Renovations and changes in our Home

The first two photos show our home when we purchased it on January 29, 2003.

There were about twenty oak trees in the back yard.

We loved the large kitchen and stamped borders around the ceiling but soon became disenchanted with an open stairway that led into a small cellar. There was no way to close it off. Musty air and insects found their way into the kitchen and elsewhere. The stairs were supported by a steel post that went from the basement floor through the kitchen ceiling where it was fastened to a rafter. The spiral staircase steps were made too narrow, and it was especially treacherous when carrying something. The stairway also took up precious space in the kitchen. When I slipped off a step and broke a rib, we decided to do away with the stairs. It's still possible to enter the cellar through an outside Billco door. We only use the cellar for storing canned goods, paint and other items, so we don't mind the inconvenience. The laundry used to be in the cellar but we built a pantry and laundry in the kitchen with folding doors.

The bathroom was next. The toilet had been leaking and the floor was rotted. We didn't like the baby blue fixtures, so we ripped them out, installed a new floor of 3/4" waterproof plywood and linoleum that Ralph's brother gave us. Then came a 17" toilet (I never liked "low-boy" toilets!), washstand and a fiberglass shower stall. Because the shower was shorter than a tub, we gained six inches in our bedroom closet.

The master bedroom also got a makeover.

In our first summer, we discovered that the dogs of the former owners had mistaken the central air conditioner for a fire hydrant and ruined it. We never had air conditioning in Austria, so thought we would just do without. In 38 years I had forgotten about New Jersey weather. When I was a kid we didn't have air but our house had high ceilings and shutters. After the hardwood floor in the living room buckled from the humidity (see photo), we decided to get another AC. We had gotten the price down on the house because we figured it would need a new gas furnace, but now we needed a central air conditioner too! We had both installed and put a a new hardwood floor.

When I balked at buying this house because it didn't have a garage, the real estate agent said that we would have to pay $20,000-30,000 more for a house with garage. We could build one for less. He was right too. In 2004, we had a 2-car garage built. Our garage only cost $7,000 including doors and one electric opener. It went up in just two days.

We decided to have five large oak trees cut down to make firewood and build a fireplace to burn the wood after it dried. A company cut the trees down and into small pieces for $600. We found someone to split the wood for another $100.

In March, 2005, we had a company pour a concrete driveway and garage floor. In July, we flew to Austria for a couple of weeks and in August I had open heart surgery with four bypasses.

In October, my two carpenter brothers, Dan and Tim, came and did most of the work on the chase and fireplace. I was able to do the brick facing, mantel, shelves and cabinets. Our wonderful government raised our taxes for this "home improvement," which more than ate up our savings in heating costs. Go figure!

At some point before Christmas, I also laid a new floor in the kitchen and sent my book off to the publisher. Not bad for having had heart surgery!

More recently, we got a new water pump and entry door and I built a screened gazebo. Hopefully, there will not be much more work on the house!

To see pictures of our yard and garden, click here!