By Sherri Richards, Published January 17 2003
This bold house: Hogens' not-so-quick fix proves to be worth the effortBuffalo, N.D.
Rodney and Bernie Hogen are big fans of TV shows like "This Old House" and "Hometime."
"One thing you learn is when you watch these programs, things go pretty fast. When you do it in real life, it takes a long time," Rodney says.
He speaks from experience.
It has taken four years, but the Hogens transformed what was a 1940s railroad shack into a 3,900-square-foot home.
"It's amazing," Bernie says. "He has done so much work, it's just unbelievable, to have this vision."
When the Hogens bought their home in 1992, it cost $6,000 and measured 750 square feet.
"That's the size of our bedroom now," Rodney says.
The house originally had two bedrooms, a bathroom, small kitchen and what Rodney describes as a three-person living room.
"The fourth person sat on the floor," he says.
Now, the living room is the focal point of the home, with a 22-foot cathedral ceiling, a fireplace and large windows.
It's also Bernie's favorite part of the house.
"It just feels so homey," she says.
Rodney, a farmer who has little construction experience, did most of the work.
Bernie bought him books on renovation projects, and tools, including an air nail gun, saw and staple gun.
"Anytime there was a birthday, Father's Day, Christmas, he got a tool," she says.
Neighbors pitched in, some unwittingly as they walked by to see the progress.
"People didn't get by here. I stopped them," he says.
"If they stopped for more than 10 seconds, he'd hand them a hammer," says Bernie, who describes her role in the project as "management."
From the bottom up
Renovation started in the basement, turning brick walls and a dirt floor into a finished office and bathroom.
In October 1998, they started work on a 16-by-16-foot sunroom, adding it on to the back of the house.
The next fall, the entry and siding were torn off the front and west side of the house. The roof's slant was altered, a porch added and the house extended on the west side for a new bedroom closet.
In October 2001, the Hogens started the most ambitious of their projects, adding another basement, two-car garage, living room and a 14-step open stairway that leads to their new loft bedroom.
"We were just going to add on an attached garage," Bernie says. "It kind of built up from there."
The project wasn't without challenges. In November 2001, Rodney was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
"There were some days I couldn't hold a hammer because my hand hurt so much," Rodney says. "Things got frustrating because you just couldn't do it."
He hired professionals to do the shingling, windows and Sheetrocking.
And Rodney would talk to employees at the lumberyard for advice.
Rodney and Bernie say that most people can take on a project like they did.
"If you have a wonderful community and a husband who knows what he's doing, I'd say go for it," Bernie says.
All said, Rodney guesses the renovation increased the value of their house 20 times.
They do have some words of advice. "When you do a renovating project, one of the biggest challenges, you better have a pretty good marriage," Rodney jokes.
But Bernie says Rodney was laid back and stayed in good humor. "I don't think I've ever seen him get mad," she says.
Time for fishing
Looking around the house, Rodney shakes his head.
"When you're doing it, it doesn't seem like a lot of work at the time. You see progress," he says. "It's more work than what you think.
"This winter I don't want to do a thing. I want to go fishing."
In his diary, Rodney has marked Dec. 19, 2002, as the day the house was finished. "But when is your house ever done?" he asks.
In fact, Rodney already has a project in mind -- to tear down two old storage sheds in the back of the home.
"You can do anything to an old house," Rodney says. "Anything is possible when it comes to renovating."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525