Remodeling companies love to show off their recently finished projects. Sometimes they even include the dreaded ‘before’ shot that made a renovation necessary in the first place.
But it’s unusual to find an in-depth interview showing the project from the homeowner’s point of view.
Tom & Bonnie DeG. graciously gave time nearly two years after their major home remodel completed to share their renovation story, from beginning to end and beyond.
<- Original kitchen layout was closed in and cramped. Bonnie had long dreamed of an open concept kitchen.
What is a Raised Ranch Home?
First, a short history… Following WWII, millions of GIs and their young families fueled the building boom in the 50s and 60s. The combination of a need for spacious homes on small plots of land that often backed up to a slope resulted in neighborhoods filled with modern, boxy bi-level homes.
The raised ranch is often called an ‘upside down Colonial’ characterized by entryway on the ground level. A staircase leads up to the main living area of the home including the kitchen, living and bedrooms. The lower level houses the garage and a large recreation room, den or office.
When Tom and Bonnie were looking for a place to raise their kids, they fell in love with the northern Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, IL. The mature trees, large yards and kid-friendly streets said this was home. When it was finally time to make some changes, they didn’t spend much energy deciding whether to move or stay put in the community they loved.
Time to Spend Some Money
Tom and Bonnie DeG’s raised ranch was constructed in the early 1970s at the height of Chicago’s suburban building boom. After moving in 26 years ago, the house had a dated feel and dysfunctional kitchen they always meant to update… someday. Two full-time jobs and raising their sons took priority over any major home renovations.
When asked what prompted their whole-house update, Tom says, “Our sons were out of school, so we decided it was time to spend some money on remodeling the house.”
With the decision to remodel their home made, the couple set to find the right contractor to turn their outdated, aging but much-loved home into a place they would be comfortable in for another 26 years.
They researched contractors and building firms, spoke with friends for referrals, and dreamed about what they wanted their ‘new’ old home to become.
“We interviewed five contractors,” said Tom. “We had researched them all very well and felt that all could have handled the project. All were very professional and gave us detailed estimates. We did not really have any bad experiences.”
What sealed the decision? A conversation Bonnie had with a co-worker who had used Rosseland Remodeling, and gave them a strong recommendation. Even though his proposal came in at the top of the price range, the thoroughness of his bid and professionalism impressed the couple.
Longing for Open Spaces
Ever since they moved in a quarter of a century ago, Tom and Bonnie planned to update the space. The main living areas on the upper level were dark and closed off. The kitchen had a poor layout and had not been touched since the house was built. They longed for an open space that invited friends and family to gather.
With the time for a change finally upon them, the couple says, “We were most excited about taking down walls and opening up the kitchen/dining room/living room area and it is still our favorite part.”
<- The walls come down! The DeG’s Open Concept dream kitchen get closer to reality.
Chris recalls the home’s original construction made the change a little easier, “The roof structure is engineered trusses which allows for no load bearing interior walls. Now we could create an open concept kitchen!”
<- With drywall & electrical in place, the new kitchen starts to take shape.
Unanticipated Structural Issues?! No Problem!
It’s a rare construction project that doesn’t include an unanticipated problem hidden behind walls and crawl spaces.
Older homes especially suffer from DIY-itis. Cash-strapped or overeager homeowners take on projects they aren’t equipped to deal with, or hire the lowest bidder for a project. It can be months or years before the true cost of poorly finished remodels come to light. Often, hidden construction defects are not the fault of the current homeowner. But they still get stuck dealing with the repairs.
The best way to remedy the situation is to hire a respected professional builder.
The couple recalls, “We also had a structural problem that was no problem for Chris and his crew.”
During the remodeling project, Chris noticed the second floor living room and kitchen area floor was very bouncy.
True, older homes creak and groan. Homeowners train themselves to avoid walking on those spots, or tune out the sound, until it just becomes habit. It could be a simple fix with a few well-placed screws to reattach the subfloor to the joists. Or, noisy floors could be a sign of a more extensive problem.
“The original floor joists were not up to today’s building code requirements,” Chris recalls. “So, since the drywall ceiling on the lower level was removed we went ahead and installed new floor joists alongside the existing joists to stiffen up the floor. Now it feels very solid when you walk on it.”
Two Years Later… No Surprises
When asked if they’d had any issues come up since the renovation completed, Tom says, “It has actually been two years and we are still very happy with the remodel. Every room in the house was remodeled. There have been no surprises, which I think is a good thing.”
While that might sound like a simple answer, it speaks to the underlying reason for choosing a construction company very carefully. Tom and Bonnie had heard the horror stories of working with bad contractors, and did their research. The reward? No surprises!
No leaky pipes, cracking walls, and no more creaky floors. No mysterious electrical issues or drafty windows.
Most important, they also have peace of mind. They know, if they ever do run across an issue? A quick call to Chris will have the problem taken care of quickly and professionally.
Home is All in the Details
What do the DeG’s enjoy most about their fully remodeled home? When asked, they found it hard to truly pick a favorite detail. Every choice was so carefully thought out, their home just is their favorite place.
That said, they particularly love the under cabinet lighting that highlights the crackled glass backsplash and provides useful task lighting for cooking dinner on dark winter nights.
And, choosing the room colors was their biggest stress at the time. The effort put into that decision paid off. Tom says, “…the paint colors we chose turned out to be something we like more all the time.”
<- A bright, warm, open new kitchen welcomes visitors at the head of the stairs.
After 26 years of living with a dysfunctional space, Tom & Bonnie enjoy their open concept kitchen and fully remodeled home every day. Two years in they love their home even more, and happily, wouldn’t change a thing.