The candidate: Its location, low price, and basically sound structure make this little Leavitt Street house a good rehab possibility.
Cloaked in faded olive-green aluminum siding, the two-story wood-frame house at 4315 North Leavitt Street in Lincoln Square sits near, but comfortably removed from, a busy intersection just down the street from the Brown Line el train, Welles Park, and the Sulzer public library. Listed at $379,000 in April, the house’s price—low for the neighborhood—reflects two major downsides: First, the lot is short and sits awkwardly on an alley that is also used for commercial deliveries. Second, the floor plan is typical for when the house was built, probably around the 1930s, but to today’s buyer may seem limited: three small bedrooms and just one bathroom, which is strangely located next to the kitchen. In its current condition, the house is habitable but small, which is why the real-estate agent, Roger Thompson of Prudential Preferred Properties, has positioned it as a candidate for a down-to-the-studs makeover—in other words, a gut rehab.
With that in mind, we asked each of three licensed Chicago contractors to reimagine the house on Leavitt and to estimate how much it would cost to execute their respective visions. After walking through the property, each contractor said that the construction was solid, with no sagging or bulging in the floors, walls, or ceilings; the basement, they all agreed, was sufficiently deep to convert into a living space without the costly process of digging out the foundation for additional ceiling height. Each contractor then went to the drawing board and came back with a proposal, keeping in mind our request for middle-of-the-line fixtures, appliances, and finishes. We also asked for some basic structural upgrades: new electrical wiring, plumbing, siding, roof, and windows; a finished basement; zoned central air and heat; another bathroom; and more interior square footage. Here, the summaries of the proposals, including cost estimates (click here for full itemizations and our rehabbing primer).
Photography: Chris Guillen; Illustrations: John Kenzie
JOHN CASSERLY of 41 North Builders
Estimated cost: $216,944
Basement: Move the basement stairs from their current location at the back of the kitchen to the front of the house, underneath the existing staircase that leads to the second floor. Add a bedroom and full bath.
First floor: Knock out the walls that separate the foyer from the living room, the living room from the dining room, and the dining room from the kitchen—creating a large first-floor great room with a peninsula between the kitchen and dining room. Use the backroom—which was added on to the dining room in a previous renovation—as a breakfast nook. Convert the existing bathroom into a powder room that opens into the great room instead of the kitchen.
Second floor: Create higher ceilings where the roof currently slopes in by adding dormers about 10 to 15 feet from the front on the roof. Extend the back bedroom across the roof of the kitchen below, and add French doors that open to a small deck. Install a master bathroom and a second bathroom next to it, which opens to the hallway. Space permitting, include laundry on second floor.
Exterior: Redo the front and back porches. Rebuild the one-car garage.
Final specs: Four bedrooms, three and a half baths
JIM AND STEPHEN RONAN of Ronan Construction
Estimated cost: $335,455
Basement: Move the basement stairs to the front of the house. Convert the front of the basement into a family room with a wet bar; the back area becomes a guest bedroom with a full bath.
First floor: Knock out the walls that separate the foyer from the living room and the living room from the dining room. As you enter the living room from the front door, you face the powder room and a coat closet, which used to be the bathroom. Extend the kitchen across the full width of the house by removing the wall that separates it from the dining room. Take out the existing back porch and square off the back of the house so that the kitchen now opens to a great room.
Second floor: Dormer the roof. Extend the back bedroom across the length of the roof below to create a master suite with bath. Install a washer and dryer at the top of the stairs. In between the two other bedrooms, add a Jack-and-Jill bathroom (doors on two sides, with a separate area for the tub and toilet).
Exterior: Create a landscaped deck on top of the new one-car garage.
Final specs: Four bedrooms, three and a half baths
HOWARD ROTHSTEIN of Redstone Builders
Estimated cost: $245,800
First floor: Create half walls between the dining room and living room, possibly with decorative columns, to open up the space but maintain the distinct areas. Create similar half-wall peninsulas between the kitchen and dining room. Turn the bathroom into a powder room that opens into the living area instead of the kitchen. Either narrow the opening from the dining room into the added-on backroom, adding a door to turn it into a laundry room or office; or knock out the walls to create a larger combined dining room and living area.
Second floor: Tear off the entire second floor, and rebuild on the existing footprint, with a new roof that can accommodate eight-foot ceilings across the width of the house (this will increase the usable space by four feet on each side). Include a full bath directly above the first-floor powder room. Add a laundry room upstairs.
Exterior: Redo the front and back porches.
Final specs: Three bedrooms, two and a half baths