The house diaries: One month as an owner of a century-old house

Photo credits for this post go to the wonderful Marla McKenna — see her work here.

My father-in-law told me this story: He and my partner were hauling logs from behind the chicken-coop (normal, Sunday afternoon kind of things) when he noticed an old man looking down our driveway from the road. He was there for a while, just watching. Finally my FIL waved and said, “Hello,” inviting him over.

The man was a relative of the previous owner. A little bit of backstory: The previous owner had lived in this house (our house, now) from ages 2 to 83. Can you believe that? 81 years in one home. In years, it is still more his home than our home. Of course, not from a legal perspective…what with us having signed with blood on a dotted line.

The old man was in tears as he walked into the house. Our house, I should say. We have heard this from other neighbours, but it’s always nice to hear: Everyone is so glad we’re not tearing the house down. The old man echoed this sentiment, and walked through the house remembering it as it was….

Tearing the house down?! What? The idea hadn’t crossed our mind. The white clapboard with gingerbread trim along the porch, the plastered walls, amazing cave of a basement… all of it is why we bought the home. Some of the things we fell in love with (cracked plaster, old cistern in the basement, dilapidated chicken coop) are things that might send someone else running for the hills (my mother, for example). For us, these are perks. Perks? Maybe that’s not quite the right word.

I wanted to share some pictures of our first month as owners of a century home. Looking at the photos, I’m not sure if the progress is as evident to you as it is to me. These photos aren’t even the most “up to date” but give some idea of what’s been going on this past month-and-a-bit. We haven’t gotten very far, but we have removed almost everything that we needed to remove and added up-to-code electricity.


This last photo is a bit of a cheat…this is Matt and I walking through the house on our second day as owners. I can’t wait to show you what that room looks like now…

We had a couple big wins this month:

  • A master carpenter helped to make sure everything was stable, and even jacked up the house to resolve a small dip in the floors on the top floor.
  • The electrician has done his bit. And I’m never spending money again.
  • We repaired nearly all the plaster in what will be our bedroom.

Our next steps:

  • Duct work in place for natural gas, which we’ll put in as soon as the ground thaws.
  • Insulation. And then more insulation on top of it.
  • Changing the windows in the back of the home.
  • Finishing one single room. Just one. To feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope you’re enjoying these house updates as much as I am. I’m going to post updates on Mondays, and other house-related things on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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