Driftless Home & Harvest: Setting roots, spreading wings

Rick and Allie Humes are loving their first home together, and were happy to have not only an open floor plan, but a statement fireplace and beautiful kitchen island as well. The couple, and their dog Indy, have many features they all love, including a yard for Indy to play in, and many space options for family gatherings now and family that may come along in the future.

By Kate Klimesh,

Rick and Allie Humes are loving their first home together, and were happy to have not only an open floor plan, but a statement fireplace and beautiful kitchen island as well. The couple, and their dog Indy, have many features they all love, including a yard for Indy to play in, and many space options for family gatherings now and family that may come along in the future.

First-time homeowners Allie and Rick Humes are ecstatic about being in their own home this fall after renting a small apartment for two years. They built their new home just outside New Albin, near where Allie grew up. “My parents live three miles from here in Sand Cove,” Allie stated. 

Allie’s journeys in life have now come full-circle back to the New Albin community. The same community and family that helped support her through chemotherapy and helped support her as she beat cancer in 2018. “I experienced so much support from the community. My roots are still here, and I wanted to have that experience for my future family as well.”

Bruce and Angie Colsch are Allie’s parents, and she is the granddaughter of Gary and Karen Galema of Lansing and the late Robert and Lucille Colsch. Allie graduated from Kee High School in Lansing and attended Luther College in Decorah where she met her husband, Rick Humes. Rick hailed from California but his grandfather was from northeast Iowa. He attended college in Iowa, and simply fell in love with the features of the region – the landscapes, the communities, and most importantly, his wife-to-be.

The couple moved to Dubuque where Allie attended the University of Dubuque to become a Physician’s Assistant, all while battling and beating cancer. The couple moved back to the area in 2020 – renting at the time – but dreaming of a home of their own.

“We spent two years looking around at houses for sale here [New Albin] and in Lansing, but we just couldn’t find something that checked all the boxes for us. Then the lot in a nearby development with a homeowner’s association came up for sale, and we had a lot of discussions,” Allie said with a chuckle. “We had never owned a home before, let alone built one. I don’t think I have the nerve to build a house, but it was pleasantly surprising.”

Rick had construction experience and his grandfather had flipped homes as a business, so he was familiar with many aspects of the traditional construction process and felt comfortable doing much of the work himself. But, both Allie and Rick work during the day and time was a major factor.

After getting a rough idea of the cost for a home that checked their boxes, they also checked out Lansing Custom Homes (LCH) and went through the model home on their site. Allie recalled, “Our final home design was pretty darn close to the model’s layout. It just seemed like the most cost and time-efficient way to build our house. They had no weather delays as everything is built inside the factory. Rick had a few doubts, but we were able to make a weekend of it in Wisconsin and toured the Stratford Homes facility.  We were also able to see a few more models, which was helpful.

“With the tour, it gave us – especially Rick – peace of mind in knowing and understanding the manufacturing process and how they build their homes. Each step has a timeline, so they can build really quickly while also being flexible with us and our subcontractors. In this area, pouring foundations is a ‘weather-permitting’ type of event, and each of our contractors had their own schedules to coordinate, but it worked so well together and went very smooth,” Allie said.

With Rick and his grandpa committing to building the porch, garage and the walk-out basement wall framework off the foundation, their plan was coming together very nicely. In July 2022, they bought the lot scenically-located outside New Albin city limits, while overlooking the gorgeous bluffs flanking the Upper Iowa River. The lot was fairly-steep from back yard to the street, but they wanted to build farther back on the lot to gain height and see more of nature’s artwork from their living room windows. 

“This has been just over one year since we started planning the house with Matt at Lansing Custom Homes. He told us they had an opening in February to be able to start construction of our design. Then we made what seemed like thousands of decisions last fall, but it was so helpful to tweak the design instead of starting from scratch.”

Allie explained, “Working with Matt, and then Dean once Matt retired from Lansing Custom Homes, was a seamless experience and we deeply appreciated both their experience and wisdom when it came to figuring out where we could compromise between design and budget. Matt told us, ‘There are things you can replace later without much fuss which will save you money now. And there are things you really should do right away.’”

Their must-have feature though, was the fireplace in the living room. “It was so much better than the pictures, and it really is a focal point of the design,” said Allie. AgVantage FS was contracted to install the LP to the home, and Kent Schlitter, LP Service Technician from Waukon, dug the LP line and hooked up their LP, with one line going to the fireplace. The rustic feel of the fireplace will make a cozy backdrop for their first winter in their new home.

