Archive for the ‘At Home’ Category

Calling in the Experts

We like to think of ourselves as “Do-it-Yourselfers.”

When we bought our first house in Wake Forest, it was a foreclosure and required a makeover. We painted everything, ripped out carpet and put in bamboo floors, replaced appliances and fixtures, added some built-ins, and of course did some MAJOR cleaning. Later, Allen built a fence, a shed, and a beautiful garden and greenhouse. We’ve always done everything ourselves. Well…let me rephrase that. Allen has always done the bulk of the work himself and I assist him (but I’m no pansy!)

Beautiful, right?

All our own (or mostly Allen's) handiwork.

That was the plan when we moved here too. We were well aware that The House needed lots of work. I mean, it is 111-years-old and it has been somewhat neglected since my grandmother moved out four years ago. So we knew we were taking on a fixer-upper. Allen already repaired the roof himself (see previous post on “Termites and rot and mold…oh my“). And the roof repair gave me a really good “we can do this!” feeling.

But then we got to the foundation. And that feeling suddenly disappeared. Allow me to explain:

The original house was an L-shaped, four-room house built in 1900. It’s pretty solid. The floors are almost plumb. In the 1920’s, an addition was built on to the house (which we keep calling the “new” part – haha). It consists of 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a staircase to the second floor (which comes later). The addition from the 20’s…not so solid. The floors…not plumb at all. The floors sag, and that’s an understatement. In the lowest point, the floor sits 5.5 inches below level. You literally feel like you’re falling as you walk into the low corner of the room.

Perhaps this picture gives a visual. See how even the window frame slopes downward to the left?

So, we began to do some investigation into what was causing the floors to sag so much. This is what we found.

This is one of the foundation beams. You're not supposed to be able to stick your finger through a beam.

See that hole? There should be a brick foundation wall there.

Rotted beam sagging over the foundation wall.

From the inside, with the floors removed. One of the interior beams is rotted as well.

The exterior beam on the north side of our house is completely rotted due to termite and moisture damage. That’s not an easy fix. Matter of fact, this is what Allen and my dad did for about 20 minutes after making this discovery:

Perhaps if they stare long enough, the house will levitate itself.

Replacing a rotted foundation beam is something neither my husband (Bob the Builder) nor my father (engineer and handyman extraordinaire) had ever dealt with. So, we decided to swallow our pride and call in the experts. Several. And here was the problem. The first four didn’t know what to do. We heard several times “Well, we don’t really do that” or “Wow, you’ve really got a mess on your hands!”

Hmmm…now what? So, Bob the Builder and the Handyman Engineer put their heads together. And now we have a plan. It’s simply, really. Only a 7-step process:

  1. Rip up the floors inside the house to access the foundation (the crawlspace, ~5″ clearance, is not big enough to go from underneath, so we have to go through the floors)
  2. Dig five 2-ft deep holes and pour concrete footers to install 5 floor-to-ceiling jackposts
  3. Use 30-ton hydraulic jacks to raise the second floor which will lift the house off the ground and take the load off of the rotted beams.
  4. Remove and replace rotted beams
  5. Excavate a 26-ft long and 2-ft deep trench and pour a new concrete footer
  6. Build a block foundation wall
  7. Lower the house back down onto a new foundation

Easy! It will be done in no time! We’ll just pray that the house comes back down all in one piece.

We also have a secret weapon. I think our two-year-old can save us. Out of the blue, on the way home from a trip to Georgia last weekend, Meredith said “Our new house is broken.” I turned around to look at her. “Yes,” I said, “but we’ll fix it.” She responds,”Yeah. I gonna fix it with Daddy.”


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Home Sweet Home

We have arrived!

I know you have all been sitting on the edge of your seats, checking daily for a new post (haha), so I apologize for the delay. We finally arrived to our new home in Dunlap, TN on Thursday, October 14.

Our girls seemed to endure the chaos of moving pretty well. Though in our last few days in North Carolina, it was rainy, all of there toys were packed up and they were done playing with boxes and packing paper, so we had to resort to watching movies on the laptop.

We picked up the Budget moving truck on Wednesday and after two wonderful neighbors spent the entire day helping us load, we discovered that all of our stuff did not fit in the 24-foot truck. So, Allen went to pick up a Uhaul trailer to haul behind the Budget truck.

We couldn't decide between Budget or Uhaul, so we went with both.

So we said our good-byes and on Thursday morning began the trek across North Carolina to Tennessee. Allen drove the moving truck and charged up the mountains at the break-neck speed of 29 mph. I’m not sure that Budget truck was actually made to haul anything. Twelve hours later we finally made it.

We received a warm welcome when we got here and had 4 guys help unload the truck on Friday morning. I had gone to visit my grandmother in the nursing home and showed up right as they were finishing. My timing was impeccable.

So now we’re here, but it doesn’t feel like Home Sweet Home yet. Home Sweet Home will soon be the century-old house that my great-grandfather purchased in 1910. From here on out, I’ll just refer to it as “The House.”  We’re living in an apartment temporarily until we get The House in a “livable” condition (meaning we at least get the foundation fixed and make sure the floors won’t fall in). So right now, most of our stuff is crammed into three rooms of The House as we try to do construction around it and meanwhile, we are living in an apartment that’s less than 700 sq ft. This is what it looks like in The House right now.

