Sometimes it takes a lot of work to make a house a home.
Just ask Elizabeth Webster.
In 2017, at 24, she bought a foreclosed home in South Spokane. To say it needed work is an understatement. Thankfully, Elizabeth knew just who to turn to — her dad Geoff Webster.
“It’s his fault I bought the house,” she said. “What attracted me initially was the price, but it was all a little overwhelming. Dad kept saying, ‘We can open this up! We can move the walls. We can do this!’”
Though an accountant by trade, Geoff was newly retired, and had plenty of experience in home repairs, plumbing and electrical work.
“I’ve always loved doing home improvement projects,” he said.
So, the work began.
The 1,100 square-foot, 3-story home was built in the 1930s and had fallen into disrepair.
“There were holes in the walls and mouse droppings everywhere,” said Elizabeth. “The tear-down was kind of my responsibility.
After taking a sledgehammer to the walls, she realized the house was going to need more than just cosmetic work.
“We ended up redoing all the electrical and plumbing,” Geoff said. “We didn’t expect that.”
They moved walls, enlarging the main floor master bedroom and bath. Elizabeth decided to turn the small space adjacent to the entry into a cozy bar, painting it deep red.
Her true joy was in planning and designing the home’s new layout and look.
“That was fun!”
Elizabeth tackled the all the tile work herself.
“Tiling isn’t bad, but grouting is not my favorite,” she said.
All of the interior and exterior doors were replaced, and they moved a staircase from the kitchen to the bedroom. That particular rebuild caused Geoff some trouble.
“I want the bottom stairs at an angle,” explained Elizabeth.
The stairs lead to the finished attic, which she turned into a closet.
“We call it a walk-up closet, instead of a walk-in closet,” Geoff said, grinning.
In the basement they discovered due to some wonky plumbing, you had to step up to enter the bathroom. Geoff installed an ejector pump because the plumbing needed to be brought up to street level.
As they tore down the walls to redo the bedroom and family room, they discovered unusual “insulation.”
Carpet pads, sleeping bags, winter coats, even a cut-up sofa had been stuffed in the walls and in the ceiling. And plenty of mice had made homes within. They masked up and got to work.
“When COVID hit we had plenty of masks,” said Elizabeth’s mom, Bridget Webster, who also helped with the renovation.
It took over 10 months to finish the interior, and by March 2020 it was time to tackle the exterior and yards. As shutdowns began due to COVID-19, Geoff got a trailer and set off for Home Depot.
“I thought they might have to close, so I loaded up with decking materials and fencing,” he recalled.
During the long months of the shutdown, Elizabeth, her finance, Chris Hollman, and her dad put in a sprinkler system and laid sod in her front yard. They tore down and rebuilt a deck in the backyard, built a fence around her yard, put in a patio; and transformed an existing tool shed into a chicken coop for her five chickens.
“Laying sod was the most fun,” Elizabeth said. “It’s done in a day and you get to enjoy the results.”
In addition, Chris created four raised bed gardens, an herb bed, and a container garden.
“It was a work of love,” said Bridget of the home and yard renovations. “We worked really well together.”
Bridget documented the project in two photo-illustrated children’s books she’s hoping to have published.
“The books are aimed at breaking gender stereotypes; showing that girls are just as capable as boys at tackling construction projects,” she said.
Geoff was tickled when his daughter bought them a matching pair of Carhartt overalls.
“I’d never owned a pair of Carhartts,” he said.
His daughter appreciated his unflagging enthusiasm and encouragement.
“Dad had the best ideas,” said Elizabeth.
But more than ideas, he had absolute faith that they would finish what they started together.
“To be honest, there were days when I just wanted to burn the house down,” Elizabeth said. “But Dad would remind me, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ It was really fun to work with him and my mom and Chris. I feel like we’re all better friends because of it.”
Cindy Hval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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