Dale and Amy Earnhardt's Historic Home Renovation in Key West

NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife, and interior designer, Amy rescue a crumbling 150-year-old home in Key West’s historic Old Town district. The project gets underway with shoring up the foundation and flooring then reconfiguring the ground floor to add a full bath and guest bedroom.

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

Photo By: Emilee Ramsier

The Renovation You Are About to See Is Real

So begins the opening sequence in DIY's series, Renovation Realities: Dale Jr. and Amy. In it, recently retired auto-racing superhero Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife Amy get set to embark on a real-life adventure, one that's far removed from the racetrack. It's an eventful time for the Earnhardts. "In the last 18 months," says Dale, "we got married, I announced my retirement from racing and we decided to buy and renovate a 150-year-old vacation home in Key West."

Before

We saw this run-down old house in the Key West historic district. It was full of cats, and you could smell it from the street. It's the only house within several square blocks that's in this kinda shape.
—Dale

It's a huge eyesore, but I have a vision for how we can bring it back to life.
—Amy

After

Because the house is in a historic district, the renovation had specific guidelines and strict limitations on changes and upgrades. Though the exterior got a fresh coat of paint and new doors to replace the old rotted ones, the configuration of the windows, doors and facade remains essentially true to its original form. "They want the houses really to not change from how they've looked over the last hundred years," says Dale. "I think that's why Key West is so charming."

Quintessentially Key West

People have always asked me, "Is there anywhere you go where you don't get recognized?" Key West -- That's the place where I feel like I can be myself. I love the old bars. I love the history, the restaurants, the food.
—Dale

I like that it's laid back all year round. We just feel comfortable here.
—Amy

Before

"The house is sagging," said Dale, "the porch is sloping, none of it's level."

Before

The side exterior, prior to the renovation, shows wood rot and wear to the exterior, and the yard is filled with debris.

Before

The eventual plan for the backyard is to install a pool, wraparound deck and privacy fence.

Front Entry, Before

During initial demolition of the first-floor ceiling it was discovered that a hive of bees had taken up residence between the floor joists of the second floor, with a network of honeycombs extending from the front entrance to the middle section of the house. Happily for everyone, the bees were safely relocated.

Front Entry, Before

The house interior was in worse condition than initially thought, with severe flooring and support issues, widespread wood rot and termite damage.

In Progress

The foundation had to be stabilized, the floors rebuilt and walls taken down to bare studs.

In Progress

Dale secures some support posts during the rebuild of the foundation and footings. During the renovation, work was delayed for five weeks in the wake of hurricane Irma which caused widespread damage in the Keys.

In Progress

Amy's home improvement skills aren't limited only to interior design. Here she pitches in on repair and rebuilding of the floors which, prior to the renovation, were badly deteriorated.

In Progress

Dale uses the wet saw to cut tile for the bathroom renovation.

Creative Repurposing

Some of the original exterior doors were rotted or damaged but could be salvaged and refinished for use indoors. Here Dale and Amy paint one of the bedroom doors.

Coastal Color

The vibrant color Amy selected for the doors is Festoon Aqua. 

Before

Dale and Amy wanted a full bath on the first floor, but code restrictions meant they couldn't add on to the outside of the house, so they had to work within the home's existing layout. This room was once the home's dining room. In the new floor plan, it will become a full bath adjacent to a downstairs bedroom. 

Before

The overall design plan calls for creating a guest bedroom, bathroom and laundry room on the home's first floor.

After

The downstairs gets a full-sized bath with glass enclosed shower, marble floor tiles and custom vanity. Vintage brick pavers salvaged from the home site were cut down, given a whitewash finish and used for bathroom tiles. This was one of Amy's favorite design features in the renovation.

Before

In the new floor plan, this space gets converted into a spacious downstairs bedroom.

Before

"This space was used as a living room," said Amy, "but we're gonna wall it off to create a first-floor bedroom."

After

Twin iron beds, new hardwood flooring and lots of aqua blue and butterflies make for an inviting guest room with a soothing motif.

Before

After

The first floor bedroom is a desirable feature, but this space could function equally well as a home office.

After

Dale and Amy pause to reflect on the transformation in the first-floor guest bedroom.

Behind the Scenes

As you probably know, this is not my day job. 
—Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Behind the Scenes

Dale Jr. takes a breather during the construction of what will be a poolside outdoor shower.

Behind the Scenes

Dale installs some of the new hardwood flooring on the first floor.

Behind the Scenes

Dale and Amy pose for a snapshot with general contractor Steve Krieger.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Hurricanes and renovation challenges weren't the only news during Key West project...

Behind the Scenes

...It was also during this time that Dale and Amy announced they were expecting their first child. When Dale returned home after a public appearance, Amy surprised him with a welcome-home gift in the form of a baby onesie. The message was clear.

Behind the Scenes

Soon-to-be parents Amy and Dale Earnhardt

Not So Fast!

This is just the beginning of the story. There's lots more to come. Keep checking back here for more new exclusive photos, behind-the-scenes video and updates.

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