Constructing life lessons
Mabel couple learns much as home renovations take place
Thursday, April 18, 2013 4:12 AM
Nathan and Lisa Halverson purchased an 1883 farmhouse in the Mabel area in 2003 and have been transforming it over the last 10 years to create the house to call their home. They're doing all (or the vast majority) of the work by themselves, so it's slow going. But there are many life lessons that they have learned along the way.
Nate and Lisa Halverson, protected by dust masks, began to dismantle a room destined for a complete makeover. PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA HALVERSON/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Flexibility is important
Whether one is remodeling, renovating or restoring a house, one will soon realize that it is an interruption of one's daily living routine. It is important to be flexible during construction time so one can handle the unexpected and go with the flow.
Flexible refers to the fact that a person or situation is susceptible to modification or adaptation. The Halversons have temporarily moved the bedroom and bathroom upstairs and the kitchen to the basement as they gutted and remodeled the main level. Once an area is completed, the moving process begins again - making modifications to their living space and daily routines in order to accommodate the construction.
Perseverance pays off?
Even when the walls come tumbling down, one cannot give up! Perseverance is defined as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement. It was March 31, 2008, when Lisa called Nate and said, "The house is sinking!"
Nathan said he thought it was perhaps an early April Fool's Day joke and called his mom for confirmation. Once he arrived at home, he realized it wasn't a joke.
The Midwest had received over 10 inches of rain within a few days, and the situation wasn't good. The house had shifted approximately four inches. Nathan said he recruited his dad, Arlie Halverson, and Enos Hershberger, and they began to place the cribbing and used hydraulic jacks to lift up the northwest corner of the house.
Once that corner was lifted, Hershberger said, "Stand back and check it out."
It was then that the north and west walls fell into the new addition. Nate said that he can remember the day after the foundation collapsed thinking to himself, "This is the kind of stuff that happens to other people."
The Halversons believe that along with their commitment to one another, their hard work, patience and endurance will pay off in the end. Nathan gives much credit and thanks to his dad stating, "Without the help of my dad, we wouldn't be where we are now!"
Patience isn't easy sometimes
It is not easy to be patient in this fast-paced world. Wouldn't it be nice if everything went just the way everyone wanted it to go? Patience is the ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Patience opens the door to peace, and isn't that what we all strive for?
There are many who journey through life and are unable to find patience, and others are born with it. Regardless of how Nate and Lisa have tested their patience, they have certainly used it throughout the last 10 years of remodeling.
Following is a time line of the flexibility, perseverance and patience that have held the walls together at the Halverson home.
The renovation timeline
Lisa explained that Nate had first rented their house from Todd and Barb Eiken prior to purchasing it.
"When Nate rented the house, I was living in Rochester. And he spent more time up there than he did in this house," she said. "He got sick of paying rent, and my lease was up, so we decided to find a place together. We ended up moving into his mom's and dad's (Arlie and Genette Halverson) basement for a while until we could find somewhere."
Soon, Todd Eiken came over to the Halverson home and Genette mentioned that Nate and Lisa were looking for a home of their own. In conversation, Todd offered to sell them the house Nate had rented.
"So Nate ended up buying it on Sept. 5, 2003," Lisa said. "Nate knew the house needed some work, but knew it had a lot of potential. The house was old and outdated with old windows and very little insulation, so it was always cold!"
They kept the washer and dryer on the main level in the entryway, and they froze one winter.
Lisa also remembered that the kitchen had wood paneling on the walls and orange, brown and gold carpet on the floors. The living room had green carpet. The bathroom was on the northwest side of the house and was always very cold! The upper level had three bedrooms with no closets except for one walk-in closet at the end of the hall. The stairs were narrow with short steps and turned midway up.
"Nate knew that one of his first projects would be changing the stairs," Lisa recalled.
Areas that also needed attention and improvement included the basement, which was constructed out of rock.
"The stairs going down to the basement were also very narrow and turned midway," Lisa described. "I remember it was always hard to move bigger items up or down each set of stairs. For example, we had to cut our bed frames in half just to get them into the bedrooms upstairs."
The exterior of the house had old, white, slate siding. The home did have a new roof, which was one area that the Halversons did not have to redo.
"There was a porch on the east side of the house with six pillars," said Lisa. "I LOVED those pillars! I will never forget the day that Nate told me he bought this house. He drove me out here and stopped at the end of the driveway. I asked him what he was doing as we were looking at this old house from the car. He was so proud to tell me he just bought this house. I was really excited for him, because I knew how bad he wanted it! He continued on with all his ideas he had to fix it up. He's definitely better at visualizing things than I am, because I couldn't 'see' it at the time, but was still very excited for him!"
