Front Porch Beginning

The front porch has long been the glory of our home, in our minds.  It spans the length of the front and down half the east side of our  home, with a slate walk all the way around, two sets of stairs, and entrances on both sides.

The first thing we did upon moving into our home was to prune back all of the vines and branches reaching up around the edges and onto the roof.  The protective shield of greenery did keep the porch clean from the street dirt, and provided a load of privacy, but also hid this gorgeous porch from view.  In the above photo, you can see what we saw upon viewing our home for the first time.

Almost ten years later, we find that we need to not only repaint, but also rebuild sections of our beloved porch.  After chopping down the vines, a year later we put on gutters, which dried out the porch significantly.  But, that also meant that the porch now was able to dry rot, which it did in sections.  It began slowly and we noticed significant damage two summers ago.  We can no longer put off repairing our porch.

In the process of repainting the back porch, I have learned the best products to use to coat the front porch and have begun the sanding process.  Bill has used beams to prop up the front edge and will begin tearing out the rot this coming weekend.

We will need to replace the wood footings under the columns and many floor boards, but hopefully none of the spindles.

I will begin repainting the floor and ceiling in sections, hopefully coating at least half the porch before winter.  The weather, cold and rain, will determine how far I’m able to go.  By next summer, we hope to finish painting and repair.


Back Porch!!

Much delayed sharing on this one. . due to life, work, etc., albeit. . .  I bring you our back porch project.  

Basically, the floor and rails, siding, ceiling were all painted when we purchased the house in 2009, but the floors haven’t worn well.

My back porch

In order to get going on this project, I started by painting the ceiling a pale blue.  Recently, I learned that ceilings are or were painted blue as a deterrent to prevent birds from nesting in the rafters.  I just thought it was a beautiful old tradition, so I chose a soft robin’s egg color and transformed our ceiling from a dead white.

Next, I sanded off the old paint layers. It took me 3 years to refinish the floor on this small area and now the stairs are peeling after just one season.  (I blame the harsh harsh weather and the fact that the stairs have absolutely no shelter.)

The wood on the stairs is new, but so is the primer and a high quality porch paint.  We had thought a stain would work, but the system we used on the front of the house was no good after one year, so I was hoping the paint would do better.  Since Bill and I both know paint pretty well, and have refinished loads of things, we really thought we nailed it.  I’m going to hunt around for something better to topcoat and I’ll be sanding the rough spots this late summer to repaint those stairs.

After sanding the floor, both Bill and I chipped away at the railings.  We finished that in only a day and began priming.  We have been partial to the XIM primers for exterior.  They look like an adhesive, but are thick and go on clear.  They bond to everything and hold on to the exterior house paint we are using.

Once the rails were primed, two coats of fresh exterior white applied, I primed and coated the floor.  I chose a slightly darker taupe color to hide the dirt more.  I will likely put on a fresh coat this season just to help the wear.  Our winter weather is quite harsh on exterior wood, and we want to do all we can to preserve these porches.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying the freshly painted floor, ceiling and rails of the back porch.  And, we moved my adorable, albeit rusty glider back here last fall.  I put up a few lights and a fan, and its my current favorite outdoor spot.  Makes it easy to watch Will in the pool and our backyard is lushly green and quite private for being such a small space with close neighbors.

This summer, we are facing into the front porch.  It has some rough damage due to lack of gutters, but it will be a doozy to redo on our own.  Plus, we have interior projects to finish and show you soon. 😉




The Patio

Bill worked outside on this huge project most of last summer.  It was late in the season when he finished the project and it isn’t quite complete yet, as we still would like cover with topsoil and plant thyme.

We gathered about 4 pallets of stones a few years back from across the street for a mere 60 bucks.  Yeah, we scored.  A pallet of stone can be a few hundred dollars, depending on the type, so we really were grateful for our purchase.  With those, we planned all of these glorious ideas on whether to make stone walls, walks or a patio.  I think we have enough to do our whole yard.

To start a project like this, Bill had to dig out the sod, lay crushed stone or pea stone and tamp it down.  Then he fitted the larger stone and set it all in with sand.  It really took him most of the summer, but I think he enjoyed the process and we have a beautiful patio.

This spring, we planted red thyme and a few other goodies around the border for erosion.  Bill also added a few steps to the yard, so that Will would not be tempted to step through my new plants.  We still need to place topsoil between the stones and plant a creeping thyme or sage for erosion and appearance.  There will certainly be a followup post with better pictures to come once that is all complete.

Garage is complete

 Summer of 2010 or so
Summer of 2010 or so
Kinda sad
Kinda sad

It has only taken 18 months to finish our latest project, the garage.  Well, I should re-state.  We really have been working on the garage for 4 years and we have yet to truly finish it, but it at least looks finished and I can be happy with it now.  The garage was in shambles, with a full attic and stacked shelves with all sorts of junk.  It was probably used to fix up cars and originally it had a wood burning stove in the back with a chimney.  Back in 2009, we took down the crumbly chimney and used the bricks to build a walk from the drive to the back door.  Bill did that as a surprise for me when I was on a work trip  in the spring of 2010.  Bill covered the chimney hole with extra shingles we found in the garage and we cleaned out the shelving in hopes we could fit two cars in our 1 1/2 width garage.

