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Introducing The “Rock Father Remodel” Project…

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It was nearly six years ago that we moved into the house that would become our home – the home that would become known as Rock Father HQ. Little Adalyn was less than a year old, and Finley was still about two years off. We weren’t first-time buyers, but the decision to buy our first single-family home was one wrapped in many things – like affordability, area, the house itself, and most importantly for us, the school district. It was my wife who fell in love with the house – I was more excited for the yard. The house was nice, but would need some improvements, a quick $10K spent at The Home Depot up the road on some immediate things (lots and lots of paint), and we were in business. But, like any aging house that’s changed hands a few times, there were things that would eventually need to be addressed… just as there were things that we’d eventually want to address. And sometimes those “wants” end up being prompted (or accelerated) by unexpected needs. That’s exactly how The #RockFatherRemodel Project began. As things needed to be done, I realized it was time to start tracking the progress.

The #RockFatherRemodel Project is an ongoing personal effort that I have been documenting, and will soon begin sharing here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine. It’s a feature that shows that an aging home can get better with age, and we’ll be sharing our progress in modernizing our 26-year-old home, while fixing the sometimes ridiculous blunders put in place by at least two previous homeowners that fancied themselves to be “handy,” and the things that simply come with the age of an average suburban home in the Midwest.

Projects included in The #RockFatherRemodel could be simple – like painting a door, or adding fresh decorating elements to an existing space. Or they could be major, like gutting our bathrooms down to the studs and starting over.


https://www.instagram.com/p/8yAHsox-mH/” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;” target=”_blank”>A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on


In some cases, we’ll be doing the work… and in some, we’ll call in help. While the majority of of projects thus far have been self-funded, on occasion there will be vendors and partners working with us on the upgrades. You’ll get to see the good and bad of the process. If you own a home, surely there’s things you’ve done… and things you want or need to do… but have you ever made a list? It’s crazy how things add-up!

The Stats | Rock Father HQ:
Year Built – 1990 | 1,372 sq. ft. | 3 Bedrooms, 1.5 Baths | Sits on a Crawlspace
Remodel TeaserProject Features Coming Soon on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine:
  • Master Bathroom Remodel: Prompted by a leak, the master bathroom was stripped down to the studs and rebuilt from scratch. Fixtures provided by our friends at MOEN.
  • Power Room Remodel: Done simultaneously with the Master, we didn’t go down to the studs, but the powder room got a much-needed modernization. Fixtures provided by MOEN.
  • Family Room/Playroom Remodel: Prompted by the same leak that caused the bathroom remodel, the family room/playroom gets a major overhaul and a whole new look. The space is used better, and there’s an element of class brought in. See a sneak-preview of it in-progress here.
Past projects completed:
  • New Roof (Spring 2011): During the October 2010 “North American Storm Complex,” Illinois got hit with high winds, tornadoes, and the weirdness that was called an “extreme low pressure event.” Stepping outside, there was a weird sound in the air – like a vacuum, and that might not have been far off, as several houses in our neighborhood sustained roof damage – ours included. For 2-3 days, shingles were flying off of our house, landing in neighboring yards. Due to weather, our new roof would be installed in April of 2011.
  • New Garage Door with “Carriage Doors Look” (Summer 2012)– I don’t know what the garage doors that the houses in this neighborhood came with were made of, but they were garbage. Ugly, clunky, and perhaps some kind of really heavy particle board, a few houses still have them (and they’re all in various stages of decay), while most have been replaced. Between the red roof and this garage door, a sort of “modern farmhouse” vibe was starting to take shape. We special-ordered the door from The Home Depot, and the installation was handled by Overhead Garage Door, Inc. A sidebar to this project is that our Liftmaster Garage Door Opener is failing – the lights no longer work, which may be circuit boards according to several online help forums. I’ll have to address that soon.
  • Complete Window Replacement (Spring 2015): Featured on the site in four parts (Part I: BeginningPart II: In-Home ConsultationsPart III: The Vast Realm of Pricing, Part IV: Pulling the Trigger & Installation), we replaced the terribly shoddy (and dangerous) windows that were installed in our home (and sadly, others in the neighborhood) by a previous homeowner who “got a deal.” 
Recent Projects Completed:
  • New Bedroom Doors (January 2016): Until now, we haven’t had a lock on our bedroom door. Reason being, the door itself didn’t fit the crooked frame, so it didn’t actually close properly. Finn’s door was also a problem, as was our closet door. Luckily, my new brother-in-law is a carpenter, and with a few days off, I tossed him some cash to make them right. New, pre-hung doors were installed, and new hardware all the way around.


  • Overhead Lighting (Fall 2015): It took nearly six years to happen, but I hired a local electrician to put overhead lights and ceiling fans into all three bedrooms. One of the most annoying things was to have plug-in lamps in our bedrooms, and now the simple luxury of being able to flip a switch for light is a reality! Also had the guy install a new light fixture in the entryway of our home, and a modern ceiling fan/light at the base of our stairs – replacing one that was vintage mid-90s.
  • New Bathroom Fan Lights (Fall 2015): In preparation for our full bathroom remodel (more on that soon), the contractor had put in an inexplicable price for replacing the bathroom fans – which actually hadn’t worked the entire time we’d lived here. I had the local electrician do them instead, and they’re gorgeous, and modern. Visitors don’t even realize that they’re fans, because they just look like nice lighting.
 Upcoming Projects and Wish List:
  • Deck Repair and Repaint… maybe upgrade: We have a massive deck, and I’ve painted it twice using BEHR deck paint. It was already painted an ugly gray/blue when we moved here, so we went red/white. I wanted to replace rotten boards and do a repaint last year, but didn’t get to it. For 2016, it’s a MUST-DO spring project. Thinking about a partial overhaul with composite materials, and possibly doing new railings.
  • New Siding: The house still has its original aluminum siding, which is battered, beaten, and in some places, broken. 
  • Full Kitchen Remodel: Old kitchen that’s not up to code. Cabinets are too low, and we just repainted them and put new hardware on as a quick fix back in 2010. Samsung sent us a new Dishwasher as part of a promotion I did with Best Buy last year, but the rest of the appliances need an upgrade for 2016 and beyond.
  • Full Home Replacement of Carpet and Laminate: Two kids. Two dogs. The carpet looks terrible, the laminate looks like wood, but is cheap. The intention has been to replace all of it when the kids are older and the messes slow down.
  • New Property Fencing: We have a big yard, but we only own the front-facing parts of our fence. The other three sides are owned by adjoining homeowners, and only one side is in decent shape (I helped replace it). One side is falling, and the other is starting to. When we can afford it, it may be time to have our own fence installed.
  • Laundry Room Overhaul: Our laundry/utility room is about the smallest you’ll ever see. The furnace and water heater are crammed in there alongside the washer and dryer – both of which were purchased in 2010. Unfortunately, our GE Washer is starting to fail, so that might lead to a re-do of that room sooner than later.
  • Garage Upgrades: We have a two-car attached garage that can’t fit a car right now. It’s crammed with storage and kids toys, and what it needs to be is a sexy, race-style garage for “Rock Father Rides,” with my work bench re-worked into a functional photo/video studio for this website and beyond.
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