By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN As Joe and Jessica Keating’s family grew in size, they began to run out of space in their outdated, two-bedroom ranch-style home in Winsted, built in the ‘90s.
The family, which has now grown to five members with the arrival of Noah a year ago, reviewed their options.
Building a new home was definitely one alternative. Joe owns his own business, JPK Contracting, and has 10 years of experience building custom homes, some of which have been valued at more than a million dollars.
But the couple chose to remodel rather than move because they liked living on Winsted Lake, close to town, and the house had sentimental value because it had belonged to Joe’s grandparents, John and Margaret Keating.
“I helped him (John Keating) trim his trees a little when I was younger and I used to mow the grass all of the time,” Joe said.
“I told my grandpa, ‘If you ever want to sell your house, I’ll buy it.’ I think that made him happy,” Joe said.
Joe bought the house in 2003, when he was still single, several years before marrying Jessica. His first project in the house was to remodel two bathrooms.
A year later, with the help of his family and friends, he invested a lot of time, energy, and money building a retaining wall and patio in his backyard that looks like a picture out of a “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine.
The patio retaining wall was 13 feet high at the base. Joe started the project when there was still frost in the ground in April, and finished the patio when the snow was falling in late fall.
The upper portion of the patio is made with pavers on 2 feet of class five gravel with about an inch of sand on top for leveling. Once the pavers are set, crushed granite is swept into the cracks to prevent the ants from moving in.
The patio is 24 feet by 26 feet with a fire pit at the center; the pavers surrounding it in a circular design.
Keating installed low voltage lighting which makes the backyard visible 24 hours a day. There is also a pond in the backyard, some large landscaping rocks, and a Millerbernd flag pole.
At first, mulch and hostas were used for the landscaping.
Because Joe’s grandparents had hostas along the back of the house, Joe split them up and planted them.
“You shove them in the ground and they just take off. Now there are so many, we have to split them again,” Joe said.
The flowers didn’t get added until after 2007, when Jessica gave the patio a gardener’s touch, according to Joe.
There are all kinds of annuals and perennials that Joe and Jessica plant together. Their daughter, Arianna, also enjoys gardening, even the weeding.
When the couple married in 2007, the house was the perfect size for them, but the interior was outdated.
Jessica had a home of her own before they married. After she sold it, they used the money to update some of the interior decor, including new carpet.
But when Jessica became pregnant with Arianna, who is now 2-and-a-half years old, they knew another bedroom was needed and it was time to decide what other changes the project would include.
“There was a lot of work that had to be done to this house,” Joe said.
“Basically, nothing is the same as it was before, except for the laundry room,” Jessica said.
The transformation to the home, both inside and out, is impressive, although Joe said they are still working on it.
The Keatings started their remodeling project and 1,400-square-foot addition, adding 700-square-feet upstairs and 700-square-feet downstairs, by putting Joe’s architectural ideas on paper, with the help of a business friend of Jessica’s.
They started digging the foundation Aug. 28, 2008.
“This part was a little scary,” Jessica recalled of the construction as Joe indicated where, at one point, the house was floating without any framing underneath. “There were a few sleepless nights,” Jessica said.
“Each construction person we would ask would say, ‘you can do it this way,’ and we had to decide which was the best way to do it.”
“And we didn’t want to run out of money,” Joe said of the many changes they were considering.
Arianna was born Oct. 2 of that same year and the whole family, Joe, Jessica, Ivy Fesenmaier, now 12; baby Ari, and the family dog, Cooper, all were living in about one-fourth of the house because the rest of the home was under construction.
“It was an interesting maternity leave,” Jessica said. She returned to work as a CPA for Copeland Buhl at the end of a three-month leave.
By April 2009, the home remodel was complete.
The before-and-after pictures of the home show a dormer added to the longline of the roof, which revitalizes the home’s appearance. New windows, siding, roof, garage doors, and a two-tone paint job have given the house a much more modern look.
Outside lighting at night makes the house appear larger and welcoming.
The new addition includes a spacious hallway, which replaced a centrally-located bathroom, that was moved to another part of the house.
A new master bedroom, with vaulted ceilings allows plenty of room for the couple’s large canopy bed, which sits in the center of the room.
A wall of windows, also part of the bedroom, gives a view of Winsted from across Winsted Lake that is beautiful at night.
“I like to lay here in bed at night and look outside and watch it snow, and you can see the church,” Joe said.
A walk-in closet right across from the bedroom, is described by Joe as a California-style, as big as one of the children’s bedrooms.
And a third bathroom, with an extra-large tub and shower is also part of the new addition.
Other upgrades made include repainting the original kitchen cabinets, and new counter tops in the kitchen.
A fireplace in the living room was redesigned and built by Joe.
The mantle was made from an elm tree Joe cut down. The log was cut to the size he needed and then cut again, flat on the top and bottom, power planed and belt sanded. The brackets were part of a stump, also designed by Joe and bolted in to hold the mantle.
The hearth is a cemented base made and formed out of colored-stained cement.
For Joe, his favorite part of carpentry is working on projects with lots of detail, a lot of trim. The more detail the better.
“I like to stand back and see what I have done,” Joe said.
One his previous jobs requiring lots of detail and that Joe is particularly proud of was in Buffalo. It was a 700-square-foot deck he built and fabricated a steel railing that surrounded the deck.
There are many special touches that Joe has added to their Winsted home, as well, for example the crown molding and a wooden-curved arch.
“There are all kinds of things I would like to do to this house, but I just don’t have the time to do it. You need a lot of time to do things like that,” Joe said.
The next project for the Keating home is the basement. Joe would like to see an exercise room, a family room, and storage room.
Joe is the son of Jane and Bob Bayerl of Winsted, and the late Patrick Keating.
Jessica is the daughter of Teri Doering of Howard Lake, and Wayne Doering of Cokato.