Jeff and Malaura Werling knew they had a lot of work ahead of them when they bought their house at 721 51st St. in Des Moines.
“The house was in pretty rough shape,” says Jeff.
It had no air conditioning.Stained beige carpet covered hardwood floors. There was no garage — only a broken pad of concrete. And the main level looked as though someone had spraypainted it white.
But they were not intimidated by the Tudor-style brick built in 1926. Malaura says they wanted a project house they could fix themselves.
“I come from a do-it-yourself family,” she says, adding that her parents had her dry-walling and shingling as a child. “We’re not afraid to do the work.”
The couple was immediately drawn to the house because of its exterior look. The mortar oozes out from the bricks instead of being flush or recessed, and the bricks have bumps and texture as opposed to the perfect brick used for many brick homes.
The Werlings bought the house in September 2008. They spent the next year living in their old house in the Waveland neighborhood while they renovated the Tudor: air conditioning was installed, the kitchen was gutted down to the studs and remodeled, hardwood floors were refinished, they hired a friend to help them build a garage, and they painted.
“You get to put your print on it,” Jeff says. “Instead of someone else’s work, you can say ‘This is stuff we did.’ ”
The house was liveable enough right before the school year began in 2009.
The Werlings had always wanted a brick Tudor house, as it was the one house style they both liked. Jeff estimates they looked at hundreds of houses in the 21 years they searched for a home until they came across the one on 51st Street.
An elderly woman had lived in the home and had not been able to maintain it very well in her final years. Others who saw the house were turned off immediately by the lack of air conditioning and no garage, and even commented there was too much work to do.
The Werlings say they still have a long to-do list of things for their home. Currently, they’re having a new roof put on the house and are making a family room in their basement. They would still like to remodel their upstairs bathrooms and strip the white paint from the woodwork.
“We’re putting one thing on our list at a time,” Jeff says.