The Wolfeboro Project: Thank you! (It’s Not Over, Yet)

Summer in our Happy Place has sped by. And as the world and our society shifts, evolves and develops, so too does our second home here in Wolfeboro. More than the home, though are the wonderful people who make a house a true home.

Our screened porch project took many weeks; from April until after the end of July we had our contractor crew, electricians, roofers, gutter installer and our garage door installer in and out of driveway. They became part of our extended family – if only temporarily. While the final numbers on this portion of our renovation have been eye-opening and sometimes eye-popping, we have been so happy with the results.

Spending quiet time, family time, reading time and just being in our porch oasis is everything we hoped for. Thank you to these skilled workmen who were always pleasant; they cleaned up; corrected any problems along the way and offered insightful ideas on how to make our porch so beautiful and comfortable: Craig Howland, Howland Siding and Insulation and Larry, George and Terry.

When I met the owner of the garage door company, Nick Leighton, Overhead Door Options, I was in the middle of a nutty work day. He actually gave me a hug at the end of our meeting saying, “It looks like you need a hug.” We were still in the midst of having the porch completed and he understood our concerns about this 70s home and our continuing project.

To top it off, Nick’s price was better than other prices we checked out; his installer, Jason was truly a pro; and the doors arrived and were installed on time and on budget. Oh, my! And the house looks amazing – despite other improvements still needed (siding, paint, etc.).

We’re now in the midst of mediating an invasive species – Japanese Knotweed. We have 2700 square feet of the plant on our corner property. Ephraim Baker is doing a terrific job so far; we hope to start considering some plant cleanup so our corner property looks less wild.

Beyond our home, the people we have met and spent time with this summer are overall – so amazing and lovely. I have been working in town and get to see Wolfeboro residents as well as so many visitors and tourists who actually lean in to hear recommendations for restaurants, museums and more that Wolfeboro and the Lakes Region offers during the season. One of my co-workers told me I should work for the chamber of commerce because my knowledge of the area was so impressive. It’s hard to believe I have soaked up so much knowledge about the area during our years of vacationing here and now owning a home.

Our new friends have been so much fun; from Thirsty Thursday on the Winnipesaukee Belle with co-workers and friends to Tom and Cami’s staff party at their island home; the Ossipee Boys Concert, Cate Park concerts, our Katie’s Kitchen friends: Patty, Bruce, Grace, Joyce, Joe, Bonnie, Roger – and so many others; co-workers Mary Ann, Cindi, Louise, Julia, Ellen; Olympia Gym pal Roxie – and others there who were always so nice – including staffer June; our Springfield Point friends, Laurie, Mona, Randy, Susan; Winterhaven friends, Missy, Doug – and new friends Joann, Charlie as well as Penny, Paul; and Cate at Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club and some of our Alpine Meadows neighbors – the list is getting longer.

Our family and friend visits this summer have been tons of fun and those visits go way too fast. From Doug’s mom’s 85th birthday celebration week and the family in town for that and their vacations – to our friends Jarrod and Leah visiting to Adam FINALLY getting here and visits by my mom, brother Steve and wife, Sue – there are not enough thanks – and hours in the day – to enjoy everyone.

While this post is meant to be a Wolfeboro Project update, it is a bit of advice to people who are considering a second home or a move to a small town: embed yourself in the town. Listen, learn, share – and be an active participant. Embrace the local culture; adapt to how your new community does things since it’s probably different from your other town.

I’ve been to local community meetings, the library, town hall, non-profit group events, museum lectures about the region and more this summer. I’ve chatted with the police chief and officers, fire department staff; went to the library and public safety open houses; I wish I had done more.

The thing I am embracing is – this is now our life. We’ll be here seasonally as we continue to work (with visits throughout the fall and winter as we can). Our Wolfeboro Project will continue – and we’ll learn the lessons of home renovation, living in a small town and basking in this beautiful place we call home: Wolfeboro, NH.

The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

Porch addition051417Damn that #HGTV! Between #FixerUpper and the other home makeover shows I’ve watched for the past 10 years, I thought I was savvier than most. Frankly, I know nothing about home improvement.

Today marks one year since we closed on what I continue to call my ‘Happy Place.’ It’s

obvious to us now, we’re looking at a 10-year project. Unless we come into a bucket-full of money, we’ll renovate what we can ourselves and plan and budget for the major projects.

After just a year invested in this project, here’s my best advice if you’re considering a fixer upper:

  1. Be sure the bones of the house are in good shape: unless you’re buying a ‘knock down,’ be sure you have a solid home – from the windows and floors to the roof and walls.
  2. IMG_0390Location, location, location still rules; if you love you view, neighborhood, home site – almost everything else is cosmetic.
  3. Break projects down into smaller, manageable chunks. Doug managed to re-do the guest bathroom in a weekend. But we made sure in advance, we had all the necessary items including a new vanity and fixture, flooring, lighting, most major accessories, paint for the walls and cabinet, etc. We could not have completed the update in a weekend if we did not have all the items and supplies.
  4. Pick your battles: it’s easy to disagree about a project. Realize not everything will go your way. Compromise, compromise, compromise.

All this as I work in my office listening to a comedy radio channel blaring outside and our three artisans are literally hammering away at the screened porch addition. Doug is really admiring the craftsmanship (yay); I just want it to be done. Patience, Brenda.

We chose our contractor mainly because Doug really liked him. I yielded since Doug had a background in construction. So he is able to talk construction language with the contractor – which is hugely important.

