Learn How to Renovate Vintage Small Cottages and Houses for Love, Living-In or for Profit

UPDATE: Sunday, June 10th. The “Learn How To Renovate” Seminar was a great success! Thank you to all our Attendees! Stay tuned to the website and newsletter for repeat offerings of this Seminar later this year!


Check out these great photos from the Seminar!

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PureSalvageLiving Renovation Seminar Cottage - front

PureSalvageLiving’s Vintage Kit Cottage awaiting our Renovation Course!

COURSE DATE:  Saturday, June 9th

TIME: 9AM to 5PM ; boxed lunch, beverages and snacks included


Pure Salvage Living Retreat Center
609 East Wallace Street, Gonzales, Texas 78629

GOOGLE MAP & DIRECTIONS: http://g.co/maps/sw93y

TUITION:  $175 per person; Earlybird price only $99. EARLY BIRD PRICING EXTENDED! Early bird expires JUNE 7, 2012.

SKILL LEVEL:  Beginner to Advanced; no construction skills required

AGES: Adults 18 and over only, please, due to nature of location.

We reserve the right to cancel the course and refund your money if we do not meet our minimum number of students. You may cancel with a full refund up to 7 days prior to event; after that there are no refunds.



Learn from an professional builder with 30 years experience in construction and renovation in the Old House field. We will cover exactly how to correctly renovate classic small American “Kit Houses” and cottage houses, for maximum liveability, sustainablity, and without destroying the character and the soul of the house. Brad Kittel of Tiny Texas Houses has successfully bought, fixed up, rented out, and owned more than three dozen of the classic cottages he will be lecturing about.

If building your own small house from scratch isn’t for you, renovating a classic vintage pre-WWII small cottage or kit home may be!

This is NOT a get-rich-quick course about flipping homes for profit by doing junky cheap renovations. (In future seminar courses we will cover locating properties for resale, property financing or maximizing profits via resale marketing flip strategies for the responsible old house renovator. )

This is about actually restoring a rundown, classic vintage small cottage to become a beautiful, liveable home again. Whether you want to renovate a classic cottage to live in for yourself, or for a loved one, or to resell to another who would appreciate its craftsmanship and put a reasonable profit in your pocket – this seminar is for you.

About the Renovation Cottage

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We have one of the classic styles of Sears Kit Home cottages on our property in Gonzales which also includes our Pure Salvage Retreat 1905 Victorian house. Both these classic vintage homes will be used for overnight guests in our PSL retreat once their renovations are completed.

Photographs of the cottage house below show its current, as found condition, when we purchased it. This makes it the perfect candidate for us to teach you all the steps in her correct renovation.



Focusing on the actual example cottage, this seminar will cover creating its renovation plan, the strategy that determines the priorities of work to be done and why and some examples of work currently being done on the cottage.

The seminar will be loaded with professional tips, such as what to expect when you uncover the bathroom floor or work on areas that have taken in water or what to do with walls, floors, doors and windows that have suffered from years of neglect.

Your Instructor, Brad Kittel, has done on dozens of houses of this style, and he will show you how to turn what looks like a teardown into a treasure that could either house you, your friends or family members, or make you money on resale. Although this particular cottage is in far too good a condition to be destroyed, we will also discuss how to know when houses of this vintage are too far gone to save and are better demolished for salvage and those saved materials then used to build your own Tiny Texas House.

In order to assess and make the big decision to buy, or how far to go with the fix up, this class is essential in planning your budget, sequence of events, and realistically estimating the cost of the total rehab project. We will discuss how to know if the finished product is worth the expenditures it will take to make it original, or what to do if to you want to just do a cosmetic make over and pass some of the problems on to someone else.

No question will go unanswered as nearly every situation you can get into with renovating old and vintage houses has been experienced by Mr. Kittel in the dozens of houses that he rehabbed in Austin and Gonzales, Texas since 1980. Hopefully this information will save you many hours of grief, days of time in backtracking projects, thousands of dollars in wrong expenditures, and thousands saved by not getting taken advantage of by unscrupulous contactors who often get involved in such remodels.



