As my husband and I approach renovations on our recently purchased home, I am reminded of the ever-present perils of construction. Every new project comes with surprises, even for professionals. Occasionally, there are big surprises.
Our 42-year-old home was well-maintained and sturdy. As a student of architecture, it was my idea of a perfect aesthetic — rustic, mountain modern. The locally quarried cut stone and blue spruce-toned cedar framing against the perimeter fencing of dry stack and mortared stone walls set this house apart. As its buyers, we recognized quality, in both the materials and method of construction. We noted relatively minor issues revealed in the home inspection, and the dated features of the home (exciting for someone who thrives in creating new spaces). Vast amounts of wallpaper and outdated finishes presented no concern. We knew there was a way to freshen the interiors and move the home into the future. A renovation budget was created, estimates were collected and work was ready to begin.
And then, undiscovered issues started to arise. None were overly difficult to resolve, but most were surprises. No one is at fault, not even the sellers. The perils related to interior and exterior water damage, trees in distress, and even unfettered critters were unknown. The not-so-pretty repairs needed to be addressed before the transformation could begin.
Follow along as we begin a series on the renovation of this often admired, unique Frankfort home.
- Interior water damage: Bubbled up wallpaper and small areas of sagging drywall was an easy find for the home inspector and normally a simple fix. The drywall professionals were as surprised as we were to find an entire wall suffering long-term water damage. The interior framing was so damaged we immediately had to provide temporary support to make sure the rear corner of the house was safe. The damage was hidden. Hiding where no one could see it or find it.
- Exterior framing: Water damage found on the interior of the home extended from a second-floor rafter to the foundation sill plate. The exterior walls were dissolving into thin air. Outside air found its way to the interior living spaces. Off goes the exterior cedar paneling and out goes the rotted interior framing now exposed. Off go the gutters and the downspouts to get to the root of the problem. Remove, repair and replace. The back corner of the house was completely rebuilt as if it were new construction.
- Wallpaper: Many of my previous columns discourage following “trends.” There are ways to update your home without following a trend to the max. Wallpaper trends in the ’70s and ’80s have become the headache of modern designers. Layered wallpaper where two and three different patterns were used together was everywhere in this house. Every inch of every room had wallpaper pasted (very well) to the walls. The need to remove all of it was apparent. What was not predicted was the amount of time spent (three weeks) to strip, remove or prime and paint over the wallpaper when it was hopeless.
- Trees: Trees sometimes become distressed and sometimes eventually die. This large, just under one-acre, subdivision lot seemed to have more than its fair share of trees. The landscape and orientation of the house among the beautiful trees and thoughtful landscaping was part of its appeal. Before the sales transaction, a total of 18 trees were counted. Perfect — right? Amongst the stately healthy trees, a large number of declining or dead trees were found. These trees are enormous … and dead. Our mostly self-sufficient selves were astonished at the work to be put in on just trees.
- Critters: Located creekside in a partially wooded area chipmunks scamper across patios. Squirrels rummage through the ivy and leaves gathering nuts for the winter. Raccoons make themselves at home on outdoor furniture. A construction worker was terrorized by what was later determined to be a friendly snake that was permanently banned from the patio. The appealing large yard had runs where a mole metropolis had a voracious number of diggers. Did you know there are professional mole eliminators? The peril in this case was for the moles and the snake. Chipmunks and squirrels have survived.