Building a master suite is a great way to add value to your home. Krista and her husband needed more space as their children grew, so they converted a den and part of the living room into a master suite, including adding a ¼ bath.
Project: Building a master suite
Homeowner: Krista Lewis
Krista Lewis lives with her husband and two children in Concord, New Hampshire. In 2008 they owned a home on the south side of town. It was a 1,400 square foot, two-bedroom bungalow cape. One of the best features of the house was that the lot backed up to a city park. However, their son and daughter were getting older and it was clear that the kids needed their own space. Krista and her husband decided that building a master suite on the first floor would give everyone the space they needed.
Building a Master Suite – The Planning
Building a master suite meant taking over the 8×8 den on the first floor and knocking down a wall so they could also add a ¼ bath. The finished master suite would be approximately 17×12. Building a master suite could have been a pricey endeavor, so keeping the expenses down was a priority for Krista. She and her husband would be completing all the work themselves, and she shopped at a local discount home center for the bathroom fixtures and as many of the building materials as she could find.
Building a Master Suite – The Unexpected
The Lewises already knew the house had a history. One day while working in the front yard, an elderly gentleman stopped by and asked if he could see the house. He grew up there and regaled the family with stories of his mother keeping horses and using a water trough in the park.
When it came time to tear down the wall, they determined it was load-bearing and they had to adjust their plans for the bathroom accordingly. The history of the house became apparent during the demolition process. Documentation on the house says it was built in 1940, but there were notations on wood inside the house that dated back to the late 1800’s.
When they demolished the wall, they found a variety of wall coverings including:
- Multiple layers of paint.
- Wallpaper from the 1950’s.
- Horsehair plaster (drywall started to replace horsehair in the 1950s).
- Wood lath used to support the horsehair plaster.
Building A Master Suite – Challenges
The greatest challenge Krista and her husband faced when building a master suite was that nothing in the house was square or plumb. Nothing was straight. Nothing intersected at right angles. Shims were frequently employed as they framed and installed the new wall for the bathroom. That, combined with the revelation that the wall was load-bearing AND made of horsehair plaster, extended the project timeline significantly.
Building a Master Suite – Advice
“When working on an old house, just throw away your levels and your T-squares, and stock up on shims, lots of shims.” Krista says. She also recommends estimating the amount of time you think the project will take, and then double it for planning purposes. Lastly, when starting a project like this, expect the unexpected – horsehair plaster walls!
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Krista Lewis lives with her husband and two children in Concord, New Hampshire. Krista and her husband created a master bedroom suite on the first floor so their children could each have their own bedrooms.
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