Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Bedroom

The experience of fixing this old farmhouse has been everything we thought it would be and much more. We do not regret it. The last room to share on the “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series of posts is the bedroom. Technically, this house was listed as a three-bedroom house, but currently, we use one of the bedrooms as the living room because we set up the living room as a dining room, and the other room is set as the office. You can view these rooms on my previous posts.

The bedroom was the first room we fixed. Like the rest of the house, it was in very bad shape and required work. The walls had significant damage as well as the ceiling. The floor had some minor issues but we decided to install laminate flooring due to the uneven space between boards, some discoloration, and other minor issues, something quite normal. The room is 15 x 15 feet and it has two floor to ceiling windows due to the low ceiling (seven feet or so). The house does not have any closets, except for the one in the living room, something common for this type of construction. The room had a makeshift shell of a closet that was falling to the side, kind of hanging there with no support. We thought about using vintage his and her armoires but settled on the idea of building a walk-in closet around the chimney space, which worked out great. The chimney was in rough shape and had to be covered anyway so the space was ideal for it. I thought that building the closet would rob the room of space but it worked out well; we don’t miss the space and it was a much needed use of it. Because this was the room at the far end, we knew that it would be the coldest room. The pellet stove does a great job at heating the house, however, we decided that adding an electric fireplace on a corner would be a good idea, just in case we needed extra heat on a cold winter. This arrangement has worked fine.

Here are a few pictures of the before, during, and after process.

Here you can see the condition of the floor as well as the unfinished molding that might have been left like that by a former renter.
There was a mattress on the floor but no frame, ripped-off linoleum, and tons of garbage that we had to clean out before starting any work. We figured out that the reason for no bed frame was that it was impossible to bring anything upstairs due to the narrow stairway and low ceilings. We had to fold the mattresses using heavy load straps to be able to get them down. We could not throw them outside through the windows. It was a challenge.
The opposite side facing the other room (now the office). Here you can see the many layers of wallpaper, paint, and several materials used by former owner/renters.
The closet wall was loose; nothing was holding it secure. You can also see the old chimney.
Building the closet. You can see the other room behind (the office).
The other side of the room, where the bed would be located. There were areas on the floor that were painted brown and other square areas were left in the natural wood. I could not figure out why.
Although the closet connects, we decided having two doors and separate spaces was the best option.
First wasp bite. I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know if I was allergic or not.
Eventually, one gets used to it.

AFTER

The finished side near the entrance that connects the office.
Closet doors have been installed (don’t mind the cabinet that does not belong there). We painted the doors nutmeg.
“Ahh, it feels good to finish one room.”
From the office to the bedroom, at that same spot. Room as it is now.
Here you can see the closet doors painted nutmeg, and a few cats.
After building the closet there was enough room for a queen size bed and two night tables. The use of the space worked out.
Opposite side.
The cat that came with the house. She was living under the house, and now she has no desire for the outdoors.

This concludes the Fixing an Old Farmhouse series, for now. There is still some work that needs to be done, mostly the porch flooring (slate) and the future installation of a new roof (biggest ticket item). There are a few things to build outdoors, and a garden to develop slowly. I will share more on future posts as we complete each project. It has been a labor of love, exhausting at times but rewarding in many ways, fun too. I hope you have enjoyed the before and after of the process, and hope that in some way, these posts have been inspirational to someone.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Office

The second floor of this 1910 farmhouse is typical of this type of construction. Immediately after going up the stairway, one lands on the first bedroom. There are no doors, neither a landing. There are two rooms and one connects to the other. The entire space upstairs measures 30×15 feet resulting in two 15×15 feet rooms. These are supposed to be bedrooms. They lack the privacy found in modern construction. We set up the first bedroom as an office. This was a necessary room. Before buying the house, I asked the realtor if there was internet available in the area, if not, that would be the deal breaker. Although broadband was not available, other types of connections were. This room was the second to be finished. The floor was in good condition, however, some boards were loose. The walls and ceilings were in bad shape – holes, dirty, mismatched materials … The chimney in the center of both rooms had to be covered, and some wood beams had to be reinforced. There were birds nests, wasps nests, garbage, debris, and even vines growing inside. As any other room in this old house, it required much work.

