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Home Improvement

When your house is a century old, nothing is standard and nothing is easy.

When my husband, Jayson, and I were looking to buy a place in the country 19 years ago, we looked at a lot of listings. I was about to give up hope when we stumbled upon a cute little place in southeast Warren County, Iowa, complete with an 1890 farmhouse and enough land for a starter herd of cattle.

Thanks to my uncle, who grew up just down the road, we met some members of the family who had lived in our house for most of its existence. They told us some great stories about their childhood and growing up on the farm. They had a happy life there.

We moved into our new home and quickly began learning what it means to own a house that is more than a century old.

Nothing is standard. When Jayson and his dad set out to install a new kitchen faucet, they ended up having to replace all the plumbing under the sink and into the basement. There was some swearing.

We had a new kitchen floor put in, but we were tasked with removing some of the buckled and uneven tiles first. On installation day, what was supposed to be a quick, easy job turned into something else because apparently the kitchen is neither square nor level. We also learned that the old tile we had removed with our bare hands was actually made of asbestos. Good times!

Once these initial projects were complete, we settled in and made ourselves at home. We had a son, and another, and another. There wasn’t enough time or money to take on a bunch of projects in the house. We were too busy making memories.

The stairs may creak, but I can still envision my little boys sliding down them on their bottoms. The stacked-stone basement is scary, but it has sheltered my family during many storms. The 1950s kitchen counter isn’t very stylish, but I have sat my kids on it to tend to scraped knees, and my husband and I have used it to prepare countless family meals.

Living in an old house isn’t for the faint of heart. We are about to take on a few more renovation projects, and I know none of them will be as easy as they should be. Simple DIY projects will result in professionals being called in. There will likely be more swearing.

My house may never be perfect, but I don’t mind. It’s full of perfect memories.

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