Renovations and changes in our Home

The first two photos show our home when we purchased it on January 29, 2003. Most recent changes are at bottom.

Kitchen Changes

We loved the large kitchen and stamped borders around the ceiling but soon became disenchanted with an open stairway that led into a small basement. 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 I built a pantry and laundry in the kitchen with folding doors.

The Bathroom
We didn't like the baby blue fixtures so we ripped them out, installed a new sub-floor of 3/4-inch waterproof plywood. Then came a 17-inch toilet (I never liked "low-boy" toilets!). A new washstand and fiberglass shower stall with seats replaced the bathtub. If you prefer a tub, it wouldn't be much work to change it back.

Heating and AC

In our first summer, we discovered that the dog 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 humidity.


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 new hardwood floor of chestnut parquet. There was enough money to pay for it all. God is good!

The old floor became the sub floor for chestnut parquet

Good bye to the old!

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 including a side entrance, 2 overhead doors and electric openers for just $7,500!

Tree Surgery
We decided to have five large oak trees cut down to make firewood and build a fireplace to burn the wood. A company cut the trees down and into small pieces for only $600. We found someone to split the wood for another $100. No more acorns fall on the roof at night! I also built a roof over the side entrance.

In March, 2005, we hired a contractor to 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, my carpenter brothers, Dan and Tim with his son, came and did most of the work on the chase for the fireplace. In spite of having had heart surgery in August, I was able to do the inside brick work, mantel, shelving and cabinets. Our wonderful government raised taxes after our "home improvement," which more than ate up the savings in heating costs!


Kitchen Floor etc.
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!

In 2006, we replaced the water pump, entry door and gas hot water heater.

After storms and squirrels destroyed two gazebo tents, I designed and built one of treated wood that has served us well.

I built a table to match, that can be collapsed in winter for storage.

In the Spring of 2018, I tore out the old decks, replacing them with composite deck boards and vinyl railings. The next photo was taken in 2003 showing the old decks.

A local lumber yard burned to the ground and 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 flames.

A boat trailer can come in handy to transport 20-foot boards!

Once I got started, two younger brothers heard of what I was doing and came to help this old man!

Verna asked "Harvey Builders" to pose for the camera!

The railings were finished in good time and the job passed inspection. Even Pippi seemed happy with our work!