Slow but Steady

The White House

Holy moly! How is it possible that my last blog post about the White House was in August?!? That seems like a lifetime ago. You might think that Kurt has been lounging around, watching television, and eating potato chips… but you’d be mistaken. He has been working steadily, even if I’ve been tardy about documenting it. And luckily, he also took a few pictures that I can share with you to show his progress.

In August, he put some structure and plumbing into the upstairs bathroom. Here is where we left off (with a big hole in the floor). Since then, he built a large walk-in shower area, closed off the door to the storage room, and moved the vanity plumbing to the back wall, next to the toilet.  He also installed a bath fan that vented through the attic to the outside.

I think it looks so much better with clean, white sheet rock walls instead of pink plastic faux-tiles. Don’t you agree?

He spent most of October and November patching up cracks in the walls, repairing baseboards, and scraping flaky paint off the trim, to prepare for a fresh coat of paint (coming soon).

In the upstairs front bedroom closet, he removed the cracked ceiling and discovered a colony of bats living in the rafters! After watching them all exit through a 1″ hole in the roof flashing at sunset one evening, he sealed the hole from the outside before installing new insulation and sheet rock in the closet. Now it’s nice and cozy, and 100% bat-free!

In early December, Kurt repaired the stair treads in the front entry. When he took them apart, he was hoping to find some buried treasures in the dead space under the stairs, but unfortunately, the only stuff in there was debris from the original construction.

Stair Treads

He tore through the pantry wall to adjust the huge sliding door that opens off of the dining room. When we bought the house, it opened slanted and only about 90% of the way, but that wasn’t good enough for Kurt’s high standards. Now it slides the whole way with ease (or at least as easy as a 200-pound antique door can slide). In the coming weeks, we will take off the handle hardware, clean off the layers of paint, and restore its original function and style.

Sliding Door

In the week between Christmas and New Years, he headed back to work, this time building shelves in the pantry and next to the basement stairs. He also installed a new door on the pantry and a refurbished antique door to the basement.

In the first week of the new year, he added the vintage trim and rosettes to the doors and window in the kitchen. Now they match the rest of the house! We also found matching hinges and door knobs, which will go into the kitchen and bathrooms soon.  (Thanks to Guilded Salvage Antiques in Minneapolis for all the new/old materials that are helping us make the White House perfect!)

Doors and Trim in Kitchen

We have ordered new flooring for the kitchen, but he won’t install it just yet. The rest of the house will have the hardwood floors refinished in the next couple of months.

Still to do… repaint everything inside (probably grayish walls with white trim); pick out tile for the new walk-in shower upstairs; choose flooring for both bathrooms; new counter tops and appliances for the kitchen… I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t remember right now.

Stay tuned.

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More Adventures in Flooring

The Berg

It has been a week since the carpet came out, and with the girls at Grandma’s once again, Kurt and I spent another eight hours working at the Berg.

Our primary goal was to pull out the vintage vinyl flooring that was uncovered in the upstairs when we tore out the hideous carpet.

We started in the back bedroom, where the old carpet pad had completely turned to dust. After we vacuumed, we found an old vinyl floor. (Fun fact #72: According to neighbors, this room was actually used as a kitchen once, when the second floor had been rented out as an apartment. That would explain why there is no closet in this ‘bedroom’.)

When we rolled up the vinyl, we discovered that they had used newspapers to level out the floor. Hello Post Bulletin from the summer of 1967. (In fact, we found a lot of newspapers, dating between 1955 and 1967, so stay tuned for another blog post with details and lots of pictures!)

Vintage Newspaper 1967

Once the vinyl was rolled up and the newspapers were collected, we were delighted to see that the hard wood floor was nearly unblemished! Thank goodness their kitchen hadn’t been plumbed!

Rolled Vinyl in Back Bedroom

Next, we moved on to the bathroom. Remember the beautiful carpet that was in there?

Bathroom Carpet

When that came out, it left behind the rubber-backed portion, in a fine black dust, that was stuck to a layer of vinyl and more newspapers. But once that was removed, look at the amazing wood floor! It has a fantastic weathered gray color. I just love it!

Finally, it was time to tackle the master bedroom at the front of the house. Under the carpet and pad, we found a huge sheet of vintage vinyl. It was nailed down in a few places so Kurt had to work himself under it to get it to let go. It was pretty hilarious to watch him disappear under a blanket of old floor.

 

Once we started rolling it up, we found buried treasure! Another layer of vinyl, and this one was much more colorful!

So, we carefully rolled that one up to. And look what we found under that layer! A lovely wood floor with fantastic old vent!

Front bedroom floor

Now look at all our vintage vinyl flooring! We carefully carried it downstairs and stood it up in the garage. (My next project is to find someone who would like to buy it.)

But tearing out vinyl wasn’t our only accomplishment yesterday. We also removed all of the tack strip that was used to hold the carpet down around the edges of the rooms and on the stairs.

Tearing out tack strip

I also pulled out all the carpet staples from the stairs, and gave the whole place a nice vacuuming. Kurt even checked out the attic. There weren’t any big bags of money or hidden pieces of fine art up there so he decided he didn’t want to explore further.

