Making Everything Old New Again: An Ohio Fixer Upper

Abandoned house

At some point, I decided 2021 was a year to stretch my limitations and to live outside of my comfort zone. I travelled to Alaska with Natalie and later to the Virgin Islands with Amanda. Still, I was looking for something else, maybe a project. 

Finding Our Project: An Ohio Fixer Upper

It wasn’t long before I’d enlisted Natalie in my quest, and together we found an abandoned house that needed more than a little TLC. A little bit of online sleuth work turned up an address for the owner. We sent a letter out to the owner in February with little hope that we’d get a reply.

A week later, we received a phone call from the owner. Yes, it seemed, he was interested in selling. Within the week, Natalie and I were meeting with him at the property. He showed us the hole in the roof and talked at length about the years he lived there.

A young woman lays on the floor of our Ohio fixer upper, taking a break while working on the floor.
The project was, at times, exhausting.

The actual purchase hit more than a few snags. We initially went to close in April, only to find that the seller had never gone through probate after his wife had passed six years prior. An attorney, two title agencies and a county office later brought us to our actual closing date in late July. At this point we knew we’d found our project – an Ohio fixer upper.

A House with History

The house was built in 1890  in what had been a booming little town along the Erie Canal. At its peak, the town had a hotel, black smith, saloon, dry goods store and most importantly, a post office. Then on Halloween in 1841, two teenage boys hooked their horses up to the foundation of the post office, dragging it across the street to a neighboring community. This changed the course of history for the little town.

When we came along, the house itself was in extreme disrepair. According to the previous owner, it had once been part of an extensive horse farm. The horses he owned and trained were harness racing horses at Scioto Downs and county fairs all around Ohio.

He had initially lived at the larger house to the rear of the farm. Following the passing of his wife he had moved to the one bedroom home until he could no longer care for the property himself. Natalie and I affectionally called our project the “Little House.”

Getting Uncomfortable

Our new investment was certainly taking us out of our comfort zone. We had taken on the project with no real construction skills and no contacts in the industry. While my husband wanted to be involved, we set out to do things the hard way and learn on the job so to speak. 

At times (read “often”) the project was overwhelming. There were tears and frustrations and at times we just didn’t know what to do next.

The first step in working on our Ohio fixer upper was cleaning out all of the trash and possessions left over from the previous resident.
There was so much trash to clean out and many trips to donate items to Good Will. Here’s Natalie taking a break.

Getting Started on Our Ohio Fixer Upper

We immediately started emptying the home of more than 100 years of possessions. There were holiday decorations, clothing, magazines, dishes and more. Basically the house was tightly packed from basement to attic, with little more than a walking path through the rooms. That first week we put out over 40 large trash bags, took boxes of photos to the previous owner and made seven runs to the Good Will with donations.

Young woman giving two thumbs up in the attic of our Ohio fixer upper.
Natalie giving two thumbs up. At the beginning of the day this attic was packed to the rafters.

Next came the job of assessing the damage to the Little House. Immediately we needed to get the home under roof. The entire roof was in disrepair with large sections growing moss. A large hole was centered over the laundry area and water and snow had done a good job of destroying walls, floors and the ceiling in that end of the house.

Finding Contractors

We contacted a few contractors and collected a few quotes. Some were not anxious to take on such a small project, others were scheduled out months ahead. Natalie had a connection through a friend and we found someone who did roofing as a side job. He had immediate availability, we we ordered a deliver of materials from the local Menards. 

As we busied ourselves with painting, we started to look into quotes for the windows. It was a good thing we started immediately with the window quotes. It turns out that the windows on a 100 plus year old house are not standard stock sizes. As such, they had to be ordered weeks or months in advance. And, we realized, in order to realize our new kitchen design, we would have to reframe the kitchen window to fit a much smaller stock size.

The before picture of the kitchen in our Ohio fixer upper.
The kitchen how we found it. As you can see the window, to the left, goes nearly to the floor. In the after version cabinets would grace both walls. This was the entirety of the kitchen. Only a gas range and apartment refrigerator aren’t visible.

Working on the Kitchen

The kitchen, as we found it,  was little more than a sink, an old gas range and a dorm sized refrigerator. The old linoleum floors were heavily damaged and the rugs had actually adhered themselves to the flooring. There was a window along the longest wall and it stretched nearly to the floor.

Our new kitchen design, with adequate cabinets and modern conveniences like a dishwasher and full-size refrigerator would need to utilize that wall. So we set about removing the window, complete with the antiquated weights and pullies system.  We purchased a smaller window and looked to YouTube for information on how to frame a window.

Despite our efforts to do the project on our own, we brought my husband back into the project on this step and he helped Natalie finish up the window. It was a long day of work, and at one point Natalie took a tumble off the ladder. Rather than let go of the window, she held on and shielded the fall with her own body. She said she just didn’t think she could stand another run to a home improvement store that day. Luckily, she’s young and she survived the fall with just a few bruises.

A hole in the ceiling of our Ohio fixer upper.
The inside of the laundry room shows one of the many holes in the roof. In addition to tearing out the entire ceiling, most of these walls had to come out as well.

Hitting the Panic Point with our Ohio Fixer Upper

At this point we were about one month into our project. We’d allotted ourselves just over two months for the entire project, with our renters due to move in on the first of October. We were starting to feel the pressure.

While I’m not a fan of cliff hangers, that’s exactly where I’ll leave you. Check back soon, I’ll let you know where we go with the “Little House” and our first endeavor into the world of fixer uppers.


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