Rick added, “The advice we got from our contractors was invaluable, to use their life experiences and insights. Frank Mahr of Mahr Excavating did our sitework, and how the lot was sloped and graded allowed the house to move back about 30 feet so we could have a full walk-out basement, instead of having half underground as we had planned. It makes all the windows downstairs at a really good height.”

“It really takes so much of the stress out of it as well, when you have experienced and knowledgeable people involved. They all had their supplies coming over last winter, so everything was there and we didn’t have to change our mind or have kinks in our plans. Everything was here when we started to build,” added Allie.

Allie and Rick had sifted through thousands of beautiful samples for each surface and finish in the home.  “At some point, it was just a bit overwhelming, and I’m not great at making decisions. Rick’s the realist, and keeps me grounded, but at LCH we could tell them the look or vibe we were going for, and they would provide options from that, which was so helpful.”

With a wide-open floor plan for the living and dining room with cozy kitchen, two bedrooms were carved out in the upstairs, with a walk-in closet and master bath just off the master bedroom. In the basement, three bedrooms are planned, with room for entertaining and family get-togethers. “We hosted a bunch of our cousins for a get-together a few weeks ago, and this home is a good landing place for all of them.  Moving from a 600 sq. ft. apartment in July, we may actually have the most space out of them all now!” Allie added.

“There were contractors we knew we wanted to use, but for those we didn’t know, LCH had relationships with experienced contractors and connected us with people we needed,” stated Allie, “Dean lined everyone up we needed.”

The couple started working as soon as the weather would permit, with excavation from Mahr Excavating, running water and utility lines, then pouring the foundation. Rick and crew zoomed into action as soon as the basement walls were poured, constructing the remaining walls in preparation for their new house being set and constructed on-site beginning in June this year. “They called me and said they would be there at 7:30 a.m. to set the house, and I got there a few minutes late and had already missed most of it, as they were just finishing with the second half,” Rick noted.

The house was set and secured, then Tri State Heating and A/C came in to finish the heating and ventilation system, which surprised Rick a bit. “Newer homes are sealed up much tighter than they used to be, so there’s a ventilation shaft that pulls air in from outside for the HVAC. That’s the good part about using our contractors, they keep up on the new codes and standards so we don’t have to. And they all weighed in on things people liked and didn’t like from their experience – because you may not be focused on that at the time your building – so it’s great to take those into consideration.

“We did all the flooring in the house over two weekends and honestly kind of slowed the crews up. They came back once we were done to finish up with the trim and final touches,” Rick said. New appliances from Rockweiler Appliance in Waukon gave their kitchen a fresh, modern look, with features accented in black stainless steel.

New furniture curated from many different places filled the living and dining room. Rick reported, “It was so nice when we were able to move in, because we basically had an owner’s manual in LCH if we had any questions. When we had half the room’s outlets not work, they were able to tell us it was due to the GFI outlet. Such a simple fix, and they’ve just been great.”

The couple was able to start moving into their new home in July of this year. Doing a bit of the work themselves nights and weekends means there still may be projects to do, but they are labors of love for the young couple just setting their own roots in the New Albin area.

“We also painted most of the bedrooms, added most of the hardware on cabinets, installed the ceiling fan and are adding our finishing touches,” Allie noted as their dog Indy moved right up to the perfectly-sized window she can look out from upstairs.

“Indy’s made friends with all the neighbors, and we tease the black lab down the hill is her boyfriend. Our biggest concern is trying to catch Indy after she comes in with muddy paws to clean her up before she comes in.”

The porch may not be fully complete, but time is running out this season. They will be able to work on the garage interior through the cold season, as well as finishing the interior of the lower level. Then they can finish their plans for next year’s projects: constructing a breezeway between the house and garage, finishing off the siding between the house and garage, adding a patio off the basement and landscaping their yard. 

“It was such a great experience, there’s absolutely no indication this is a modular home, and got better advice from our contractors than we did family,” admitted Rick. 

Allie added, “The contractors tell what they hear and what they know, where family was afraid if we didn’t like their advice. We’ve built the house we want, a house that can grow with us as our family grows.”

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8 months ago

Congrtats — Very Beautiful HOME — and View yous have —