Friday, December 21, 2012

Back Porch Love

July 2012

Wrapping up the front porch project just got me more excited to start moving on our back porch.  For a bit of a background when we bought the house there was a covered back porch off the mudroom.  It looked like this.

The entire thing was structurally unsound and I cringed every time the wind blew.  That being said, we used it all the time.  It was a great place to eat in the summer and to have friends over and sit out back. Our house can start to feel pretty small when you have 6 or more people in it. So the back porch became a great additional hang out space.

When we remodeled the outside of the house there was no option, it had to go.  It came down in one short afternoon and it was a huge difference.  The backyard looked so big and open.  Unfortunately, we missed it immediately.  The back of our house faces West and during the summer it was super hot out there.  You could literally cook yourself on that patio waiting for the BBQ. We knew we wanted to put something back but decided to wait it out and take on the project in 2012.  

As part of the Depave project we decided to remove some additional concrete from around our patio.  The patio was pretty large and connected to our driveway which made it feel like we were eating out on our driveway.  We had no green space.  Josh and I envisioned a similar but smaller back porch, that we wanted to screen in.  We decided to surround the porch with raised beds to act as enclosure and to give us some prime planting areas in the back of the house.  There were napkin sketches at beer gardens and several conversations before we came up with this configuration.

Since this would call for some big lumber and the summer already seemed to be rushing past us, Josh and I decided to outsource the actual canopy portion.  We were willing to build the raised beds and screen the porch in, but we would leave the heavy lifting to a crew of guys.  We called back our contractor who did the exterior work on the outside the year before.  Three days later we had a new back porch!  Can you believe it?  I came home and it felt SO right to have that space back there. 

We chose to use cedar for the columns and beams, we saved some money and used standard structural grade pine for the rafters. We used economical corrugated galvanized sheets for the roofing.  To this point we have been pretty true to the character of our house.  We have been using a combination of restoration and thoughtful replacement to try to keep the old gal moving.  We did not do this with the porch, we felt this was a 'new' space that was part of the yard.  We were willing to go a little more modern and industrial. Also I love the sound of the rain on the metal roof.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Front Porch Paint

July 2012

 This is one of those projects that is in the words of 'Young House Love' is a 'geez get on that already.'  With the horribly wet June I had to keep delaying painting our front porch floor and stoop.  It was horrible, the paint on the porch was chipped and wearing off.  The stoop was actually so black with moss and years of grime that the powerwasher did nothing.  I had scrubbed the porch and the stoop at least 4 times since we lived there.  Each time I got on my hands and knees with a wire brush and scrubbed.  Each time I ended drenched and the porch looked by all accounts exactly the same.

Painting a concrete porch is a process.  You first need to powerwash it to remove the grime and dirt that would cause the paint to not adhere.  You then have to wait up to 48 hours to allow the concrete to fully dry to guarantee the paint will stick.  Well waiting for a four day window to power wash and not rain in Oregon pretty much means you have to wait until late July.  

I finally got my chance in early July, I took a day off work and powerwashed the porch early Friday morning.  I decided 28 hours was probably good enough and painted the first coat.  I then waited 12 hours for the first coat to cure and painted the second coat.  It looked amazing!  I honestly, could have killed myself for not doing this back when we updated the exterior the summer before.  

We chose to work with the standard gray porch paint that was available at Miller. Why mess with a good thing and this is also in our mudroom. We chose a matte finish because we worried about the surface being slippery.  Our concrete is a pretty rough texture so I didn't think we needed to add any sand to the paint, but I worried if it was glossy it would become more of a problem.

As a disclaimer to this, since I am writing in December, we did not have slips, however, I do wish we had done gloss.  The matte paint is not very cleanable and already I am having difficulty getting mud and stains off the floor.  I have a feeling this will be my learning experience and I will be painting it again this upcoming summer with something more washable.  You live... you learn, and your porch looks amazing.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Veggie Garden Year Two

July 2012

To start, we had really good intentions for our garden this year.  We thought things were moving forward with the house and we could really commit.  We spent one weekend enlarging the bed around the raised beds because we planned to plant SO many veggies that we would need all this extra space.  Well.... we did not get our act together and none of little baggies of careully procurred seeds got started.  I tried not to beat myself up too much about it.  We had been busy with a lot of stuff both house related and personal and Portland was extremely cold and rainy right through June.

