Our Schoolhouse Reno: First Fixes

It’s been so fun to share the story of our Schoolhouse Reno with you! After a miraculous answer to prayer (and some heavy-duty cleaning) we were able to move into our still very rough fixer-upper.

After the sale of our house in Florida went through, we were able to close out the land contract and pay cash for this place. We had a good budget left over for renovations… but then this happened:

big pole building

We had the opportunity to buy this huge pole building on land adjoining our property. In fact, these used to be one piece of land, when the house was the town hall, this garage was used to store and repair vehicles owned by the township.

It took a big chunk out of the cash we had left to finish the house, but we knew that we’d never regret owning that garage and property. So we plunked down the cash, knowing that whatever renovations we’d be making on the house would be moved further out into the future.

There were, however, a few things that needed to be done right away.

The first thing we did, was to move the entrance door from the corner of the house towards the center – we felt like this was a cosmetic issue, but would also affect our future floor plan.

The other thing that needed to be done asap, was moving the water line from the well under the foundation and into the main part of the house. When they initially dug the well, they set up the pressure tank in the ugly lean-to that originally housed the well and pump when the building was a one-room-school. But the lean-to was poorly insulated, disgusting, and prone to freezing pipes.

Taking down the lean-to (a.k.a. ‘The wart’) was a huge deal, with some big surprises!


Remember the major flooring issues in the house? When we bought it, we knew that these could be an indication of foundation issues. Or it could just be the floor buckling. We were willing to deal with either option, but obviously hoping it was not a structural problem.

Well, when the contractors came to work on moving the waterline, we discovered that the foundation is one of the best features of this property. It’s thick, strong, and deep. So deep, that it was too far to safely dig under, so they had to bring in a special machine to “mole” under the foundation. This made moving the waterline more expensive, but we were relieved to know the foundation was so deep and strong.

Part of moving the waterline and door also included some MAJOR renovations to the entryway and furnace rooms. It was our first round of gutting the place from the ceiling to the crawlspace and a huge mess!

We were hoping to salvage the gorgeous beadboard that covered the walls and ceiling in this part of the house, but it ended up being covered in crumbling lead paint – something we definitely did not want to keep around. Removing or encapsulating the lead paint wasn’t something we were willing to deal with, so the beadboard had to go.

We also ended up needing to insulate as part of our first fixes. Once the cooler temps of October hit, we realized just how poorly the house was insulated. We ended up spending about $5,000 on spray foam insulation that Ed installed, which sealed up the attic and the northwest corner of the house. We were super impressed a the difference that made!

Other first fixes we did included tearing out the (unsafe) existing second story — just a bedroom built into the attic — and cleaning out the dirt that had been used to insulate the original schoolhouse ceiling. (Yes, they actually used sand/gravel to insulate!)

We had hoped that we could use the original chimney, but it was structurally unsound so we had to remove that as well, while living in the house. It was a HUGE mess.

Last but not least, this spring we removed the original ceiling and drop ceiling, in preparation for the big renovations we had planned.

This is what our house looked like for the majority of the winter, though. Notice the washer/dryer in the tiny bedroom the girls were sharing. It was a cozy COZY winter in our drafty little house.

That’s it for now. Next up, the crazy story of how (and why!) we ended up living in a camper for the summer!

Thanks so much for following along with our Schoolhouse Reno!

Want to see the transformation? Here’s the rest of the series:

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