Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018
Fall Home Builders

Remodeling project leads to near total tear down

Sep 21, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor Devyn Phelps can smile because she has a strong start on her home renovation project. She is standing in her living room.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


Mt. Pleasant’s Devyn Phelps is not auditioning for a guest spot on the television show “Rehab Addict”. It just appears that way.

Phelps, with considerable help from her boyfriend, Lucas Larsh, has gutted the majority of her two-story home on North Broadway Street in Mt. Pleasant to the studs. The only part surviving the gutting (so far) is a couple of rooms Phelps and Larsh use for living space. However, those rooms, too, will see the wrecking bar when the rest of the home is finished.

Phelps purchased the house in January 2016 and made sure her mortgage left room for improvements.

But Phelps never anticipated this much in renovations until she began removing the wallpaper in one room. “I was tearing away wallpaper and the plaster was coming with it,” she recalled. “In that room, there were nine layers of wallpaper.”

Moving to other rooms, Phelps found wallpaper ran rampant in the home. “In every room there were three to six layers of wallpaper,” she remarked.

The interesting thing about Phelps’ venture is she has no prior experience with extensive remodeling projects. “I have never done anything like this,” she admitted. “I have watched family members build houses. Once I began, I realized I couldn’t stop. All the plaster was pretty brittle.”

All of that plaster, or 46,000 pounds of it, went to the landfill in Fort Madison.

She is well aware she has a big job ahead of her. The house has 2,300 square feet of living space on the main floor and there also is an attic, but time is on Phelps’ side. She said she works from five to 40 hours weekly on the house, depending on her work schedule with the Southeast Iowa Crime Commission in Fairfield.

“I probably would have given it more thought (purchasing the house), if I knew it needed this much work,” she said. “I probably would have had someone else gut it.”

Larsh came into the picture rather innocently. The two were dating when she bought the house. “He came along for the ride. He was going to rent and live here for free (while helping), but that was before the job got so big,” Phelps said. “He was easy to talk in to it. My family second-guessed me.”

Now she doesn’t know where she would be without him. Larsh is in his final year of apprenticeship with an HVAC firm, so he will be handling the plumbing. Phelps is going to be the electrician, even though she has no prior experience. “I learned (about electricity) through You-Tube and reading books. I asked Jack Swarm (Mt. Pleasant director of building and zoning) how much I could do myself, and he said I could do it all myself.”

The house, which was built between 1890 and 1900, has a rich history. At one time, it served as a Mormon church. Mt. Pleasant’s Boy Scout troop also met in the basement of the house.

Phelps and Larsh have the basement gutted, and she said the hot-water heating system and radiators are “pretty good.” A new boiler was installed in 2014.

The couple is becoming good friends with the microwave as they work on the house — a project Phelps hopes is finished by December of 2018. “I think that is realistic. We are getting to the point where we are rebuilding and doing it right.”

She doesn’t know how long she will remain in the home. “I want to let the value increase, but if I had a good offer, I would take it. If not, I am open to living in it for a few years. I haven’t done too bad with my budget.”

When and if she does sell the house, she has even bigger plans — building her own house. “My eventual goal is to sell the house and build my own,” she noted, This is my practice house. I want to do one from start to finish. I think it would be great to live on a small farm, about 100 acres, and be self-sustainable. I would use solar and wind energy.”

Those might sound like grandiose dreams, but Phelps already has exceeded the expectations of many and the larger the challenge, the larger smile on her face.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.