For Williston family, years of sweat equity brings bigger abode

By Mal Boright

To Brian and Phyllis Donohue of 188 North Williston Road, a safer investment than the stock market is the homestead. All you need are some money for materials and a willingness to provide some serious sweat equity.

Also, it can be helpful if, like Brian, you helped your dad build the family home when you were a boy.

With some remodeling of the original small ranch home to go, the Donohues have completed an addition to the building that now measures some 2,700 square feet, tripling the size of the original dwelling. The work was done almost entirely by the family and without contractors.

For Brian Donohue, who is maintenance and remodeling supervisor for the Shelburne-based restaurant company Hospitality Well Done, the project has taken four years to complete.

“It was mostly nights and weekends,” he said. “I would get out of work and come home and work on this.”

He said that building the addition without disrupting the original living space made the project much more bearable for the family, which includes 6-year-old son Tyler.

Most of the heavy work was done in warmer weather.

“In the winter I would run wires and work on the plumbing,” said Brian Donohue. “That would keep me busy until it got warm again.”

He is no neophyte to the building trade, even though he says doing this one “on my own” made him very nervous. For several years, Donohue and his dad operated a construction business near Concord, N.H. and built several houses and other types of buildings.

“When I started with this I got a little scared,” Donohue recalled. “In my whole life I had my father around to count on.”

Dad did pitch in from time to time, but the main man was Brian Jr. and he is proud of that fact.

Phyllis Donohue took care of the interior design.

“She is really good with design,” Brian Donohue said. “We would put together a plan and then build.”

Uh-oh. Sounds a little like a homebuilder’s worst nightmare: the anxious owner-to-be who looks over the workers’ shoulders and wants to make all kinds of changes on the fly.

“No, that was not a problem for us,” said Brian Donohue with a laugh. “There were a few instances we would have to rip out and go back, but nothing serious.

Nature also took part in the interior decoration.

A maple tree beside the house that had been a victim of the late ‘90s ice storm provided the wood for handrails on the second floor and stars to the floor.

Lumber for the flooring in a dining area adjacent to a large and comfortable family room came from Brian Sr.

“He had these old boards around for 25 years,” said Brian Donohue. “We put them in and sanded them down and finished them.

The only work the Donohues contracted for was sheetrock installation, concrete work and the large stone fireplace which was installed by Robert Blood of Williston, shortly before he moved to Florida.

Looking back four years, Phyllis Donohue said it was fortunate that there were conversations with an appraiser that helped with the decision to enlarge the home.

“We thought about fixing up the small house and then selling it,” she said. “The appraiser said it might be a good idea to expand the house.”

Now they have a home three times the size of the original with just a little more remodeling to go.

Donohue can go back to the Vermont Senior League baseball fields on Sundays as a member of the Jericho Indians.

Why, you might ask, is Donohue, a former high school and Babe Ruth League star in New Hampshire, playing for Jericho and not his hometown team that competes in the same league?

The answer: Donohue’s father-in-law Ralph “Lefty” Guillette is a longtime member of the Indians.

“For a while as the work was going on I could only play home games,” said Brian. “Now I’m ready to go.”