the one about the tree house: house history & holy ________!

It has been unseasonably warm in our area for most of Winter, and we have had very little precipitation, so we really wanted to take advantage of that with regards to our project. The sooner we can get started, the sooner we can be living in it, right?

Well, "real" demo started this week. I have posted some photos of the process up to this point, but maybe I wasn't clear -- the project is not a renovation per se. The project is basically a tear down of the existing house structure with a renovation of the basement and the garage (plus one room off the garage that will be included in the new house).

A few questions you might be asking (and questions we have asked ourselves) are:

Why tear down an existing house just to rebuild a new one in that spot? 

We went back and forth on this idea so many times. When we originally began this journey, remodeling the entire house was the plan. We were going to deal with the "interesting" layout and footprint of the house and simply do cosmetic renovations to bring it up to date and into our style. We also wanted to add on so that we would have a larger living space and more bedrooms.

We soon learned that task was going to be really tricky. The house was originally built in 1942. It was a pre-fab "Gunnison" home that was basically delivered to the site as a kit (we have all the original photos of the original home building process -- it's fascinating!). These homes were popular in post-war times because they were able to get homes up very quickly and pretty inexpensively.

However, 70+ years later, the home had some quirks. The interior wall thickness was about 2 inches thick. Imagine having a family of 4 children and 2 inch-thick walls! Also, because the house was designed to fit together in a certain way, moving or removing these walls would jeopardize the structural integrity of the home. This left us very little wiggle room when it came to altering the floor plan to meet our large family's needs.

The house had been updated in phases over the years. The original house did not include the existing garage, so the newer garage that you see today was added and a room was built to connect the new garage to the existing house. This created some interesting roof lines and basically a very long rectangular shape to the home.

When we started getting ideas with regards to how much money it would cost to replace the aluminum siding on the house...to put new floors throughout...to update the bathrooms and add on another bathroom...to make the current bedrooms larger and add on another one... to replace the windows, the roof, and interior fixtures... we realized that renovating was going to cost just as much, if not more, than if we would just start from scratch with our "dream home" in mind.

Couldn't you have just left the current house in its place and built somewhere else on your property?

We could have done this. We looked into it, for sure. However, we weren't thrilled with the idea of knocking down a bunch of beautiful trees to make room for a new home when we could use the perfectly good home site that has already been developed. In fact, where the house sits now is perfect as it is visible from the road, but not too close to the road, either. We like that you have views of the woods in all directions and that there is still a yard around the property for our children to run and play in.

Just next to the house is a large, open field that produces thousands of daffodils each spring. It is a beautiful sight to see and something we intend to preserve. The previous owner of the house enjoyed cutting daffodils and taking them to the hospital to be distributed to patients and the cafeteria for decoration. We would love to carry on this tradition and include our girls, too. Putting a home in that large, open space would ruin the field of daffodils, and that is not something we ever wanted to do.

So, taking down the home and using the existing site seemed to be the best choice for us. We made a pretty decent promise to the previous owner that the land would be our priority and that we would do everything we could to make sure that the property (trees, flowers, animals, trails, etc) remained in-tact.

Don't you have any appreciation for the history of the home? Why does everything have to be "new?"

No one has actually asked me this. However, I often wonder if we are giving the impression that we do not care about what has sat on the land for 70+ years and all the history and memories attached. I am probably the most sentimental person you will meet. It is hard for me to part with anything that my children have touched. When we moved from our first house in Indianapolis to Muncie, we had a pink swing in the front tree that Noelle used to love. It was attached to the tree branch with these black woven straps. Well, shortly after we moved out (like, days after), the tree collapsed due to a lightning strike, and it was going to get cut up and hauled away. I made Luke go back to the tree an hour away to retrieve the black straps of the baby swing because I couldn't deal with the thought of them getting hauled away with the cut up tree branches. See? I am super sentimental about things that are kind of ridiculous.

So, I am sensitive to the fact that we are tearing down a perfectly fine house that has been someone's place to raise children and grandchildren for many, many years. We could have lived there and dealt with the quirks and been just fine.

However, this was our shot for our "dream house." We have lived in an apartment and two different homes throughout the (almost) 10 years of our marriage. We are currently in the largest of those three dwellings, a 2,000 square-foot, 3-bedroom home (that we have loved for nearly 6 years). We have been dreaming of having a place that is big enough for our family to spread out but is laid out in the right way to bring us all together (at once, in the same room, with enough space for everyone to sit). Luke's immediate family alone is very large, and we long for the days of being able to host gatherings that are comfortable and welcoming. We have so many people we can't wait to bring into our home for parties, holidays, bonfires, and church events (and more). We want to share our property with people we love and make it a special place for them, too.

There are pieces of the home that reflect its history and original style that we hope to reuse in the new version. There are beautiful, solid wood doors from the basement that we hope to refinish and use as our interior doors throughout the house. We are keeping an original fireplace in the home and hope to give it new life. There is an amazing concrete sink in the basement that has to be used somehow -- I just haven't figured it out, yet.

I maintain that the real history is not in the wood and nails of the original house structure. It is in the trees. It is in the daffodils that my husband and his brothers helped plant when they were in high school. It is in the trails that lead to any which way of 40 acres. It is in the birds and other animals who call the woods their home. I can't wait for my girls to make their own memories out there -- out of the house...regardless of how new and awesome it may be.

Now that you know a little bit of the history of the house, I will show you the demo progress of this week alone. It is a bit terrifying. When you drive by, it definitely looks like something horrible happened -- a fire, a tornado, a crime of some sort. However, this is all part of the plan. The old will come down. The new will go up.


Siding has been taken off; most windows out; room on far left is the newer garage that will not be torn down


Chimney down (from a second fireplace we will not be keeping)


Interior view; insulation everywhere (among lots of other breathing hazards)


The girls couldn't believe what it looked like!


Action shot of some of the house coming down


The yellow wall you see was an interior wall to the room that used to stand in the gap; to the right of this space is the original house (built in 1942); to the left is the original garage; outside of the frame of the photo is the new garage that we will be keeping. 


The adventure continues.

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