John Johansen presents the Ernest Wood House, an historical landmark in Pasadena, California

Ernest Wood House Projects

The Ernest Wood House in October 2015

One of the great joys we get from owning this house is seeing it come back to its original glory as we complete various projects to restore, and occasionally, to innovate modern conveniences in an architecturally consistent fashion.


As with many old houses, there have been a lot of owners over the years to take care of this property. Unlike most old houses, though, many of the previous owners of this house tried to keep the charm and character intact. Most of our renovation projects have been repairing damage done by earthquakes, age, or termites.

Hardwood Floors

The very first project we completed was to install rift and quart white oak flooring on the third floor. We can't be sure that the floor originally had hardwood, but we tried to match the flooring used in the rest of the house. When we moved in, the flooring was vinyl, and whatever flooring might have existed before had been removed to attach the vinyl directly to the subfloor.

The next part of this project is to remove the laminate flooring on the second floor and replace it also with white oak rift and quart. Besides our being a little snobby about laminate flooring, the orange color of the laminate floor does not come close to the original white oak, and the direction of boarding goes east-west instead of north-south, as in the rest of the house.

Another part of the flooring project Leandro would like to undertake is to restore the stair case. Mostly this is because the 125 year old stairs have that very characteristic loud SQUEAK when people go up and down.

The fourth part of the flooring project is to repair the tile work in the kitchen and bathrooms. In the bathrooms, the work is just simple maintenance of the old floor. In the kitchen, someone attempted a Home Depot repair of the intricate tile pattern, and basically made a mess of it. We will have to tear out the repair and do it right.

The final and perhaps most delicate part of the floor restoration will be restoring the first floor white oak rift and quart. This is obviously the original flooring, with 125 years of wear and tear. Again, someone tried to repair a couple of small sections of termite damage and pet stains, but Leandro is confident we can restore the original floor rather than replace it.

The Roof

Fortunately, this project is basically complete. This has been by far the most expensive and stressful project we have undertaken on this house. Finding a contractor who could do the work took a long time, and the sticker shock on the final estimates was daunting. Roof Repair

Characteristic of a Queen Anne style structure, the roof is very complex. The are 40 different planes on our roof, and some sections which curve top to bottom, requiring roofers who are masters of their art. The original contract for our new roof called for having the roof done in 10 days. Actual completion of the roof took 5 months, mostly because the roofers had to re-do sections, sometimes several times, to get it right.

As far as we can tell, the original roofing on the main house was shake shingle, probably cedar. According to the documentation which accompanied the application for Cultural Heritage Landmark status, the roof in 1987 was asbestos tile, probably the same which was still on the garage when we bought it - that tile dated back to the garage's original build date in 1945. However, when we bought the house, the roof on the main house was deteriorated asphalt tile, at least 25 yeas old, which apparently lasted so long because is was coated black in 2003 during a "restoration" effort.

To restore this house to something close to original, we chose to use Owens Corning Woodmoor tiles in Carbon color. Our hope is to have these synthetic tiles protect the house for another 50-75 years, yet demonstrate the charm of the original materials and architecture.


Our current project is painting the house, which we are attacking in three phases.

Wood Repair

The Ernest Wood House in March 2015

One of the problems we had with getting estimates with to paint the exterior of the house was budgeting for wood repair. None of the painters would estimate even a ball park figure so we could make sure we had the funds available to complete the job. After 11 bids that ranged from $18K to $76K, and remembering what we learned from wood repair during he roofing project, we decided to do wood repair first.

With help from Pasadena City Inspectors, we have systematically gone through the house and found any structural issues, or long term maintenance issues. We repaired deteriorating joists, adding blocking and ledgers, and firmed up some of the brick foundations where water damage had undermined the brick. Some years ago, a new driveway had been put in, and the dirt from excavation had been piled all over the property, with the side-effect of forcing rain water to collect against the wood siding of the house - so we removed all that and re-landscaped to allow water to move away from the house. We have replaced the damaged and rotted ship lap siding, as well as the damaged cedar shingle.

As we were roofing and repairing wood trim, we noticed the wonderful mouldings, all hand carved, that were original features of the house. All the rakes and eaves of the main house had 4 inch crown moulding carved in redwood. This had been covered up by rain gutters, the attachment of which had allowed water to get into and destroy the original moulding. Furthermore, every window originally had a simple but elegant moulding attached under the bottom of the sill - where it was missing you could still see the paint shadow. Finding a supplier to custom mill these mouldings for us was a challenge, but Superior Moulding in the San Fernando Valley finally came through for us.

Exterior Painting

Primed Ernest Wood House

With the wood repair complete, we pressed forward with exterior painting. We used Benjamin Moore Aura Low Lustre paint, again in the hopes of protecting the house for many years to come. In choosing colors, we opted for brighter colors than the hunting lodge greens and browns typical of Pasadena Craftsmen styles, but warmer colors than the traditionally bright Victorian colors. The high contrast of the roof against these warm colors is proving very effective in drawing attention to this 19th century grand dam. We get several compliments a day on the house, many saying the house has become the happiest looking house in the neighborhood. Finishing up the exterior paint job After interviewing 14 contractors, we chose J & B Painting, Inc. from Agoura Hills to paint the house. Bob and his crew have been voted one of the 10 best painting contractors in the San Fernando Valley for most of the 21st century, and we can tell you why.

In short, if you are in the Los Angeles area, need a good painter, and don't waant to mess around or get over charged, call Bob at J & B Painters, Inc. The Ernest Wood House from the north The Ernest Wood House From the south east The Ernest Wood House from the north east

Interior Painting

After we finish outside, we will repaint inside. The interior paint is in good shape, so this part of the project will go pretty quickly, and we will probably do the job ourselves.

Other Projects Upcoming

Other projects we are planning include: