Old Home Gets New Life

Tom Arneson, a lifetime resident of the Fox River Valley area and owner of Arneson Tire Center in Sandwich, IL has captured the attention of everyone who has driven through Sheridan in the past year. The house at 410 S. Robinson Street, the first house on the right when drivers come into town from the South, has been transforming gradually for several years, but the most dramatic change took place over this past summer when the entire house was lifted onto wooden blocks. For two weeks, the two-story early 20th century home sat on cribbing (a temporary wooden structure) as the ground was dug out and a foundation was poured beneath it. The final result is stunning, yet the total renovation is far from complete.

Before Arneson's renovation

Mr. Arneson purchased the home in January 2015 and started renovations in late March/early April. The majority of the home was likely built sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s and there were multiple additions built during the following decades. The most recent owners made improvements to the siding, roof, windows and doors and restored the soffit over the front door. But the home’s biggest issue, its crumbling foundation, was left untouched. Without a sturdy foundation, financing was impossible—the house sat in foreclosure.

Tom finally tackled the problem head on and officially gave the old home new life. From the beginning, he knew he would have to jack it up and put in a new foundation, but from there he wanted to see where the project led. “By doing that,” he says, “since I was going through the work, I thought I might as well put in a finished basement.” Based on the shape of the property and the change in elevation from the front yard to the back, he used knee walls and installed windows to bring natural light into the basement. The northeast corner of the basement also features a walk out door to the backyard. Lyall Hyatt & Co. from Sandwich, IL lifted the house and dug out the land so that 9’ foundation walls could be poured underneath, all over the course of 4 weeks. “That was probably my favorite part of the whole thing,” said Mr. Arneson, “watching the house being lifted.” And the little town of Sheridan got to witness an amazing feat of human engineering.

The basement level now adds a large family room, rec room, a half bath, a mudroom with a beautiful set of California closets and easy access to the backyard, adding 1300 sq. ft. of livable space. Four bedrooms, three more baths, a dining room, kitchen, laundry and a 550 sq. ft. deck make up the rest of the home, totaling a beautiful 3500 sq. ft. work-in-progress.

Mr. Arneson has no shortage of experience when it comes to residential building and remodeling. He built his own home in 95’ and has rehabbed a handful of homes he now rents out to tenants. While he continues to work on the interior of the Robinson St. house, he put it on the market, giving potential buyers the opportunity to finish it out with their own personalization. As he turns his attention to the interior, Mr. Arneson and his team of local builders and tradespeople are finishing up the drywall before moving on to paint, floor coverings, window trim and all new staircases. He’s leaving a full size kitchen with an island for last, but that’s only if a buyer hasn’t stepped in. Before this year, the house was heated with a boiler and hot water registers. Tom removed them all and replaced it with a dual climate system with a/c. One furnace heats the basement and ground level, while another heats the second story.

As the owner/general contractor, he found a lot of his inspiration from Houzz, a website and online community that bills itself as “the new way to design your home.” It features photos, articles by architects and other building professionals, product reviews and local directories. “I’m probably on it every other day. It gives you a lot of ideas and a lot of ways to spend money,” he laughs. His advice to anyone tackling their own renovation/building project: budget high. “There are always hidden expenses. It’s hard to rehab an old house with a specific budget.” Mr. Arneson seems to have mastered making the most out of a project. Check out these pictures of the Robinson St. house with its new foundation, basement, deck and landscaping.

When asked if there was anything he would do differently if he had the option to do it again, Tom Arneson said no. “I just took off where they left off.” Though an owner-occupant might have bought the house to live in while making improvements gradually, Tom was able to put in all new amenities and give the house the renovations it needed, right off the bat. From the more energy efficient dual climate system to the added living spaces, Mr. Arneson has given the Robinson St. house a new future as it heads into its second century welcoming people into the town of Sheridan.

For more information on how you can visualize your own renovation or building project, get in touch with Fox River Rendering: 3D Visualization Studio:

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