Blood, Sweat, and Cheers

A Shack by any other Name...

A shack by any other name would be as sweet (apologies to one Mr. Shakespeare). Our Love Shack is sweet all right, but it's a lot of work to make it our kind of sweet. As promised, we're back with some details, but mostly pictures because there's still a lot of work to be done. And the sooner we get it done, the sooner we can get to the beach, and back to the Caribbean as well. (We do have a trip planned to go back to Vieques this summer - can't wait!)

We'll do a few of these posts, as things progress and we find time to document it all - hope you like it.

As we said before, this is not a fancy beachfront house. It's a modest place, only a couple blocks from the beach. This has some challenges (salt spray, storms, etc.) but the benefits far outweigh them, in our opinion. We bought the place in mid-September and signed with a contractor the same day, knowing he was a few weeks out from even starting.

The Love Shack is a little old place...
The Love Shack is a little old place...

The house was built in 1962 and much to my relief, it has drywall instead of a lath and plaster wall finish. It even has ground wires in its wiring and outlets - so it can meet modern building codes for safety. The house I grew up in, near here, was 4 years older and had lath & plaster walls, and no grounds in the wiring. Somehow we all survived it.

There were also cast iron drain pipes in this house, which needed replaced before we would move in. Deb's requirement* for buying the place was to do something with the tiny, cave-like "Florida Room". A Florida Room is basically a sun room, often added on to these small houses to provide extra square footage, more breezes and more light. But ours was none of that and we aimed to solve this and the pipes with the help of the contractor.

* Deb didn't have many requirements, if you read the Love Shack post, you know I didn't have to talk her into this place!

The Master Bedroom

The contractor couldn't start right away, but we could, so we jumped into the master bedroom to start. Well, we jumped in, but first, we had a toast to our good fortune! Woohoo!

For practical reasons, we wanted to start in the back of the house and work our way to the front. To move out of our rental and into the house we had a simple plan - get a place to sleep (our job) and a working bathroom (contractor's job). All our belongings fit in the car, so we wouldn't have any issues with "moving day". The master BR had a bunch of moisture issues, and the inevitable mold in the walls. We are not sensitive to mold and that's a good thing. You can't have a 60 year old house in Florida without some mold in it somewhere. We just removed drywall until we stopped seeing mold, and then rebuilt it and finished it all off.

We're all classy like that
We're all classy like that

We also paint-washed the wood floors, trying to create the impression of an old dock. The gray color shifted toward blue as we put it on, and it came out looking more sleek and modern - we love it. There is terrazzo underneath the wood, but we didn't want to tackle that restoration job just yet. We replaced the broken tile window sills (original) with solid quartz, and added an architectural feature wall. We also replaced the old bathroom door with a neat laser-cut faux shutter door made in Brazil. A little furniture, a little art, and Bob's your uncle.

From those before & during pictures, we got to this point in the Master. We are very happy how it turned out.

As for the contractor's part, it was about turning the Florida Room into something great (adding windows, light, and breezes) and fixing those cast iron drain pipes.

They were corroded and pinching down on themselves, the plumbing version of clogged arteries. The laundry pipe wouldn't even drain, and the kitchen was the next worst. The bathrooms were better, but this was out one chance to get it all done without trying to live there through it all. This meant cutting and jack-hammering concrete in the garage (for the laundry) and in the main bath. The bath job was huge but starting from there allowed access to it's own pipes, the kitchen pipes on one side, and the master bath pipes on the other side. They actually dug, from the main bath, about 3' underneath the master bath wall and floor, to replace those pipes. We'll get into all that in another post, it's a big deal.

The Other Bedrooms

The other two bedrooms were in better shape, but had similar issues with drywall and window sills (a couple of which we haven't yet replaced). They also have the same flooring, so we did all of them at the same time.

One of the bedrooms is now the workout room, which is mostly a zen yoga space, but has some free weights and PT stretching/strengthening bands (which we both need after all this manual labor!).

The other bedroom is our guest room and is the least functional, unless you consider storage a good function. I guess we do, but only as a temporary measure. We had planned to do another feature wall in there, with horizontal wood and attached shelves for built-in nightstands. Then Deb saw something very, very similar in an online Marketplace ad, used but already assembled. It looks like it came from Ikea. We looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Good enough". So that needs installed and then we can start putting that room together.

