Our House – A peek beneath the drywall

Some people might think we were crazy. Others might say we were foolish. But to us the next logical step was to buy a house, one that needed a little work, a little love.

We’d just gotten engaged a week prior when we found the house of our dreams: a 50-year-old foreclosure that, according to my personal standards, was barely inhabitable.

House before remodel

Note the weeds, dead grass and complete lack of curb appeal.

We fell in love instantly. I mean, what wasn’t to love? It had hardwood floors that had been painted brown, a heater that couldn’t be used, kitchen cabinets with holes in the bottom, so if items weren’t placed correctly they would fall through onto the counter tops. There was even an “addition” on the back for more space.

bathroom before remodel

The icky bathroom, with cracked tiles, filth everywhere and broken fixtures.

Kitchen before remodel

The kitchen cabinets were made from scrap two by fours and plywood. The doors didn’t line up, were falling off and just nasty.

Master bedroom before remodel

This was the master bedroom. First, you can see the floors were painted brown. Second, you can see that a bed was in the room when the floors were painted. I totally get why this happened. I understand. When I dust or vacuum, I just work around things. Moving them is way too much work. And nothing says relaxation and romance like walls painted Kermit the Frog green.

Exterior of addition

This was the addition. The back porch was framed in and “windows” had been installed.

Inside view of addition

An inside view of the addition. To make it seem more, well, like a part of the house, carpet was added and the brick wall was painted white.

First we disinfected the house from floor to ceiling because, as my fictional vampire Libby would say, “It was just like ew! You know.”

Then, with the wisdom that comes with never doing something like this before, we allotted ourselves  two weeks to work on the house before we had to relinquish my lovely, up to date, and heated condo. I bring up heated because the gas company wouldn’t turn our heat on because the furnace was unsafe. We lived without heat for about a week. I had to buy a space heater and spent each night under a mound of blankets. As most of you know. I am cold… all the time. This didn’t help.

My husband started on the bathroom, gutting it to the studs. He worked pretty quickly, but there were still frequent visits to fast food restaurants for bathroom breaks.

bathroom remodel

Nothing like showing up after a long day of work and finding your only bathroom looking like this.

bathroom remodel

I might have had a moment of fear here. Or denial. He’s got this under control. I’m sure. I’m just going to go stand in the living room and try not to touch anything.

where the toilet goes

Where the toilet goes.

Now with a toilet

The new toilet and floors.

And one of the nice things about installing your own toilet is you can do this the next time your tube of toothpaste is accidentally flushed:

toothpaste in toilet

This was my fault. Don’t ask how it happened.

Our next step was to rent a giant dumpster and begin the demolition phase of the remodel. My mom and I ripped out baseboards and doors. We even took a sledge hammer to the “addition” in the back.

Tearing out baseboards

Ripping out baseboards in the very yellow living room/dining room.

Ripping out the addition

Bye bye addition. Our insurance company considered it a hazard. It had to go. Right away.

Taking down the roof

My husband and dad taking down the roof.

So we lived without baseboards, doors, a functional kitchen and a tiled shower and tackled the remodel room by room.

kitchen cabinets

Kitchen demo. Tearing out cabinets and tile backsplash.

No kitchen cabinets

Everything was gutted and then the sink was propped up with 2 x 4s. There was a full wall between the kitchen and dining room that we tore down to make a half wall instead. The full wall was where the stove is in this picture.

The fridge back in the kitchen

The stove and sink were switched, so that the stove was against the main wall now and the sink was against the half wall. And the fridge was finally out of the dining room!

repaired walls and paint chips

Here the walls have been repaired and you can see the half wall that was created. And, of course, all our test paint spots are scattered about.

kitchen almost finished

Almost finished! It still didn’t have drawer pulls and we hadn’t replaced the back door yet, but you get the idea.


A view of the sink and half wall that now opens into the dining room.

This all took multiple trips to Home Depot, usually in the same day, because it’s nearly impossible to get everything you need in one trip. And of course lots of caffeine, tolerance and faith.

One of the last projects we tackled was stripping off the paint from the addition.

paint picking

This was back breaking and time consuming, not to mention toxic. It was probably the worst part of the remodel.

It took us about to a year to complete the remodel and we walked away still in love. We even got married a little over halfway through the process. And now, when I look back at the pictures, it’s strange, but I miss those days a little bit. It was exhilarating taking on new and daunting tasks. And the thrill of completing something you’re proud of can’t be beat.

Hmmm… Could another remodel be in our future?? Are we up to the task again? I don’t know. It is nice having heat and countertops you aren’t squeamish about touching and walls with baseboards and stuff.

Living room

The once bright yellow living room/dining room decorated for Christmas.


The master bedroom that is no longer Kermit the Frog green.


