POTTSTOWN, PA — When Hannah Wolfram, a senior at Kimberton Waldorf School, was trying to come up with an idea upon which to base her senior project, she decided to defy expectation.
“Anything performance-based was kind of what the expectation was,” Wolfram said. “I decided I’d go out on a limb and do something I had never done before that was completely unexpected.”A lover of the performing arts who enjoys contributing her singing and acting talents to the private school’s theater productions, Wolfram decided she wanted to take on the challenge of flipping a house as the focus of her project.
“My parents had flipped houses before,” she said. “I painted and chipped in, but not quite so hands-on.”Senior projects at Kimberton Waldorf School in Kimberton, Chester County, are based on individual research and exploration of a topic over the course of the senior year.
After getting faculty approval to go ahead with her house flipping project, Wolfram set out with a family friend who was a real estate agent to find a property that matched her budget.
“I was working on a very limited budget,” she said. “I was looking at foreclosures that needed a lot of help. My parents guided me in helping with the initial search of the properties.”Around the start of the school year, she stumbled upon a property on King Street in Pottstown.”I had gone through a dozen houses before that,” she said. “I made settlement Oct. 5.”Wolfram, who lives in Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, discussed the state of the house upon purchasing it.”Everything needed to be gutted,” she said. “It was an hour before settlement, and that’s when I found the copper pipes missing. The police had to come because there was a break-in. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I getting myself into.’ I almost had a heart attack. It was a fun start.”The brick, semi-detached home is in a historic district just one block off of High Street.”It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood,” she said. “There is an absolutely amazing vegan place across the street called iCreate that I go to all the time.”
Devoting free time
Ever since settlement, when she purchased the three-bedroom/one bathroom home for just under $30,000 with the help of an investor, she has devoted almost all of her free time to her project.
“I have spent just shy of every weekend working on the project,” she said. “I spent almost every day of Christmas break working on it. I had my family there working on Christmas morning.”In addition to her family, others have also chipped in, such as recently when she needed some extra hands to move the bathtub.”I have had friends who have come over to help,” she said. “I’ve had numerous people helping me off and on, but the bulk of it has been just me.”Wolfram has been diligent about keeping track of her expenses.”It has been a lot of resource shopping, like Habitat for Humanity for new kitchen cabinets and things like that, so I’m able to do it as inexpensively as possible,” she said.She shopped at Habitat’s ReStore shop in West Norriton, Montgomery County, which sells new and used furniture, housewares, appliances, tools and building materials to the public at discounted rates.
Most gratifying project
The most gratifying project thus far involved work she did on a mudroom addition that had been put on the home previously.
“The outer wall was rotted out,” she said. “I had to redo the wall and put in a new back door. That was probably the most gratifying, just because it was start-to-finish done, and it looks so much better having it complete. A lot of the other things I’ve been ripping out, but not finishing yet because of where I am with my work at this point.”Despite her being allowed to hire contractors according to Kimberton’s senior project rules, she has been intent on doing as much as she can herself.”I’ve done pretty great with the knowledge my parents have and some of my friends have that they are able to share with me, and I haven’t needed to hire anyone,” she said.Recently, a family friend with plumbing experience donated his time to show her how to rerun the plumbing.”It’s all connected in the basement, but it hasn’t been run through the floors yet because I don’t know exactly where I want them to run since I just ripped out the bathroom and kitchen,” she said.She also has a plan to add a second bathroom to the house.
In addition to saving money by doing everything she possibly can by herself, she also sees the benefit of her gaining the experience of learning how to do it.
“It’s going to benefit me later in the life to have done all of this,” she said, “to learn how to do it all.”Wolfram said that in addition to learning some new skills, she has learned a lot of life lessons through the project as well.”I think a lot of it is self-discipline,” she said. “I know I have to get up early in the morning on the weekends, the little things to keep me moving, that motivation to keep moving even when it’s cold out. I have one little heater in there, but it’s not warm.”Wolfram has been documenting her project with photos to enable her to show the before and after at her senior project presentation in April. She also posts her progress on her “Hannah’s Senior Project” Facebook page in addition to posting messages seeking volunteer helpers on specific days.”People have offered different bits of knowledge,” she said. “They are also offering to lend a hand and general encouragement, which has been nice.”For safety measures, Wolfram has one person working with her at the house. It’s of particular concern when she uses power tools.”It’s more so accidents I’m alone if an accident would happen,” she said.Wolfram said she has no regrets about choosing such an ambitious project that has consumed so much of her time on top of her already-demanding schedule between school and her involvement in the high school musical.”There have been little things along the way that have made me realize, ‘OK, I’m getting somewhere. This is the light at the end of the tunnel,’ ” she said. “When we ripped up the carpet it was all hardwood floors. That was one of those moments I was like, ‘Yes, this is beautiful. All I have to do is refinish them and it will kind of tie the house together.’ ”
The house doesn’t have to be sold by project presentation time given the size of the endeavor. The requirement is that the house must reflect an increase in property value.
“I think it would be lovely for any young family or young couple,” Wolfram said. “The neighborhood has a slightly hipster feel to it, and I think that appeals to younger people.”After selling the property and paying back her investor, Wolfram plans to use whatever money she makes toward her college education.”I want to be a theater major in college,” Wolfram said, sharing she had just paid a visit to New York City to audition at The Juilliard School. “I’m looking at Fordham, Barnard, Yale, and I just got into Ursinus.”Wolfram said she hopes to make a memorable impression when she presents her project in the spring.”I have seen senior projects in the past and there are always a few that stick out that are absolutely incredible,” she said, recollecting a student who hand-carved a totem pole and another who created a clothing line and put on a fashion show. “I think it’s a great opportunity to explore interests you have never been able to do before. It’s a unique opportunity that I’m not going to really have the chance to do again.”