I’m done. I have finished my addition.
On May 15, almost 14 months after breaking ground, I finished hanging the aluminum sheathing for the soffit and fascia and officially called it. The job is done.
And it’s not done. I’m a homeowner, so the job is never totally done. I still have to install closet shelves and a vanity mirror in our bathroom and punch the chimney for our wood stove through the roof. Mary also got me a book on building decks Christmas, hint, hint. And let’s not forget decorating or moving furniture around.
But none of those things really have to be done before I can call it done. The new addition is completely livable and protected from the elements. It has functional toilets, sinks, air conditioning, and vinyl siding. My projects at this point are driven by wants not needs. I don’t have to do ANYTHING if I don’t want to. I’m sitting down on a day off and just writing today. It’s glorious.
Back to the beginning of the end.
I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself. I”m just so excited to share the news.
After moving into our new rooms back in January, I had two major projects between me and the finish line. Make that three. I had to empty and redo the kids’ old room, put siding on the exterior, and hang the soffit and fascia.
I have to admit that I eased my foot off the gas pedal. I pushed really hard to get us into our new bedrooms, and once we had new places to sleep some of the urgency evaporated. I knew that I still needed to get these final projects done, but I didn’t have to work quite as hard. Didn’t want to.
First, I started on the siding. A couple of my friends came over one Saturday morning for a work party. The goal was pretty simple. We needed to patch the holes in the existing wood siding that I’d made a year earlier when I was preparing to lay the foundation, and we needed to install the starter strip for the vinyl siding around the perimeter of the addition.
Starter strip is a piece of metal that you nail to the bottom of the exterior wall that catches the edge of the first piece of siding. Vinyl siding has edges that lock together, so every row after the first hooks into the row below it. It’s important to get the starter strip level. If it isn’t, the rest of the siding that you install will be lopsided.
That morning, I was really agitated. The exterior siding is important because it protects the house from the elements, but it also affects how the house looks. The fact that I had never done siding before weighed on me, and I was worried that I was going to do a bad job. I didn’t want the final product to look terrible. Not after all that work.
I summoned my two helpers, Bob Visintainer and Nick Almeter, and told them that I was mildly freaking out. We needed to pray, so we stopped what we were doing to ask for the Lord’s blessing, protection, and inspiration. Let’s not forget that Jesus was a carpenter. He knows how all this stuff works. I bet Jesus would have loved to have a Dewalt chop saw.
Feeling more peaceful, I divided the work. Bob got started patching the wood siding while Nick and I hung the starter strip. Bob’s an engineer and probably a better carpenter than I’ll ever be, so I left him to his own devices.
Nick and I worked on the starter strip. Our tools were a string level and a chalk line. We went around the house marking a level line half an inch above the concrete slab. This enabled us to nail into the 2×4 floor plate. The starter strip is about an inch and a half wide so that the siding can start below the level of the concrete block. That’s important. If the siding doesn’t protect the floor plate from the weather, the house will rot from the bottom up.
It doesn’t sound terribly difficult and it wasn’t because Nick was such a good helper. It took us almost two hours to install the starter strip on the four sides of the addition. I was very grateful for the help.
Nick and Bob had to leave around lunchtime, but we got both the project that I planned done. I’d gotten the ball rolling again. I even got the first piece of siding installed before I had to call it a day. I felt very accomplished.
After starting the siding, I decided that I needed to move inside. Only in the light of a project as big as building the addition did redoing the kids’ old room feel like a small project. Taken by itself, it was a big project. The first thing that we had to do was empty it of all the kids’ stuff.
When the kids moved into their new bedrooms, they fled like the Israelites on the day after the first Passover. Piles of toys and laundry were everywhere. Not to mention all of the furniture needed to house and maintain four children.
Thankfully, I had new rooms to hold their stuff. I disassembled the boys’ bunk bed and moved it piece by piece into their new room. The challenge was the lower bunk, which is a single unit with built-in drawers. It doesn’t quite weigh a ton, but it’s not light.
I decided that my boys would be enough help. We took out the drawers to lighten the load. Then we got a couple of furniture dollies and rocked the base up onto one edge. The boys were big helpers. They did exactly what I asked them to do when I asked them to do it. Once on the dollies, we rolled the bed down the hall into their new room. Easy peasy. Then I disassembled the upper bunk and the boys moved it piece by piece.
Reassembly took a little while, but only because I changed what I wanted to do halfway through. My original plan had been to put the bunks on the wall next to the door, but that just didn’t work in the space. It made it feel too cramped. So I changed it into an L formation and moved it to the opposite corner. That fit perfectly. The boys love it.
Next, I took down the eight-foot bookshelf that I’d built for the kid’s room and cut it in half. An eight-foot bookshelf works great in a room with thirteen-foot ceilings, but I wouldn’t be able to get it upright in a room with eight-foot ceilings. Two four-foot bookcases, on the other hand, work perfectly, one for the boys’ room and one for the girls’ room. Have I mentioned that the Krupa family loves books? We have so many books that we have to store some in the attic, and they still keep coming.
Following Tom Sawyer.
After we cleared the room, I had to deal with the carpet. The previous owners used adhesive carpet squares for the room. It looked fine when we bought the house, but just a few years with kids had pretty much destroyed them. Some of the squares were starting to come up at the edges but for the most part, they were pretty well stuck. I was not particularly excited about pulling them up.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Boys love demolition. One afternoon, I had about half a dozen neighborhood boys playing at my house. I grabbed them and told them that it was time to tear up the carpet. They thought it was a great idea.
A howling mass of boys descended on the carpet and started ripping it up with gleeful abandon. They even made a competition out of it. Who could pull up the most squares the fastest? Things got really funny when they discovered that the adhesive remained sticky in places. Really sticky. On some parts of the floor, their feet would stick so hard that they would step out of their shoes or almost fall down. They thought it was hilarious. The floor especially like to grab hold of socks and bare feet.
The best part of recruiting helpers was that it transformed a multi-hour grind of a project into 45 minutes of gleeful chaos. After giving everything a thorough vacuuming, I was ready to move on to the walls. Using my hard-earned drywall skills, I smoothed out the joints where we punched through the wall. It took several days to get it smooth enough to start sanding.
The elf next door.
There’s an old children’s story about a shoemaker who wakes up to discover that elves have finished his work. Something similar started happening to me. Every day or every other day, I’d come home from work to discover more siding on the outside walls. My father-in-law knows how to install siding because he did his own house a couple of years ago.
He didn’t always get a lot done. Some days, he might only get two or three pieces up, especially if he had to go around exterior fixtures. Measuring and cutting siding can be time-consuming. I spent a couple of evenings learning how to install j-channel around some of the fixtures. How hard could it be? My first attempt was a major fail. I didn’t know quite what was wrong, but I knew that it was not going to protect the house from the elements.
I went onto Youtube and discovered the right way to do it. Note to self: when you don’t know how to do something, do the research BEFORE you start cutting and nailing. It makes me laugh to think that it took me a year of construction to learn that lesson.
Breaking Spring Break.
By April, I was ready to paint the kids’ old room. I know, it took me a long time to prep. Like I said, I wasn’t rushing anymore. It took a couple of days to install the new baseboard. Then, because of the old paint that was already on the walls, I decided to prime it to make sure that the dark blue didn’t bleed through the new paint.
When painting this time, I decided to do something a little different than when I was painting in the addition. Catherine really wanted to help me paint her room. I told her no more than once and she ran off despondent. She asked again when I started to paint this time, and I said, “Sure, go ahead.” Her painting skills had not improved. She still paints like a five-year-old girl. But God had been working on my hardness of heart.
