Family Tackles a Historic Fixer-Upper

Homeowners work together to remodel a century-old home with bold colors and additional space.

HGRM-Make-Room-portland-green-entryway_s4x3 Photography by Maria Alexandra Vettese; Styling by Hilary Horvath

When Tim Krovel and Sarah Ketchum first saw their Portland, Maine, home, Sarah said "no way" and Tim saw the potential. After moving from Chicago, the couple was looking for a fixer-upper because Sarah's new job afforded Tim the opportunity to work full-time on the remodel. What they found was a house in need of an overhaul.

Every room, floor and fixture needed work. "It was loaded with so much character, though," says Tim. He convinced his wife to go for it after the city approved a two-story 16’x12’ addition that would include a new kitchen and master bedroom.

Through the remodel, Tim and Sarah hoped to gain space to entertain guests and room for a growing family with an urban lifestyle. Tim spent seven months working full-time on the remodel with a budget of $60,000. "I think we accomplished a $100,000 renovation for less, mostly on the back of my free labor, but also on the many, many choices we made throughout the project," says Tim.


Browse Pictures of this Historic Home Remodel

The Scope of the Home Remodel

  • Stripped and refinished the antique pinewood floors
  • Replaced nearly all of the wiring
  • Replaced all of the plumbing
  • Built a new kitchen and master bedroom as part of the addition
  • Constructed custom cabinets on-site
  • Shored up the main beam in the basement to level the frame
  • Replaced old water tank heater with a small, on-demand unit
  • Switched to high-efficiency laundry units
  • Gutted the third floor/attic and added insulation
  • Added foam board to roof for insulation
  • Added 1.5 bathrooms, including a half bath on the main level
  • Painted every window, wall, door and radiator

Sarah, a physician by day, was behind the design and style of the remodel. "Once she got beyond the horror of the old kitchen, she crafted a plan of modern-meets-antique that I think would make the original owners very happy," says Tim. "The Victorians were obviously in love with color and exciting details, so we ran with that."

While Tim and Sarah didn't run into any big surprises during their remodel, they did learn a lesson about projects taking longer than expected. "So much of my day was setting up and cleaning up," says Tim. "Living in a renovation is a big challenge." They also learned the value of working together as a team. "The disagreements we had over design details, like the kitchen bench seating, turned out to produce some of our best collaborative work."

Tim hired an excavation crew to dig and pour the foundation walls and then had an electrician and plumber work with him to rough-in all the fixtures. "The wiring was a big project," says Tim. "We fished new wires into nearly every wall and ceiling. It's really slow and messy work, but having it done is a huge load off our minds." He also hired an insulation team to blow in dense-pack cellulose into the walls and roof. From there, Tim finished everything himself — including building a shed, planting trees and digging a garden out back. "It's our paradise," says Tim.

With the dust and construction behind them, Tim and Sarah say the hard work was well worth it. In fact, Tim's favorite part of the remodel was doing the work himself. "The next best part was making our home amazing for my wife," says Tim. "It was so fun completing little projects each day for her to come home to. Each day was a new treat."

Next Up

A Century-Old Kitchen Comes to Life

Restaurant owners Bryan Steelman and Claire Olberding turn three inefficient, 100-year-old rooms into an eclectic kitchen with high-end appliances and salvaged finds.


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