The ceiling in this room is lower than the ceiling downstairs, something that made installation a bit easier for us. I found this room challenging in the sense of the difficulty of bringing material upstairs. In fact, we had to make an opening through the kitchen wall to be able to bring panels, wood, flooring, and long pieces of wood because the stairway was difficult to navigate at its angle, and many things would not go through. The steep incline and the narrow steps presented a challenge as well. By making this opening in the kitchen we were able to go straight up. Later on, when we were done, we closed the wall opening. Another challenge with this room is that I don’t feel it quite ready/finished yet. I call it the messy room. It is were we work/study and it serves as an art/craft room as well. It is a room in progress as far as setting it up. It needs better storage. Due to the low ceilings, it is very hot during the summer. Autumn and Spring are the seasons when this room feels more comfortable as far as temperature.

Before starting work upstairs we had to clean and get rid of a few pieces of very dirty broken furniture that were left, and other scattered items, clothes, garbage and broken pieces … One feature in this room that I liked and we kept was the original banister/handrail that prevented someone to fall through the stairway opening. It was loose, so we reinforced it, replaced the base wood, and painted it. I also like the fact that the windows are floor to ceiling due to the low ceilings in both rooms. The cats love this feature too. They love to look outside, and they don’t have to climb on the window sill. Although the floors were in good shape (if sanded and polished), the openings between some of the wood boards were uneven or a bit wider than we wanted, so we installed new flooring, as we did on the first floor.

Here are a few pictures of the before, during, and after process. Please excuse the dust orbs on the camera lens due to flying dust.

Here you can see the mismatched materials, various layers of wall paper paint, and condition of the walls as well as the floor.
Here you can see the type of construction typical of that time with the boards going across. You can also see the two low windows.
View to the other room. The chimney is in the center of both rooms.
Abandoned bird nest.
During the mess. The entrance to the other room.
The opposite side of the room right where the stairway opening is. You can see the lower level (kitchen) through the opening below.
Here you can see the metal roof. The inside of it is well preserved and amazingly, the upstairs did not have any leaks, only the kitchen part. That is one of the reasons we were able to coat the roof until we can install a new one.

AFTER

The room finished. Here you can see the original farm style banister that we kept as well as the floor to ceiling windows. I love the barn-like shape of the room.
Another view.
Here you can see where the chimney is covered.
Opposite wall. Here you can see the entrance to the other room. Because the ceiling is so low, we had to install the lighting on the walls. And for the same reason, we could not install ceiling fans.
Here you can see the type of lighting we chose.

Room as it is now.

A view of the room now from the same angle.
It is a room in progress.
Another view near the stairway and first window.

Fixing this old farmhouse has not been easy. By sharing these posts, I don’t want to give the wrong impression that it was a breeze to do the work. It was not. My husband and I did all the work and it took a lot of effort, patience, dedication, stamina, hope, courage, and faith. We operated in a cash only small budget, hence why we did mostly everything ourselves, and hired the experts where it counted. There were days when we doubted, we were extremely tired physically, mentally, and spiritually. There were days when we were grouchy and days when we were very happy, days when we felt we could vaporize each other if we could, and days we enjoyed working together and had fun. We had good times, bad times, horrible times, and great times. It was not easy but it was worth it. If you ever decide to take on a similar task take all factors into consideration – finances, health (physical, mental, and spiritual), disposition, and what you can do and cannot do as far as skills. It is not a job for one person; it takes two at the minimum. It does require a lot of physical work, and you might have to forgo your fear or disgust of bugs (big and small), dirt, the gross and disgusting, and any other surprise that might show up. On the other hand, if you are up to it, it is very rewarding and it feels good once you are done. These posts are meant to inspire the reader, as well as give an idea of potential, and encourage you to see things from another perspective, one of hope, vision, and possibility. I hope you enjoy this post.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Living Room

Continuing with the series of blog posts on Fixing an Old Farmhouse, this post will be about the living room. Originally, the previous owner had set up this room as her bedroom, and built a bathroom adjacent to it when she became ill. The farmhouse was listed as a three bedroom house, including this room as a bedroom downstairs. I have no idea as to what the first owner of the house used this room for, or if it was considered a bedroom back then. We set the room up as the living room. This room was in fairly good shape compared to the rest of the house, and by that I mean there was no damage to the wood floor, but some of the walls were in bad shape as well as the ceiling. The closet walls were in good shape and we were able to save this part. We patched some areas, painted it, installed flooring, and set it up as a storage area and coat closet. Everything else we had to change.

For this room we used various materials – new, old, recycled, and contractor surplus, which is brand new material at a great discount purchased from a contractor/builder. Because this house has a center chimney, this room also had the other side of the chimney, and it was clogged up as well, so we had to cleaned it up, and seal it. Ideally, I would have liked to leave the brick exposed but it had a fair amount of damage. We ended up covering it, and we did this upstairs as well. I think this was the biggest challenge in this room. This room is square, measuring 15 x 15 feet (as most rooms in this house) which made things easier. Here are a few before and after pictures of the process.