The finished bathroom.

Kitchen today

Our kitchen today, decorated for Thanksgiving.

outside house

Our front yard with grass and flowers.

Our days were spent obsessing over paint colors, tile combinations, door styles, drawer pulls, and baseboard styles. Together we remained calm after we vetoed the 60th paint color tried in the kitchen. We managed to still love each other even if we couldn’t agree on whether the cabinets should have roll out shelves or not. Somehow we cooked delicious meals when our fridge was in the dining room and our sink was propped up by 2x4s.

And now I feel more attached to this house than anywhere else I’ve lived. It’s mine, ours. Something we created. And even if things didn’t turn out perfectly, I still consider it a success: there were zero trips to the ER for DIY related injuries, we learned tons about home maintenance and we confirmed that we could work as a team, even in the most (in my opinion) dire circumstances.


36 thoughts on “Our House – A peek beneath the drywall

  1. Jim Lawlor says:

    Congratulations – that looks like a great job. I’ve done this more than once and it’s realllly time consuming, but at least you know what was done was done right….

      • Jim Lawlor says:

        Neither actually. I used to work in maintenance and knew enough about plumbing and heating to be able to do this. So when we were buying a house we just got what we wanted, and then ‘fixed’ it. Did it a couple of times. Don’t think I’d do it again, but that’s mostly because it consumes so much time.

  2. Vera Mark says:

    Looking great, Jennifer! We also re-built our house last year, well mostly we had it done by people who knew what they were doing, but it was still a lot of work and it makes SUCH a difference. Enjoy your home!!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Thanks, Vera! It was an eye opening experience and I learned a ton. But it is a lot of work, I think you just have to have the stomach for it. But, like you said, it makes such a difference when it’s all finished. Were you living in yours while it was rebuilt?

  3. Y. Zheng says:

    The after pictures looks so much better. I would not want to live in the before pictures. It looks dangerous and nasty. If I ever buy a house, I would not want to involve myself in a project like that even if I had all the patience in the world :). Congratulations on your remodeling, it looks great.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Thanks. It was a bit scary in the beginning and icky. I don’t blame you for not wanting to take part in something like that. We didn’t really know what we were getting into and now that we know better I don’t know if we would do it again 🙂 Maybe!

  4. Marcy says:

    It really was disgusting….you were brave, I would have had to live in a hotel while the reno was going on. What a lovely transformation! I thought the old house we had in U-Hills was awful, but it was a palace compared to your original.

  5. natarunmore says:

    WOW you guys did such a great job!! And I completely understand your attachment to the place.. when you make it your own like that you can’t help but love the place even more.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      It was a labor of love and a great experience.

      I didn’t really make it clear in the post, but we finished the bulk of it a couple of years ago. I was just reflecting on our adventure because the beginning of November is when we first took possession.

      And it feels like so long ago, sometimes I actually forget what it was like during the dark days of no kitchen or toilet or heat…

  6. gpeynon says:

    I’ve just done the same thing in my bedroom and been lazy by painting around the wardrobe instead of moving it. I hope I don’t end up on somebody’s blog post in a few years time 🙂

    • jennifer Windram says:

      That’s too funny. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, we kept joking that at least we knew where the bed should go. I’m sure others will feel the same about their wardrobe 🙂

      And if it makes you feel better, we didn’t fully paint behind our refrigerator. And I’m sure 50 years from now people will be questioning our choice in countertops or cabinet style.

  7. April says:

    Nice job! You are living my dream. Not only do I want to rehab a house (I would like one of those old craftsman, or Victorian homes), but I would also like to be able to work well with my husband. The reason why we have been together for 27 years is the fact that when we work—he is in an area far from me. Let’s just say we have different work ethics. Yeah…that sounds good.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      It was a great experience, especially the feeling of taking something that had been left to deteriorate and bringing it back to life. I really think the house is thankful.

      And it wasn’t all rosy working together–we had our moments. And everything was all his fault 🙂

  8. lindsaycummingswrites says:

    I have to admit that I thought you two were a little nuts, but what a beautiful home it is! I’m glad you two more than survived the process, you have a truly loving marriage and I bet this really helped you both come together. Feel free to have us over for a Po’ boy anytime! 🙂

    • jennifer Windram says:

      It was a bit crazy to take on such a huge project, but with a little elbow grease and faith it all worked out.

      What’s funny is now when I look back, not only am I amazed but what a disaster it all was, I’m amazed by how productive and fearless we were.

      I don’t think we realize all the things we can accomplish until we get out there and really try.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      It’s funny. We’d been looking for awhile and we knew we wanted a fixer upper, but hadn’t found one that was in our price range or was doable from our perspective and then when we toured this house, we both just new. We put in an offer that day and lucky for us, everything fell into place 🙂

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