Daily life gets easier - finally

The Project: Renovating an Old Barn

May 12, 2002|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's starting to look like a house.

Tim Satterfield and Tami Boehle-Satterfield and their two children have endured more than a year of living in quasi-primitive conditions while trying to remodel their nearly century-old Amish barn in Monkton into a modern dream home. During that time they have lived without a kitchen, heat, a clothes dryer, interior walls and private bedrooms.

But now, after nearly two months of steady work, things are finally starting to take shape and life is getting a little easier.

The heat pump was hooked up, and the family finally got heat in March, just in time for the tail end of winter. And workers are installing central air conditioning.

Stairs now lead up to the second floor, and the third floor has been put down. Framing has begun on interior walls on both levels, and windows are being installed throughout the home. At last, there is a view of the Gunpowder River from the upper levels.

But best news of all: "We have a dryer," Tami Satterfield said joyously.

Life without a dryer was dismal, she said. Some of the family's clothes had become so caked with lint from air-drying that she had given up and packed them away. Once the dryer was hooked up, she eagerly unpacked the clothes and washed and dried everything. Her husband said he has never appreciated the feeling of a freshly dried towel more.

Yes, things are happier in the Satterfield household, but there still is no kitchen, so the laundry slop sink is continuing to double as the kitchen sink.

"Nearly all of our dishes are gone. Things are getting broken. We're down to four coffee mugs, some plates and couple of bowls," Tami Satterfield said. The family has resorted to using the "smashing dishes" - plates and bowls that Tami, an artist, bought at flea markets and thrift stores for the sole purpose of breaking and using for art projects.

Sleeping on couches

The children still don't have their own room and are sleeping on couches in the living room. Now the parents, too, have lost their bedroom.

The remaining walls on the ground floor, where the family has been living for the past year, were ripped out to make way for more renovations. The Satterfields spent two days ripping out the remaining ceiling beams downstairs. "We hauled close to two tons of stuff," he said.

"It was hard, difficult, scary work and not the sort of thing that most homeowners do for themselves," he said.

Along with the remaining walls and beams, most of the writing on the walls has disappeared. As their project began months ago, they took to writing a daily diary on the wall. The family has been so busy that there haven't been any recent additions.

Eventually, the lower level will turn into a guest suite and studio space for Tami Satterfield, an artist. For now, it's just a big open space containing all the family's possessions.

"There's no privacy," she said. "Our goal every day is to get up and get dressed and ready before 7 a.m., before the workmen come."

It seems the family is never alone. There is the almost constant presence of workers in the home starting at 7:30 a.m. and continuing until at least 5:30 p.m. Many days, Jay McCardle of McCardle Custom Homes stays until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Sometimes the workers arrive on weekends.

And it can be noisy, Tami Satterfield said, with workers hammering, sawing and banging throughout the day. But noise means progress, so she puts up with the sound.

"It's so reassuring to hear them work," she said.

In addition to McCardle and two or three of his workers, several subcontractors are often in and out of the house. Oliver, the poodle, enjoys having so many people around.

Still, the constant presence of workers and the daily noise and strain of living in what is essentially a storage bin with a toilet got to be too much, and the family decided to take a vacation when the children were on spring break from school.

The couple were a little nervous about leaving for a week. "They thought I'd leave and never come back or not do any work at all," McCardle said.

Worried - `just a little'

"We were worried. Just a little," Tami Satterfield said.

"I had to prove them wrong," McCardle said. So he hired a crew of 10 for the week and worked day and night.

He opened up the roof, enclosed a "bump-out" extension, installed dormers, put on a new roof, built the entranceway and constructed an attached two-car garage with loft space.

When the Satterfields returned from their vacation late at night, they were astonished by what they saw.

"We all sat there for two minutes, just staring at the house," Tami Satterfield said. "It didn't look like an old barn anymore."

Things seem to be going well. "We don't ask if we're on schedule," Tim Satterfield said. "It's better that way."

"I don't see how we could be behind," she said.

McCardle is confident that everything is on schedule and that there should be no need to worry.

"Of course, in three months, everything could change," Tami Satterfield said.

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