Renovating our Home

As a pastor for 23 years, we had always lived in parsonages, so we did not own our own home.  in 2002 we purchased this house to rent and pay for while I was working, so we would eventually have a place to retire.  Then in 2007, I was appointed to a church-related position in nearby Quincy--but suddenly we needed a house to live in!  After the renters moved into their new home (which they have also renovated beautifully now!), we had three months until the day we had to move out of the parsonage.  We decided if we were ever going to renovate the house, that three months of not having to live in it was the perfect opportunity to get a big start.  


During those three months, we gutted the house completely. We got a huge dumpster and removed all the dropped ceilings, all the plaster, the little bit of insulation it had in the walls, the old wiring, and the plumbing.  We also had the old kitchen addition torn off, as it was quite small, and had a bad foundation. Worse, we discovered the occasional sewer gas smell in it was due to to an ancient and inadequate "septic tank" that leaked into the cistern, and then the fumes came through the cracked foundation (in case you have never experienced it, sewer gas is not good in a kitchen).

A Frantic Three Months...

We hired professionals to pour the foundation for the new kitchen, and also for a two-story addition on the south to make a master bedroom upstairs, and an office downstairs.  

Once we had the foundations, we built most of the rest, inside and out.  We were extremely fortunate to have friends lend a hand on many occasions. During that crazy first three months, we also hired a roofer, a plumber, and drywallers who, quite miraculously, just barely got their part done before we had to move in.  

When we moved in, none of the lights worked yet, but two outlets and one bathroom got us by. Our kitchen sink was a last-minute save by our plumber--he hooked up the bathroom vanity we rescued from the trash to use "temporarily" (which turned out to be more than a year).

...then Years of Salvage and Restoration

The initial walls and roof went up fast, but the "details" have taken a long time to complete.  That is partly because we like the look of older homes, so we gradually salvaged (or found), and then refinished, all the doors and wood trim and light fixtures and most of the hardware to make it seem like an old house again.  Although our house is quite old, it had been "modernized" in many ways through the years, and then those changes had gotten old too.  So besides the wooden stairs and some wooden floors hidden under carpet glue, it didn't have any old woodwork left when we started.  We also discovered that it leans--it is almost an inch and a half "out of plumb" from floor to ceiling!  (That's something you don't notice until you try to install a square door in a leaning door opening!)  

We are deeply grateful for all the help and advice we have received, the generous people who have let us salvage trim from homes they owned but planned to demolish, and just for the opportunity to have a fun and rewarding project to do together as a couple and as a family.

The photos below compare "before" and "after views of several areas of our home. We hope you will enjoy looking through these photos!

The Master Bathroom

The photo to the right is in the Master Bathroom.  Just in case you are wondering, Shelly is the one who comes up with the ideas and has the good taste in decorating.  She usually draws a picture of what she wants, and guides me through the process of building it.  That tub enclosure went through a few different versions before we settled on this.  It's hard to see, but we incorporated some antique columns on the end next to the toilet.

One more thing...during our home tour, someone asked if we had to lay each of the small hexagon tiles individually.  The answer is no, or we would still be doing it.  They come in 12" sheets, and we love the person who thought of that!

Vinyl Siding...

and How God Provides

During 23 years as a pastor, I went on a lot of mission trips, but never had worked on vinyl siding until the summer we moved into this house.  That year, our mission project was to put vinyl siding on a woman's home.  Happily, besides our group helping her with her home, that week I got to learn from a contractor how to install it.

A couple weeks later, we received a couple bids letting us know how much it was going to cost to re-side our house. About five seconds after I read the big number on the bottom, I decided to "do it myself."  Gutters and soffitts and shutters and storm windows too...  However, a lot of that is high off the ground, and holding long, awkward pieces of siding.  So we were greatly blessed that our roofers had a job that summer where they did not need the lift.  They asked if they could leave their lift with us all summer, and in return, we got to use it for free! It truly was all a gift from God...

Replacing the Porches

The front porch was quite rotten, although we were able to keep the existing roof.  We added to it so it "wrapped around" the house to meet the south addition and make the house seem more like a single unit.  The original kitchen porch was lost with the demolition of the kitchen, so we made a back porch that would be large enough to sit on and enjoy with family or friends.  

Part of a church lives on in our kitchen

When the Huntsville United Methodist Church merged with others to become the Bowen Living Faith UMC, members had the opportunity to salvage the pews and other items from the building before it was demolished.  Nobody else wanted the floor, so we got permission to pry it up one board at a time (unfortunately that was in the heat of summer!).  It is now our kitchen floor, and we used the extra wood to build the kitchen cabinets.  Shelly found the doors to the cabinets at a flea market for $4 each.  The kitchen sink came from a salvage store in Wisconsin we frequent when vacationing there, and we incorporated other bits of old trim and hardware to make the "new addition" look like it has been around for a while.