Wednesday, January 31, 2018

They Inherited a 1905 Farmhouse, All Its Contents, and 125 Acres (Part Three)

It's been almost a year since we've checked in on Katie, whose family inherited a 1905 Texas farmhouse, all its contents, and 125 acres of countryside. If you missed the first two posts, you're going to want to get caught up first! 

(Find Part One here and Part Two here.)

And now let's hear the latest from Katie...

The farmhouse currently in the renovation process.

Please catch us up! Where are you at now in the renovation process?  

We have made some incredible changes to the farmhouse, most notably tearing down the old sleeping porch that was approximately 500 square feet only to rebuild it to a massive 950 square feet.  And we did it all ourselves, from the cinderblocks and digging the holes where they would be placed, to the heavy beams to support it, to the plywood subfloor, to the floorplan, to the walls, doors, get the idea. 

The farmhouse, seven years ago, prior to renovation.

This area used to be one large room when it was the sleeping porch, now, it houses 3 bedrooms, 1 large bath, a laundry room and sitting/reading area.  I am actually dumbfounded that we actually did it!  And we did it in a sort of haphazard way.  Once we saw that it needed to be torn down and rebuilt (it wasn't as structurally sound as the rest of the house as they added this on later in 1925) we decided to "go big or go home."  We ultimately made the decision (sort of spur of the moment!) to make it what we wanted since we weren't working with the existing walls or space anymore.  

The way the floorpan to this addition (lovingly called "the south wing") was also "drawn up" haphazardly.  We had a rough idea of what it would look like until one Saturday the girls and I drove down only to find JT and his dad had already laid out the 2x4's on the 950 square feet of subfloor (it was like a huge performance stage with no walls).  I gave him "the look" and said "What is this?"  He told me to hear him out, and then explained how based on the new roof we needed, a wall needed to be built right down the middle of the space for support or else we would have to put a large beam up high to support it. This way would make it much easier to build and would also be better financially. We decided to give each of our girls their own room, something I don't think we will regret later on. They are all close in age (oldest is 9 and youngest is 4) so sharing a room wasn't out of the question, but we wanted them to have a space to call their own and grow into.  

We then spray painted where the rooms would go and that same day the girls chose their rooms and haven't wavered!  We have had the entire space wired for electricity, vented for heat and air, framers build the new roof line and roofers to roof it... all of which we have hired out because those jobs are something we just can't do ourselves.  

Currently, we are waiting to hear back from a plumber to get everything roughed in and waiting on our insulation installation team (my friend and I, lol) to get more rooms insulated.  Just yesterday we had our crew of framers build a staircase to lead to the 2nd story.  That space has always been merely dead space only accessible by a 15 foot ladder.  Our plans are to one day finish that space out as well, we just needed to do it now while we are still in the rebuilding/construction stage.  We have been busy, I'd say.  

For readers who may be thinking of a fixer upper, what would you recommend doing yourself, and where is it worth spending the money?  

If you can be your own general contractor, I would recommend that.  We live out in the country so we can do what we want and make whatever decisions we want to do, however, I know not everyone has that luxury.  Being able to make decisions on our own as we go has been great for us, it lets us do what we want! It also allows you to go back and change something fairly easily since you are the one doing it...I've changed my mind a LOT!  Ask JT, he'll tell you. ;)  We have hired stuff out that either we just flat out don't know how to do or to simply save time. One major thing we have learned is you either have time or money.  We mostly have time but are willing to pay for someone else to do certain things that would just take us framing the new roof!  Yeah, that wasn't happening. If you can do it yourself and have the knowledge or someone else's knowledge you can lean on, you will save so much money. The cost for labor is at least, if not more than, the cost of the materials themselves.  

 What were the biggest setbacks along the way?  

The biggest setback (if you want to call it that) is when JT was offered a job late this summer that we felt we couldn't turn down.  It really fell into our lap and know it was God's timing.  He went from working on the house full-time for about 8 months to only being able to work on it a couple evenings during the week and on Saturdays.  Our original timeline was the hopefully be in the house by this past Christmas, but with his job now we knew that wasn't going to happen.  

What were the good surprises along the way?  

