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Do-it-yourself owners give old house new life

By Staff
Cliff Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Seeing the potential in a rundown old house that has to be repaired before it can be moved is one thing but doing what has to be done to restore it to its original condition is a different matter. Jeff Davis and Bill Boone know the difference. They’ve been there and done that.
In January two years ago, Davis and Boone took on the biggest challenge they had ever faced when they purchased an old unoccupied and weather beaten two-story frame house located just off Highway 31 North. A condition of the deal was that it would have to be torn down or moved.
It was screaming for help and we couldn’t stand to see it go. We tracked down the owners, Doug Barnett and Shane Swann, and put $50 down and asked them to hold it for us”
Before they closed the deal, Hollis Kennedy House Movers in Athens was approached about moving the house. An inspection revealed that the structure was moveable under certain conditions. A one-room addition on the back was not salvageable and would have to be removed; some termite-damaged siding would have to be replaced; two chimneys would have to come down; a permit would have to be obtained from the State Department of Transportation; and an agreement would have to be reached with electric; telephone and TV cable providers.
The next challenge they faced was getting a financial institution to lend them the money they needed to buy the lot, move the house and complete their restoration project.
Meanwhile, Davis and Boone worked every hour they could spare getting their house ready to move. A permit was obtained from ALDOT to move the house and an agreement was reached with Joe Wheeler Co-op to move the necessary power lines thanks to the help of U. S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, David Gamble, head of the Alabama Historical Society and former State Senator Tommy Ed Roberts.
The house created quite a spectacle on May 10, 2005, as it was pulled from its original foundation and began a 1.1 mile trek south on Highway 31 and then east on Peach Orchard Road to its new site. It reached a height of 42 feet and required electric linemen to detach and lift power lines to a height of 45 feet to allow for safe passage.
The do-it-yourselfers learned early on that you never know what challenge might lie ahead when you’re restoring an old house.
They found bees living in the outside wall of an upstairs room and had to get rid of them before they could proceed with their work. This required the help of a beekeeper. A 48” section of a plastered wall was removed before the process of removing them could begin.
Davis and Boone estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the labor that went into their restoration project was done by themselves. From framing walls to sheet rock hanging and installing insulation to painting, they spent every spare minute they could find over a six-month period working on their house.
They hired Tracy Steele to rebuilt the chimneys and fireplaces, Hoyt Taylor to repair plaster and finish sheet rock and Craig Terry to do the interior finishing work.
Then, they want to know if they can look inside.”

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