Fixing up a fixer-upper

by Steve Guntli
Sitting side by side, the two cottages already look like before and after photos. One, with its weather-beaten white paint, represents the potential, and the other, painted a rich sea-foam green with meticulous white trim, shows the potential realized.Renovation_SG-1

The two cottages, located at 350 and 352 Martin Street, are investment projects for Kristin Engerman, an interior designer who runs InteriorARTS in Blaine. Along with her husband, Engerman is converting the run-down 19th century cottages into charming rental properties.

The properties have posed a number of challenges. The cottages have been in Blaine since the late 1800s, when they served as housing for fishermen and cannery workers, and the years have not been particularly kind to them. The elements had stripped off the paint, the yards were overgrown and an old rotting woodshed out back was taking up space. In addition to these aesthetic issues, the age of the houses meant they would need to be checked for asbestos, lead paint and outdated insulation.

Despite these challenges, the properties have come a long way. After a little less than a year, 352 Martin Street is ready to rent and 350 will be finished within the next few months.

Engerman offered some advice for anyone considering renovating a property of their own, beginning with the biggest issue facing any fixer-upper property:

“After purchasing a home, the first concern is always water,” she said. “It can do a lot of damage. In our climate, gutters and roof are the biggest concern. A clogged gutter can cause all sorts of trouble.”

Engerman consulted with an electrician and a plumber before purchasing the property, since plumbing and wiring tend to be the biggest expenses when remodeling.

She also recommends having a professional designer take a look at the space before beginning any remodel, especially on any do-it-yourself projects.

“Costly mistakes can be avoided,” she said. “Even if you plan to do much of the project yourself, a designer can give guidance as to the order in which to do things, product suggestions and ways to save money.”

If you’re not afraid of a little hard work, you can cut costs dramatically. Use internet resources like YouTube and Craigslist for how-to videos and low-cost building materials, or visit local stores like the Habitat for Humanity Store or ReStore for quality recycled

“Blaine has not caught up to the housing costs of the surrounding areas,” Engerman said. “It is such a charming location and it’s moving in the right direction. There are many opportunities to help the community by improving these types of homes to their original charm. The neighbors will thank you, too.”

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