Finding Tett House, Part 10 – Renovation Reveal

By the time we moved into Tett House – two months later than expected – a LOT of work had been done on the home. It was a mess; but it was also finally functional according to modern standards, and had been brought up to current safety and building codes.

When you move into an interesting and kind of spooky old house that needs renovating, people express a lot of curiosity. Friends and family want to “see what you’ve done to the place,” and it’s a little like being on one of those homeowner shows on HGTV. Everybody wants to see the big reveal. And I get it, because *I* want to see the big reveal!  But there’s nothing aesthetically satisfying or dramatic about working on stuff like wiring and hot water tanks. There’s no “feel-good” moment after someone pours diesel down your well.

As a visual designer, Tett House was going to be my pet project. I had big plans, and a big imagination… unfortunately, due to the clean-up and repair of our vandalized well, and then a costly septic issue, we weren’t exactly left with a big budget. I also didn’t anticipate the anxiety hangover I experienced following that stressful time. After all the major repairs and expenses, I’m not ashamed to say I took a good long break and focused on unpacking, one box at a time. It moved forward at a pace you might expect.

I’ve made peace with the fact that my decorating goals are going to take longer than I’d hoped to achieve. Like, it’s a year later, and I’m only just picking paint colours now. But for everyone who’s been curious to see “Before & After” shots… here they are. The un-sexiest (and most realistic) home renovation reveal ever!

RE-WIRING:  Before

Every room in the house had its walls and floors ripped open like this.

I had so many misgivings about a lighting fixture this size.

RE-WIRING:  After.

Check out that smokin’ hot new electrical panel. OK, maybe “smokin’ hot” isn’t the best way to describe updated wiring, but you get where I’m going with this.


Every exterior wall was drilled with holes from the inside and filled with spray foam insulation. Then the holes had to be patched.

Two worlds collide:  when foam insulation leaks out of your new exterior junction box.

We insulated the crawl space, too. I don’t remember how much we paid the contractor to go down there, but I feel like it wasn’t enough.


The old oil furnace had seen better days, although the tank was fairly new.  We removed them both…


… and replaced them with a shiny new propane furnace with air conditioning. Those ducts are to die for.

Removing the oil tank created so much more living space!

Thanks to whomever vandalized our well, we also had to get a new hot water tank. Can you tell the difference? Neither can I.  #everygirlsdream



OK, this was kind of a cool project. We had an old stovepipe hole that needed to be repaired. Not that looking down into the basement at our new furnace wasn’t an uplifting experience, we just didn’t want our son or our cat unexpectedly falling into a pit.


Our carpenter was a magician who found old boards under the stairs and used them to patch the hole.

*Flooring Footnote:  The hardwood throughout the house remains pretty raw. Although the original boards are strong and in good condition, the finish is in rough shape. Most of our floors look like this, or worse. Full disclosure:  sometimes I’m into it, sometimes not.


Somehow, we inherited the bad karma of the home’s former owners, and lonely and vulnerable, our water source was a target for the disenchanted.


This baby is on lock-down…

… and our water now comes from the lake, with an elaborate new filtration system, and I never, ever, ever want to talk about that experience ever again. (You can read about it here.)



Our backyard is very simple – gently sloping grass, lots of trees, and one heck of a view. After moving in, one of the few things we were able to enjoy early on was this pretty little fire pit my husband built from a kit.

We spent quite a few afternoons and evenings enjoying a beverage or five with a beautiful sunset.

This year in early spring, sewage started flooding our backyard. We discovered the previous owners of the house had not adequately updated the septic system (nor gotten a permit for the existing tank) and our yard had to be excavated for a new drain field. These were good times.

Hooray! No more pee water in our backyard.


The yard has been re-graded nicely, but the newly seeded grass came back as mostly clover… Of the four-leaf variety, I’m hoping.

And this is our fire pit. It’s still dismantled and the grass unmown because my husband threw his back out, so back off, haters.

Well, there you have it:  a series of the most uninspiring but absolutely necessary renovations you could ever expect to see. But, I will say this…

Our house is warm and dry in the winter, and cool on the hottest days of summer.

All lighting and appliances run safely on properly grounded outlets and junction boxes, and we have a generator for emergencies.

Our water is clean and safe to drink.

And boon of all boons, our backyard no longer smells like poop.

We’re still working hard to make Tett House our home. I’ve already established some cosy nooks and corners, going from this:

to this:

And this:

to this:

From the moment I saw it, I knew Tett House was my forever home. Every step we take is an adventure, and every new project, a gift.

We are grateful to the following local businesses and contractors for their tireless efforts and support. We truly had the best, kindest, and hardest working people on our team:

McNichols Electrical & Plumbing

Erica Grey (XCG Consulting Environmental Engineers)

Scott Blair & team (Scott Blair Contracting)

WC Gas Works

Levac Propane

Comfort Zone Insulation

Thompson’s Septic & Gravel

(To start our story at the beginning, click here for Part 1.)