Once this addition is done and we can enjoy New Hampshire days and evenings on the screened porch – then we’ll breathe a while – and figure out what project is next.

The fixer-upper truth may not be pretty, but we keep our eye on the prize knowing it’s a long game and worthwhile.

The Wolfeboro Project: Survival Tips

The Wolfeboro Project: Survival Tips

When you take on a new house project – especially a fixer – your tip list grows quickly. Despite bouts of fear and sticker-shock, we are still on the road to a home we already love in a town we are quickly growing more and more attached to.

Let’s get right to the tips – based on our missteps, lessons learned and a sprinkling of luck.

  1. Three Ps remain the mantra: patience, persistence and perspective – making measured, informed  decisions result in the project moving along at a pace that works with your budget and schedule. Trust your gut – if you have a shadow of a doubt on a decision, think it through again.
  2. Stick to the plan: we decided to work on this house from the outside-in. While we continue to talk about the ultimate interior renovations, other than some paint and a few window treatments, we are not planning a major investment on the interior until the outside is in shape – or close to it.
  3. Under-play your fixer – your family will be pleasantly surprised. We have told our families that we have a lot of work ahead; deferred maintenance are the words the Realtors used in describing the house (former owned didn’t do much at all to improve or even maintain the house). When our families visited the house this past month, they practically scolded us for describing the house as we have. They, too see the possibilities and  good bones of the house. Their collective responses amount to, “You made the house sound awful; it’s really lovely.” Of course, it’s not their project – but it is good to know we are not crazy and we have their support!
  4. Small-town, small steps. Figure out your possible DIY projects. In a small town – or any town – you can find someone to do anything for you – but you will pay in time and of course, money. Getting on a contractor’s small-town schedule takes finesse; be flexible and communicate with each contractor.
  5. Be specific: when  dealing with your contractor’s estimate continue to do research and ask people for help and advice. Doug reached out to his brother for advice since he had done major remodeling; we compared and contrasted details in estimates and asked contractors to provide more details. Be sure you have a timeline – or at least a finish date. Your two month-long project can stretch to months and months if you do not stay on top of details.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say, “No:”we nixed one project one of our contractors quoted because of price and the cross-over with another project and contractor. When in doubt put the brakes on.
  7. BREATHE: remember why you started this journey. Every day I love and enjoy this house and this town more. Every little DIY task or decision leads us to what will become our very special place. We continue to enjoy the lake, hiking, biking, boating. water-skiing, sailing; town concerts and cultural events; the local gym and shops; amazing lobster, ice cream and food that just tastes better here; getting to know people in town and spending time with them and becoming part of this community.

Those are seven tips for now; there are probably many more to come. With a full month under our belts here, we are heading back to our other home shortly. That will bring the inevitable culture shock (I haven’t waited a traffic light or been in a traffic jam for weeks!). We have a better idea of what to expect at this Happy Place; we have some big projects coming up at this house and we’ll be popping up for brief stays throughout the coming months. Being on this journey with an amazing husband and great family and friend support leaves me content and ever-hopeful of what this home will be in a few years.

The Wolfeboro Project: 3 Bids and a Headache

The Wolfeboro Project: 3 Bids and a Headache

At the beginning of this journey, I realized the three Ps: patience, persistence and perspective. Now, I just need a cocktail.

The good news is we love, love love the Long Stack house and its potential. We thoroughly enjoyed spending the July 4th holiday at Long Stack and experienced Wolfeboro in all its red, white and blue glory. We took a couple of swims at Brewster Beach in between working, cleaning, fixing and shopping. Plus we had lovely meals and of course a few runs for ice cream.

We’re managing two homes that are more than six hours apart. Any major life change involves adjustments, but sometimes, I’m just so confused! Thank goodness I took photos of some of my clothes in the Long Stack closet or I would not remember where some of my clothes are. I did the same thing with the kitchen pantry. So, if I wonder whether I need cinnamon at Long Stack because I have two containers of the spice here in Cherry Hill; I just go to the photo. So not only do I have cinnamon at Long Stack, I have a container and a half here in Cherry Hill. Oy!

Today’s title refers to the contractors who are preparing bids for landscaping and a screened porch we plan to add to the deck. Three contractors spent about an hour-and-a-half each with us at Long Stack considering and measuring for the project. One landscaper (the others I reached out to did not return calls or emails) is preparing an estimate for clean-up work necessary around our nearly two-acres of property.

Did I forget to mention the septic issue? About $500 later, our septic is more-or-less cleared out. There was a bit of a stoppage (it was constipated, my sweet husband quips) – fortunately, nothing major. It seems our septic tank had probably NEVER been cleaned out in 40 years! Are these homeowners crazy? It’s hard to believe people can live in a house and think that nothing needs to be cared for. Fortunately, that has ended with us in the house.

Meantime, we still have no decision on a new washer-dryer and refrigerator. Every time I open the fridge or press the ‘on’ button for the washer, I think I’m going to see sparks. Hopefully, my fear and loathing will subside.

We have begun to seriously think about getting out of the Cherry Hill house. It may take a year or two, but enough already; between the upkeep and crazy-high taxes, it’s time.

For now, I look forward to a month in New Hampshire – working and some vacation time  – while hoping that our son can check on Cherry Hill and make sure nothing happens while we are at Long Stack. Cross your fingers for us – we need some good luck.