Joe Mazza, the host of HGTV’s new show “Home Inspector Joe,” knows which red flags to look for in an old house. Unfortunately, he finds some big ones in his latest project.
In the Season 1 episode “Hastings Home of Hazards,” Mazza meets Lauren and Ryan Sutherland, who have bought a house in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, for $775,000.
“It’s got perfect bones,” says Ryan. He thinks they can focus on “updating everything and modernizing it and making it perfect.”
Still, Mazza finds that this house is riddled with safety issues. He and his go-to designer, Noel Gatts, end up spending $119,350 on this home to make it safe for Lauren and Ryan and their two kids. Read on to find out what a perfectly nice home might be hiding, and check out some upgrades you might be inspired to try around your own place.
Make a fireplace wall a feature wall
When Mazza and Gatts first see Lauren and Ryan’s future home, they’re impressed. The living room is large, and Gatts sees a lot of potential in the fireplace and tall ceiling.
Although the fireplace narrows near the top, Gatts says she’d like to widen it, “and do some floating shelves up at the top that sort of create some symmetry.”
She also suggests built-ins down below, where Lauren and Ryan can hide their kids’ toys.
The homeowners love these design ideas, so Gatts gets to work turning this old fireplace into a feature wall. In the end, it’s a functional feature that’s perfect for a family. This light upgrade and a little added storage are all this living room needs to look extraordinary.
Make sure stair railings are safe
While this living room is in good shape from the beginning, there is one feature Gatts suggests removing: the stair railing. Not only is it dated, it’s also inches too low.
“You could just tumble over the edge there,” Gatts says.
Mazza confirms that the railing isn’t up to code, so it will need to go.
“This is an opportunity here to do something cool that’s going to immediately bring it into today,” Gatts says.
The team installs taller railings with black cables and a light wood handrail to match the new shelves by the fireplace. These new railings look flawless and add modern style to the living room. This upgrade is not only a good reminder to ensure railings are up to code, but it also shows how a new stair railing can take any home to a whole new level.
Check for asbestos
When Lauren and Ryan first show Mazza and Gatts the basement, they hope this will be a good bonus room.
“It’s a cool space,” Lauren says. “We were thinking the kids can play down here.”
However, Mazza notices a specific type of tile in the closet, which seems to run under the carpet.
“These tiles here are a 9-by-9 tile,” Mazza says, measuring the space. “S, that’s a typical indicator of an asbestos tile. That is bad. That’s really, really bad.”
He explains that up until the 1980s, asbestos, a carcinogenic material, was used for all aspects of the house: roofing systems, caulking systems, floors, and more. Mazza knows this flooring will have to go.
Mazza says Lauren and Ryan have two options: Spend $15,000 to remediate the asbestos, getting it out of the house in a safe manner, or spend just $5,000 to encapsulate the tile, putting a new flooring on top so that the asbestos is trapped underneath. Both options are safe, but Lauren and Ryan decide to spend the extra money to get rid of the asbestos once and for all.
In the end, the basement isn’t quite as homey as it once was—but Lauren and Ryan could always finish this space in the future and finally get that bonus room. For now, the space is safe for them and their kids, which is what really matters.
Choose a bathroom vanity with lots of storage
Upstairs, Gatts plans to upgrade the main bathroom to give these parents a functional en suite. Lauren and Ryan are used to a tiny New York apartment, so they’re not accustomed to having so much space all to themselves.
“The Sutherlands are coming from one sink that they’re sharing with both of them and two kids,” Gatts says. “That takes a lot of maneuvering.”
So while Gatts upgrades this space with a new terrazzo tile floor, a black-paneled glass shower door, and an overhead rain shower, the biggest upgrade is a new double vanity with lots of storage underneath.
“In your bathroom, you need to maximize space, right? So we’re going to look for things that have drawers and storage,” Gatts says when shopping for vanities with Lauren and Ryan.
They pick out a beautiful vanity that Gatts plans to customize with a new color. To finish the look, she adds a clean, white quartz countertop, which gives this bathroom a fresh feel.
This bathroom now looks beautiful: It’s a mature space that has tons of style and storage.
Upgrade your yard with a deck that won’t crack or lift
In the backyard, Mazza finds a patio that has been racked and lifted by the nearby tree.
“Concrete slab’s an absolute train wreck,” Mazza says when he steps into the yard. “This is a massive tripping hazard. The area’s got to get ripped out.”
Ryan agrees the patio needs to be removed.
“We can’t have our little ones running around out here with this patio,” he says.
Instead of pouring new concrete, Mazza suggests putting in a composite deck, which is more expensive than wood but far more resistant to water damage, rot, and termites.
Plus, there’s another benefit: “The kids, they can walk out here barefoot, they won’t get splinters,” Mazza says.
The new deck will cost $15,000, but Lauren and Ryan are happy to spend the extra money on a kid-friendly feature that will last a long time.
When the patio is gone and the new deck installed, it’s clear these homeowners made the right choice.
Gatts dresses up the space with a propane fire pit and a large dining table, making this outside oasis the perfect spot to entertain.