This one day course will touch on many of the following common problems and repair aspects of vintage cottage renovation:


Foundations and Foundation Repair Work
House Levelling
Electrical Systems
Plumbing, Septic and Sewer Systems
Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
Fireplaces and WoodStoves


Insulation – Walls, Floor, Attic
Gutters, Eaves, Downspouts, Flashing, Etc.
Doors & Windows
Shutters – get it right!
Storm and Screen Doors and Windows; Shutters
Exterior Skirting
Porches, Patios and Decks


Walls – interior materials, removing and replacing
Floors – Refinishing vs. replacing; wood, tile and linoleum
Interior Doors
Trim – baseboards, crown mouldings, chair rails, window trims, etc.
Period Built-Ins
Fireplace Mantels and built-in shelving
Windows – repairing usage
Room Additions and Porch Remuddles – save or remove?
Restoring stairways, pantries, closets, rooms, hallways to original layouts


Fixtures – vintage or new?
Tilework – walls
Special considerations for wood floors and moisture
Fitting modern conveniences into old small home spaces


Window placement
Period window treatments/built in shelving
Period Fridges, Stoves & woodstoves
Other kitchen considerations due to old house’s smaller layouts, etc.


Yards and Landscaping
Paths and Walkways
Garages and House to Garage Overhangs/Porticos


Items you should always demo/remove from your old house
Renovations you should NEVER do
Permits and Inspections
Working with Contractors
and more..!



Brad Kittel, the Founder and Owner of Tiny Texas Houses, a custom home builder and artist who builds and works exclusively with vintage, salvaged architectural materials, has been building and renovating vintage homes since the early 1980s.

During his dozen years as a real estate broker he sold 60% of the real estate in the Austin, Texas 78722 zip code (MLK to the Airport, along Airport Blvd, accross to IH-35), and rehabbed over 50 houses in the immediate area.

The area of East Austin that became known as “the French Place” neighborhood was due to his marketing and extensive redevelopment work in that area long before it became gentrified. At one time Mr. Kittel was the 2nd biggest landowner behind UT in the “French Place” neighborhood.

Mr. Kittel won numerous awards for work in rehabbing old houses and old neighborhoods including their highest honor, the Building Block Award twice. He also won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his socially responsible work in fixing up old houses and neighborhoods in East Austin during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Currently, he is crafting custom commissioned small houses completely from vintage architectural salvage at his company, Tiny Texas Houses, based in Luling and Gonzales, Texas. He has founded the Pure Salvage Living movement to educate and empower others in sustainable living through salvage mining and salvage building and renovation of America’s existing vintage homes. More information can be found at



An integral part of the American Dream of  Home Ownership

According to Houses by Mail, over 100,000 kit houses were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940. Many people have lived in kit houses for years without realizing the historical and architectural significance of their humble abodes. The Aladdin Company of Michigan was the first to offer kit homes in 1906, followed by Sears in 1908. Sears Catalog Homes (sold as Sears Modern Homes) were ready-to-assemble kit houses sold through mail order by Sears, Roebuck and Company of Chicago, IL. Sears even offered mortgages on the homes for 5 to 15 years at 6-7% interest.

More than 70,000 of these were sold by Sears between 1908 and 1940. Shipped via railroad boxcars (most houses each needed an entire boxcar!) and then trucked to homesites, these kits included all the materials needed to build a house – a typical house kit had 30,000 pre-cut and pre-fitted and numbered parts, including doors, windows, rafters, trim, roofing, siding and even boxes of all the nails and fasteners required to construct the home! Many were assembled by the new homeowners and their friends, relatives, and neighbors, similar to the traditional barn-raisings of farm families. [1]