The lamp makes it warm and inviting, right? Just ignore the wall that's ripped off in the background.

Not so sweet or cozy. Just chaos.

And a week after we moved, my 93-year-old grandmother (who lived in The House for over 50 years) passed away. Her health had been in decline for the last several months, so we knew her time was limited, and we were grateful to have arrived in time to have a few days to visit with her. We called her funeral a “Celebration of Life” because that’s exactly what it was. She died one month shy of her 94th birthday.

A brief biography:

Lennie Louise Bare Johnson. She was born November 25, 1917, the second of four sisters. She was a child of the depression (which became evident later in life as she saved EVERYTHING, even those Styrofoam meat trays and the plastic bags that your newspaper comes in). She and all four of her sisters earned college degrees. That’s pretty amazing for her generation. She was a public school teacher for 40 years and she and my grandfather both left a legacy of service in this community. Retirement was not an opportunity to slow down for her, rather it was an opportunity to ramp up her life of service. She volunteered everywhere: church, library, museums, and she even delivered Meals on Wheels until the recipients were younger than her. I met a friend of hers at the library who told me my grandmother once said she was going to deliver food to “the old people.” She was 92 when she said that. She continued to drive and live on her own until she entered the hospital after an aneurism this past July.

After her death, there has been an outpouring of love from this community and they’ve all spoken of how she lived out her love of God and love of neighbor. The scripture my dad and his sister chose for her Celebration of Life was John 13:12-17. The context is when Jesus was about to share his last passover meal with the disciples and he had just washed their feet, a job which is normally left for the lowest of servants. But Jesus, the King of Kings, the Maker of Heaven and earth had humbled himself to serve his disciples in this way.

” When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

This was the example of Jesus that my grandmother followed and this was the legacy she left. One of service and humility. Because of her faith and her obedience in following Christ, she has gone to be Home Sweet Home. She has seen the face of Jesus and is now in a place where there is no need of a sun because God is the light. And she’s probably still trying to deliver Meals on Wheels.

May God’s Holy Spirit fill me with love and humility to be like that.

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Allen left Wake Forest almost two weeks ago to spend some time in Tennessee looking for jobs and working on the house, beginning what will be a very long process of renovations. The girls and I have stayed in Wake Forest packing up the house. And let me tell you, those kids can throw toys in a box faster than I can tape them up. They have had a great time packing and repacking their toys and games over and over again. And we are now huge fans of FaceTime on our iPhones. The girls and I have been able to talk to Allen and see his face almost every night. I think Meredith is particularly amazed by this phenomenon. One afternoon she pointed to my phone and asked if Daddy was in it.

Allen (aka “Bob the Builder”) has been sending me pictures and giving me updates of his work on the house. And I must admit it has frightened me a bit. We already knew that the roof leaked and the foundation was sinking (no big deal, right?). But the extent of the work necessary has begun to sink in after hearing reports from Allen and seeing pictures of the work he’s doing. And he has uncovered even more problems. Like termites. And rot in the roof and floors. And mold.

I’m starting to wonder, Are we crazy? Can we do this? And with two small kids? Is this house worth saving?

But there is no turning back now. Our house is sold. Our boxes are packed. And there is no where else to go where the rent is this cheap. So off we go. This adventure will build character, right?

We will eventually be sharing pictures of the whole house on this blog, but in this post, I wanted to start with just the roof. And you ask, “The roof? Why the roof? That’s boring!” Yes, I know. It does sound very boring. But the roof is what Allen has spent most of his time working on these past two weeks and this is where I am at least a little bit encouraged. I am given a little bit of hope that redemption is possible for this old place and that we might come out okay on the other side. And it also makes me very happy that I married Bob the Builder.

I will at least give you a shot of the front of the house. If you want to see more pics, you can click here and see some on Allen’s Facebook page.

Cute, right?

And below you will see the roof, before and after.

See the part on the lower roof that looks wet? Well, underneath it's completely rotted.

Oh my gosh, are those snakes?! No, but almost as bad. Those are the wires coming up from the fuse box sitting right under the leak. And you can see that a squirrel has built a nice cozy nest inside the roof here.

This is a shot looking up into the roof rot from the back porch. The blue is the porch ceiling that was rotted out.

From up above. This is most (though not all) of what Allen had to remove.

The leak from inside the house by the back door. I always wanted a skylight!

The old is gone, the new has come.



























































And this is where the redemption of this house begins. This is where I have hope that it can be done. What is old and rotten is removed and what is new and clean is put in its place. Okay, brace yourself, I’m going to get spiritual here. This is what Jesus does! He redeems things! We who are broken and separated from God by our sin can be redeemed and made righteous before God by Jesus! I mean, who doesn’t love a story of things being redeemed and transformed? It would be a lot easier to just give up and buy a new house instead. But then we would miss out on seeing something be transformed and renewed. I love that I can see a picture of God’s redemption in this broken down old house and I want to be in the business of redeeming things with Jesus.

Good as new

Tar paper on, ready for shingles.



















So, this is why I wanted to show the roof first. Because I am encouraged by it. It will be a long road to see the house completely transformed, but since I’ve seen Jesus redeem things and since I’m married to Bob the Builder, I think we can do it (Or, as Bob the Builder would say, “Can we fix it? YES WE CAN!”)

So thank you Jesus. Thank you husband.

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