A Christmas Gift, Three Years in the Making

The work area of my new space -- I love it.

I am the kind of person who gets a lot of ideas, many of which are grandiose and crazy – at least, that’s what my husband thinks. He cringes when he hears me say, “I have an idea . . .” because he knows it means he is going to have to build something or tear something apart to transform it into something else. He’s really very good natured about it all, though.

We moved into our present home in 2003; it’s very small, and I would do my school work at the kitchen table – grading student work, lesson planning, etc. Three years ago he agreed to my biggest idea yet: we could winterize our seldom-used one season porch and make it into an office for me. It’s a 12 x 12 foot space – plenty of room, with windows overlooking the yard and some of our garden areas. He got to work right away, replacing the old broken windows with new ones, and installing a new entry door to replace the screen door, since this would be the new entrance to our home.

That’s when we ran into trouble. In the winter, when deep snow covered the roof, the door wouldn’t open because the roof would sag. Work stopped while we figured out how to fix it in a way that would not only allow the door to open, but would also make the roof safe. The problem was compounded by the fact that the rafters also interfered with the door opening even when there was no snow. My husband is a very handy guy, but this problem was tough; he’s also not one to ask for help, so time passed and the cobwebs started to grow in the corners.

I tried to remain patient, but it was tough; I needed a work space! At one point, in frustration, I moved the kitchen table out of the house, bought a couple of two-drawer file cabinets and a ready-made countertop and turned the kitchen into a makeshift office. We ate in the living room. Still no solution to the door problem.

Last June, this is what it looked like! Yikes!

Then, a year ago, I visited my sister in Florida and discovered that she had a front door that opened to the outside. Aha!

We special ordered a new door, Doug was able to reinforce the roof fairly easily, and work (sort of) began again. Winter arrived, and it was just not possible to work out on the porch in the freezing cold.

By the time the ground thawed and the thermometer rose, all energy was focused on my retirement, scheduled for the end of the school year in June. The week I was officially retired, we started in on the renovations with new vigor. I cut and placed insulation in the walls – both the foam core and batts. Doug focused on the carpentry, putting up the bead board walls, bookshelves, and window trim. I painted everything as he worked.  Then we had another interruption: our vacation, our “Great Adventure” – the cross country journey we had been planning for nearly two years as the celebration of my retirement. We left the porch as neat as we could get it, and set out on what turned out to be a true great adventure lasting nearly three months.

We arrived home in October, and thankfully the weather remained warm enough that we could still work on the porch/office project. The climax of the work took place over a few days when Doug ventured up to the roof and removed the metal roofing, leaving the porch open to the sky. He placed foam core insulation which I had cut to size into the rafters, and batts on top of that. It was much easier to do this from the top down rather than struggling from the bottom up for several reasons. There was no ceiling, only rafters and metal roofing, and dripping condensation was a significant problem when it rained. We didn’t want to install the new ceiling before the insulation went in, and we had to fix the whole problem of moisture getting in there and ruining the new construction. Once the insulation was in place, new plywood went down, a layer of plastic and the metal roofing, which I had pressure washed. Fortunately we had no rain for the duration of that work!

Next , back inside now, the new ceiling went up, and the details of caulking, trim work, sanding, and painting moved the project forward.  We finished the room just in time for the Christmas tree to go up, and for the holiday snow village to be displayed in the curio cabinet, now out of the barn for the first time since 2003.

It was the best Christmas gift ever – my very own creative space. Office, art studio, reading room, library, whatever it might be called.

Life is good. Very good.

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