COVID19 UPDATE
Kauai

Home Improvement: Restoring a Historic Plantation Style Home in Kilauea, Kauai

Buying a fixer upper can be a daunting project, but with a vision, some patience, and a little research, it can be a very creative and worthwhile investment. Here’s our story:

Finding a Kauai Home to Renovate

We were looking for a home. I was 4 months pregnant, ready to nest, and our little studio was busting at the seams. I really wanted to stay deep country in Ha’ena, but things were not looking favorable. My husband and I were hoping to find a long term living situation where he could do home improvements, and I could do my interior design thing, but we were not yet financially in a position to purchase our own home, and finding a rental was proving difficult.

This little rascal was going to arrive soon!

Meanwhile, a couple from Seattle had recently returned home after a quick trip to Kauai. This trip had resulted in a somewhat spontaneous purchase…a simple, 3 bedroom, plantation style home in Kilauea. It was a classic, single wall, old Hawaiian home that had gone into foreclosure and needed a ton of TLC. However, upon returning to the mainland, they began feeling small kine buyer’s remorse about managing this fixer upper project from far away. Had they just made a huge mistake?

The subject house, waiting for a makeover

Back on the rock, (aka Kauai), we decided to branch out our rental search and posted a very detailed Craigslist ad about our ideal situation. Simultaneously, in the Pacific Northwest, the new homeowner was at a local coffee shop with her sister, discussing her recent Kauai home purchase.

She lamented over her situation, wondering how she would ever find the right tenants, who would be able to renovate it, rent it, and keep it nice. Her sister pulled out her iPhone and said “let’s check Craigslist.” It was a serendipitous moment. She contacted us, we met, and here we are, 2+ happy years later…

Factors of Remodeling a Single Wall Kauai Home

The house was built in the 40’s, a humble, single wall, 800 sq. ft home originally designed to accommodate plantation farm workers. My husband happens to specialize in this type of remodel, and had just spent 3 years working on a ranch on the Kohala Coast restoring several homes of this same era and style.  

He loves working on these older ranch homes, trying to restore as much as possible to the original, rustic charm, yet adding urban upgrades throughout, resulting in a mixture of old and new. This is exactly what the homeowners had envisioned.

The bones of house were actually quite solid, despite years of termite damage. The beauty of single wall construction is that there are no “hidden spaces” between the interior and exterior walls (hence the name “single wall”). This not only discourages rats and other pests from nesting in the walls, but makes the plumbing and electrical much more accessible.  

For example, it became much easier to cut a large opening in the living room wall to create a huge window where a tiny one existed, without worrying about cutting any wires or pipes. This allowed much more light to penetrate an otherwise very dark room.

Living room (Before)

Living room (During) – Opened wall for larger window, floors sanded

Living room (After) – Finished built-in, floors, and paint

Kitchen Renovations – Increasing Counter & Storage Space

The kitchen lacked counter space and storage. My husband installed a butcher block counter space with cabinets below, salvaging some of the wall cut outs from the living room to fill in part of the kitchen wall to match the original style. He also put in a simple, yet functional pantry between 2 existing windows that matched the cabinets. Finally, new tile, paint, and appliances created a polished, clean, country look.

Kitchen (Before)

Kitchen (After) – New tile, paint, butcher block, appliances, and cabinet lighting)

New kitchen pantry

Floor Renovations – Restoring the Original Hardwood Floors

The floors were original, and the age and damage was very apparent! They were used and abused, and the dark stain finish only exacerbated the problem of the living room feeling small, dark, and dingy. But we could see the potential and opted to refinish rather than replace them.

Original floors (Before/left); Removed stain, kept the original, natural color (After/right)

The stain on the floor was sanded off completely with a stand-up, drum sander, which revealed the natural, honey-colored wood. Another unique trait to single wall construction is that the baseboards along the floor and along the ceiling are usually part of the structural integrity of the home. Because of this, all of the wall’s edges were hand-done. Blood, sweat, and tears!

Kitchen and Entrance (Before)

Kitchen and Entrance (After) – New floors and baby

Exterior Home Renovations – Adding a Lanai

Finally, we painted the exterior and added a huge lanai.

Front of house (Before)

Front of house (During)

Front of house (After) – With new lanai, paint job, and replanted trees

All in all, we love our home, and so do our landlords, the homeowners! What’s next? The bathroom…

Note to reader…it is important to do your research in this building style before ripping walls down

Comments (18) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

Shaylyn Kimura, REALTOR (S)

December 13, 2012

This is awesome Cate! I so loved that you and Chad preserved the home’s plantation heritage and restored this beauty!

