Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Curb Appeal


This is the post I have been waiting 7 years to write. The front of the house is finally done!

Ok, we cheated a little with our before and after shots. The before picture was taken in late fall while we opted for early spring to capture the after picture. But look how green the grass is! Actually, as I will discuss in detail later, the before picture is probably as good as the house was going to look considering how many weeds were lurking just below the surface waiting to pounce and completely lay waste to every inch of exposed dirt. It was painful.

You may want to grab some coffee, there is a lot to unpack here.  When we first moved in, we didn't think the state of the front façade and yard were that bad. The inside was our first priority so we threw Band-Aids on some of the outside trouble spots and got to work. This wasn't the wisest decision because almost everything started to deteriorate quickly.  We moved in around early April and that's just about when everything green started to explode. Mostly weeds and English Ivy. Oh, some Poison Ivy too. Be careful around that stuff kids. Prior to moving into this house my wife and I had lived our adult lives in apartments or townhouses. Our combined experience with greenery was minimal. During our first summer, I took a run at clearing and cleaning some of the property.  Pro tip here, if you attempt to wrestle mother nature into submission, you will lose. And I did.  I think this experience ultimately guided our design decisions for the exterior of the house. Simple, clean and classic is what needed to happen to heal our battered minds and bodies.

During the interior renovations, my wife and I would constantly be on the lookout for houses in the neighborhood with color schemes we liked. The siding definitely needed to be painted and due to the builder quality brickwork, it was going to be included in our palette decision as well. I'll say it again, the hardest part of renovations is picking out colors. Going with black on white may seem like a punt, but it was unique among houses on our street and kept showing up on our list of favorite example homes.  

I'll bet that you can't think of  a single garage door near you that isn't a shade of white. You wouldn't think it when shopping for them though. Seems like only high end houses really consider the design of garage doors. Ok, they are a bit more expensive but can have a significant impact on how your home looks and feels. With that said, we went with regular ol' Clopay white doors. That's actually what we wanted. I'll talk more about the doors in an upcoming garage post. That should be a good one.

It's hard to see in the "before" shot but the large window on the main level is a mid century honeycomb bow window. It created a magical draft that would appear as if from nowhere. Under a certain exterior temperature, it was like the window wasn't even there. It had to go. I explored hiring this job out but happened upon a couple of windows off Nextdoor.com that were a perfect fit. I ended up buying a set of four and selling two that put my end cost at $0. Not a bad deal. 

Getting a new concrete driveway was definitely something we were going to splurge on. We hired Maico Gomez with MVK Construction for the heavy lifting. Couldn't have been happier with the work he did. He's done a bunch of work for us over the years and our neighbors too. If you ever need concrete, pavers, painting, you name it... he's your man.

I learned a lot about door installation when replacing our front door. Unless your house if perfectly level and plum, you are going to have problems. Our house is neither, which is to be expected from over 50 years of settling. It's not so much the door as it's the trim that becomes an issue. I had to get creative a number of times. Measure once, cut lots of times was the rule in this case. In addition, and at the risk of covering up such a beautiful entry way, we decided to install a black storm door to get some extra light into the house on nice days. This was an even harder install because the door had little to no rigidity. It had to go in perfectly or it wouldn't seal well. This was a must have and took way more than the advertised afternoon to install. Well worth it though.  

The first thing you should do when moving into a new house is address the landscaping and lawn. It took years to tackle the weeds. The grass has to win and win often to outlast the competition. And if all else fails....sod. It's pricy but you get an instant lawn. I even did some of it myself. And it's still going strong a few years later. Win.  The tree on the left in the pictures below died a couple years ago so we had it taken out. I was sad to see it go but now the lawn gets soooo much more sun. I heard that's what plants need.

The brick and siding was sprayed with Benjamin Moore Brilliant White. Maico did this for us too. I tell ya, he does everything. Painting is only as good as the prep though. I tackled this part of the job for a couple reasons.  Mostly, I just wanted it done right. I really took my time and made sure all of the scraped areas were filled in and sanded perfectly. It's the front of the house and would have been obvious if not. I'm sure the pros would have been good but it turned out to be an iterative process that I'm not sure would have been compatible with their timelines. And then there was cost. Conservatively, I saved about 8K doing this myself. That money came in handy in other areas of the house that my lower back begged me to skip. The back yard post is coming soon.   

Maico Gomez to the rescue again on the front steps. A lot of people said we didn't have to get it done. I had another opinion on the matter. The slate found a new home and good riddance. I'm not opposed to the style but it was poorly conceived and built. I mean, it sloped TOWARDS the house! I think the long continuous bluestone steps are clean and really tidy up the space. I'm happy.

Up lights, down lights, porch lights, path lights; we have it all.  And they are all low voltage LED adding up to less than 70 watts. That's about one incandescent bulb. I wanted our house to be open and inviting even at night without running up the electric bill. Mission accomplished. Home depot has whole sets that go on sale periodically for almost nothing. You should see what I did in the back yard.  That's for another post though.

And for the cherry on top, a home built planter box made out of wood scraps from the shed.  I spent more money on the plants. I really have to grow my own next year. We'll see how it fills in and I'll make tweaks for a real planting next season.