Renovations and changes in our Home
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
circular stairway that led into a small cellar. There was
no way to close it off. Musty air, mice 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 cracked 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
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
floor covering 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.
Heating and AC
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 home
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
systems installed and put down a a new hardwood floor of
chestnut parquet. There was enough money to pay for it
all. God is good!
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 only $600. We found someone to split the wood for
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, 2005, two carpenter brothers, Dan and Tim,
came and did most of the work on the chase for a
fireplace. I was able to do the inside work, brick,
mantel, shelving and cabinets. Our wonderful government
raised taxes after our "home improvement,"
which more than ate up the savings in heating costs. Go
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 open heart surgery with four bypasses!
As time went by, we replaced the water pump, entry door,
gas hot water heater and rain gutters.
After storms and squirrels destroyed two gazebo tents,
Ralph designed and built one of wood that has served us
Ralph built a table to match, that can be collapsed in
winter for storage.
In the Spring of 2018, Ralph tore out a side porch and
rotting deck, replacing them with one longer composite
deck and vinyl railings. A couple of Harvey brothers
helped with this project. The next photos are from 2002
Last year, we decided that the rear deck was too far gone
to repair so we ripped it out...
...and while we were at it, we tore out the side door
A local lumber yard burned to the ground a couple of
years ago. After things were settled with the insurance,
we were able to buy a pile of composite decking for half
price. It was stored in a building that escaped the
A boat trailer can come in handy to transport 16 and
Once I got started, two "younger" brothers
heard of what I was doing and came to help this old man!
Verna asked us to pose for the camera and took pictures
from both sides.
The railings were finished in good time and the job
passed inspection. Even Pippi seemed happy with our work!
To see pictures of our yard and
garden, click here!