A New Way In.

I’m not sure why the front door was where it was. The driveway leads right up to the center of our house’s facade. The three steps from the driveway to the porch – you guessed it – dead center. The front porch that spans the entire front of the house is wide, deep and inviting in the center, but there’s no door there. The front door was all the way to the right side of our front porch. Worse, once you entered through it you were standing in a teeny room staring straight at our bedroom. To get to anything resembling a living room you had to make a sharp left and squeeze down a hallway that was barely three feet wide.

In early October, we decided to move the front door to a place that made more sense from the outside as well as the inside. We removed a window from the center section of the house, enlarged the opening and installed a brand-new Therma-Tru door that I stained and finished in our garage. Then we removed the old door, closed up the opening and wove in new cedar siding on the exterior.

Then came the interior work. Rob put insulation and a drywall patch in the old door opening. Then I came along and tried to match the “stucco” look that was on the rest of the walls. The previous owner had left all of the old interior paint so we were able to paint and glaze the patch to blend in with the rest of the room. To finish the room, we ripped some 3/4-inch finished plywood into “planks” and wove it into the existing flooring to level the floor where we’d ripped up the entryway tile (see the post “We needed heat!”).

Then we moved on to the room that the entry door was in. The previous owners had used the room as a dining area (I think!) but I had visions of a cozy entry parlor that led to the large kitchen and even larger great room. It took a couple of coats of deep red paint to cover the sponge-painted turquoise/red/gold walls and the southwestern-themed lighting was replaces with simple candlestick wall sconces. The bulky, poorly constructed fireplace mantel was removed to reveal a concrete mantel that was a much nicer scale, but badly stained from previous paint jobs. Rob came up with the idea of spraying the concrete with a couple of coats of textured faux-stone spray paint to cover the stains.

We finally put away the last ladder and drop cloth on Christmas Eve, 2004.


Fill dirt wanted.

That was the sign we placed in our front yard not long after we moved in.

Our garage is what realtors like to call “rear-load”, meaning it can’t be seen from the road and the door faces the back of the property. Ours is tucked underneath our living room and the parking area sloped away from the garage apron at a rather alarming grade. Before the dirt(As always, click on the image to see it larger.) We hoped that if we kept the sign out there long enough, we’d get enough dirt to raise the parking area up to something resembling flat. After all, we lived across the road from an active sand and gravel operation — surely some trucker would see the sign and maybe dump his ditch diggings or basement excavation leftovers.

Big truck!Instead, the owners of the sand and gravel mine noticed the sign. AndLots of dirt! one day they began trucking in dirt. A lot of dirt. Forty cubic yards at a time. By the time they stopped, our back yard looked like a mountain range and I couldn’t see how we’d ever get all that earth moved around.

It took two years, and three excavators (one to knock down the big piles, another to do the final grading and a third to rock-hound) to get the grade the way we wanted. Then we raked and seeded everything ourselves and, thanks to one of the coolest Julys we’ve ever had, got grass to grow in the middle of summer.

AfterFinally, we had a back yard large enough — and flat enough — to park three cars. We also had room for a fire pit, a shed and a navigable slope from our kitchen door to the back yard and from the back yard to the lake.

We needed heat!

One of the problems that was actually disclosed when we bought the house was that there were broken pipes in the hydronic heating system. So now that we were into the fall, we needed heat.

Rob and the woodburnerThe first – and easiest – fix was the woodburner in the front parlor. The chimney was in great shape but the burner’s blower fan was seized. So while I went looking for the breaks in the pipes, Rob tore into the woodburner. (The stack of boards in the foreground of the photo is the paneling I removed to expose one of the leaks – click on the image to see a bigger version.)

The second leak was under the tile at the front door. We knew basically where it was becauseOne of the broken pipes of the water damage but I wasn’t looking forward to tearing up the tile entryway. It wasn’t fun, but I will say that the water damage did an awful lot for loosening up the glue and thinset!

After we found and repaired the pipes, serviced the furnace and put the woodburner back together, we finally had a warm house – just in time for the nippy fall nights.


In the beginning…

Boxes everywhere!We moved in on May 23, 2004, after several frantic weeks in which we painted five ceilings, three bedrooms, one hallway and parts of the 25 x 30 great room.

Much of the summer was spent unpacking boxes while I had an internal debate about the house’s features. I loved the huge pantry… hated that I couldn’t get the kitchen tile to look clean. Loved having a bedroom and bathroom in a separate wing from the kids… hated that the FRONT door was also in said wing. Loved the fact that we easily accomodated 120 people at our housewarming party… still hated the front door location.

The first time Rob got the tractor stuckRob spent weeks hacking through brush, prickers and poison ivy to restore the path that had once circled our lake and in the process found so many beer bottles and cans that it took us over six weeks to get them all to the recycling center. He also found a few muddy spots along the river and managed to get the tractor stuck within a month of owning it.


Love at first (?) sight.

FrontWhen we bought this house, we knew it had “issues”. The water was undrinkable, the furnace didn’t work and the porch roof leaked. There were burst pipes, smashed radiators and splintered door frames.

Oh, and the exterior looked like some sort of dude ranch.

Rob loved it. I wanted to run.

We both saw the potential of the house. I also saw just how much work it would be to make it into my dream home. But it had a lake so Rob already thought it was his dream home.

As the saying goes, “You can fix anything if you’re handy with money.”

So, in April 2004, we said a prayer, signed on the dotted line and got to work.


Welcome to our adventure!

Roundstone is the name we finally gave this place we call home. Once you start looking at the photos, you’ll see why it was the sort of place that deserved a name. This blog was created to document our projects and their progress. And it serves as a gentle reminder to us that it really has come a long way – which comes in handy when discouragement sets in.