Then we renovated the main house some more, and it filled up again. We rented a dumpster, but the apartment filled up again! It was also a great place for the crib, double stroller, baby car seat and swing when Madelyn outgrew them. Our big suitcases and other rarely-used belongings ended up in here as well. I avoided going in, because the chaos made me feel discouraged, and I was sure mice and bugs lurked in the piles of stuff.
In 2012, we decided to fix it up. Until then, this was a "maybe someday" project. A project to consider when our house was basically done (which is still a couple years away!). Why spend time, energy and money on this place before OUR part is finished?
But the idea kept nagging at us, and we decided to go for it. My sister could live there, since she had recently graduated high school. Chris planned the project, and estimated that he could do all the work himself for $6,000. Here's the list of what the room needed:
Sheetrock on the walls
New walls to divide rooms
New plumbing (there was none at all)
New front door and interior door
He began work in February 2013. Our fourth child was due June 4, so he had a deadline! Chris planned to do a lot of work during his time off from work when I had the baby. He could be home to take care of the other kids while I rested, and do lots of construction in here, too. It sounded reasonable to us at the time, and worked out well, but in hindsight it seems absolutely crazy. A new baby's arrival is not the typical time to plan big projects!
He planned to buy some basic kitchen cabinets at Home Depot for about $600. We'd get just a few bottom cabinets for now. That would suffice for one person, and we could add top cabinets in a few years. The resale shop just happened to get a large set right when we needed them, and sold it to us for $340! We were going to buy a basic kitchen sink and faucet. Once again, we the shop gave us a great deal: $25 for a wonderful porcelain sink, and $15 for a fancy faucet. We also got a medicine cabinet and wood counters there. We could have gotten a toilet, but decided to splurge on a new one! There's a limit to our bargain hunting.
We got a new shower and bathroom sink, and special apartment-sized refrigerator and stove. They're so cute! Smaller than typical ones, but not absurdly small.
Chris spent his weekends and many evenings in here from February to May. He wired it, put in all the plumbing, installed baseboard heaters...he did everything! This was the guy who didn't own a single tool when we bought this house, and didn't know anything about renovations. Our projects gave him a great education, and there are so many books and websites that teach how to do all these things.
Finally, by the time Declan was a few weeks old, it was basically finished. The whole process was smooth and easy, and we came in right on budget at $6,000. Now my sister has a great first apartment (with some wonderful landlords), and we have a rental space that can bring in extra money from now on. Here it is before she moved in: