3 glorious things about living in a church

Earlier this week, I complained (a little) about a few minor irritants of living in a church. Today, we turn that frown upside down as I regal you with the glorious parts of living in a church.

Turning a church into a residence isn’t for everyone, but it suits me fine. Our home is a sacred space from steeple to church basement, and I find it a pleasant oasis of peace. Here are three reasons why.

goad sign
Not a road sign, a goad sign.

No. 1: The church sign is a platform for speaking truth (or telling jokes).

Not very many residences have a way to make announcements to the public, but my house does. I still love my church sign for writing encouraging or cryptic messages of my choosing for passers-by. Last year, my son-in-law goaded me into posting a funny, fake Bible verse on the sign. Well, it’s my sign. I can write whatever I want! So I did! Well, I try to keep it clean in respect for the elementary school children who spend recess on the playground across the street, but the sign is a fun, creative outlet for me.

No. 2: Music of all sorts sounds great in here.

Our great room, once the church sanctuary, was designed for sound. I can only imagine the choirs and parishioners singing along to a piano or organ. Or a soloist, standing in the front, mezmerizing the crowd. The acoustics are amazing. Tyler’s sound system makes the most of it. The Rolling Stones sound like they’re singing live, but instrumental music? Even better. The whole symphony makes a full-throated appearance when we play Handel. Someday, I think it would grand to have a band play on our balcony.

No. 3: The bell! Of course, the bell!

You knew the church bell would be on this list, didn’t you? I love ringing our bell for visitors or special days or just on Sundays. Lately, I’ve taken to ringing the bell for a minute at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Because I can. And a bell brings a smile to people’s faces. No other home in town can boast of such a unique talent. As far as I know, the bell was erected when the church was built in 1891, making it an historic element of this village. When I go for a walk, I admire my bell as I reapproach the church. It’s tall and distinctive, and I love it.

Every time my husband kisses me, the garage door goes up

Our story so far: We moved into the old Methodist church we had turned into our home, and my husband turned his attention to construction of an extra-large attached garage.

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The final doors to be installed on the garage were the garage doors—the ones used to drive a vehicle inside. The garage door guy showed up and motored through installation, one section at a time from the ground up to the windowed top section. Tyler chose brown doors. He consulted me but we’d talked about so many options, I was a little surprised when I drove up upon returning from grocery shopping.

garage doors close
Ah, garage doors!

The garage door guy also installed garage door openers (that could be operated with our cell phones!), but we weren’t able to use them to actually drive our vehicles inside because we weren’t yet up to code. The drywallers still needed to drywall the exterior of the church that was inside the garage. Drywall is a fire barrier, and a fire barrier is required between the attached garage and the residence (and if our building inspector was a stickler about anything, he was a stickler about fire barriers). So despite having an enclosed garage with a shingled roof and operational garage doors, we parked our vehicles outside until the drywallers could perform their magic.

While they were here, the drywallers were going to fix the vanity wall in the second floor bathroom that had been torn apart to install proper wiring for the light fixtures. That’s what I was excited about: We were turning our attention back to the interior of the old Methodist church.

Here’s the “end” of that slide show we started with the beginning of Chapter 42 (yes, the Typar stays until we side over it, probably next spring):

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Today’s headline is a quote from American country comedienne Minnie Pearl. The full joke: “The doctor must have put my pacemaker in wrong. Every time my husband kisses me, the garage door goes up.”

Tomorrow: Chapter 43 opens. Read about how the church was cozy here.

An orange without a peel

Our story so far: We successfully sanded and finished the original wood flooring in the master suite and second floor of the old Methodist church we were turning into our dream home. And then we got to the former sanctuary floor we were converting into our great room.

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Wait, back up, Driftwood turned the floor orange?

Not exactly.

We thought we had settled on Driftwood stain after testing a small area. After investing in a gallon of it, Tyler tried it on a larger area and judged it to be too green. So he sent me back to Sherwin Williams to get more samples. His uncle and I spent nearly two hours there getting three more quarts of custom mixed stain, and still Tyler didn’t like them. Too dark, he decided.

At this point, I refused to go back to get more stain just to have him reject it, so Tyler went. He was a man on a mission, determined to get this enormous floor stained so he could move to another task, so when he was told he’d have to wait a couple of hours to get a custom mix, he chose what he perceived to be a lighter colored stain from off the shelf: Golden Oak. And he had had enough with quarts to test; he bought two gallons of it.

It was our first mistake. It was the wrong color.

He applied Golden Oak to one thousand square feet of 126-year-old sanctuary floor. That was perhaps our second mistake, not taking into account the age and dryness of the floor. It drank up that stain like it was the Sonoran Desert. One hundred percent saturation.

After it had dried and we looked at it the next morning, it was … well, golden oak. Not exactly what we were going for, but not too dark, either. Okay.

So Tyler applied his sticky concoction of Douglas fir sawdust and polyurethane to fill the cracks. That was our third mistake. The polyurethane emphasized the red in the Douglas fir. If you remember your third grade color wheel, you know what you get when you combine yellow and red: Orange. We had combined Golden Oak and red Douglas fir, and the result was as orange as my stepson’s fingers after eating a bag of Cheetos.

orange floor
Here’s a shot from the balcony of our sanctuary floor after a coat of Golden Oak stain and a coat of sawdust-mixed polyurethane.

We tried to like it. We told ourselves it would improve after Tyler light-sanded again. We were committed. We could make this work. I even applied Golden Oak to the edges of the fireplace and the base of the spiral stairway while lying on the floor with a watercolor brush.

After getting an ant’s eye view of the entire expanse during that tedious task, I called Tyler who had stolen a few moments away from the work of the church to attend a local mud bog race.

“I’m sorry, honey, I just have to tell you this,” I said as gently as I could over the roar of the off-road engines. “I hate the floor in the great room. It’s orange. That’s all there is to it. And orange isn’t part of our color scheme. We have to do something about it.”

“You know what this means, don’t you?” he asked with as little rankle as he could pull together. “It means sanding the floors down to the wood again. Is that what you want to do?”

“There are no other options?” I pleaded. “Can’t we try another coat in a different color?”

“No,” he said. “I applied poly to the floor. We’re past the point for another stain. We have to sand it all away.”

“Well, then, yes, I guess so,” I said. “We have to. I hate it. I can’t live with an orange floor.”

It was a mistake that cost us hundreds of dollars in wasted Golden Oak stain, floor sander rental and sandpaper.

Frustrating, no doubt, but not the end of the world.

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Today’s headline could be a punchline in a joke, because if you can’t laugh at yourself, someone else will, right? So this orange walks into a bar. Bartender looks him over, thinks about it and says, “You know, I like you. You got a lot of a peel.”

Tomorrow: If not Driftwood and not Golden Oak, then what color stain? See what we chose here.

Happiness is free delivery

Our story so far: Spring arrives, and with it, a new phase in the more than five-month-long renovation of the 126-year-old Methodist church into our home: Drywall.

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Upon mentioning the advent of drywall, friends in Great Britain who coincidentally were renovating their kitchen remarked on the differences in English terminology. In Wisconsin, drywall came in panels made of gypsum plaster pressed between thick sheets of paper. In Great Britain, a dry wall was a wall of stones without mud in between them. Brits, my friend informed me, use either wet plaster brick or block external walls; plasterboard—the equivalent of drywall panels—is used on internal stud walls. I was reminded of the old days when I visited London frequently for work, stuffing my luggage in the boot (that is, the trunk) and dining on lunches of prawn sandwiches garnished with rocket (shrimp sandwiches with a side of arugula).

drywall delivery
The church gulps in sheet after sheet of drywall.

Day One of drywall was delivery day. Tyler removed windows on the first and second floors, and two fully equipped guys pulled five tons of drywall from a flatbed truck into the church in a couple of hours.

drywall stacks
This stack represents only about one ton of drywall.
drywall warning
Kudos to the guy (or gal) who developed this brand name: RockSteady. For a drywall stabilizing company. Clever.

We got rid of two thirty-yard dumpsters full of extra weight, and now we were replacing all it and then some. Drywall was so heavy, as a matter of fact, it was dangerous. The delivery guys wired stacks of four-by-twelve-foot sheets against the walls of the church with little warning clips: “Warning! DRYWALL IS HEAVY! Attempting to move may cause injury or death.”

