Renovating the 100 year old farm house my mom grew up in – making it a place for us to grow old in.

As of this moment, at 9:45am February 19th our thermometer (which is outside in the sun mind you) reads -22 below zero Fahrenheit. It’s not as though this should come as a surprise to us in northern Minnesota. Last year we didn’t just see days of highs in the below zero digits but literally WEEKS of it. But I sense we are all still quite miffed: up until now we have been enjoying a rather mild and incredibly snowless winter (something we absolutely deserved after last year’s polar vortex). I don’t understand why we can’t just have what most people would consider a “normal” winter with a foot or two of snow on the ground and highs in the tens to twenties with a break of a high in the thirties from time to time. It’s really f***ing cold out even by our standards. This is dangerous cold. This is the type of cold where if your car breaks down a few miles from town you could literally die trying to walk the distance regardless of how well you might be dressed. They, quite literally, don’t make regular clothes for this kind of weather. Right now I have two pairs of socks on, a pair of leggings under my jeans and five layers on my top half. I’m a bloody fricking idiot that I forgot to wear gloves this morning and, most people, would sacrifice their hair-do at this point for a hat though I haven’t yet given in on that front… at least not to my day job in front of the public. However, if I was sitting at my desk in a beanie all day I doubt anyone would take a second glance.

So, now that I’ve updated you on the weather in these parts I do hope you will be more understanding to hear that not much has progressed on the house the last couple of weeks. Oh, things have gotten done for sure. I finished putting in and hooking up all of the breakers in the sub panel in the basement and I installed a couple of temporary ceiling lights down there as my reward. For the first time since last April we can now go down stairs and turn a light on, pretty nifty. In light of the weather the two little heaters in the basement (meant to only heat 500 square feet, respectively) are only keeping the 2,000 square foot house above twenty degrees and we simply can’t afford the electric bill to turn them up from their bare minimum setting. Joe has hung more drywall and I’ve finished up some more loose ends: cut the board to finish the staircase landing and totally cleaned up the second floor. We had to cut a hole in the closet in the office so our spray foam guy can come and finish the last bit of spray foam that needs to be done in the crawl space however, in light of the weather, we won’t be seeing him until it is above freezing outside.

We installed one of our three off peak heaters and will be installing the second one this weekend. With them running we’re crossing our fingers that they will give the heaters in the basement a break and thus, a break to our electric bill as well.

It’s hard working around this kind of cold. Its hard really wanting to do anything as everything is so much harder to accomplish when its below zero outside. Our wind chill is really quite epic as well, Monday of this week it was a minus forty five degree wind chill outside and that’s just not something anyone screws around with. We were notified that the sheet rock lift from a friend is available again and Joe and I literally looked at the weather for a warmer day to go fetch it as we just couldn’t bare the idea of getting it last night in this cold. I consider us pretty tough people and last Sunday, when the high was only minus one, we went ice fishing for as long as we could stand the cold and caught enough for a nice supper that night. So, no, the cold is not stopping us in our tracks, of course it’s not, we are still Minnesotans damnit, but it certainly feels that way from time to time. It was nice to go fishing with him as he’s been going quite a bit lately but I just didn’t feel like I could leave the house.

The plumbing has been entirely done for nearly two weeks now but, guess what? I can’t turn the water on to check for leaks until the weather improves. We could crank all of the heaters up but it seems silly to spend the money on the electric bill: its been this many months, we might has well save the money and wait a little longer. My six month time line is long ago shot out the window and it’s looking like it will be a year from when we started demo so: double the time line I had hoped for which, I suppose when you think about it, isn’t bad for one person working on nights and (with help) on the weekends. Remember, I hired almost nothing out. When people ask how its going sometimes I get the impression that they really don’t realize just how much of the work I am doing on my own, but that’s okay, I am far beyond being excited about the amount of work I tackled. Sometimes it feels like if I told anyone the scope of everything I did myself that they wouldn’t be impressed – they would just think I was nuts. And, of course, I am nuts.