Before/during.

Here you can see the damage to walls and ceiling. The closet walls were not that bad but we had to fix its ceiling. An old and dirty carpet plus layers of linoleum covered the floor. We removed it all and installed laminate flooring.
This is the other side of the room – dirty couch, boarded up window, and damage all around.
This is the opposite side.
The floor boards were in pretty good shape, however the spacing between each plank varied and would have been an invitation for critters to come inside, so we decided to install laminate flooring. Ideally, I would have preferred the original wood floors but I would not have been at peace with the possibility of bugs coming inside.
What was behind the sheetrock walls. Notice the old construction, horizontal boards. Most of the house is done in cedar wood, which is great, and the wood/beams are thicker than what is used in today’s construction. The wood is very hard and tough, and it was very difficult to screw in nails or hammer them. Cutting it was a challenge as well, and the aroma of cedar was still strong after more than 100 years. I regret not saving a piece of that wood that was so aromatic.
Ceilings. Once the sheetrock and everything else was removed, we had to vacuum and sweep the entire place before starting to work – floors, walls, ceilings.
We eliminated the door.
Wallpaper had been placed over painted sheetrock, and paint over the many layers of wallpaper, more recently by the last renter. I was told that when the house was not being rented anymore and fell in disrepair, squatters might have stayed in it very shortly . Neighbors would call the police, as well as the out of state heir, and the house ended up being boarded up – all windows and doors, after these were broken into. There was window glass everywhere.

After.

The rooms after they have been finished and furnished. We like a mix of old and new (when old is not possible), and our taste is more traditional/early American, and a bit eclectic. I understand that this might not appeal to everybody, but it is our taste, so bear with me.

The room almost finished.
The coat closet side.
Room as it is now.
The coat closet part.
Where the old door was removed. It connects with the dining room, and the main entrance.
Opposite side of the room.

This concludes the first floor of the farmhouse and what we have done so far. Upcoming blog posts will be about the second floor. I hope that you have enjoyed this renovation so far, and that it inspires you to see potential in areas where it might be difficult to visualize at first.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Bathroom

My previous blog post was about the cat room, a room that had been a porch, and at one point enclosed to make room for a much needed bathroom a previous owner of the house required after becoming ill, hence why I decided to continue with this room next. I was told by a neighbor that at one point the farmhouse used to have an outhouse. There are no buildings in the property that would point to it, so we don’t know the location. Although there was enough room after enclosing the porch to build a bigger bathroom, the previous owner did not. The bathroom was small, and when we fixed it we decided to keep the same blue print for the sake of plumbing (which had to be replaced) and the future use of the mudroom/cat room. We concluded that the existing positioning of fixtures made the best use of the space. A larger mudroom was more important to us than a larger bathroom. Maybe the previous owner thoughts followed the same path, who knows?

If we thought that the cat room was the most challenging room to work with, the bathroom was the grossest room. It had fall into disrepair, was very dirty, had water damage, no water due to a non-working well and broken pipes, and overall, suffered from the condition of the house being abandoned for a while. It could surely make you gag at a glance. The room had to be completely stripped of everything – fixtures, flooring, walls … It was a big mess. There was nothing that could be of use or recycled. This is the reality of fixing an old house that has been neglected and abandoned through the years. These pictures may turn your stomach, fair warning.

Before.

Location of the bathroom is where the brown door is.
Yes, it is what you think it is. At least it was left empty.
A myriad use of materials throughout this tiny space? Paneling, wood, sheetrock, wallpaper … why?
The water damage is obvious here.
Another example of the many materials that were used in this small space by previous tenants throughout the years.

During and After.

We decided to install a fiberglass shower instead of a bathtub.
We kept the location of the door but had to change the door and framing. Eventually, we painted the door a nutmeg color.
The location of the new fixtures remain the same.
The location of the toilet remains the same, new toilet and fixtures were installed.
Instead of installing a shower door we decided a shower curtain would be easier to maintain and replace seasonally and as needed.

We kept the style of the bathroom simple and functional. Anything can be replaced easily in the future if necessary. I hope you enjoyed viewing and reading about this project. I hope it inspires you to take on a project with vision.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Porch and Side Entrance

Following my last garden blog post, and since our future garden projects will require more time, energy, and budgeting, I will share what we have done so far on the outside part of the farmhouse, and will share the indoor work in future posts as well.