28 Replies to “Finding Tett House, Part 10 – Renovation Reveal”

  1. Thank you for sharing this adventure!!! A labor of love. Thankfully you had the funds for those very expensive repairs!!!!

  2. Did they ever catch the well vandals? Your home looks like a wonderful place to live and things should get easier after all the hard work you have done 😉

  3. I love seeing the pictures and hearing your story. I hope that some day down the road you might have an open house for those of us that are so interested in seeing it for real. One can always dream. I am so glad that you took it on!

    1. That’s a great idea, Cindy! It will be several years down the road, though, I think before we’d be ready to do an Open House. But it’s definitely something to work towards! In the meantime, I promise to share more photos as we go along.

  4. Your home certainly is a labour of love, I was disheartened to read of the well problems, the extra expensive was really a set back I’m sure. But you marched on . Strong family.

    1. Thank you so much. It was very, very stressful time, and we took a real hit. But we love the home and were determined to see things through. I’m looking forward to the smaller, decorating projects now that are much more fun! 🙂

  5. It’s wonderful to see your progress!
    And I’m amazed at your sticktoitedness!!!
    Hope it all comes together this fall!

  6. Dana,

    I enjoy reading your blogs. Your story about what you had to go through with your dream home and your pictures was intriguing. It really sucks that you had to go through what you did to get something you love though, and I can’t believe someone could do what they did to your water supply and try and harm everyone. I really hope that The Asshole Jerks get what they deserve in life for treating you the way they did. 🙁

    When I read what you had wrote about Oliver: “our son Oliver suddenly collapsed in tears under the pressure of impending change. I lay down with him until almost midnight while he cried inconsolably and said, “Why are we leaving? We have a nice house. I love my friends. We have everything we want here. Why?” I had no answers for him, and eventually found myself sobbing as well.” It made me tear up.

    Oliver is an amazing young man and he’ll understand (as I’m sure you’ve told him) that friends will always be friends near or far and that he’ll definitely make new friends (as I know he has in the time you’ve been there) for years to come.

    And I have to say, if I could ever afford a house, I would have loved to been able to buy your old home. I loved that house when I first walked into it the day I met you and Oliver. Even with all that old retro charm.

    You are a beautiful family and I hope when all is said and done, that everything works out for all of you and that your house learns to love you back just as much as you loved it the first day you saw it.

    1. Thank you so much, Kirsty! It’s great to hear from you! Yes – our old home was super charming, and I loved it. I just wasn’t a suburbs person… I wanted to get back to the country, and I was in love with Tett House from the first time I saw it. Oliver has been thriving out here in our new community. He loves his new school and has made many new friends. We miss the people in our old neighbourhood, of course, but we’re very happy out here. Thanks for all your kind words and happy wishes!

    1. Yes! Bob was wonderful! We enjoyed getting to know him very much. He and Terry and Terry’s brother did a really good job and helped us a lot. It was a pleasure doing business with Thompson’s.

  7. Hi Dana..I have been following with great interest as we have done our share of renovating and building in our past. One in particular was an 1830 timber frame farm house that we totally rewired and plumbed so I sympathize with those costly upgrades before you get to the good stuff. You will be interested to know that we painted it yellow with white trim so I am particularly happy to see yours. Depicts such a happy feeling I think. So enjoy going forward because you will look back one day just like me and smile over your charming yellow house.

  8. I have the deepest respect for what you have overcome. We look forward to seeing Monsalvat on our trip back east next year. Hopefully you will have time for us.
    🖖George Gordon

  9. There are times when I believe life is a test , not necessarily fair , but these test,s are unavoidable . We plan ,we wiegh the options & we make choices . As you point out these choices are affected by , what if , this is were courage is required . Once your heart & mind have set a goal , you know it is fufilling your deam , make use of all resources available to you to accomplish your goal . Learn from what has been a stumbling block in your path , be persistant , inovative , creative , all tools you both pocess . At this point hopefully you have overcome many of your homes challenges . There will always be challenges in ones life , try to stay positve remember to be grateful for the good in life , health , family , friend s . As I get older , I look back on my life , the challenges faced , the uncertainty , I did my best & I gave what I had ,If it was not enough , that all I was capible of , What more can a person do , but do not loose self respect . Be proud be true to yourself . We only get one turn in life , use all your tool,s make the best of it . God bless you both .

  10. Dear Dana,,
    Hello from Reno NV, USA. Is your new house up on Devil’s Lake? Did your friend Barry buy out Ruby’s place? When we rowed on Loon Lake to get ice cream at Ruby’s place at Bedford Mills you could see all the saw dust in the bottom of the lake. That was only 60 years ago. You love old houses—-check Out the Foley House in Westport.
    Cheers, William (Bill) and Anne

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