Here's how those rooms turned out, although admittedly they are not really "done done". They're not trimmed out for one thing, although the rest of the house is in the same shape - there's hardly a stick of trim in the entire place. We'll do that all at once, or at least in large batches, not just room by room.

There we were, with 3 bedrooms finished (enough) but no bathroom, so we still couldn't move in. The contractor was moving slower than expected (it was going to be two weeks, remember?), but we were pushing as much as we could. We'll get into the bathrooms in our next installment, and believe me, it's worth the wait. It's quite a thing!

To date, we've only shed a little blood, but a lot of sweat. And we'll continue to toast cheers every chance we get. To be honest, the bedrooms were the "boring" part of the renovation, so it'll get more interesting soon. Looking ahead, this post is the first of several, as we go through the house wall by wall and floor by floor, so don't touch that dial. We'll be back soon with more.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: The first song Jimmy Buffet ever wrote in Key West, "I Have Found Me A Home". "You can have the rest of everything I own, cuz I have found me a home." Yes we have, we certainly have.


  1. Paul B on February 26, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Thanks, Norm, looks like you all are making outstanding progress.

    • Norm Pyle on February 26, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Thanks Paul, that’s just the start of it. We have so many pictures it takes time to pull out the useful ones. I don’t think you all need to see 7 shots of the electrical panel, you know, just because I love it. 🙂

  2. Kevlar on February 26, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Rewatching Tom Hanks and Shelly Long in the movie “Money Pit” should be required viewing before any renovation. Every contractor throughout the movie estimates ‘two weeks’, and then everyone has a great laugh.

    That said, my mid-kitchen-renovation has just been interrupted by an urgent partial bathroom renovation. Guess I’ll learn to like using the guest bath, in the basement utility room.

    Thanks for sharing so many pics – very motivational/reassuring!

    • Norm Pyle on February 26, 2021 at 11:36 am

      I agree Kevlar! When we moved in here, we were just happy to have a bathroom. Actually, a two-bath place was one of our very few real requirements. I lived in a one bath house in the islands and that day I had to take the toilet off was a big stressful. Two baths, please and thank you, haha!

    • Deb on February 27, 2021 at 10:09 am

      We felt like we better wait till the contractor was out of our lives to watch it! He’s gone now… it’s time.

  3. Oscar Herrera on February 26, 2021 at 11:05 am

    Great progress you too. Stay Safe
    — Oscar H.

    • Norm Pyle on February 26, 2021 at 11:37 am

      Thanks Oscar. I’ve said all along, if I end up getting the Rona, I got it at Lowes. It’s the once constant in our lives.

  4. Matthew D on February 26, 2021 at 11:06 am

    That looks like a great place. What a journey and an adventure!!!!

    • Norm Pyle on February 26, 2021 at 11:39 am

      Thanks Matthew! We decided we had one more big remodel in us. We didn’t realize exactly how big that was going to be until we were knee deep in it, but here we are. It’s good though!

    • Deb on February 27, 2021 at 10:08 am

      Thanks! We love it so much. It’s really starting to show our style now…..can’t wait to show everyone the rest of the house.

  5. Diana Drake on February 26, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Hi- glad u both r happily moving but not sure exactly where this house is ? I want 2 go 2 Vieques asap n value your advice. Pls send future posts 2 xxxxxxx – I’m fed up with Comcast n will lose their email when I cancel their other services thx.

    • Norm Pyle on February 26, 2021 at 11:55 am

      Hi Diana, I removed your email from your comment because that is public. But I did change your address in our list. This house is in Florida, in the Melbourne area. We decided it is better to “launch” trips from here than from the small islands.
      PS. In my experience, Comcast will allow you to keep your email address for free, forever. I still have mine and haven’t had Comcast in 10 years. That said, you can take a gmail address anywhere.

      • Diana Drake on February 26, 2021 at 12:26 pm

        Thx 4 the Comcast info. Pls realize u will feel the cold more after u have lived in Florida a few winters! I have central heat n ran it in December n Jan most days this winter I do not like 2 b shut in so I just open house up n avoid AC….trees keep me comfortable enoug n break high winds . As a beach person, I just inhale your beach blog- – been 2 Grenada – prefer Caye Caulker – 4beaches/water Bahamas r my favorite but 2 cold 7months of the year – easy hop from your new home- will buy u2 lunch at my favorite place on MB when u r down here. Best of Everything 2u

  6. LISA HOWARD on February 26, 2021 at 11:58 am

    So happy for ya’ll…We are on the count down and definitely decided to do Florida instead of Puerto Rico…we are loving the Cape Coral and Sarasota areas. Where did ya’ll land? I am sure you posted the city but for the life of me I can remember! Happy home renovating!!!