Last summer, we began scraping and priming the exterior, taking down the lights and removing the windows.  We didn’t get very far along in the process and the windows stayed open all winter.  But, we were able to pull both cars into the garage for the duration of the winter storms, even though the narrow door only allowed us to move one car at a time.

This summer, we widen-ed the door, put in a whole new door, new lights, new opener and re-glazed the old windows.  The garage looks decent and we can use it more easily for both cars.  However, the cinder block foundation could use some work in the long run and we will want to eventually clean out the garage attic.  Yes, there is a garage attic full of old stuff from long before our arrival.  If we do it right, we could put in a dormer and a floor and it would be a great playhouse for Will, especially when he starts bringing his buddies over.  But, that is for another summer.

Right now, I’m just pleased at how nice it cleaned up and how spacious it feels.

Much better!!
Much better!!

My Porch Swing

My favorite gift that Bill has ever given me was an oak tray, distressed and stained beautifully.  We use it for nights we snack on cheese and olives from the couch, or if we happen to have a breakfast in bed occasion.  Bill made it for me for our first Christmas together and it is still one of my treasured things.  But, I have to say, he out-did himself this year for Mother’s Day.

Bill made me a porch swing, or rather a porch bed.  Since our wrap around porch is big enough to be a 5th bedroom, Bill made it into one.  I took our old futon mattress and found a weather proof cover for it, added some pillows and Wa-La!  (Or however you spell that.)

Berthel porch bed

Garage Priming

the garage, waiting for a paint job
the garage, waiting for a paint job

With the driveway behind us, we have been focusing on priming the garage.  Unfortunately, fall came early this year and we both feel a little behind.  So, we hired a little help.  It isn’t our style to hire help, but Alex is a great guy and super agreeable to work with.  He is our neighbor’s nephew and loads of experience on projects like this.  Besides, the priming has been rather tedious for us.  We’re using a supremely good primer that goes on white, but dries clear.  It fills in cracks and adheres chipping paint to the surface.  Sort of like painting with Elmers, but a more stable version.  The garage looks plain and simple primed without the first coats of paint.  I’m hoping to get some actual color on it today, but we’ll see how the weather cooperates.

Bill will be fixing and updating the garage door and lights on the exterior.  If we get these lights working, it won’t be so dark during the winter when Bill comes home from work, or on nights we go out.  We won’t be able to finish everything we need to do to the garage this fall, but this is a good start, to have it painted.  We’ll have to repair the brick work and likely put in a new floor at some point.  When Will is old enough, we might make the attic a “playhouse” for him by putting in a dormer window.

I still can’t believe we get to live in this place.  What an amazing house.

And what an amazing fall coming.

Resurfacing the Driveway

Before the sealant
Before the sealant

We’ve been plugging away outside this summer, though it is quickly turning to fall here.  The leaves are already changing and starting to fall, at least our maples are moving along.  With progress halted for a bit on the garage painting, we decided to go ahead and resurface the drive.  It desperately needed it and we had to get it done before the leaves but after the pollen, so a few short weeks in July and early August and that was it.

To complicate things, we have a shared drive.  We have great neighbors, but as it turned out, they weren’t able to help us do the work.  We did strike a deal, though — we’ll do the labor if they can pay for the sealant.  So, Bill and I got to work.  I’d have to say that resurfacing asphalt is by far the heaviest labor that I have ever done, and my back is still reeling.  Hopefully, I have not injured another disk.  Yikes.


Bill and I researched sealants for a while, and the process, and filling cracks and patching.  All of the above have to be done in a timeline, preceded by edging the drive carefully and power washing to remove debris.  And, each piece of the process needs its own drying time of 24 hours before the next step can be done, whew.  Sealants got mixed reviews online and people complained of the companies’ not standing by their products.  I was sorta worried that our extremely old and crumbly drive wasn’t going to allow the sealant to adhere.  And then, once we started edging and washing, I got really nervous.  The drive cracked under the pressure of the washer and the edge was just gravel at some points.

But, we decided to take our chances and ended well, with two full coats down of an 8 year sealant.  I’m pleased with the look and feel and so far the adhesion is perfect.  I can offer some tips, however, on what we learned in the process:

Driveway completely sealed
Driveway completely sealed

1.  Turn the buckets over the night before to allow the sediment to fall out.  Mixing, even with  a drill attachment, took forever on our first coat.

2.  Buy more buckets than you think you need, especially if the drive is rough.  Buy at least 5-8 buckets more than you need, you can always return it, but it is hard to run and get it in mid project.

3.  Check the dates on the buckets.  Don’t use old stuff — it will smell and dry slowly and possibly not adhere.  We did end up using one old bucket and found out the hard way.

4.  Clean the dickens out of the driveway before you start, you will thank yourself.

5.  Follow all the directions to a tee.  There is a warranty on the product, but seriously, is the company really going to come and fix your sad ole driveway if something goes wrong?

6.  Don’t plan to do anything else the rest of the weekend.  And do this with someone as you can blood, sweat and tears together before you pass out from exhaustion.

Good luck!  (And I realize that these photos make it super hard to tell what we did, but believe me, a HUGE difference!)