When I was pushing to get the bedrooms finished, I got super project oriented. I had to get those rooms done and anything that didn’t move that goal forward was an obstacle to be removed. Even if that obstacle was a sad little five-year-old girl. I regretted that. The reason I’m building this addition is to create a place where my children can flourish. It doesn’t make sense for me to crush them in the process. I wanted to become more person-oriented than project-oriented.
So this time, I said, “Yes,” gave her a 2-inch paintbrush and a cup of paint, and pointed her in the direction of a wall that she could paint. She was beyond delighted and worked happily for several hours. I went over everything she painted with a roller and it blended in perfectly.
David Jude and Mary also joined the fun. Mary really likes painting, but couldn’t help during our previous paint job because she was recovering from a c-section. And it was a good thing that she could help this time. No one else that I called was available to lend a hand. She cut the floors and got up on a ladder to cut the ceilings while I came behind her with a roller. This made the job very fast.
By the latter part of the week, we had finished painting, so I was able to move on to flooring. Putting down LVP flooring is much easier when you don’t have to worry about doors and hallways. A square room is a breeze. It took a little extra time to go around a couple of air conditioning registers and into the closet, but overall it was way easier than flooring the addition. Maybe I’d learned enough to make it easy.
By the end of spring break, the old kids’ room had been transformed into our new playroom. It’s hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment that I had when I realized that the inside of the house was DONE.
Wrapping it up.
My father-in-law had kept steadily working on the siding and finished one of the exterior walls. I am so grateful for his help. He still left me plenty to do but gave me quite a head start. Since spring break wrapped up at the same time that I finished flooring, I was back to working in the evenings and on weekends. I installed siding until I couldn’t reach any higher. I needed to get higher up.
So I called Tom Jackson, a member of my community, professional electrician, and collector of tools. If anyone had scaffolding to borrow, it would be Tom. I told him what I needed and he said, “Sure. You just need to get it back to me before school’s out.” Awesome. I borrowed a trailer and picked it up.
I knew that scaffolding would be super helpful for installing the siding on the gables on either side. What I didn’t realize was that the scaffolding would become my children’s private jungle gym. They loved it. From the day that I put it up until the day I took it down, they were on it at every possible opportunity.
Once the siding was up on the first gable, I moved on to the soffit. The scaffolding made this super easy because I didn’t have to move a ladder around. I shifted the scaffolding to the back gable and repeated the process.
By mid-May, the siding and the soffit were up on every side of the house. All I had to do was the aluminum fascia. I scheduled a time with Larry to rent an aluminum break that we would use to shape the aluminum sheet into the fascia that I’d use to cover the last bit of exposed wood on the outside of the house.
On May 15th, Larry came over and we got to work. Using a carpenter’s square and a tile knife, we cut off ten-foot sections of aluminum for the fascia. Then we locked it in the break and cut it lengthwise to get a strip of the right size. We then used the break to give the strip a ninety-degree angle so it would cover up the edges of the soffit and keep the water out.
We worked slowly but steadily and by the end of the day, we were done. And not just done with the fascia. We were done, done. Like completely done with the addition. I gave Larry a big hug and thanked him for all of his work during the previous year. Later, I took the family out for ice cream to celebrate.
Over the next couple of weeks, I took down and returned the scaffolding, and since then I’ve been steadily repairing the yard. Like I said at the beginning of the post, I’m done but I’m also never done. Work will continue as long as I’m able, but for the time being, I don’t have anything major planned.
I’ve never done a bigger project in my life. I give all glory to God! I couldn’t have done it without a whole lot of human help as well. I’ve tried to put the growing list of people that I need to thank at the end of each post, but there are two main people that really made this possible.
