Being a homeowner is a lot of responsibility. Sure, you aren’t responsible for coming up with rent month-to-month, but you do have that little thing called a mortgage—and you can’t call upon a landlord to deal with a clogged toilet and the like.
So, when it comes to owning a home, the costs can pile up. Most places aren’t turn-key ready, which means that, like it or not, you will need to do a little renovating yourself.
Most homeowners plan a serious budget that they try to adhere to when it comes to renovations. However, sometimes there are special projects that require a little bit more financial planning. This is definitely one of them…
When the time came to update their family home, Amanda Gatlin and her husband, Jeff Layton, had a brilliant idea that would help them achieve the look they were going for without breaking the bank. It was going to take a lot of work, though.
The couple decided to salvage the wood for their dream home design project from a dilapidated 100-year-old barn in Mississippi that Amanda’s grandfather and great-grandfather helped build along with other community members.
In 1912, Amanda’s great-grandparents started a farm in rural Choctaw County, Mississippi. They owned a small dairy operation while growing corn and cotton. In 1949, the family built a large wooden barn. Growing up, Amanda would call it her “clubhouse,” never knowing she would return to it one day in a very big way…
Before they could salvage the wood, they had to completely dismantle the barn and prepare it for its 2,300-mile trip. In the process, they found some antique building materials, like these square nails—proof that some of the wood was even older than they thought originally.
The family flew to Mississippi together to begin dismantling the barn, but there were complications no one expected. “It was 95 degrees, super high humidity. It was just scorching hot,” said Jeff, Amanda’s husband. “We were swinging sledgehammers and it was by hand. Everything was by hand.”
“People usually use cherry pickers and forklifts,” said Jeff. “We didn’t have access to that. But as it turns out, it all came apart pretty easily. No electricity. It was all done by hand.” The benefit to not hiring a crew? They saved themelves a lot of money!
Scrimping on the cost of help worked out just fine as it turns out there were plenty of local residents and relatives who were happy to come by the site and lend a hand. A tornado that had passed through years earlier had already loosened the planks, making the job just a little bit easier.
During projects like this, it’s not surprising to discover an insect infestation or other gruesome problems. However, all Amanda and Jeff found were pieces of history. “Sometimes we found bullets in the wood,” Jeff recalled. “Apparently it’s really common in the south to go shooting at old barns.”
The process was exhausting, but it helped strengthen the bonds between the already tight family unit. “One huge benefit of doing all this labor is that we’ve bonded with family,” Amanda said. “You sweat together, you have lunch together. It’s an amazing bonding experience.”
It took Amanda and Jeff (and their plucky helpers) just shy of two weeks to take apart the barn and remove the nails by hand. They discovered that the barn was more than 90% hardwoods, making a perfect base for their Seattle home’s new floors. It was all going according to plan!
But getting the barn taken down was just the first step! Next, it had to be milled and then moved across the country from Mississippi to Washington state. Preparing the wood at the mill cost them $6,000. While they may have saved money elsewhere, that was a price tag that was still a little tough to swallow…
“A lot of the pieces we were pulling down had that gray patina on it. The mill guys said 20 years ago, you couldn’t give it away,” Jeff said. “But now it has that aged look people are really looking for.” Lucky for them, current trends were on their side!
Next up? Driving the wood from the deep south to Seattle, Washington! “It was quite an adventure,” said Jeff. “The day I left Mississippi, there were all these tornado warnings. There were tornadoes touching down around me, and it was really dark,” he recalled. “I was thinking, ‘What am I doing? What have I done?'”
However, the long and scary journey was worth it! When the wood arrived they stored it for the winter. They placed it in the garage of their rental home, covering the pieces with plastic and putting a heater in the room to keep the moisture down. They hadn’t come this far just to destroy the wood by accident!
When spring—and warm weather—arrived, it was time to get to work once more! Before they began putting down the floorboards, they sprayed them with an insecticide. Amanda and Jeff worked 12-hour days, covering as much of the floor as they could with this special wood.
In the process of installing the wood, they began to notice fun patterns in the grain. “We would find different knots that look like things, [such as] an Eiffel Tower. We have a room that has two bears in it. We have one that looks like a wine spill,” said Jeff.
All told, the installation took them just two weeks, and that included varnishing the wood to protect it. The project was labor intensive, but it was also very important to Amanda to bring that piece of family history into her new home. In the end, it was worth it.
The project wasn’t entirely cost effective, but it’s a classic case of spending where it counts. “In a nutshell, their flooring was quite expensive but it is like no other in that it carries family memories,” Jeff said. “We had a house fire in 1960 that destroyed all family heirlooms, so Amanda and her cousin both felt the barn wood would be a good substitute.”
Not all of the wood was suitable enough for the floors, however. These leftover pieces were being used decoratively in the family bathrooms, and the couple was even considering putting them up on the wall, too!
Amanda’s connection to her past truly mattered to her—enough so that she and Jeff budgeted and planned for this epic undertaking. They even had money left over in their budget to build a picture frame out of the remaining wood and some of the square nails!
While there are always ways to scrimp, save, and trim a budget, some projects come along that demand a little extra money and time. Thankfully, Amanda and Jeff were prepared and able to create the repurposed hardwood floors of their dreams.
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