The ink had hardly dried on the contract before Brett and Amanda Zundel were removing old cabinets and sledgehammering drywall in their newly purchased, 800-square-foot bungalow.
“We got the keys,” Amanda said, “and literally within ten minutes we were tearing out stuff.”
The 50-year-old house might have been small, but the Zundels had big dreams and a surfeit of sweat equity they were willing to invest. Why this house and not something better suited to a young couple planning to have a family?
“Simple,” Brett said. “It was one of the three cheapest houses in Ashland.”
First objective: keep the existing footprint but remove walls to open up the constricting galley kitchen, then focus on converting the garage to a master bedroom and office. The couple replaced plumbing and electrical systems, and tore out an old fireplace. That’s where they encountered the “Mystery of the Bees.”
“After we started ripping into walls, every day we’d find hundreds of dead bees,” Andrea said. Vacuuming up the little carcasses proved to be a temporary fix—the next day there would be hundreds more. Eventually, an exterminator was called in to remove an enormous colony that had established itself in the stud walls.
With phase one of their remodeling complete, the Zundels were ready for Phase Two of their five-year plan—selling the bungalow and moving into another, larger house. But circumstances said otherwise.
“We kept having babies,” Andrea laughed. Two girls, Scout and Piper, were followed by a boy, Teddy. With a rambunctious crew on their hands, Brett and Andrea began to look more favorably on their existing location and their spacious backyard.
“We just loved where we lived,” Andrea said. Plus, the real estate market had boomeranged to the point where move-up houses were getting out of reach.
“We had done so much good work on the house that a Realtor friend of ours suggested that we’d be better off financially just staying put,” Brett said. “We could get a larger house or a better house, but not both.”
So phase two kicked in with another kitchen enlargement, a new garage, a refined master suite, a retooled entry and a 250-square-foot studio in the backyard. Vaulting the living room ceiling added a breath of fresh air to the interiors.
“The house really matches how we live,” Brett said of their gradual, multi-year expansion to 1,700 square feet. “There’s a lot more breathing room and no wasted space.”
As novice DIYers, the Zundels had little experience but plenty of good help. Brett’s dad and uncle pitched in, and his grandma—a knowledgeable house flipper—contributed recommendations for skilled handymen whenever needed.
“I will say that Brett’s carpentry skills improved 1,000 percent over the course of the remodeling,” Andrea said.
“When we started, I knew nothing about remodeling,” Brett confessed. “But circumstances sort of forced us to believe we could pull it off, and we did.”