The first is my beloved wife. She believed from the beginning that I could build this addition. She provided unfailing encouragement and a never-ending supply of nutritious snacks to keep my tank full. About a month before I finished everything, she put the following note in the Dove, our community newsletter. When I read it, I got all choked up:
I would like to honor my husband, Nathan Krupa, for a great work he has undertaken. If you have missed seeing his face lately that is because he has been closely following the example of Jesus…the hidden life of Jesus, the carpenter, at home in Nazareth. Nathan has spent nearly every free hour of the past year building an addition for our two-bedroom, one-bath house in Dearing. No sooner had we begun the project than we realized God had sent us another person with whom to share the space. The race was on between baby number Five and Daddy, the builder!
Nathan did most of the building project by himself! Yes, we were graced with many friends and an occasional hired tradesman along the way, but Nathan pulled most of the weight. From breaking rock-hard clay for the foundation, to framing and roofing, sheet-rocking, painting, and finishing, the man has plugged along faithfully.
We are so grateful for his sacrificial work and the beautiful home he has built for us! It’s almost done! We have so much more space: Three bedrooms and two whole baths more! You may wonder who won the time race: Baby beat Daddy by a few months. Thank you, Nathan! We love you!
That sums up her attitude better than anything that I could say. The addition just wouldn’t have happened without her faithful love.
The second person who made this possible is Larry Harris. I didn’t know Larry very well at the beginning of this project. Over the course of the last year, he’s been a teacher, mentor, coach, and hardworking builder. He has become a good friend.
This might embarrass him a little, but after we finished hanging the fascia, he sent me this text message. I’m putting it here mainly so that I can remember it forever. It meant that much to me.
We all have different perspectives but this one is mine. When you first asked me to help on building an addition onto your home, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to help. I had little confidence in your knowledge of building and wasn’t sure about your work ethic but now my opinion has completely changed. You did a wonderful job learning new skills, new time management, new priorities, and learning that building is worth it all but it’s also hard work and at times endless. But your persevered, you adapted, and you did learn probably more than you know. It has been a joy to be a part of your experience. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you for sharing it, Larry. And Mary. And David Jude, Joseph, Catherine, Jonathan, and now Veronica. And everyone else who gave their time, lent a tool, or sent a gift. The joy in the building was in the sharing of it.
One of my favorite songs has the line, “life with you is half as hard and twice as good.” Mary and Larry and all the rest did more than make it half as hard. They took the impossible and made it into a reality. They looked with me at a hole in the ground and helped me turn it into a place for my family to live. Starting with nothing, we built a home.
And it was more than twice as good. I did more than build a physical structure. I built my marriage and my family. I built true and lasting friendships. The things of earth will all pass away, even the addition will pass away, but these things will endure.
Thanks be to God!
Everyone’s generosity during this process has blown me away. The following people have helped to make this project a reality. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them: Mary Krupa, Larry Harris, David Jude Krupa, Joseph Krupa, Catherine Krupa, Jonathan Krupa, Jerry Germann, Joe Almeter, Nick Almeter, Lawrence Almeter, Michael Almeter (his son), Michael Almeter (his cousin), Tag Bussey, Leo Suer, Ben Suer, Matthew Suer, Pat Molitor, Tom Molitor, Hannes Molitor, Pat Muller, Nick Wingate, David Johnson, Jordan Goodman, David McGee, Glen and the guys at Maner, David Germann, Tom Krupa, Laura Krupa, Joseph Krupa, Joseph Muller, Philip Hatfield, Miguel Melendez, Maddox, Jared Miller, Fr. Jacob Almeter, Anthony Almeter, Bob Visintainer, Ross Ott, Jennifer Ott, Noah Ott, Max Molitor, Peter Molitor, Shanna Molitor, Mike Hayes, Gabriel Hays, Kolbe Almeter, Luke Almeter, Charlie Almeter, Eric Sterett, Gabriel Hayes, Wayne Johnson, Danny Johnson, Wes Swenson, Cohen Insulation, Britney Coyle, Tom Jackson, and Frank Leogrande.
If you want to read more of my adventures building the House of Krupa, check out the archive!
Jesus snatched me out of the darkness and saved me from complete madness. If you want to hear more of that story, check out Demoniac, now available on Amazon.