The House: Week 4

Greetings from the land of dust, turtlenecks, and thick-bottomed boots. It’s been not quite four weeks since I posted last, and what a four weeks it’s been.

Walls have come down…


And walls have gone up…


Light is shining once more into the living room…


And also through floors.


Note the overall state of filth on my shoes…then extrapolate that to everything else I  own.

Although the general impression most people have of our house right now is “Disaster Site/War Zone/Have You Considered Calling FEMA,” I think it looks bee-yoo-tee-ful. You see dust. I see progress.

It’s also possible, however, that my vision has been blurred by frozen brain cells. After a lovely, unseasonable warm spell, the temperature has dipped back below freezing…outside the house and inside. Our little third floor apartment is still quite cozy, and during the day, the whole house is manageable. But at night…


Who needs an apron when you have down coats, right?

Trust me, there is a reason people describe major house renovations as “camping with a mortgage.”

Besides the dust and the cold, we’ve run into a few more pressing problems these last few weeks. (FYI: “More pressing problems”=$$$).

For starters, some decades ago, our poor, sweet house suffered from what our contractor likes to call “an HVAC attack.” Meaning, some very special HVAC contractors decided it wasn’t necessary for floor joists to attach to…well…anything, and hacked away at the aforementioned joists (on two floors) until they were suspended in mid-air, held in place only by floor boards, lathe, and plaster.

This physics-defying event left us with three whole stories, right at the back of the house, functionally unsupported. Oh, and it took place right above the house’s central, load bearing beam …which, when we took down the ceiling that was covering the beam in the basement, was discovered to be cracked from end to end. Happy. Joy. Yay.

Fortunately, our super awesome contractor and his super awesome crew (with the advice of a good engineer) were able to make all things right. Our house will now stand strong for another 126 years, and despite the choice words everyone in this house—wife, husband, contractor, subcontractors, electricians, random visitors off the street—has for those long since departed HVAC contractors and the person who put the plaster up over the cracked beam, we are very happy to have discovered these problems in the fashion we did…and not by watching small children running around on the third floor, suddenly appear before us on the first floor…without using the stairs.

We also have the lovely opening we wanted. Goodbye days of being trapped and crowded in the kitchen.


(My view from my future semi-permanent perch behind the someday kitchen island.)

Other additional expenses/surprises have included more HVAC work than anticipated, a destroyed subfloor (and no wood flooring) in the someday kitchen, plumbing problems, and layers and layers of remuddling that have confused us beyond belief. We also discovered we won’t be able to fully open up the front stairway because of some HVAC issues.


Still, even in its current state, the partially-opened staircase is a vast improvement over what it was (more light!). Moreover, once we put in period appropriate balusters, newel posts, and railings (plus some paneling and a bench), it will look like it was always meant to be that way.

All these problems have, of course, meant some things we wanted to do are getting pushed back a year or two (and others indefinitely). But that’s fine. We want to do this right and do it once, so we’re willing to take our time.

It also has been a helpful reminder not to believe what you see on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” My husband and I love that show with our whole hearts, but those sorts of huge remodels don’t happen on those sorts of budgets (at least not in places without access to cheap Mexican labor), and they definitely don’t happen that smoothly (or quickly!).

In the pantheon of HGTV home improvement shows, “Love It or List It” is probably the most realistic. When doing a major renovation, you never get everything you want. You have to make choices. (Unless of course, you have 8 gajillion dollars sitting in the bank, just begging to be spent on heated floors, built-in benches, and period appropriate soffits and fascia).

But again, we’re okay with not getting everything we want. More than okay, actually. Not getting everything we want is a reminder to be grateful for what we have. It’s also an opportunity to embrace (in some small way), poverty of spirit. Accepting limitations with a good and peaceful attitude is one way to grow in that particular form of poverty, which require’s accepting God’s “no,” and trusting that by going without, you’re somehow gaining much, much more.

Besides that,  in our culture, where HGTV and Pinterest are continually dangling massive, picture perfect homes in front of us, with all the smart technology bells and shiny appliance whistles, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the “perfect home” is something you buy or build or renovate into existence. But it’s not. The perfect home is  something you make through love, generosity, and laughter. It’s about the people, not the design. Making that kind of home, not being the November spread in House Beautiful, is the real goal here—at least for us..

Regardless, the sacrifices we’re being asked to make are so little and insignificant in the grand scheme of things that we just can’t complain.

For example, I may not get to replace the house’s craptastically cheap vinyl replacement windows (that I hate, hate, hate!) this year…but I do get this gorgeous fireplace in the living room. img_0953

And while we may be waiting for quite a while to get built-in book shelves in the new den, we do get this sweet (and giant!) set of pocket doors in the dining room. (The guys are reframing the opening for them this week!)


And, while I will continue to hate how my house looks from the outside for at least another 18 months, I will have the (not to be underestimated) joy of living in a home with functional plumbing, gas lines, ductwork, and electrical wiring.


It ain’t exactly sexy…but neither are down coats that function as aprons.

Pray for us!

5 thoughts on “The House: Week 4

  1. Patricia says:

    I am so happy to see that your sense of humor is getting you through this! I agree, real life is more like Love it or List it than Fixer Upoer. Sometimes it’s hard to know what you are getting into until after you start opening things up. (Gotta pass the bill to find out what’s in it, lol) But I agree with you, it will be worth it, and the changes you have made already must be making your heart flutter. (In a good way!) Continued best wishes!

  2. Apple Hill Cottage says:

    Oh dear, these photos look like ones I have on my early blog posts. Keep your sense of humor, and your prayer life.
    I’m a firm believer that once you start a house rehab, you never watch HGTV again. I think it’s strictly for wannados. (If that’s not a word, it should be.) Love your mantel! And love those pocket doors!

  3. Jayne Kaiser says:

    I just discovered you on IG recently and am now working my way through your blog posts. My husband and I are in the process of building our dream retirement home–actually having it built…us building it would be tragic! Our theme from the beginning was “it’s not about the house, it’s about the memories that will be made in the home.” We, too, can’t have everything we want and are okay with it. Thank you for sharing your house journey. You have put into words so much of what we are feeling. I grew up in a 100+ year old house in Ohio so much of what you write about brings back memories…cold, cold memories.

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