Monday, October 22, 2012

Front of House Before and After

As autumn draws to a close and we prepare to hunker down for another winter I am pleased to look back and see that changes we have made to the exterior of the house.  Until a few months ago we had a drab little 50's house.
 
But now we get to come home to this charming little place.  (Sorry about the lighting.  It gets dark pretty early here)
 
I snapped this picture a month before we moved in.  We're still trying to keep that neighbor kid out of the yard and away from the cat.
The updated front looks so much better although the garden needs some attention.


And the view down the driveway has improved considerably since this picture
 The garage now looks like it actually belongs with the house
 The exterior is now officially done for the year.  It's already turned cold here in Montana and it's currently snowing, again.  I'm ready to work on the interior for a while.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

No More 50's Front Porch

I am so close to having the front of the house finished, but the porch still needs some attention.  Several weeks ago Luke removed the railing from around the porch.  We don't like how much it sticks out into the sidewalk so we won't be reusing it. My dad is going to rework it into a railing for an egress window at his home so it's not going to waste.
The ugly outdoor carpet will not come clean but at least it distracts the eye from the big crack in the concrete.
After seriously considering my options I decided to lay cedar decking over the concrete steps. First I put down redwood sleeper strips over the concrete.  This will keep the decking from making direct contact with the concrete and prolong its lifespan.
 
I wanted cedar decking, but the only boards I could find in stock were rough cut 2x4's.  I had to run each through the table saw to trim them down to the standard 5/4 decking thickness.  Each board them had to be planed and sanded before I could seal it.  I used Thompsons water seal which has to sit in a heated environment for 48 hours to properly dry.  No wonder this porch took me so long to build.  It seemed like an eternity before I could finally install the decking.
With the decking in place I could build our handrails.  Even though the porch is under 30" tall and does not require a railing I though handrails might be nice for elderly visitors.  I used aluminum deck rails to incorporate some of the bronze accents I have used elsewhere in the house.

And after all that work the porch is finally done.  We didn't have to look at this eyesore any longer
Because now we get to come home to this.  
 Eventually we will have a set of patio doors off the back of the house.  For now this is our only door which is inconvenient when I want to get to the garage but also means one less path I have to shovel during the winter. Having this project finished also means that I am finished with exterior projects for the year.  It's time for me to hunker down for the winter and make the interior of the house look as nice as the exterior.









Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Million Dollar Makeover for $170

There is no way to hide that we have a plain 50's ranch, but we're doing the best we can to dress it up.  Replacing the windows and front door were a start, and painting the house made a big difference, but we're not there yet.

I wanted it to look a little more custom so Luke and I agreed on a stone veneer under the window. The buffalo board is not structural and the house has a massive beam and bracing to support the front wall.  Since I did not need plywood for shear strength I could attach cement board directly to the house instead of having to deal with lumber, tar paper and lath.
The chimney at our last house was such a hit that we decided to use slate again.  I cut full tiles into 3rd's that will be arranged in a brick pattern.  It's been four years since I bought my big tile saw and it's still one of my favorite tools.
For anyone considering using this veneer, be prepared to put in a lot of hours.  Our chimney took about 200 hours to cover 200 sq.ft.  I had to do less prep work this time and I'm not climbing up and down scaffolding all day so it should go a little faster, but this is a long project.  Each piece has to be "buttered" with mortar on the back, then gently tapped with a rubber mallet into the mortar bed on the house wall.
Even when all the tile is on the wall it still needs work.  Any mortar left on the tiles has to be cleaned off.  I learned my lesson from the last house and did a much better job cleaning up while the mortar was still wet.  Once it has dried you have to scrape it off with a screwdriver or wire wheel.  When the surface is finally clean it's time to seal.  I'm a big fan of Tile Lab Gloss Sealer.  It really brings out the color in the slate and holds up better than other brands I've tried.

You might be wondering how the finished product turned out.  Here's where we started a few weeks ago:
And how it looks now:

During all this work I also put the veneer on the front of the garage.  We've been looking that the tar paper since March:

But now it's finally done
Here's a quick budget breakdown for anyone considering their own slate veneer.

$79 - Slate
$53 - Concrete board (overpaid because I had to buy it in town, would have been $39 at Lowes)
$18 - Mortar (we already had hydrated lime on hand)
$20 - Tile sealer

Total area covered - 65 sq ft

I still have one project left before I can consider myself ready for winter: the porch.





Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Surprise

I wasn't looking for a new project.  I just wanted to get the master suite insulated before we saw any more snow.  But in order to insulate I needed to tear down the sheetrock, remove the old insulation and finish wiring the room.  And then I found this:
I guess this would explain why my allergies suddenly improved when we moved out of this room.

We knew the old roof was leaking, but just now learned that the water was running down a wire into this bay.  Unfortunately this wall happens to separate the bedroom from the living room.  So this

Now looks like this
I had already arranged some vacation time to work on the exterior.  I had to use two of my vacation days to get the walls torn down, wired and re-insulated.
It was a hassle and wasted a lot of my vacation time, but the house stays a lot warmer now.