"Home improvement" turned to
It was about this time last year that Jason and I decided we were
going to buy land in Killington - after searching for houses in our
price range we decided that land and location was more important
than having a dwelling. I can't remember the exact reasoning behind
that decision, but I think we figured we had all summer to build
one and that seemed ample time to me. In retrospect, according to
some, it would have been shorter and cheaper, had we gone that
route and built a home from scratch.
Instead, the land we found had an existing house on it, which we
immediately dubbed "Little Tiny" - a name that has stuck- because
it was all of 700 sq. feet. I ignored the house and, instead, fell
in love with the five acres of beautiful maple trees, tucked up on
a hill above the Birch Ridge Inn off Killington Road. We calculated
that it was less than two miles to the chairlift and four miles to
work, an ideal location. And our Bernese Mountain Dog puppy could
run free. (Yes, I did take that into consideration during our
After negotiations with the owners (a nice family from the New
York metro area) and a new septic system, we were ready to begin
the work. I think it was August, by then - a much later start than
we anticipated, but we had an existing house to live in, or so I
As it turned out, Jason's ideas of "livable dwelling" were a bit
different than mine, and some things just had to be renovated
before we moved in. So we made a list: We would focus on the
bedroom and building a closet (which required an extension off the
back,) in addition to replacing the windows, walls and floors
throughout the house and installing a washer/dryer. The living
room, kitchen and bathroom would "wait until 'phase two.'"
In our idealistic minds, we had planned to do all this work as a
DIY (do it yourself) project, while working full-time. Since shop
class in junior high, I have not held a power tool, nor built
anything useful. Jason had a lot of tools, but I wasn't convinced
he had any more skills using them than me. This should have been a
bigger 'red flag' than it seemed to us at the time. Reality was
masked by my eagerness to learn. After all, this was Little Tiny,
it had been a rental house for decades and it would be again
someday, (once we save up to build our "real house" up on the ledge
with a better view.) That is to say, I felt this was a good
opportunity to "practice" my new construction skills.
Our saving graces were Jason's mom and dad, Richard and Louise,
and my Uncle Mike, who moved to Killington for weeks at a time to
help. Richard was well versed in construction technique and had
build a beautiful house for himself in Montreal; Louise was also
knowledgeable and great with details, and Uncle Mike was strong,
worked long hours and had a pickup truck. Jason and I helped
as much as we could on weekends and after work, but wouldn't have
gotten far without them.
The first step was renting a dumpster. We filled it in a couple
days, and also made multiple trips to the Rutland Women's Shelter
where we donated all the old furniture and fixtures.
As we pulled up the rugs and peeled the paneling off the walls
we found problems.
There were carpenter ants in the insulation, no flooring under
the tub (it was sitting directly on a main floor joist, which it
had rotted,) the windows were not framed and the electrical system
wasn't grounded… off came all the walls, the insulation, the wires,
the windows and the rotten flooring and joist. Soon our house
looked liked a shell, only the 2x4s and plywood remained. We had to
jack up the house to fix the joist.
Then began the process of putting it all backed together.
LITTLE TINY BEDROOM
Believe it or not, the 700 sq. foot house had been rented for
decades as a two-bedroom unit. Needless to say, both were tiny
spaces so we blew out the wall between them and installed French
doors, for the option of creating two separate spaces when guests
visit. It is now a very large open space, which was further
expanded with the addition of the large closet off the back.
We also chose two very large energy-efficient windows for the
bedrooms. This choice was mostly due to rental regulations that
require them to double as escape routes, but we also love the
LITTLE TINY BATHROOM
The bathroom was supposed to be "phase two," but when we found the
tub rotting the floor joist, it had to be removed, which tore up
the floor and walls, making it a construction zone too, and
renovations were required to render it back to functional. The
original house had matching blue porcelain shower tiles, sink and
toilet, with rusting fixtures. Everything went into the
We had the shower custom-tiled along with the floor. We did not
do this ourselves, despite my desire to learn to tile. The shower
pan and natural tiles we chose were complicating factors, in
addition to not having time or a mentor to teach me. Instead, our
sub-contractor, Jason Allen, who we brought on to help in September
to help us complete the work before snowfall, recommended Plumber
Pat Matthews. As it turns out, Matthews has great skill working
tile and grout and doesn't charge much for his tile work (which is
one of the reasons he prefers to be known as a plumber.) We gave
him a challenge choosing natural stone, and although he grumbled,
he worked quickly and the end result was masterful. We had him do
our kitchen and fireplace tiling, too-and our plumbing.
LITTLE TINY KITCHEN
The kitchen was also on the "phase two" list, but replacing the
floors, walls and windows, ultimately led to it all being done all
at once. Ultimately, I'm glad it happened that way. Although our
debts are now higher than I like, my stress is lower without having
to plan for another season of construction.
Originally, a large wooden picnic table took up most of the
kitchen space. We transferred that outside to the deck, where it is
much more fitting.
We then had Jason Allen build us a custom bar under the large
front window where we could sit and have coffee. We replaced the
refrigerator, stove, microwave, sink and counter tops and I painted
the cabinets solid white.
The changes completely transformed the room, although the layout
is mostly the same.
LITTLE TINY FLOORING
There was a hodge-podge of various flooring layers throughout the
house (old industrial-style rugs, linoleum and slate) before we
ripped them all out and bleached the plywood. We considered various
flooring options for living room and bedroom, bathroom and kitchen,
but ultimately decided we wanted maple and tile respectively.
To buy maple flooring from a lumberyard was out of the question,
so we found a rough pile in the attic of a man we met at The
Addison County Fair, and he sold it to us for cheep. We went back
to him twice begging for more boards to complete the project! Rough
boards, we learned, are far from being ready for flooring. They
require plaining, edging, sanding and staining- which equates to a
lot of work!
Once they were ready, we stacked them in the kitchen for Jason
Allen who laid them down in a non-traditional pattern that we
loved! Uncle Mike then spent days sanding and staining the
With all the interior construction complete, we look forward to a
spring/summer of "touch ups," landscaping and gardening- the fun
small projects that we can complete over a weekend, right? More
opportunities for me to learn and "practice" my homemaking skills,
although, I think it will be some years before we undertake
building our "real house" on the hill. Besides obstacles of money
and time, we really enjoy living in our remodeled Little Tiny
Next year, I'm tapping a few of those maple trees!