    • Diana Drake on February 26, 2021 at 12:34 pm

      Hi y did u choose Florida over PR – did u visit Vieques or Cuelbra – text or call if u prefer 2 talk off line or email but it’s not read daily thx

    • Norm Pyle on February 27, 2021 at 6:48 am

      Hi Lisa, we landed on the east coast, in the Melbourne area. We love it here!

    • Deb on February 27, 2021 at 10:07 am

      That’s cool, those are nice areas!

  7. Don Nohavec on February 26, 2021 at 3:04 pm


    Please post a list of STUFF that you and Deb are able to live on…that will fit in your car! I want to start planning for that ????.

    If it’s already posted, I can dog back through your blogs.

    Thanks as always for the awesome posts, and have a great weekend.

    • Norm Pyle on February 27, 2021 at 7:59 am

      There is always one guy, ONE GUY, who has to ask the hard questions! OK, I’m going to try to answer this, as best I can.

      Let’s see, it starts with our two small dogs and their beds, fold-up kennel, and travel bag. Then we had clothes and shoes inside of two big rolling duffels (and two carry duffels). Note, our clothes are all “smaller” than what you wear in cold country (esp. Debs’). 🙂 A couple of sun hats. We had a bike rack on the back that we used to hold our push carts for golf, and a roof bag that held two golf bags, plus a lot of other stuff. Half a dozen disc golf discs. Tools, two coolers, two fishing poles and a tackle box. Two yoga mats and a yoga roller.Beach towels, Pillows. Some blankets, including a couple of hand-made blankets from Deb’s friends. Two laptops, an iPad, two phones etc. Wifi router. A file box full of tax papers and other important papers. A bin full of snorkel gear for two. Wedding and funeral clothes (in garment bags). We had a bin full of keepsakes. And kitchen stuff: a few dishes, pans, utensils, our favorite knives, pint glasses, drink glasses. A few bottles of Colorado wine. We also brought along a couple dozen books that we’d acquired along the way.

      You’ll notice there are no really large items, except the golf bags. Everything else is squishable, and can go almost anywhere. No bikes, boards, power tools, etc. (those came later!), but the main point here is that Deb is the absolute Queen of packing a car. There is nobody better and I’m willing to fight you over that. 🙂

      Hope this helps your future planning!

  8. Amy on February 26, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    Nice work! Brings back memories of watching Trading Spaces with you guys.

    • Norm Pyle on February 27, 2021 at 8:03 am

      Ha, that’s a good memory! We got the reno disease from Trading Spaces. Now we’ve passed it on to our son Zack. 🙂

  9. Brookes Ubersox on February 27, 2021 at 9:52 am

    I just love you two much. So incredibly awesome! Soxie and I can’t wait to come visit!

    • Deb on February 27, 2021 at 10:06 am

      Awe, that’s sweet! We love you guys a ton. You’re welcome anytime!

  10. Christy on February 27, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Love your minimalist Island lifestyle! Good luck with your renovations.

    • Norm Pyle on February 28, 2021 at 6:50 am

      Thanks Christy, we continue to live our version of minimalist. We especially make sure any physically large purchases make sense for our small house lifestyle. And sometimes we just need them, but plan to sell again later, like a big demolition hammer we bought for later projects. Thanks for your comments!

  11. Laurisa on February 28, 2021 at 12:26 am

    Looks like some great headway! Love the colors and full length headboard. Florida rooms are my absolute favorite. This summer we’re putting our stuff in storage to stay in more beachy outdoorsy places and both our rentals have Florida rooms – it’s a must for me at this point! Can’t wait to see how yours turns out!

    • Norm Pyle on February 28, 2021 at 6:51 am

      Thank you Laurisa. We have that (Florida Room) to show you in the blog soon!

    • Deb on February 28, 2021 at 8:39 am

      Sounds like you have some exciting plans for the summer. Enjoy???? I bet you won’t miss your stuff!

  12. Alouise on March 2, 2021 at 8:44 am

    Butch and Deb,

    You sound like very busy folks. Nice work on your projects.

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