When I showed my husband this house on Zillow he wasn’t interested at all. We were having a hard time finding something with all of our wants with room to park our camper, quiet neighborhood and close to town. I was getting desperate and considering anything. Driving around the area looking at other homes, I once again mentioned this one and said since we were close, let’s just drive by. We happened to be with my parents and the overall feeling as we drove by on a rainy cold day was meh, but the neighborhood stuck in my head. The mature trees, rolling hills, large lots, quiet roads but close to everything we needed… If only the house wasn’t so blah. I really didn’t want to do a big renovation. I really didn’t want a two story home. I hate stairs. That night I found myself telling my husband to call the realtor because I wanted to take a look at it inside. The next day we had a walk through. From the moment he walked up the stairs to the front porch, I could tell Daniel was not feeling it. Open the door to the dark tunnel entrance and compartmentalized, small, dark rooms… Ugh. It was so depressing. BUT, it ticked off so many things on our check list and came in well below budget. So… Channeling my inner Joanna Gaines, let’s take down this wall, and this wall, and this wall… I started talking ideas out loud and within 5 minutes I had Daniel more convinced to buy the house than I was. The offer was made and accepted. We began this journey to make this house our home.
Day one. The house wasn’t filthy or unlivable. Our plan was to move in and slowly renovate. Yet somehow, before we even had anything moved in, Daniel and Riley were taking sledgehammers through walls. I was somewhat mortified. We had opened pandoras box. You never know what you’ll find in those walls. There were no blueprints on file for the home and the only way to know what was a supporting wall or not was to dig in and explore. We got lucky that one wall was not supporting. The rest were and would require heavy duty beams. Trying to save money, we decided from the get go that we would do all the work we possibly could on our own. Our area didn’t need permits for this, but we did need help making sure we put up the right beams to support the upstairs level. Our local lumber company was great! We gave them measurements and they came back with what was needed for our two large support beams and had them ready for us in a week.
The kitchen/dining room wall was easy and came down on day 3, however it left the water lines running through the middle of the house… So that brought on a different adventure of converting the entire house of copper plumbing to pex. This would make it easier down the road to add the third bathroom upstairs so we felt it was worth it to go ahead and get it over with. The pipes were moved to the exterior wall and I couldn’t believe how much larger the room was without that wall dividing the two rooms.
We decided to tackle the stairwell wall beam next, beings it was a little smaller. We built a new frame to support the ceiling so the old framing could be removed and made ready to install the beam. Once ready, we lifted the beam in place and screwed it in. Which sounds super easy right? Wrong. I know now why the tv shows have several guys lifting these beams in place. This was just my husband and I… And I was the one stuck holding the beam. I totally admit to dropping it and putting a hole in the subfloor… Trial and error we figured out a support of sorts to help my failings at being an olympic weight lifter…
As noted above, previously when you would walk into the front door it was a dark cave. Opening this stairway didn’t seem a 100% necessity to me, but I knew it would make a big difference to have a better line of sight to the back of the house when you walked in the front door. This little house would never have a grand entrance, but it needed all the help it could get. This turned out to be a huge transformation. The dark cave entrance is dark no more.
Time for the big one… Ugh. We had a better plan in place this time. This beam was so big and heavy I couldn’t even lift a corner off the ground… Once our support frame was in place and the old framing knocked out, Daniel built support scaffolding and bought a big floor jack to help us get the beam in place. This beam was also 3 LVL beams wide. So Instead of installing it 3 wide, we installed one at a time and screwed them together once in place. I wish we had done that with the first beam, live and learn. This actually made this big beam go in pretty smoothly. My anxiety was through the roof for no reason.
My first thought was how amazing this room looked all opened up and light from the tall front windows could now reach the dark cave of a dining room with the morning sunlight streaming in.
It was around this time that I looked at the downstairs bedroom, that we would be using as an office, and said, this door doesn’t work… This needs to be open. Not french doors, but maybe barn doors… A scary thought as I’m not sure barn doors will stay on trend for years to come… But it certainly goes with the style of this home, so I ran with it… We blew a big hole in the wall, drywalled over the old door entrance and added double barn doors… Now our entry way is flooded with light from both sides and our main living space seems open and airy despite having a lack of windows on the back side of the house.
We also removed a dinky little pantry and a short wall by the back door that closed off the flow of the kitchen and opened up the entryway to the mud room/laundry room. None of which required supports or major surgery but went a long way in making our house feel much more open and larger than it is.
So do I recommend taking out walls? YES! Though totally use a contractor to do so if you can, or if it’s required with your permit. This is still one of the hardest projects we tackled on this home reno and I would greatly hesitate doing it ourselves again. This also sped up the process of our initially “Slow renovation” as we now had walls with no drywall, flooring with holes in it everywhere, and a ripped apart kitchen that needed completely redone… Onto the next project!