Hans and Kyleigh Grafstrom were recently married and just had a baby when they decided to buy a house. Not just any house, though; they wanted a fixer-upper to flip.
"We thought, 'Let's try this for the first house,' " Kyleigh recalls.
The couple found an old home that needed some work and in December of 2014, they bought one at 124 10th St. N., Moorhead.
Now, three years later they've turned the fixer-upper into a turn-key home to sell. The process was an eye-opener, but all of the do-it-yourself work and self-discovery was worth it for the young couple.
The house, built in 1911, had been broken into three apartments. The rooms were all painted different colors or wall-papered in particular themes. The main floor kitchen had a green and red, holly and ivy look to it. Compared to some of the other rooms, that was mild. The main floor bathroom was covered with pictures of cats while the back room was wall-to-wall maps and the hallway between them was Modge Podged with images of cowboys and Indians.
That was nothing compared to a second floor room that was done in North Dakota State University Bison green and yellow, right down to the shag carpet on the floor.
Walls came down, the ceiling came down, carpet was torn up and pretty soon the couple went from a renovation to a reclamation.
"Once we started tearing it apart, we could see how it was originally," Hans says.
And once the demo got going, it was hard to stop.
"You start taking down walls and pretty soon the house is all gutted," Hans says, adding that 19,000 pounds of plaster and lath was taken to the dump.
They stripped down to the studs which allowed them to rewire, replace windows and install new plumbing supply lines. By taking out the wall separating the dining room and the kitchen they were able to open up the main floor to allow natural light from the large windows.
While much is new, the couple wanted to maintain the character of the old house, keeping radiators and refinishing the floors, exposing the maple in the living room and dining room and fir in the entryway and hall.
The bathrooms were tiled to match an early-century style. A claw-foot tub on the second floor was taken to Jan's Tub Repair in Fargo, then returned to the second floor bathroom after being refinished.
"We kept what we could, but some was hard to keep," Hans says, noting that much of the original molding had been chopped up in previous reconfigurations of the house.
In a second floor bedroom Kyleigh painted the wood floors white.
"I wanted to do Scandinavian hardwood floors," she says.
It was one of the first rooms they finished and it was a bit of an oasis in the midst of a construction zone. They tried living in the space as they worked on it, but discovered that was less than ideal for a growing family.
"We got it where we thought we'd have this mess taken care of, but the mess never goes away," Hans says. All total, he estimates the project took about 1,200 hours of work.
Even the Modge Podge walls of pictures, which they grew to love, had to come down.
"We didn't want to take it down, but when it comes to selling, what do you do?" Hans says.
It was the right move. On Monday, a day after the house was listed, it sold.
"The HGTV (show with) Chip and Joanna Gaines shows the fun highlight real, but when you're living in the process, it's a crazy life choice that you can hardly wait until it's over and then we're like, 'Wait, let's do that again,' " Kyleigh says. "I wouldn't recommend a couple to do this together, but when you finally get to the point that you stop and look at what you can accomplish together, it's totally worth it."