Church exterior

An Old Church Renovated Into A Beautiful New Home

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We’re very excited to share our first showcase post, and we’re starting it off with a reverent bang. A church renovation, no less. We’ve been following Neri and Robert Steele’s progress on their Facebook page Our Church Reno for a while now and we were thrilled when they agreed to be in our showcase. We present Neri and Robert’s Church Renovation:

Why Renovate?

When Neri and Robert retired, they knew they needed a project to keep them busy. 

They moved from a large busy town to a quiet, small country town in Ontario. This is where they found an interesting prospect in an old Pentecostal church. They bought the property in August 2018.

The church was originally built in 1885 in an adjacent town and was moved to its present location in 1945 when it had a small addition added to the front. 

How Do You Tackle Renovating a Church?

At just under 5,000 square feet, the layout of the church was very open, which allowed Neri and Robert a lot of options for designing their new home. They spent many hours at the drawing board, pouring over ideas and planning the perfect configuration for their new home. 

Neri considers Robert “the ultimate handyman who will give anything a go. If he doesn’t know how to do it, he’ll learn.” Pouring over YouTube videos and Google gave him the confidence to attempt anything.

The building itself was in great shape. It had good bones as they say. Neri and Robert transformed the open expanse of the church’s interior into a beautiful space with a large open living area including a kitchen, two guest rooms and a bathroom on the main floor. They created a beautiful master bedroom loft on the second floor with a walk-in closet, ensuite bathroom and a laundry room. (Everyone should have their laundry room near the master bedroom, don’t you agree?)

Interior before and after

Buzzing With Activity

When they bought the church, it’s chancel (front stage area) had dark wood panelling hiding the original brick walls. They chose to remove the panelling and expose the beautiful brick hidden behind.

As they began pulling the wood off the walls, they discovered years of old bees and wasp nests in the wall cavities.

Old bees nests behind the walls

Most of the nests were old and dried up, but when they pulled off the boards in one section, the wall started dripping.

Close up of the bees nests and honey combs

They’d discovered a fresh bee’s nest full of honey and honeycomb. Unfortunately, the honey was mixed with too much dirt from the walls and they could not save any of it.

Years of old bees nests and honey combs

Neri figures they must have shoveled up a million dead bees after the walls were removed. They had to clean and scrape up large sections of a sticky mess made up of honey mixed with dead bees and old nests.

Q & A With Neri

Renovating an old church is no small task. I was curious about the process and asked Neri a few questions regarding their renovation. Here are her replies:

Did I hear you built a large multi-car garage as well?

We built an 8 car garage, yes. Robert is a mechanic and ran his own business for 35 years, so a big garage was a must for him. It was a huge undertaking for the two of us. Fortunately, one of our sons, Dwayne, came and spent a couple of days helping us put up the roof trusses.

Did you contract out any of the work, or did you do everything yourselves?

Other than having the concrete poured for the garage, we have done everything ourselves. There isn’t anything Robert won’t try, and he is very good at electrical and plumbing. We had it all checked after but he did the work.

Did you have a favourite source for inspiration? 

Pinterest is, by far, my biggest source of inspiration and Houzz is a close second. We watch every home Reno show on TV that we can find. Also, I kept a file on my iPad of pictures and ideas for inspiration. 

Did you have any surprises or setbacks during the renovation? (I bet finding the honeycombs behind the wall was quite a surprise!)

Bees for sure were the biggest surprise. And a little battle with bats coming in late in the evening and not knowing how they got in. Woke up at 4am one night with 2 of them flying around the main living/ bedroom and we spent almost 2 hours trying to get them outside 😩😩 but found their entry hole and sealed it up and no issues since.

Did you stick to your original plan, or did you have to change course during your reno?

We had a general plan/idea in mind. I used an app to do some 3D designs to get a feel for how things would look. I used one called Interior Design For Ipad. Lots of minor things changed, but not the overall plan.

Were you able to stay within your original budget or did your final costs run over?

We have stayed pretty much within budget. We love to recycle and reuse anything we can and also love to find unusual solutions to make ideas come to life. We will get an idea and then spend hours scouring the hardware stores for ways to bring the idea to fruition for a fraction of the cost. For example, the floors after we stripped and sanded them needed a few places patched. No one could tell us what type of wood we had, so we had to make our own pieces to patch in and then experiment with various shades of stain to get a good match. Results were good and the floors look great. 

I also wanted a large kitchen island and the quote for stone was out of our budget, so I went onto YouTube and learned how to make a quartz look and did the island myself. Robert built it and I painted and epoxied it to look like quartz and it’s not bad and instead of $6000 it cost me less than $500.

Did you have any “oops” moments? (Any mistakes you’re willing to share?)

Not really any ‘oops’ moments. We aren’t very good at drywall – or the finishing of it – so a couple of walls were finished and then under different lighting looked awful, so we had to re-do them. They’re still not perfect, but we are ok with it. We use the expression “it’s an old building and adds character” a lot. Haha

If you were to do it all over what, if anything, would you do differently?

If anything, we would have not tried to have lots of projects on the go all at once. We would have put a trailer in the yard to live in while we renovated and then would have tackled one thing at a time.

Converting A Church – Soothing The Soul

We must say, the transformation of an old church into someone’s personal home has a special fascination for us. The architecture is so unique. We love the arches, the high ceilings and stained glass windows. Amen to all of it! 

Until we saw Neri and Robert’s church renovation, we didn’t even know it was a thing.

There are many church renovations

After a quick Google search, we see that there have been many churches converted into homes and they are all so distinctive. That’s what we love the most about them. Each is so different from the typical home architecture we’re all used to seeing. Besides the occasional honey comb, there is a rich history in those brick walls. If only they could talk. 

Thank you Neri and Rob for sharing your church renovation story with us. You did a beautiful job and we wish you many years of health and happiness in your new home.

If you have a renovation story that you’d like to have us showcase here, please send us an email so we can connect. 

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