Homeowners Laura Cook and David Hinman have unusual work schedules—his as a veterinarian and hers as a government employee that has taken her to distant countries.
Both are avid cyclists and have converted one of the home’s four bedrooms into a fitness room.
Hinman is a volunteer coach with Team in Training, which works with amateur cyclists to enable them to complete a century ride—100 miles—in one day, benefitting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Both volunteer with Border Collie Rescue. After years of working with the group, they found one they couldn’t resist. Her name is Jess and she is a one-year-old. The household also includes Hannah, a 14-year-old shepherd mix, as well as two cats. The most recent addition: a brood of six hens, now producing eggs daily for their enjoyment.
They have made time to nurture their land, recently establishing raised vegetable beds that take water collected in nearby rain barrels. And, room-by-room, they are renovating the home’s interior to reflect the spirit of its farmhouse beginnings. While they have used outside contractors for a new two-car garage and paver-stone patio, much of the interior work has been their own “sweat equity.”
Catonsville Patch: What do you know of the history of your home?
Laura Cook: The original farmhouse was built in 1890 and there was an addition in the 1920s. I found letters in the wall over time; one of which was from 1892, just two years after it was built, and another letter from 1922. Norman Higenhurst bought it in 1947. He kept the 23 acres and sold the house and two acres to another family.
Patch: What did the house look like when you bought it?
Cook: The entire front porch area was enclosed but the bones of the house were good. My ex-husband and I bought the property in December of 2001 and we split in 2005. David has been here since 2008 and we have been working on it together. We have actually made a lot more progress in the last four years than when I was working on it on my own.
Patch: How involved were you in the renovation process?
Cook: We’ve renovated the dining room, master bedroom, both upstairs baths, and the downstairs hall ourselves. We've done quite a bit outside, including garden beds in the front and a large veggie garden.
We haven’t tried to salvage most of the plaster because it is completely failed, crumbling. There is no insulation in the walls. The wiring is up to date—it’s not knob and tube anymore. But it’s insufficient. The rooms that haven’t been rehabbed have just a few outlets in them. So as we’ve done each room we have taken the plaster down, run new wiring, put up insulation and put in drywall.
We used Joe Hauser, a local contactor, who rehabbed the front porch, and also did the carpentry work in the dining room, which included adding pine paneled wainscoting, bulls-eye molding around the windows and doorframes. Tom with Fireside Stone and Patio put in a woodstove in the living room, which we love. We try to use local contractors whenever possible.
Hinman: The woodstove heats the entire house. We use four or five cords of wood per winter. We keep it going at night and when we are gone during the day. We have space heaters in the bathrooms. We do have back-up heat in the form of radiators but the woodstove probably provides the most heat.
Patch: Have you changed the footprint of the house?
Hinman: We added the garage. The little deck between was added on and a patio, but the structure of the house didn’t change.
Cook: Upstairs where the original two rooms were, I had a contractor come in and put on a new roof as it was leaking badly and raise the ceilings because those rooms were very low, about seven feet. We called it “the cave.”
Patch: Is there anything you would have done differently?
Hinman: Nothing big. There are things that you learn as you go along. I have helped renovate three different kitchens now. I completely redid one in Hunting Ridge; and the kitchen in a house before there and helped a friend with his kitchen.
Cook: When my ex and I first lived here we had a laundry room on the second floor. And now, we are planning to create a laundry center out of part of the side porch on the first floor so that we can use that upstairs space for a walk-in shower in the master bath. So we are now at the stage of redoing things that were done but that is kind of typical for a rehab.
Patch: What is your favorite feature of the house?
Cook: My favorite feature is the location in Catonsville, which allows us to be downtown in 15 minutes or in Ellicott City in a few minutes or at the airport in 20 minutes yet we are in an old house, which sits on two acres, with chickens and in a quiet setting.
Patch: What advice do you have for someone considering a renovation?
Cook: Patience. A friend of ours just bought a house in Catonsville and she is single mom and brand new to home ownership. So my advice to her is just don’t be afraid of the house. That’s the advice my brother gave me. Take a wall apart and see what’s in there. It’s just stuff all nailed together. There’s nothing scary about it.
Hinman: I started with a book on how to do home repair stuff, plumbing and just started tinkering. I always knew that I wasn’t going to do something so bad that I couldn’t pay someone to come and fix it. I talked to electricians who I had hired to come in and work. I saw what they did and I read and learned what you do and what you don’t do.
Cook: So we do a lot of our own electrical work but we hired an electrician to do the garage and run the 220-line for the hot tub. He also redid the electrical box for us because it was a mess after years of different projects. So we hire people for that level of work. Read, ask questions and don’t be afraid because there is nothing you can do that you can’t pay a professional to undo.
Patch: Where do you get your inspiration?
Cook: We are big fans of the DIY Network and This Old House. In fact, it was a segment on a DIY show where we learned about the flooring made from recycled wine corks. We knew we had to use. So that is the flooring for the first floor half-bath.
Patch: What is next on the list for renovation?
Cook: First is finishing the half bath, which will happen soon as we have the fixtures and the wine cork floor is already laid. Next project will be redoing the breakfast nook and creating a first-floor laundry center.
We tend to put off spaces you use all the time, like the kitchen, because it’s scary to think about being without a kitchen for a few months.
It is an evolving list, as one project tends to lead to another. The chicken coop came about because we had a chance to get chickens. So, David built the chicken coop, following a set of plans.