The people we have found to help us with everything. The right people have been placed before us at the perfect times. Our carpenter lives a mile away and we have been told is one of the best craftsmen's out there. He has been able to replicate the door and window trim, rosettes and be a sounding board since him and his wife built their entire house themselves several years ago. They are incredible people. Our electrician lives across the pasture and our daughters are great friends and in class together. He can come over anytime we need him to. He has been such a blessing. Our framing crew also lives close by and are the most dependable and reliable crew I have ever seen!  They show up on time early in the morning, and work hard all day... not to mention how incredible fast they are, it blows my mind every time. When you live 25 miles away from the city, finding contractors to come out is near impossible. They can easily find work in the city, so why should they drive all this way to come to us? It makes sense. Finding all of these incredible people has been such great surprises! 

Will you be using any of the furnishings that were left in your farmhouse? 

Absolutely! We got rid of a lot of our cheap furniture before we moved to the country knowing full well we'd have our pick of family heirlooms and antiques.  The entire house was like an antique shop before we started any of this.  We are using a LOT of things... cast iron tub, 3 bed frames, an armoire, dining table, buffets, metal hutch, and I am sure a lot more that I am forgetting since it's all been in storage for so long.  

Something very cool that we have done is to reuse the local high school gym floor.  We think the floor was installed sometime in the 40's and replaced in the 80's. When they were replacing it, my father in law spoke up and said that he wanted some of it. Him and his cousins took what they could, drove it to the farmhouse and housed it in the old hay barn.  All of it has been there ever since!  The process to get it installed was painstaking slow to say the least. We had to get it out of the barn, load it on the tractor forks, unload and start cleaning them up. Then, the ever so slow process of denailing could begin. If there is one job that I hate in this whole process, it's denailing.  After all the nails are out, we would need to go through each piece to determine if it was usable, and cut off any excess pieces that were rotten or split.  

Once the pieces was cleaned off, de-nailed and cut down to size, then it could be installed.  It took about a month to get the dining room floored completed; from barn to floor. It was after that was done that JT claimed that we wouldn't be using anymore old wood simply because it took at least 3 times as long as new. And since I would like to be in our house before our girls graduate, I was ok with that. :)  Most of the family was, or are currently, coaches ranging from football to volleyball to tennis. And many of them spent countless hours on that gym floor either coaching or playing, it's yet another story we can add to the farmhouse.  

How much (if any) of the original layout did you change for modern conveniences?  

The only major change to the original layout of the 1905 part of the house was take down the wall separating what was the dining room from the sitting room. We moved the dining room to what was the screened in porch and made the old dining/sitting room one large living room. Our goal has been to keep the house as close to what it was, but also accommodating out family of five. The kitchen is still the kitchen, master and guest bedrooms still the same as well.  

Have your daughters had any input into design of their rooms?  

Absolutely!  Like I said earlier, the girls picked their rooms before they were even rooms!  We have looked at designs on Pinterest for decor inspiration and been paint shopping. One of their rooms is already painted, and another one is in the process. Their interests and favorites differ vastly from each other, so it's been fun to guide them in designing something that they love and will grow into. 

I'm sure I'm not the first one to ask you this (forgive me!), but when do you think you'll be moving in?  

The question everyone wants to know.... no one more than me!  JT says "Come hell or high water, we will be in the house this year." So, there you have it. Signed, sealed and (almost) delivered. ;)

It's been SUCH a journey for us, many high and lows, lots of blood, sweat and tears and know it will be all worth it and be so incredible when it's done. Thank you for taking an interest in us and our family. It truly means the world.  

Thank you so much Katie for sharing your family farmhouse story with us. It is so unique and special. I know we're all cheering you on!

You can stay up to date with the Cope family and farmhouse on Instagram.

Thank you for stopping by! Hope you have a wonderful day...



  1. I love this story. Congratulations Cope Family, it will be beautiful when completed and you're all moved in.

    1. I'm so glad Roxann, I love it too. Thank you for your kind words... I know they mean a lot to Katie and her family.

  2. Hi Julie! My goodness the tenacity! You just have to admire the effort. That place will be so wonderful when it is finished, and one can only imagine the satisfaction of accomplishment and very hard work. Amazing!

    1. That is a great word Jacqueline! Tenacity alright. Yes, talk about pride of ownership and an example of hard work and patience for their daughters...

  3. Thanks for the update! I've been following along on IG, but this Q & A has filled in a lot of the details. What an amazing house this will be! What a blessing!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading more of the Cope's story Chris. I agree with you - a real blessing and an amazing house with so much history! Thanks for stopping by today!

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