Adding a personal touch

A Smithsburg couple's DYI projects makes their home space uniquely their own.

A Smithsburg couple's DYI projects makes their home space uniquely their own.

October 18, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

SMITHSBURG - When Ken Kilheffer was younger he wanted to go into carpentry.

Instead he became a pastor.

Since he and his wife, Sari, bought her brother's former home on North Main Street in May 2000, Kilheffer has had plenty of opportunities to put his amateur carpentry skills to work.

The bathroom needed major work and walls needed to be fixed. The couple needed shelving installed in a storage room and wanted to refresh the sealed fireplace's decor.

The couple hired professionals to do the big jobs such as putting on a new roof, tearing down a load-bearing wall between the dining and living rooms, and spraying liquid siding on the exterior of the brick home.


But they tackled a lot of the projects themselves, often making greater use of nooks and crannies in a house built circa 1850, that has a little more than 1,000 square feet.

Update the tiling

The fireplace in the living room had been sealed and the facing was covered with marbled black linoleum.

Sari, 72, likes checkerboard patterns and cobalt blue is one of her favorite colors. When she couldn't find 2-inch cobalt blue ceramic tiles, she had a store cut 4-inch tiles into 2-inch pieces.

Then Sari, a quilter, laid the tiles on the dining room table in the checkerboard pattern she wanted.

Ken, 70, removed the linoleum, scraped off the glue residue and used tile cement to adhere the tiles to the Sheetrock, doing small groups of tiles at a time. He jacked wood up to brace the top and sides of the fireplace opening so the tiles would be straight. He also painted the inside of the fireplace with black latex paint.

Eric Peifer, owner of Burkholder's Floor Coverings on Pennsylvania Avenue north of Hagerstown, said that if someone with a working fireplace wanted to tile the facing, ceramic tile would work.

Homeowners can apply tile directly to the brick or concrete block of the fireplace, but if they need to add depth to bring the facing out farther into the room, use cement board. Standard wallboard will be affected by heat.

Get more advice on tiling from hardware store staff or from home-improvement books.

If tiling the hearth, Burkholder recommends using porcelain tile because it's harder and won't chip or crack as easily as ceramic tile if a log drops onto the tile.

So ugly, it was a contest entry

When the Kilheffers bought the home, they still lived in Minnesota. They visited the Smithsburg house during the summers of 2001 and 2002 to work on renovation projects. They moved in during August 2003.

One of their projects was the bathroom, which Sari said she entered in an ugly bathroom contest. The room is approximately 5 feet by 8 feet with a shower. There was a narrow space, about a foot wide, between the outer wall and the shower in which Ken built open shelving. He attached metal strips to the sides so the shelves can be moved.

He had to rebuild the subfloor after removing the existing, rotted floor. On the new subfloor, he laid out peel-and-stick tile. Around the lower half of the walls, he put Jubilee white ice beaded wall panel that is wooden, but has a plastic coating.

Sari wallpapered the top half of the walls.

Finding space for storage

The couple turned a small room upstairs into a storage room. Ken built deep shelving on which plastic tubs and framed photos, paintings and cross-stitch projects can be stored. Each frame is wrapped in a muslin case Sari made.

In the large bedroom upstairs, a wall was bulging so they knocked the plaster out. They discovered the studs were made of a tree that had been split in thirds, the bark still on. Where some of the branches had been sawed off were knobs that had made the plaster bulge. They replaced the wall with Sheetrock.

Downstairs, the removal of the wall between the dining and living room opened up the floor plan and allowed in more light.

An old window frame in the wall between the dining room and the master bedroom had been sealed up.

Ken removed the Sheetrock, which allowed in even more light from the master bedroom to the dining room. There was already shelving in the window frame and Ken used chicken wire for the backing. The shelves hold books and Sari's cobalt blue glassware collection.

To hold the chicken wire up, Ken put quarter-inch wood around the edges and covered the wood with window molding.

"I'm just a novice, not a professional contractor, so everything might not be straight," Ken said.

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