This was a 1910 abandoned farmhouse, and all I know about it is what the neighbors and people who have lived here at some point, or have played around when they were kids have told us. No one seems to have old pictures of it, and for what I understood, the house was part of a large farm that was eventually subdivided and sold in plots of land. It seems that it had two owners, the original owners, farmers, and the last owner who bought the remainder of the farm. After the second owner died, it became a rental, and later on sat abandoned for some time. I found interesting that many of the people who came to see it asked, “Where’s the barn?” or “What happened to the barn?” I never saw a barn in the property, but they insist that there was a large old barn to the left of the house, and behind. The barn remains a mystery. The feeling I got throughout many conversations with people who knew the place well is that all of them seem to have loved the house, and it was a main stop, a landmark for them. Last year, one person referred to it as “that was my house,” lamenting that he thought of buying it at one point, but did not. Another woman stopped unannounced one Saturday morning, and told me that she needed to stop by to see “the house” before returning to Maryland. She had been around for a week, and was ready to return home that same day. She told me that she wanted to buy it but everyone had told her that it was in severe disrepair and would be too expensive to fix. She regretted her decision, as she told me. I told her it was true. The house was in very poor shape, inside and out, a true nightmare from years of neglect by uncaring renters and many years of abandonment. For us the expense would be much less, because we did much of the work ourselves, and only contracted out what we could not do or what needed expert attention. One of those items was the window repair, and so far the most expensive item. The windows were broken and boarded up. We could not replace the windows ourselves because each window had to be custom made. Each window has different dimensions and standard windows could not be used. The upstairs windows are large and they go from floor to ceiling. The ceilings are low. It is one of the features I like most. Ideally, I would have loved to replace the broken windows with wooden ones, but due to budget concerns we had to go with custom made energy efficient vinyl windows, although we selected good quality.

It became obvious that this house had been loved by many, and still is, and that the previous owner was a very kind and welcoming woman who loved her garden. I think that is wonderful. To this day, one big ticket item remains on the list, and that is a new metal roof. The old one was in less bad shape that it looked, so we were able to coat it, and replace missing screws. It has been working fine, although it is not visually attractive, and since it is the original tin roof and over 110 years old, it must be replaced. When it is replaced, it will be done with a metal roof, which weighs three or four times less than a shingle roof/asphalt roof or other type of roof. Being it an old building with an original stone foundation, we don’t want to add the extra weight to it.

As far as siding, we decided to keep the original aluminum/metal siding because it was in good shape. I have had experience with installing new vinyl siding on my previous home, and it did not hold its appearance/shape too well. Therefore, vinyl is not my favorite choice, and other materials are costly. The actual aluminum siding will have to be repainted throughout the years, but that is fine. Underneath, there is wood, and on top, the aluminum siding. Its white color had faded, and it was very dirty, with many areas covered in vines. We cleaned it up, removed the vines and shrubs, and gave it a coat of fresh white paint; it showed like new. We concluded that there was no need to replace it. Here is the old farmhouse with the rusted roof and old/broken windows and doors.

Here is the house after a good cleaning, repainted siding and coated roof, as well as new windows, and other outside repairs.

 

The side door was one area that required much attention. The lack of an overhang structure resulted in water/moisture damage. The door was rotted, as well as the wood surrounding it, and the floor boards. We had to remove and replace all of it. In addition, the concrete steps needed to be fixed and painted.  We poured new concrete and painted it. Here are a few before and after pictures.

Before, during the process.

 

After. All the rotted wood was replaced. We built an overhang to protect the door from the rain and also installed a screen/glass door for extra protection.

IMG_5050

Photo by M.A.D.

 

Another area that was in very bad shape was the porch. The concrete floor was broken, and so were the door, windows, porch columns, and ceiling. We poured new concrete and painted it, cleaned the siding of vines and glass debris, installed new windows (contracted), and installed a new door and screen door. We replaced the wood on the porch columns, and some rotted wood on the ceiling as well. The broken wooden wheelchair railing/ramp was removed, and the steps were fixed and painted. Everything was given a fresh coat of paint. Eventually, the concrete floor will be covered with brick or slate tile for extra protection and durability.

Before and during the process pictures.

 

After, the porch as it is today.

 

This concludes the outdoor of the farmhouse so far. There are a few outdoor projects that will be done in the future, and those include garden projects, new roof, and the removal of large trees. The large trees job will have to be contracted. All the outdoor work has been done my husband and me, except for the windows, which required special attention. It has required a lot of devotion, hard work, dedication, and patience, but it has also been fun and rewarding. I hope you enjoy this post, and that it will inspire you to see the potential beyond what is deemed useless or beyond repair. I hope that it inspires you to take on some do it yourself projects, as well.