newly finished living room with pine floors and gas stove
Photo: Patricia Lyons
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After: Living Room Fireplace Facelift

As winter came, we were doing a lot more work inside, though it wasn't much better than being outdoors. With no insulation, no matter how much wood we burned it was still cold and damp. And we were constantly filthy. We had to nearly gut the house, filling a dumpster as long as the building with crumbled plaster and rotted wood. Thankfully, our two sons visited to get their hands dirty alongside us.

We took pride in learning new skills. The four wood-burning fireplaces had been bricked over for coal stoves. It would have cost us $700 per fireplace to hire a mason to undo that work, so Walt learned to do it himself—and used some of the money saved to buy himself a new bicycle.

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