Waking up from Blog Hibernation

Well, hello!  Long time no blog, I suppose the saying goes.  There has been a lot of upheaval for the two of us since our last blog post, and all good things.  In October, my coworker put in her two-weeks notice.  After a two-and-a-half month long application process, I was promoted to her position, bringing me up to full-time permanent status after spending three years as a part-time temporary employee.  Then in January, Paul’s supervisor put in his two-week’s notice, leading to Paul being offered the promotion (he, of course, accepted), and starting his new job just last week. So big changes in the TC Farmhouse household!  We are very thankful for the financial stability these changes will provide, helping us get closer to achieving our goals on the house.

We are just a few weeks past our one year anniversary of owning this house .  Kind of crazy, huh?  So much has happened in the past year, I thought I’d do a bit of a retrospective as a way to get back into the swing of blogging again.  Let’s take a journey to the past and see where it all started — and where we are now.

Curb Appeal

What has now become known as the Twin Cities Farmhouse was, prior to our purchase, an abandoned short-sale house.  We believe the previous owner moved out in the spring of 2010, and the place was in pretty rough shape, to say the least.  You’ll see this plenty throughout the “tour,” but it’s relatively apparent even when just looking from the curb.

Front of the farmhouse as it looked on the day of purchase, February 15, 2011.

Looks like an abandoned house, right? Mainly because it was.  Here’s what we look like a year later:

Better! Still needs some improvement. February 2012.

Work inventory:  After taking down the Christmas lights, raking up the leaves that were under the snow, landscaping along the front, re-roofing all but the front room roof (which we’ll do this spring), and painting the stucco, this is where we’re at a year later.

To do: Still to do on this part of the house is finishing the fascia, redoing the soffit, re-roofing the front room, adding gutters, and doing some more landscaping to up the curb appeal. Looking farther out, we’re eventually going to need to replace the concrete stoop/railings, replace the basement windows, redo the trim on the front room windows, take down the juniper tree (it is pretty raggedy and leans toward the house, eep), replace the chain-link fence to the north (I’m thinking a picket fence might be nice), and add a path of some sort for people to come to the front door.

The Kitchen

Oh kitchen.  So much potential, none of it realized, when we bought this place last year. Old cabinets, dated vinyl flooring and half-stripped wainscoting were the reality of this room in 2011.

Kitchen back in February 2011. Ew.

Until we tore it all out.

The kitchen in its current state.

Work inventory: Over the course of the past year, we removed the cabinetry/fixtures, wainscoting (to be re-installed later), plaster walls/ceiling, insulation, a remnant chimney behind the wall, plumbing, completely out-of-date wiring, layers of vinyl flooring to uncover a maple floor, and two old, broken, rotting windows.  We have replaced both windows, had drain/vent plumbing installed, fixed some rotted subfloor, procured new cabinetry, and are in the process of refurbishing the maple floor.

To do: We still have to rewire, put in supply plumbing, insulate, install and paint drywall, install the wainscoting and window/door trim, and install new cabinetry/fixtures.  It’s shocking to see all we’ve accomplished in this room, and while I recognize that we still have a ton to do, I’m really excited about getting this kitchen to a place where people will actually want to prepare food.

The Bathroom

This house is technically a one-bathroom house, assuming you exclude the demon-spawn bathroom in the basement (which we have since removed. More on that in my Basement section of the post). This one bathroom is off the kitchen, and when we bought the house last year, this was what we were working with:

Tiny, dated, generally unusable bathroom, February 2011.

The size of this bathroom was approximately 4.5 feet width and 6 feet deep.  We kind of felt like we could do better for the space in which we’d need to spend our getting-ready time in the morning (well, at least I felt that way), so we tore down the entire room:

Bye-bye bathroom!

And built a new, twice-as-large one:

Bathroom when it was first constructed, late 2011.

Work inventory: We took out the entire bathroom (walls, plumbing, wiring) and, in the process, discovered that 1) the floor was a little rotted from a plumbing failure and 2) the north wall was rotted due to a roofing failure against the chimney.  Since then, we’ve replaced the north wall (and fixed the flashing problem when we redid the roof), reinforced the floor, replaced the subfloor, built new bathroom walls, had drain/vent plumbing installed, and started on getting the supply plumbing installed.  Additionally, all the bathroom fixtures (sink, toilet, tub, lighting, vent fan, etc) have been procured.

To do: We still need to get the supply plumbing done, rewire, insulate, put in a floor, install/paint drywall, and install the bathroom fixtures.  I’m not really looking forward to tiling the floor, since it does look pretty complicated from what I’ve read, but hopefully it will be relatively painless.

The Living Room:

This is one room that we’re really not changing that much from its state in February 2011.  Here’s what it looked like then:

Not much to see in this photo, other than it's a room. Living room, February 2011.

Because of the general lack of renovations, we’re really just using this room as one of two storage areas (the other being the front room, the only room we will not be touching at all before moving in).

More recent living room photo. Note the new doorway on the right, and all the lumber lying around.

Work inventory: After cleaning up the junk left behind by the previous owner, we tore out the plaster on the south wall and moved the doorway to the office (at the right of the above “before” photo) closer to the corner of the room.

To do: The biggest change to this room will be the replacement of the giant window on the south wall.  We will be going from one enormous bank of windows (about 10 feet across, if I recall correctly) to two still-pretty-large picture windows.  We will also need to take out the insulation on the south wall, re-insulate, and replace the drywall.

The Office:

This is essentially the first floor bedroom, but it’s been known as “the office” since that is what we plan to use it for.  This room, just off the living room, will be really cool when it’s done, but it took a little squinting to see its potential when we looking at it in early 2011:

The office in early 2011, being used as garbage sorting headquarters when we were cleaning out the previous owner's stuff.