Besides Sears, other well-known kit home manufacturers of the time included Wardway Homes (Montgomery Ward, Harris Homes of Chicago, Pacific Ready Cut Homes in Los Angeles, The Ready Built House Company of Portland, Orgegon, Robinsons’s and Gordon-Van Tine of Davenport, Iowa. Sadly, rising costs, regulations and changing building codes after World War II had put all of these companies out of the kit building business by about 1950. [2]

There are several towns built entirely of kit homes; one of the largest being Carlinville, Illinois built by Standard Oil for its oil and coal mine workers who purchased $1 million dollars worth of Sears kit homes in 1918. Of the 156 homes, reportedly 151 still stand in Carlinville, making it one of the largest Sears kit home communities. [3]

Largely fallen into architectural obscurity, Kit Homes were rediscovered in the 1980’s, and now many Americans research, study and track the remaining Kit Homes (and Barns!). All of Sears’ customer records were lost in the late 1940’s, and no records from the other kit-manufactureres survived either, so now homeowners and “kit home fans” painstakingly track and catalog these homes one by one using visual matching and other clues gleaned from past owners.

Kit Home Resources for Further Learning:

A nice walkthrough of ways to identify a Sears Kit Home

A lovely comparison of the Sears Catalog photo to an existing Sears cottage

The largest and fanciest Sears model, the Magnolia, only 7 are known to have been built, and only one is in pristine condition, in Syracuse, NY.

Everything Kit Houses from one of the expert authors and researchers in the field

[1]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_Catalog_Home
[2] http://www.lib.umd.edu/NTL/kithomes.html#studies
[3] http://www.route66university.com/study/essay_thorn_std.php

8 Responses to Learn How to Renovate Vintage Small Cottages and Houses for Love, Living-In or for Profit

  1. Angela Dunavant

    The front of this house looks very much like my grandmother’s house in Florida. My mom’s family was renting it when mom saw it was for sale just after WW II. Mom bought it for $4,000.00. Our family owned it until the late 1990s. We couldn’t afford to make repairs or renovations too much as we are not rich people. As the plaster ceilings fell down and some of the walls got too bad Dad replaced them with knotty pine which was never painted. Seeing your course makes me wish we still had that house and I could attend your course so it could be renovated.

    May 21, 2012
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    May 21, 2012
  3. Joshua

    My wife and I are looking at buying a hundred year old 2 bedroom 1 bath farm house that needs alot of work will you be offering another class like this in the near future? Like the fall or late summer time frame?

    May 27, 2012
    • Tiny Texas Houses

      Hi Joshua, we do hope to offer more “old house renovation and restoration” workshops and seminars in the future, so please sign up for our Newsletter so you will know when we offer the next one! Thanks for your interest!

      May 31, 2012
  4. California is ripe for salvage mining, and it just breaks my heart to see preexisting structural resources decay, burn, or get hauled to the dump & scrap yards.
    I would like to invite Brad Kittel to consider visiting the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, in the heart of gold country; an area rife with history and neglected turn of the century architecture. Educating a group of like-minded individuals has the potential to inoculate an entire region; as each person returns to his or her corner of the state and begins to share the experience.
    Please send me an email if you are interested in coordinating a workshop project in Northern California.
    At your service,

    May 31, 2012
  5. Ruby

    There’s a lovely shotgun cottage in my town, a stone’s throw from a lake and surrounding park. It’s a piece of Southern heritage. It’s been kept up fairly well, which is mostly good. However, it looks like the kitchen was redone in the 80s, and on the cheap. Plastic linoleum, tiny counters and cabinets canted towards the floor, fluorescent lighting. Sigh…

    Since the original is gone, it would be wonderful to have the kitchen and bathroom redone with some of the Pure Salvage material. It would really complete the house and make it into a home to envy. 🙂

    June 2, 2012
  6. Diana

    Seconding Joshua’s request for more of the same! (yep, I signed up for the newsletter)

    June 6, 2012
  7. paul clark

    I love doing custom wood fabrications, I restored a 1928 library in La Porte at Sylvan beach, I and a guy I highered rebuilt all the original window units. I think attending one of your workshops would be great fun!

    June 9, 2012