The 2010 Reader Remodel Contest Moxie Awards
Their steely nerves and unflagging perseverence garnered these dozen extraordinary and inspiring homeowners top prizes in our second annual Moxie Awards
Think you'd have the stamina at age 92 to paint a trompe l'oeil pattern on your patio? How about the confidence to build your dream kitchen...over an indoor swimming pool? Well, TOH readers Alan Schackner and David McKenney certainly did! And for that, they, along with five other extraordinary homeowners, take top prizes in this, our second annual Moxie Awards. Their steely nerves and unflagging perseverance left us awestruck—and, more important, earned them a place here so that you, too, can be inspired by their stories.
Who: Ryan Paget
Where: Lawrence, KS
Moxie Measure: Ryan, a high-school teacher, knew that creating his dream kitchen for just $15,000 would be one of his toughest assignments yet. So instead of relaxing during his summer vacation, he hunkered down with some how-to books and schooled himself in construction. Looking for a thrifty alternative to a stone countertop, Ryan decided to make his own out of concrete. He built a 12-foot-long wood mold for the slab top, then invited his dad over to help him mix and pour the concrete. After smoothing and leveling the surface with a trowel, he let the concrete cure before using a diamond polishing pad to give the counter a mirror-like shine. He did us proud.
Who: Kim Vela
Where: Littleton, CO
Moxie Measure: How to get the look of swing-out carriage-style wood garage doors when your budget only allows for steel overheads? With paint, of course. Or so thought this young mom, who tried in vain to get a pro to faux finish her doors with a raised-panel-and-cross-buck motif. When none were willing to take on the project, Kim resolved to do it herself. After trolling the Internet for step-by-steps and refining her design and color palette on a sample panel offered up by the garage-door retailer, she seized the precious hours when her twin 2-year-olds were napping to work on her doors. The project took about five months, but the results are so realistic, even the neighbors were fooled.
Who: Laurie Rayborn
Where: Harrison, MI
Moxie Measure: When Laurie wanted to sheathe the niche for her woodstove with fieldstone, she didn't run to a mason or even a stone yard. No, that would have been too easy—and expensive. Instead, she built a new wood frame, dug and hauled heavy stones straight from her yard, then spent three months mortaring them in place. The hearth is now the perfect cozy centerpiece. And it cost her only $200 in materials.
Who: Alan Schackner
Where: Peoria, AZ
Moxie Measure: A 92-year-old World War II veteran and former globe-trekking harmonica player, Alan is used to challenges. So when his 538 square feet of poured concrete patios and walkways needed a makeover, he knew he was the best man for the job.
Grinder in hand, Alan carved grooves in the shape of individual pavers and finished each paver with one of eight shades of earth-hued paint. It took 12 weeks, working under the hot Arizona sun, but now Alan proudly shares his innovative how-to when visitors admire his “pavers” and ask for his contractor's name.
Who: David McKenney
Where: Richmond, VA
Moxie Measure: The prohibitively high cost of hiring a pro to repair his deteriorating indoor swimming pool dampened David's spirits until he decided to do away with the watery albatross and create a combo great room and kitchen in its place. After consulting with a few engineers, he set to work on the dramatic conversion himself. On his to-do list: drain thousands of gallons of water with a sump pump, dig French drains, and build a stable platform using load-bearing trusses. It took a year of nights and weekends, but the new room is his family's favorite hangout.
Who: Stephanie and Marcy Miller
Where: Berwyn, IL
Moxie Measure: It was a heart-wrenching decision for Stephanie to demo the upstairs bathroom, her daughter Marcy's safe haven. The 11-year-old is autistic and found long soaks in the tub therapeutic. Problem was, the room was in such dire need of rehab that mushrooms were sprouting through the floor. To help Marcy cope, Stephanie took her to every lumberyard and bath store so that she could pick the materials and fixtures. Expanding the space to fit a stall shower and a new soaker tub helped create a peaceful oasis the whole family—especially Marcy—now enjoys.
Who: Matt Bernazzoli
Where: Bakerton, WV
Moxie Measure: For 30-year-old Matt, this 1903 Colonial was the project of a lifetime. As a kid, he used to gaze at the house through the school-bus window and imagine what it would be like to live in it one day. But when he was finally old enough—and financially stable enough—to buy the house, it was in rough shape. Dismissing doubters' calls to bulldoze it, Matt jumped into a restoration. He put in a year and a half of work and all his savings just to improve the house enough to get a bank loan and insurance. After three more years, and with lots of free labor from his dad, Jeff, and family friend Jim, he's finally realized his boyhood dream.
Who: Becky and Christian Fittro
Where: Middlebury, IN
Moxie Measure: When Becky and Christian Fittro started remodeling their 100-year-old home, it seemed like a full kitchen remodel just wouldn't fit into the young couple's budget. But then Mark's inner Deal Man came to the rescue. On top of doing much of the labor himself, including ripping our cabinets and refinishing pine floors, Christian honed his ability to sniff out a bargain. The best deal he made? Right before Christmas, he managed to get a whole set of stainless steel Whirlpool appliances (including Becky's much-wanted dishwasher) for $1,500—. Plus, he did the project at superhuman speed. In just three weeks, he had new cabinets, countertops, appliances and paint for just $7,000.
Who: Leslie Bivens
Moxie Measure: The cedar shingles on Leslie's beautiful 1921 Foursquare were cracked, decaying and hanging by a thread. So she set off to restore the entire exterior. She replacing shingles beyond repair with the help of her friend Brad, then turned her attention to the layers paint covering the rest. Armed with a scraper and a heat gun, she started stripping the two-story house in the dead of summer. After countless hours, lots of elbow grease, and a few scorched fingers, the remaining old siding was ready for primer. Two years in from when she first started working on the exterior, there's now just one more side of the house left to paint.
Who: George Winkelmann
Where: Akron, OH
Moxie Measure: Even die-hard remodelers would have had second thoughts about taking on the 1906 molded-concrete-block farmhouse in the state that George found it. The house had been abandoned for about 20 years and severely vandalized. All the windows were broken and doors kicked off their hinges with broken jambs. There was no heat, electricity, water, sewer or septic. Oh, and the roof leaked. Still, undeterred, George and his wife gutted the house down to the studs, saving door jambs, doors, and the home's tongue-and-groove floors. Then they re-roofed, replaced all the windows, and put in new HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. With new drywall and wood trim milled to match the originals, they planned to move in this spring of 2010.
Who: Dave Ketelson
Where: Sharpsburg, GA
Moxie Measure: One day, Dave told his wife that he was going to clear out some trees to build an outdoor fireplace and a pond. She said, "you don't know how!" His reply? "You're right, but that won't stop me." And it sure didn't. Now, his home's yard boasts a grand stone outdoor kitchen.
Who: Mark C.
Where: League City, TX
Moxie Measure: If replacing one window is considered a job for an advanced DIYer, replacing 11 gives Mark a well-earned notch on his toolbelt. After first researching all the local codes and comparing them to manufacturers' test reports, Mark then proceeded to do the dirty work. He would replace one window a weekend—including three 4-by-8 foot ones and one of the second story—weather permitting. He took out the old windows and added fiberglass insulation. Figuring out how to caulk each window while not letting the spacer fall out took forethought and choreography. And while it was a trial-and-error process (as shown by the picture above), Mark didn't give up and call a contractor. In fact, he even went an extra step, adding new casings and molding to give his windows a handsome look.