Not that I needed another reminder of the weight of construction materials. There is a reason you don’t see old ladies with no upper body strength working in the construction industry. I struggled to lift pretty much everything. (Except insulation. That was easy to lift. Hard to manipulate.) Lumber was heavy. Five-gallon buckets of paint were heavy. Tile was really heavy. Sledgehammers? Solid-wood doors? Drywall? Rebar? Brick? Well-constructed cabinets? All of it reminded me how little strength I had ever, let alone now in my fifties. Before our construction project, I puffed up my chest when I was able to open a bottle of spaghetti sauce by myself. I wasn’t built for this.

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Tomorrow: Day Two of drywall doesn’t go so well. Read about that fiasco here.

How to get rich selling demolition waste

Our story so far: The demolition phase of converting our old Methodist church into a home included a couple of dumpsters and a lot of trips to Goodwill.

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We tried to be good stewards of our unwanted demolition waste. To avoid filling a landfill, we gave away a lot of things, but when the opportunity to presented itself, we were open to selling items. With mixed results.

I packed up a box of Christian books and tried to sell them at Half Price Books. I got $2.80. I immediately invested in a $3 copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions. I figured any woman who thought living in a church was a good idea really ought to educate herself on all things spiritual.

Then, after the second guy in a beat-up pickup truck stopped to ask if he could haul away the scrap metal we’d piled up outside next to the church, Tyler and I took it upon ourselves to see how much it was worth.

One warmish afternoon in January, Tyler and I piled all the siding Reroofer tore off the belfry and about a hundred miles of suspended ceiling grid into the back of our beat-up pickup truck and drove to a scrap metal yard about ten miles away.

We stopped for lunch. Because we worked up an appetite filling up the truck.

We spent $14.23 on a couple of bowls of homemade soup and a salami club sandwich, which we split. And, because it was a bakery, Tyler got a dynamite apple fritter for dessert.

We proceeded to the scrap metal yard where a couple of overall-clad fellows helped us separate the more valuable aluminum siding from the steel scrap. Our booty was weighed, and they handed us a check for $30.24.

After factoring in the gas required to transport our scrap metal, we each earned roughly $7 an hour plus lunch.

Which was a vast improvement compared to how we spent the next two hours. We priced bathtubs, kitchen cabinets and flooring to use on the ceiling of the second floor. Big price tags, them all.

We still hoped to sell the exterior staircase at some point. Surely someone—with a cutting torch or a long trailer—needed a fire escape.

exterior staircase
For sale: One fire escape, barely used.

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Tomorrow: What we didn’t find during demo. Click here to read it.

Some assembly required; moat not included

Our story so far: My husband Tyler, an excellent online shopper, found a set of front doors for our church on Craig’s List in exactly the style we had admired at a nearby big-box store.

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So we drove 90 minutes south one Sunday after church to check ’em out.

They were indeed only slightly used and exactly what we were looking for. Tyler the Negotiator wrangled the owner to the ground in a metaphorical wrestling match (“We have cash. And we’ll take them off your hands today”) and claimed a pin; the seller accepted an offer of less than half of what we would have paid for new.

The only challenge was the “we’ll take them off your hands today” part. Remember, these were eight-foot double doors. And they came with the frame. Doing the math, you’ll realize they were larger than any pickup truck bed.

Fortunately, Tyler planned ahead for that.

He’d brought along two-by-fours, a saw (a cordless Skilsaw circular saw, if you must know—another one of Tyler’s many cutting devices), an electric drill and a box of screws. In a matter of minutes, he’d built a frame to carry the doorframe on top of the pickup truck. Then we wrapped the doors in the biggest, most royal furniture blanket you’ll ever see: The 12-foot red velvet curtain that until very recently had been hanging in the front of the church.

A few bungee cords later, and we were off.

We returned safely and in one piece to the church and, with a little help, carried our new entryway inside, to be installed much later when the weather was warmer and the moat had been filled (just kidding about the moat).

castle doors safely home
Our nearly new castle doors, in storage until they can be installed.

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Tomorrow: Chapter 10 opens. Belfry redux. Read it by clicking here.