Halethorpe man honored by This Old House magazine

Mike Anson didn't let a broken ankle get in the way of his renovation project.

Anson — foot cast and all — completely overhauled his bathroom, which was in need of major repair, and in the process earned recognition from This Old House magazine for showing some "moxie."

After living in his Halethorpe home for a couple of years, Anson discovered that the toilet was leaking and was beginning to sink into the floor.

"When we took up the floor, we realized that the entire floor was sagging and wasn't supported. Three of the five joists in the room had cracked in half," said the 51-year-old associate professor of biology at the Community College of Baltimore County's Dundalk campus. "One of the past owners covered it up. We are lucky that my wife didn't take a quick express trip to the kitchen."

Anson and his wife, Desiree, decided that he would complete the project himself. She's glad that he did.

"It turned out really pretty," said his wife of 22 years. "We had always planned on updating the bathroom. It wasn't very attractive. It was older. But this bumped it up on the priority list. It was a lot of fun for me. I got to see him build it from the ground up."

Anson, who considers himself "pretty handy," was able to tap into his years of woodworking experience to complete the project.

"I've been working with wood since I was a child," he said. "My family were the Potthast Brothers, a local furniture company."

It took Anson 21/2 years to complete the bathroom.

In July's issue of This Old House magazine, he was named one of the winners of its annual "Reader Remodel Contest." Anson won one of 14 Moxie Awards, given out to recognize what the magazine considers the "most inspiring stories of determination to get the job done." Anson was also given the Kerri Strug Award — a reference to the injured 1996 Olympic gymnast who won gold after landing a vault on one foot — for completing the bathroom remodel with a broken ankle.

"Mike is just the type of person we look for when it comes to the Moxie Awards," said Keith Pandolfi, associate editor at This Old House. "Despite the pain he was in, he worked right through it and got his home improvement project done. I still can't believe he insisted on crawling around on his hands and knees. Who wouldn't be impressed by that dedication?"

An avid runner, Anson suffered the injury during a stumble while training to improve on his time in the 5-mile run.

"I was at the stage where I was going to tear up the floor," Anson said. "I had to balance the foot in the cast to do it. The project wound up taking longer to complete than my ankle took to heal."

Anson's wife was impressed by her husband's drive to complete the project.

"While he was recovering, he continued to work in the bathroom," she said. "He was bound and determined to get it done."

In addition to raising the bathroom floor and supporting it, Anson installed a larger radiator, completely stripped and glazed the antique bathtub, added a closet, a Victorian-looking antique sink and a "fancy" ceiling light over the sink.

"I was going to do the best job I could," said Anson, who estimates that he saved $10,000 doing the project himself. "I'm very happy" with the way it turned out.

He added: "There was no way we could have afforded to do this job without doing it ourselves. We just bought this house. It just seemed silly not to work on it."

Since its completion, the bathroom has turned into something of a celebrity.

"I think there have been more people to have a tour of my bathroom than I ever expected," he said with a laugh.

Anson said the project was dedicated to his wife, who is also "fairly handy."

"She loves old houses," he said. "This was a gift for her."

Anson's wife raves about the finished product.

"It's stunning," she said, adding that the two have switched their focus to renovating their library — a task that is expected to take at least two years. "If only the rest of the house could look like that."