The renovation journey was slow at times but so much as been achieved as the Halversons look back on what has been accomplished in the past 10 years.
In 2004, they started a new windbreak and turned the corncrib on the property into a heated garage and workshop.
In 2005, the couple added a lean-to onto the remodeled corncrib and shop and moved the entry door from the west wall to the south wall and added a small porch.
In the summer of 2006, the Halversons were still unsure of how they wanted to remodel and add on to the house, so they resided in the house as it was, adding foam insulation and house wrap underneath the siding to make it more energy efficient. They also replaced all the windows, put mansard rooms on the south side and the north side, and put in a corn stove.
"These changes made a world of difference for heat and comfort!" Lisa added.
Later that same year, in October, Lisa and Nate got married, and they continued to talk about their plans to remodel their new home.
The next phase of the remodeling began in 2008 when they started their remodeling once again - by replacing their stairs.
"Then we moved all our belongings from upstairs to the main level and basement and gutted the upper level," Lisa said. "We added a bathroom and made two bedrooms and a storage closet. Nate and Arlie removed the entryway and the old foundation under the entryway so they could start on the addition."
During the last week in March, the Halversons dug the hole for the new addition on the north and west sides and on March 31, the area got a lot of rain, and that's when the old basement walls started to crumble out."
Other than having to make little decisions like where to put light switches and fixtures, this was one of the least enjoyable moments in the remodeling process, Lisa noted, along with the well collapsing shortly after the basement walls did.
"After that was all cleaned, Rick and Mike with Midwest ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) got started with foam block walls for the new addition, poured the concrete and did the flooring," Lisa continued. "Once the walls were done, they started on the roof and added the two-car garage. We were shingling on July 4th, and I even helped with that!"
The Halversons then started to remodel the inside on the main level of the house. They moved their bedroom and living room upstairs and Nate made a temporary kitchen down in the new basement. They then gutted the main level and started all over on that floor!
"We remodeled the main level so it has one bedroom, a living room, bathroom, kitchen and laundry room," Lisa described. "Once all the finish work, including sheetrock, painting, flooring, kitchen cabinets, counters and other work on that level was done, we moved everything back to where we wanted it in the house. Meanwhile, Rick and Mike were working on the wrap-around porch."
Lisa added with a smile, "By this time, Nate was tired of working on the house, so he found some projects to do outside."
Their daughter, Ella, was born in 2009, and Lisa admits her gratitude to have done most of the remodeling before they had children.
"I can't imagine what it would have been like to do all that work with a baby in the house," she said. "Needing a break from inside, we worked on outdoor projects. We poured a concrete driveway, added stamped concrete in the entry and worked on landscaping!"
Through 2010, the Halversons continued to work on additional outdoor projects by applying brick and stone to the exterior of the house and adding railings to the porch.
Their son, Nolan, was born in 2012, and they started finishing the basement with framed walls and sheetrock, adding in the electrical outlets and conduit.
Now, in 2013, Nate has laid the carpet throughout the basement in the family room, game room and toy room and finished the ceiling.
"We painted the basement," Lisa said. "At this current point in time, we still need to start on the bathroom in the basement, trim work in basement and doors in the basement. We still have some closet doors and window trim throughout the house that isn't finished yet, but we will get there!"
Lisa admitted that when they started this whole remodel/addition project, she didn't think either one of them knew how big of a project and how much work it was going to turn out to be!
Nate believes that without his dad's help, they would still be shingling! But in all seriousness, they agree they wouldn't be where they are today on the house project without his father's help.
"We truly appreciate everything he has done and continues to do to help us with our home," said Lisa. "I say the same for Nate too, though! They are both very hard workers and have good ideas. Nate's mom and dad have remodeled two of their homes, so that was nice for us because they were always a good recourse when we needed ideas."
Nate also said the most enjoyable part was 5 p.m. every night! He enjoyed outdoor work the most, namely the siding, rafters and the sheeting. He said he feels like he's getting more done when he works on bigger projects like those.
"For me, I would have to agree," Lisa said. "I didn't actually help with much of the work, but it is so nice when you can actually see a difference at the end of the day or week when you work on big projects like those."
Now, however, they both agree that the most enjoyable part is the realization that their home is almost done.
There are a few more things on their list, however, as Nate pointed out, "I want to move the stairs."
When asked if they would be done then, he added, "Come and see us next year!"
Lisa laughed and said, "Or the year after!"
But for now, the Halversons are very satisfied with their home and the progress they have made.
"We are very blessed with two happy, healthy children and a beautiful home," Lisa c