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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 he
savings in heating costs. Go figure!
Kitchen Floor etc.
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 well.
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 and 2003.
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 porch too.
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 flames.
A boat trailer can come in handy to transport 16 and 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 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!