First-time homeowners deal with debris and doubts as they rehab a 1912 Minneapolis fixer-upper.
As the host of HGTV's "Curb Appeal," Sasha Andreev's job was to tell viewers how to make plain-Jane homes look like the best on the block.
When Andreev and his partner, Charlie Hansen, bought their first house -- a fixer-upper in south Minneapolis -- they had to make the transformation themselves. There wasn't going to be a TV crew around to do the heavy lifting. Instead, Andreev and Hansen would be general contractors, painters, carpenters and popcorn-ceiling scrapers.
"I've always had an interest in remodeling a house," said Andreev, a local actor and set designer. "Now I can walk away knowing that I got to have this experience -- as painful as it was."
Their yearlong saga could be its own HGTV show on how to survive a major renovation and save thousands of dollars.
Andreev and Hansen inspected dozens of properties before they found the solid-looking 1912 home with a big front porch. Andreev was impressed with the Arts and Crafts-style wood trim, hardwood floors, leaded glass windows and the two living rooms. It even had a new furnace and water heater. But the house needed a new roof, the vinyl siding needed replacing and the kitchen and bathroom needed extensive remodeling. Still, the DIYers weren't discouraged.
"This house didn't seem daunting," said Andreev. "It felt doable."
Because they were bound to a budget, Andreev pulled permits and hired and scheduled tradespeople to do the roofing, electrical, plumbing and siding. On evenings and weekends, he and Hansen tackled what they could -- restoring the cracked plaster walls, painting and scraping those popcorn ceilings.
The first big project was remodeling the home's one bathroom so they'd be able to move in. They reconfigured the layout, added a skylight and Andreev designed an HGTV-style shower of exposed pipes above a freestanding clawfoot tub.
Then they moved on to the tiny L-shaped kitchen, which Andreev called "a mess," with its 1970s cabinets, limited counter space and no stove. To save money, they demolished the kitchen themselves.
"Just have no fear and wear goggles, gloves and a mask," advised Andreev.
A contractor built a 15-square-foot addition off the back corner and put in new energy-efficient windows.
"Just by squaring it off, there's room for two people to cook without bumping elbows," said Hansen, who sketched out the new kitchen layout with Andreev.
Demolishing the kitchen was easy compared with stripping the plaster walls of the dining room, which were covered with century-old wallpaper that had to be scraped off inch by inch.
After working on "Curb Appeal" and witnessing a couple dozen makovers, Andreev had lots of ideas on how to give the home's aged exterior a face-lift.
"The Greek porch columns didn't make sense," he said. "We wanted to give it a more Craftsman style with classic, clean lines."
They installed three wood columns supported by rustic stonework, and widened the front entry.
"The front porch adds charm and it's almost like two more rooms," said Hansen.
For the finishing touch, they replaced the vinyl with fiber cement siding, which they painted a deep blue with brick-red accents.
To pay for the improvements, Hansen and Andreev combined their savings with a low-interest $25,000 Whittier Alliance home improvement loan available to homeowners to help revitalize the area. They also stretched their dollars by hunting for deals all over the Twin Cities. The entire renovation cost about $60,000, including landscaping, siding, new driveway, back paver patio and their biggest splurge -- the front porch stonework.
For many months, Hansen and Andreev had to live out of a suitcase, sleep on a mattress on the floor and eat takeout food while perched on stools amid the wreckage of a room.
But now that they're done, they've become advocates of homeowners taking a lead role in renovation.
"The biggest hurdles are the fear of failure -- and laziness," said Andreev. "Once you get over that, you can pretty much do anything if you have the patience and time."
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619