Since, we’ve done what we’ve done with almost every other room, and gutted it.

Office from a different angle, showing the window and closet. Febrary 2012.

Work inventory: We took out the walls, insulation, wiring, and part of an old abandoned chimney (can be seen just above and to the right of the light switch in the first of the two photos).  More recently, we tore out the walls of the closet under the stairs so that we can renovate that area too.  We also replaced the window with a casement window and framed for a second window to go on that same wall.

To do: We’ll need to install the heating vent that goes up to the 2nd floor.  Then, it’s kind of the same old song and dance: re-rewire, insulate, drywall, install fixtures.  At some point, we’ll have the 2nd window installed (probably before we drywall).  The one extra project here is that we are planning on turning the east wall (the wall with the closet door) into a floor-to-ceiling bookcase.  I hope to discuss this project on its own blog entry at some point here.

The Basement

I actually don’t have many photos of the basement because we aren’t really doing anything with it.  It houses our electric room, pressure tank for the well, water heater, furnace and oil tank.  The one place in the basement that has seen some changes was the “bathroom” area.  The reason it has quotes around it is that this was just barely an excuse for a bathroom.  It was against a cinder block wall that had peeling forest-green and dusty-red paint on it.  It had no floor coverings, no wall coverings, and no working lights.  And it looked haunted:

This is the best photo I took, because I don't think I ever went closer to the doorway. Looks like the set of a horror movie in an abandoned underground mental hospital. February 2011.

I don’t even remember why, but at some point this past year, my dad led the way to disassembling this bathroom.  Here’s what it looked like once the horrid room was gone:

Basement without creepy bathroom. The brick structure with the paneling in it was the "shower." Ew. October 2011.

Work inventory: The first thing that we did on this house was get the oil furnace fixed.  That was a big deal, obviously.  Other than the demolition of the demon bathroom, all work on wiring and plumbing has its origins down here.  The basement got wired early on, and when the pipe from the well was fixed, the pressure tank was re-installed down here. We recently bought a new super-efficient electric water heater (our house does not have a gas hook-up).

To do: We’ve seen some basement flooding during the thaws last spring and this winter, so we have to figure that out (probably a combination of grading around the house and getting the sump pump in working condition. I think we will have the clothes washer and dryer down here, so all that will need to be installed, too.  Plumbing-wise, the water heater, water softener and water filtration system still need to be put in.

Master Bedroom:

What will eventually be our master bedroom was originally walled off into three sections: two tiny bedrooms and a hallway.  We decided to turn this into one big room with a big closet, and almost immediately after buying the house last year, had the walls between the rooms torn down.  This was before I decided to keep a blog to track the journey of our house projects, so I don’t really have many photos of either of the bedrooms. Here’s one I took of all the toys left behind by the previous owner, just to show you an example of one of the rooms:

One of the only photos I have from before we gutted the upstairs. February 2011.

I’ll break down some of the problems with the upstairs.  Notice at the bottom left corner of the above photo that there are a minimum of three different types of carpeting in there.  Once we pulled up the carpet we found there to be some holes in the subfloor, which were, I kid you not, patched using old metal road signs.  Additionally, the walls up here were drywall, but when they removed the plaster, they did not remove the lath, so the drywall was just installed over it (this, for those who don’t know, is not good).  We’ve done a lot of work on the upstairs of the house, and here’s what it looks like more recently:

Pretty much just have to put it all back together. October 2011.

Work inventory: After getting all the abandoned furniture out of there, the carpeting, plaster, drywall and lath were removed, as well as the interior walls, as aforementioned.  The knob-and-tube wiring was removed, and new wiring has been partially installed.  The holes in the subfloor were repaired, and the walls for the walk-in closet were added.

To do: The next order of business on the room is getting the windows replaced.  They will need to be higher up on the wall to meet code, so that will be a little more complicated (hopefully not too much of a headache, though).  Then, as I said in the second photo’s caption, then we really just need to put this room back together.  Finishing the wiring, putting in heating vents, then installing insulation, drywall, new carpeting and light fixtures.

.   .   .

So there you have it!  That is where we’ve made it in a year.  Still a lot to do, but it’s pretty great to see all the progress we’ve made.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do more blog posts going forward–I’d love to get back into documenting everything, especially as spring arrives and we start working on more projects again.


About Leigh

Born and raised in Rochester, MN, Leigh moved to the Twin Cities in 2004 for college. She stayed, and now works for a south metro city in the recycling department. In February of 2011, she and Paul bought a neglected farm house in the city to start our own urban hobby farm.

Posted on March 4, 2012, in House, Renovation and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Cool recap. I’m excited to see more photos as you keep working. It seems like half your house has been demo’d, though, including both bathrooms, so you must be excited to get enough done so you can move back in, right?

    Have you had much problems with foundation settling? A lot of houses this old can often use a little bit of jacking back up into place to fix sloping floors, etc..

    I’m a fellow twin-citian, by the way, so that’s something.

  2. Hi Reuben, I’m glad you found our blog.

    We’ve probably done work in almost all the rooms, but we always seem to find some surprise that needs to be fixed behind each wall. So at least we’re getting all the house’s problems fixed before we move in.

    We have actually been pretty fortunate as far as the foundation. It has settled a bit, as all foundations do, but the floors are remarkably level given the age. A couple of the rooms are actually dead level. Maybe it has something to do with having a very sandy subsoil. I know that helps like crazy with drainage.

    I hope that you keep reading the blog and following along. I look forward to reading about your own projects.

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