Renovation is a labor of love
Monday, March 25, 2013 11:38 AM
I loved my home in Dunkirk when I was growing up. Even though it was old — the large archways, plaster walls and hardwood floors gave the house at 302 E. Washington St., character and charm.
Dunkirk resident Cody Wright and his son Cooper work together to paint the wall of their home, which was originally owned by Cody’s grandparents. (The Commercial Review/Virginia Cline)
My mom (Donna Jeffers) said when she and my dad, Earl Jeffers, first looked at the house in the 1950s, there was ugly wallpaper everywhere. Dad told her if they bought the house he would fix it up. “And he did,” she proudly told me once.
I also thought the house was big, but looking back when seven of us lived there, I don’t know where we put everything. There was only one closet downstairs in my parents’ bedroom. We all hung our coats on a hall tree (coat rack) that my dad made and kept towels for the bathroom in a drawer of the china cabinet in the dining room. Did I mention we only had one bathroom? And it was a small one at that.
After dad had to go to a nursing home, my son Cody Wright moved into the house to keep an eye on it and to pay the utilities. He had helped care for my dad, so the house, and Dunkirk, always had a special meaning to him. I have to admit I was a little envious because I had dreamed of remodeling the house one day and returning to my hometown.
After Cody married in 2009, he and his wife Brittney bought the house from family members. He works as an electrician and began to rewire the old home right away. He had to tear some plaster out in the dining room to pull the wires through and the process definitely stirred up some dust.
There is only one small bedroom downstairs in the house and before my grandson Cooper was born in 2011, Cody and Brittney decided to make two adjoining bedrooms upstairs into a master bedroom and also remodel the smaller bedroom upstairs for the baby.
Cody wanted to do everything right and tore the old paneling off the walls to reveal the plaster that gave away my secret — my old bedroom was painted bright purple! I still have the purple granny square bedspread my mom crocheted for me. The plaster was also stripped. Cody wanted to rewire the old rooms and insulate before putting drywall up.
He also wanted to take the extra steps of putting oriented strand board (OSB) and plastic over the insulation for extra warmth. Remodeling is expensive though, so to do everything right, they had to stop the process until they saved more money.
But through the months, dust from the upstairs filtering downstairs was beginning to be an issue. Their young son was always congested and sick and his doctor had him on breathing treatments that weren’t helping. He asked if Cody and Brittney lived in an old house and when the answer was yes and that they were also remodeling, the doctor said Cooper could have allergies from both.
They didn’t hesitate to make a decision that would improve their son’s health even if it meant turning their lives upside down — the family would move out while Cody finished remodeling the upstairs and thus began their labor of love. They moved in with us because we had extra room with Carly and Colby away at college. After the kids returned home for Christmas break, the threesome moved in with Brittney’s parents.
It was mid-October and we already had plans to visit Nashville in southern Indiana for the weekend but Cody decided to stay home and work on the remodel. Brittney had recently found out she was pregnant again so she wasn’t able to help. She and Cooper made the trip with us.
They knew the downstairs would eventually need to be remodeled as well, so Cody decided to tackle it at the same time. All I asked them to do was keep my beloved archways. All of the plaster had to come down though, and with it the archways. It did open up the rooms and give it a more modern feel and I knew that the house had officially moved on to the next generation. That was okay though because my grandson will have his own memories of why the house was so special to him growing up.
When Brittney returned to the house after that weekend she said, “It was discouraging.”
“That was the worst,” Cody admitted of tearing the rooms apart. “I’d rather put it together anyday.” They knew it would be worth it when it was finished to have a safe living environment for Cooper and the new baby.
Of course, as anyone who has ever lived through a remodel knows, deadlines keep moving further and further into the future. “This stuff takes time,” Cody said. Even though they would like to have been moved in sooner, their goal is to be home before the baby is born in May.
Cody is a very hard worker and is at the house every weekend and most weeknights. But he knows he wouldn’t be as far as he is without the help of family and friends — including in-laws, parents, siblings, cousins and friends. Brittney has helped with the cleanup and provides meals on Saturdays for the crew.
After getting over the initial disappointment of losing the archways, I love visiting the old homestead and seeing the progress. I am so proud of Cody and everything he has accomplished and learned during this experience. Brittney has shown tremendous patience and support.
The downstairs is nearing completion and Brittney is choosing paint colors. Cody is researching hardwood flooring for the dining room.
Mudding and taping of the drywall continues in the upstairs bedrooms and should be completed in the next few weeks.
After living with others for several months Cody said his biggest motivation to keep going was to be able to move back home with his family. He looks forward to “sitting on the couch and relaxing in my own home.”