumbing in the house. At the same time, I decided to add a full bath on the first floor and another one on the second floor. Since I had to do demo work in order to change out the plumbing, it was a good time to upgrade the electrical in the house and upgrade to a 200 amp service, so I can get central air conditioning installed. I also got additional insulation added to the attic and the sunrooms. I realized all the work was tied together and it had to be done at the same time. I couldn’t just do one small project at a time! 

I moved out of the house in January 2017 to begin work, and it took me nine months to finish! I did miss about a month of work while serving on jury duty. I worked with architect Pablo Benavante to figure out the design and get the permits. I went down to DCRA with him to learn more about how the permit process works. Helpful hint: You can make an appointment online before heading there, so you can save some time.

Get the Lead Out
The DC Water database indicated that I had copper pipes going to my house, but the plumber said that in fact it was a lead pipe. I had to provide a plumber’s report that I had a lead pipe to DC Water in order to qualify for the lead pipe removal program.  (You can find information concerning the Demand LSR Program online.  Under this program, if the homeowner agrees to replace their portion of the lead service line at their cost, DC Water will replace the public-side portion of the lead service line at the cost of DC Water.

I had the lead pipe replaced with a copper pipe. However, water quality is very important to me, so I decided to get a whole house water filter and a reverse osmosis filter under the kitchen sink through Aquasana.

Go for Green Options: Reuse, Recycle and More
I reused what I could in the house, including the wood floors, windows and everything else I could including the antique chime doorbell. The tendency when people start renovating is throw out everything old, but there is a lot of value in some old things. For example, even though I had a variable speed 18 SEER Carrier heat pump installed for cooling and heating, I decided to keep the radiators because of the excellent heat they provide. Many people don’t like the way they look, and find they take up too much space, but I thought it was worth it to keep them. I also put ceiling fans with lights in every room for air circulation. By the way, the heat pump was installed in a closet on the second floor, instead of in the attic or basement, so it stays in a conditioned space. I have floor vents on the second floor and ceiling vents on the first floor. The basement has a separate mini-split unit.

Besides reusing, I recycled everything I could by donating it to Community Forklift, including doors, windows, appliances and even light fixtures. I scheduled to have them pick up everything to make it easier.

In the kitchen, I went with a quartz countertop because it is more durable and eco-friendly compared to granite. For cabinets, I was considering Ikea, but decided to go with ForeverMark cabinets because they were affordable, and have real wood cabinets, instead of particle board.  I recommend United Cabinets and Wolf Cabinets at Peoples Supply. Both companies can deliver the cabinets in a week and have excellent prices.

For the kitchen and bath, I went with WaterSense fixtures and got Energy Star appliances. I even qualified for the DCSEU Residential Rebates. (By the way, the rebates expire on September 30th.) I also got two Arlo Pro cameras, which qualified for the DC Security Camera program rebate.

For paints inside the house, I went with Benjamin Moore Regal Select paints, which I purchased at Annie’s Hardware store. I highly recommend getting a tester size can and doing a test on a piece of cardboard and seeing how it looks in the room. The small swatches are not sufficient to give an idea of how a paint will look in the room. For exterior paints, I used Sherwin Williams paints and went with the Perfectly Periwinkle for the front of the house. It’s a rather bold color, but I liked how it turned out.  I was inspired by the blue city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India and by Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul.

All About Money
If you are thinking about renovating, see if you can qualify for a Home Equity Line of Credit. Apply for more than you think you will need and you can borrow as you go. To be sure, calculating a budget or estimate is not easy. Plan on spending at least double what you think you may need. If you don’t spend that, you will be pleasantly surprised. To save money, get a Lowes credit card and save 5% on all purchases, and you can get a Home Depot Pro account. You can also create a business account at Galliher & Huguely and Annie’s Hardware to get discounts. By the way, do you know you can scrap all the metal that you end up with and make some money? It’s good for the environment and your wallet!

Happy to answer any questions you all have!  Good luck with your renovation projects! Have you been through a renovation? Share your own tips by commenting below. If you have friends looking to rent in Petworth, be sure to let them know about my listing.

About Roshani Kothari
Roshani has a blog called Green DC Living and is a licensed DC real estate agent with the Green designation. She has a column on her site called Greener Life where answers your questions about green living. She is also a photographer, digital strategist and a world traveler. You can follow her on Twitter at @roshani and email her at

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