Instead he and the shop vac headed to the basement for an hour and a half of clearing cob webs and sucking up dust and who knows what. (Better him than me!) I spent that time in the dining room, scraping off wallpaper.

I was happy to see that the old plaster is in very good condition!

So, activities at the Berg are moving right along. It’s starting to look like somewhere people might want to come visit. After a little more cleaning and fresh air, we should have all the creepiness out of it.

Stay tuned!

A First Look Inside

The Berg

The Berg officially became ours last Thursday, so we took our girls over to get their first look inside.

Upon walking in the east side door which leads into the kitchen, I asked Maggie (age 3 1/4) what she thought. Her first words were “this house smells bad” followed almost immediately by “hey, this is the kitchen!” She was not wrong. (Just like the White House, our first job will be to open the windows and remove the very old, very dirty, very smelly carpet.)

I’ve sketched out the layout of the house, to give you some basic bearings. (Obviously not to scale, but close enough for now.)

Berg Floorplan

While the rest of the family was exploring the empty house, I snapped several million ‘before’ pictures. Here are a few to give you a sense of the house (without subjecting you to the scents of the house.)

There is so much more floral wallpaper than I remembered! The upstairs isn’t any better.

The basement is a bit of an eye-sore: crumbling walls, knob-and-tube wiring, old pipes. Kurt (and a handful of professionals) will have a lot of work to do down there before we’re through with this transformation.

Outside, the yard is large and full of nice plantings. And the garage has a ton of character, with different bricks from a century of repairs and renovations.

But let’s end this quick tour with a little natural beauty… Mr. and Mrs. Berg were avid gardeners and even though they have passed, their flower gardens are still lovely.

I can’t wait to get into there and take out that nasty carpet. The transformation begins this week!

Stay tuned.

Introducing “The Berg” in Rochester, MN

The Berg

Kurt and I are so excited! Today we bought our second project house!

It was previously owned (for the last 65 years) by an elderly couple named Mr. and Mrs. Berg, so we decided to call it “The Berg.” I also like the name because we just bought a 140 year-old house “AS-IS.” I’m sure that the problems we *know* about are just ‘the tip of the ice-BERG.’

Here are the stats… 2 bedroom, two 3/4 baths, 1,869 square feet. Built in 1880. Corner lot with large yard and an ancient carriage-house garage.

It was described on realtor.com as “Fixer upper in great location! Charming old home that needs a loving touch.” Oh boy, here we go!

We got the keys this morning, so I haven’t had a chance to take pictures yet. But here’s what I borrowed from the listing (realtor.com).

View The Berg’s transformation (in chronological order) by visiting the Archives page.

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Dining Room

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Living Room

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Sitting Room

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Kitchen

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Stay tuned.

Carpet Out, Hello Wood Floors

The White House

May 15th ~ The very first thing we did when we started working in the White House was to remove the nasty old carpet. With our girls at an all-day sitter, Kurt and I had a chance to make a big visual difference in a short amount of time. (It also made a difference in how the house smelled!)

On the first floor, the living room, dining room, entry, staircase,  bedroom, and enclosed front porch all needed to be torn out. Here’s what it looked like BEFORE.

On the second floor, the front bedroom with closet, hallway, and back bedroom with closet also had carpet that needed to come out.

While Kurt (a former carpet installer) did a speedy job of ripping out, sectioning, and rolling up the icky stuff, I carried the pieces downstairs to the van destined for the dump. Somehow, we managed to get all of the carpet and the padding in one load.

Here’s what it looked like AFTER.

Underneath the carpet, we found hardwood floors covered in ancient glue, except in the dining room and downstairs bedroom where we found linoleum tile. A few days later, Kurt took up the tile and then spent several hours scraping the glue up. Here’s the final result in the dining room.

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In a few weeks (or months), we will get a specialist out to sand and refinish all of the wood floors to their original awesomeness. I can’t wait to see them then!

Introducing “The White House” in Claremont, MN

The White House

In mid-May, my husband Kurt and I purchased a charming old home in the tiny hamlet of Claremont, Minnesota. It was built in 1910. Kurt knew this house had ‘good bones’ and just needed a little TLC.

The first thing we do when we start a new project is to name it. We considered calling it “the Tall House” or “the Owl House” but we decided to call it “The White House.” Our family has been politically divided since last November, so I was hoping this house could once again connect a positive feeling to the term.

Here are the stats… 3 bedroom, 3/4 bath upstairs, half bath downstairs, 1750 square feet. Located on a double lot with several mature trees. It also has a modern garage which includes a nice (unfinished) loft and a small garden shed.

The next several posts will be trying to bring you up to date on the improvements we made during our first five weeks. But once I’ve caught up, I’ll post updates when we’ve finished a portion of the project.

And here’s what it looked like when we started. (Photos borrowed from realtor.com.) It was a foreclosure and the previous owner left a lot of stuff behind (except kitchen appliances). Thankfully it was mostly cleared out before we got the keys.

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Garden Shed

Interior1

Dining Room

Interior2

Kitchen

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Living Room

Stay tuned.