Shaylyn Kimura, REALTOR (S)

December 13, 2012

This is awesome Cate! I so loved that you and Chad preserved the home’s plantation heritage and restored this beauty!

Carol Andrews

December 20, 2012

Hi Cate~I truly loved reading this article and it is remarkable what you and your husband did to preserve this home. The renovations look fantastic. Plantation homes are always the most favorite style of buyers. The owners of this home are very fortunate!

Carol Andrews

December 20, 2012

Hi Cate~I truly loved reading this article and it is remarkable what you and your husband did to preserve this home. The renovations look fantastic. Plantation homes are always the most favorite style of buyers. The owners of this home are very fortunate!

Cate McCann Fleming

January 9, 2013

Thank you! It has been an enjoyable, worthwhile, and creative project for us all 🙂

Cate McCann Fleming

January 9, 2013

Thank you! It has been an enjoyable, worthwhile, and creative project for us all 🙂

cynthia tigh

October 26, 2013

Great info. I am just finishing escrow on my Hawaii plantation home. Same thing; good bones but wow a lot of work ahead of me. Love the front porch for talk story. thanks for a great story.

cynthia tigh

October 26, 2013

Great info. I am just finishing escrow on my Hawaii plantation home. Same thing; good bones but wow a lot of work ahead of me. Love the front porch for talk story. thanks for a great story.

Mike Sutton

November 16, 2013

Hi Cate, my name is Mike Sutton, I really enjoyed your story on the plantation home renovation you finished on Kauai. I just recently sold my home in San Diego and am looking to reinvest that money into another home. I have always loved the islands, my sister owned a home on Maui at one time. I would like to buy a plantation home to renovate myself. My number is 619-977-9368, email: mike92120@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you. Aloha, Mike!

Mike Sutton

November 16, 2013

Hi Cate, my name is Mike Sutton, I really enjoyed your story on the plantation home renovation you finished on Kauai. I just recently sold my home in San Diego and am looking to reinvest that money into another home. I have always loved the islands, my sister owned a home on Maui at one time. I would like to buy a plantation home to renovate myself. My number is 619-977-9368, email: mike92120@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you. Aloha, Mike!

Lee Gately

December 8, 2013

Nice article. Thanks. I have a 1939 plantation home in Koloa/Lawai. I’m restoring the original door knobs and locks, trying to keep everything as if it were 1939. I hope to make some structural changes, moving a door to a different spot in the room, and perhaps adding a lanai to the back yard deck. Did you have trouble getting permits for your window changes or lanai?

Cate McCann Fleming R(S)

December 31, 2013

Aloha Lee, thanks for reading! Getting permits shouldn’t be a problem for things like changing doors, or adding lanais. The only issue I can think of is staying true to the set-back requirements for the roof lines, etc. County should have those answers…best of luck! Aloha, Cate

Lee Gately

December 8, 2013

Nice article. Thanks. I have a 1939 plantation home in Koloa/Lawai. I’m restoring the original door knobs and locks, trying to keep everything as if it were 1939. I hope to make some structural changes, moving a door to a different spot in the room, and perhaps adding a lanai to the back yard deck. Did you have trouble getting permits for your window changes or lanai?

Cate McCann Fleming R(S)

December 31, 2013

Aloha Lee, thanks for reading! Getting permits shouldn’t be a problem for things like changing doors, or adding lanais. The only issue I can think of is staying true to the set-back requirements for the roof lines, etc. County should have those answers…best of luck! Aloha, Cate

Bridget Townsend

February 1, 2014

Thank you so much for sharing. We are looking to redo an older home on the Big Island and your story gives me the encouragement I need to do it and do it properly.

Thank you again. It’s bookmarked for sure.

Bridget Townsend

February 1, 2014

Thank you so much for sharing. We are looking to redo an older home on the Big Island and your story gives me the encouragement I need to do it and do it properly.

Thank you again. It’s bookmarked for sure.

Janae

December 14, 2015

We just got our very old plantation home that needs endless amount of work. Just wondering how you changed the single panel walls when they don’t make them anymore? Thanks for any help or advice you give.
Janae

Janae

December 14, 2015

We just got our very old plantation home that needs endless amount of work. Just wondering how you changed the single panel walls when they don’t make them anymore? Thanks for any help or advice you give.
Janae

More Articles from Hawaii Life