All of the electrical is done besides my filling up our main panel and off peak panel with breakers and getting it all hooked up. This is my personal goal for this week and this weekend. It will feel good to shut those panels for the last time and I may install a couple of little temporary lights in a room or two, just for the reward of turning a switch on 🙂 I went to our salvage depot yesterday and bought a sink for the main bath for $13 – the same sink brand new would have been over $30 and it was the least expensive sink I could find (that I didn’t hate) I still have to get the faucet for that sink too but I’m leaving my options open on the hope that the depot might have one I also don’t hate at some point. I have all of our faucets and sinks bought and paid for (five in total for the whole house) and that includes our shower and bathtub faucets as well. The last thing I have to purchase are the toilets and I’m gonna wait a bit on that. I still have our recessed light trims to buy as well as a dining room chandelier, our master bedroom chandelier, one pendant light for the basement bath, one wall vanity light for the main bath and all of our outdoor light fixtures as well as seven ceiling light fixtures that will be inexpensive and beautiful and not booby lights (over my dead body). Though, many of those lights (especially the recessed light trim) are not at all necessary for us to be able to live in the home etc. So… ya know… if I run out of money I can always just buy one light at a time lol but, no, my budget is over what I had hoped for but still in tact (phew!!).

Not to mention I still have our kitchen appliances and washer and dryer to buy. Sighs. I will be hitting the salvage depots very hard for all of the above and I just got a tip about a place for new appliances that have a defect (say a scratch or something) not far from here that gives outstanding deals. As far as the budget goes my own concerns are always the unknowns. I have accounted for sheet rock but not tape and mud, I have accounted for bead board but not primer and paint, I have not, at all, accounted for the cost of trim throughout, I have not, in any way, budgeted for any of the floors throughout either, there is gorgeous wood already in about 1,000 square feet but to sand it down and refinish it costs money I have not accounted for. The basement needs some kind of flooring, I can’t just leave that concrete and our entryway/dining room and guest bedroom are just plywood sub floor right now but, all in all, I still have money to spend before I run out and I feel good that we’ll get the house done but, worst case scenario, our construction loan will not stretch far enough to pay for the deck outside and that’s okay with me, I can do that out of pocket if I have to.

So, things are okay, I’m almost there and I’ve come a VERY long way and, just to illustrate (and make myself feel better) I’m going to list just how much I have done.

  • Ripped out and replaced Electrical throughout
  • Ripped out and replaced Plumbing throughout (added a sub pump in the basement and replaced the old pressure tank with a larger tank)
  • Replaced or added 16 windows from a start of 11
  • Replaced or added 6 doors from a start of 3
  • Replaced the old fuel oil furnace with off peak electric heat, regular electric heat (in the basement) and a wood stove in the kitchen
  • Added a kitchen as well as expanded the main kitchen
  • Added 2 bathrooms bringing the house up to 3 total baths from 1
  • Added a bedroom bringing the house up to 4 total from 3
  • By enclosing the screened in porch and using the wood shed added over 300 square feet of living area to the main floor
  • By finishing the basement we added another 500 square feet of living area (not to mention a fully functioning (and legal thanks to Joe digging out that egress window) rental suite down there complete with laundry and a kitchen of its own)
  • Had the entire house spray foamed adding incredible value via insulation not to mention structural support (this is the only thing on the list that we didn’t do ourselves)
  • Hired and got the other half of the roof re-shingled that needed it
  • Ripped down the old garage and added a 2 car garage that is actually deep enough to be considered a 3 car garage but it will be a 2 car garage with a full workshop in the back… that’s mostly for me but Joe will use it too 🙂 How many girls do you know that dream of their own workshops?

So, yeah, I’ve added value even in its unfinished state. I’m getting there – I just can’t wait for spring and to turn my plumbing on, get the leaks taken care of (maybe there won’t be any?) and enclose those walls, tape and mud, paint and trim, finish the floors and move in!


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