For Joe and Colleen Bammann, the eleventh remodel may be the charm.
By Karen Mitchell
Over the years, the DIY couple has remodeled several previous homes. With no prior construction skills, the Bammanns started off merely painting but quickly graduated to installing skylights, kitchen counters, cabinets, flooring and landscapes, and even designing and constructing rooms.
Their latest project is a total remodel of their 3,400-square-foot ranch home that has taken them five years. With three grown children and artful pursuits, the couple says working on their home is a labor of love—literally.
“Joe is a photographer and stained-glass artist, whose pieces are around the house and garden,” Colleen says. “I make fiber cards and art quilts. We both have lots of interests, but renovating is what we do together, so we loved the time spent together remodeling this house.”
The Bammanns found their home by a fluke. “We were having a hard time finding just the right new place,” Colleen says. “We wanted a ranch-style house on at least an acre, with a view and a garage.” Joe, an IT professional and former IBM project manager, had been scouring real estate listings and stumbled across a farm listing. The 5-acre property near Erie backs up to 200 acres of state-owned land with endless prairie and mountain views. It also has a large garage for the couple’s car collection, which includes a 1965 Ford Mustang fastback and a Shelby Cobra replica that Joe built by hand.
But the home was woefully outdated and in need of repair. The Bammanns were the perfect match for the place, Colleen says, because “it felt good, and we didn’t see the work ahead.” Although they only added a 120-square-foot sunroom and enclosed part of the back porch, the Bammanns’ hard labor throughout completely transformed the home and the landscape.
Big Room, Big Heart
Before moving in, Joe ripped out the carpeting and discovered subfloor underneath. “We scattered Oriental rugs around until we installed the flooring,” Colleen says. The couple eventually installed ¾-inch oak hardwood floors by themselves, and then painted all four bedrooms, three in a light gray. “I wanted something neutral and calming, especially since I quilt in one of the bedrooms,” Colleen says. They opted for beige in the master bedroom and main living areas, similar to a shade they’d seen in show homes.
The Bammanns say “the big room”—a 900-square-foot family room—is the heart of their home, and they opted to fully remodel it. They realized they needed advice, so the DIY couple enlisted Gerry Karnish of Karnish Interiors LCC in Boulder. “Gerry had great ideas and listened to our needs. He understood our budget and the fact that we were doing it ourselves,” Colleen says. “We can’t thank him enough.”
With western and southern exposures, the big room was perfect for capitalizing on passive solar, Colleen says. So they took the fireplace surround down to 5 feet and installed a large rectangular Pella window above it for a direct view of Longs Peak. They also replaced the windows on either side of the fireplace with larger, energy-efficient models to bring in the views and sunlight, and repurposed part of the original kitchen’s oak floor into the fireplace mantel.
The 26-foot-long galley kitchen was boxed off and had only one window over the sink. “You had to lean to see out of it,” Colleen says. They installed skylights, new lighting, granite countertops and an island with a range. They purchased the granite at Costco and had Denver’s Front Range Granite & Marble cut it to fit. They also reconfigured the kitchen by moving the refrigerator and cutting a hole in the wall where it had stood to make a doorway to the new sunroom they added on. Joe designed the room with west-facing windows to let in views and light, and a peaked roof to lend interest to the profile.
Far as the Eye Can See
Perhaps the most visually significant improvement is the home’s siding. The Bammanns replaced the original rusty metal siding with new wood siding in “prairie dust” hues. “Sometimes it looks gray, sometimes tan, according to the weather,” Colleen says. “It changed the whole look of the house.”
The landscaping was another major project, as the lot had only one tree in the front yard and the entire acreage was simply dirt and weeds. With help from daughters Lindsey and Amanda, and support from son Josh, “we put down grass seed and gravel, and planted trees, bushes and flowers,” Colleen says. “We dug holes and planted 50 shrubs and 50 trees from the CSU Extension in Longmont. If you have more than 2 acres, you can get seedlings there for about a dollar apiece.”
The Bammanns got landscaping rocks by scouring Craigslist, and hauled off a lot of free ones from folks who just wanted the rocks off their property. Joe added an outdoor deck and recycled the big room’s old windows for the patio’s glassed-in porch. “We tried to reuse or repurpose everything we ripped out,” Colleen says, including the oak flooring in the original kitchen, most of which they sold on Craigslist. “Someone bought it to install in their kitchen, so it got reused,” Joe says.
Throughout the remodel, they gathered inspiration at every opportunity. “Each time we looked at Boulder County Home & Garden Magazine and got an idea from it, we said, ‘If they can do it, we can do it,’” Colleen says. “We took so many little ideas from each issue, including how to plant to attract the good bees—not wasps—and other ideas about furniture placement, rugs and window treatments.”
Although their cozy remodeled home makes the work look easy, remodeling is always a challenge, the Bammanns admit, with all the research, searching for deals, thinking and talking, and heavy lifting and moving. “I have to say it was the hardest five years of my life,” Colleen says, “but the best five years working with my partner for life.”
The secret, Joe says, is to keep pushing forward. “Whatever it is will still be waiting for you tomorrow,” he says. He’s already at work remodeling the master bath. He plans to install new flooring, walls and cabinets, and add a new shower. He’s fixed the leaky skylight and refinished an 1890 nickel-foot cast-iron tub they bought to be the room’s centerpiece. But he’s taking it slowly, he jokes, because “the house will be done and then it will be time to move again.”
You’d think that after all that work, moving would be the last thing on this couple’s mind, but, “we may live here for 10 years, or sell next year,” Colleen says with a shrug. “You get a feeling in your heart when it’s time to go.”