I went to the local nursery and got:  four tomato plants, three pepper plants, 2 zucchinis, 1 yellow squash, 1 cucumber, 2 snap peas, 1 pumpkin, and tons of brocolli.   The good news is I planted them all, as well as put some direct seed carrots in the ground.  Josh had planted some onions several months before and these came in as well.  Really that is about all I can say.  We put them in the ground.  There was no watering, pruning or attempt to add any additions to the garden.  I was so dazed I even forgot I needed a second pumpkin plant as a pollinator, so I, in effect, planted a vine. 

The good news, is everything in Portland grows and most of our seedlings took off and running.  As with the year before we started getting a massive zucchini stash, endless tomatoes and so many volunteer tomatoes from the year before we could have started a business. The broccoli never seemed to quite work out, and I only got about 8 carrots out of the deal.  I never planted lettuce, or bush beans, or any other seeds. 

The asapargus came back from the year prior, but was still too small to harvest, my neighbor donated a artichoke plant which thrived and gave us three delicious small chokes and beautiful flowers. Our blueberries and strawberries made plenty of fruit all though so small they were often tart and barely worth picking.  I truly look forward to the summer where I plant and stage my garden so that I have numerous different veggies growing throughout the early spring into late fall.
What I can tell you the yard got a lot of attention this year.  By the end of the summer, I had pulled out all the dandelions in the yard (only for 50% to grow back).  I re-edge all the beds, added new shurbs, trees, bulbs, and flowers. The plants from two years prior started to really take off and grow.  The hydrangeas doubled in size as well as did the rosemary and lavenders. Our cherry trees which started at my height were over 10 feet tall. IOur landscaping was defiantely starting to feel more mature and less nursery basic.  It was moving forward!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Appraisal Becomes a House Tour

June 2012

An appraisal in pictures, and some words- because it is a blog.

The living room from the front door

After we finished the stairwell we went ahead and decided to refinance the house.  To do this we needed the house to appraise for roughly 30k more then we had bought it for exactly two years before.  The good news is that we had easily spent that fixing the house up.  So, we felt pretty confident that we could reach that number.  Still, I am a planner and a worrier and I wanted to make sure the appraisal was seamless.

 The Living Room and Dining Room Looking North

  Our Dining Room from the kitchen doorway

 With the help of a hired maid I cleaned the house top to bottom.  I even mopped the entire basement floor, reorganized the junk in the basement and put down rugs so that it looked more inviting.  It was a lot of work, but in many ways it was a good chance to spring clean the house.  This marks the longest time span I have lived in one space since high school.  It's amazing how much I relied on moving every year to act as a catalyst for donating junk and cleaning spaces.

 The view of the Kitchen from the dining room and mudroom beyond

The hallway from the kitchen doorway looking into the guest room

We also had a round of smaller projects that we needed to complete.  Josh installed the remaining base shoe in the bedroom. I touched up paint in the living room, kitchen and dining room as well as pressure washed the front steps. We mowed the lawn, edged the sidewalk, and pulled the hundreds of weeds growing the sidewalk cracks. We were attacking our to do list.

The guest room from the hallway

Once again, overkill- but it was a good excuse.  After the house was fully clean I walked around the house and de-cluttered.  Nightstands were removed of books, tissues and clocks, the family room tables lost their magazines, pens and various mis-matched coasters. I ended up filling two boxes with each room's 'extras.' It felt nice.  I added back some fresh flowers and then turned on every stinking light in the house.  I was once told that you should do this whenever you 'show your house' because it makes it feel cleaner and more welcoming.  Seriously, the only thing I didn't do was bake cookies.

 The stairwell from the landing looking towards our bedroom

I am so glad that the morning before I walked around the house and shoot some quick pictures of most of the rooms.  The fact is- our house would probably never look this good again until we sold it. The good news, we appraised close to 40k over what we bought the house for!  The appraiser had great things to say about our house and neighborhood and even offered some ways we could raise the number even higher.

My little corner of the world in our bedroom

It was great!  We could finally relax about the mad house rush and maybe even enjoy it??? But wait, I still had a HUGE pile of dirt and concrete in my backyard. Darn. 
There are a few rooms you did not see, these are because they are part of our current and/or soon to be remodels.  The bathroom, the upstairs office, the basement, and our back yard. Don't worry- this will continue.

Our happy abode

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stairway Reveal

June 2012

After we had fulled bead boarded the stairwell we had to think about the finishing touches.  We needed to patch, sand and paint the space as well as install new lighting.  Due to the height of the space and the large amount of work needed we decided that we would hire out the painting.  This was a tough call for us.  On principle alone, I refuse to hire out any work that I believe we can do as good or better then the professional. There is not many tasks that fit that description, so we really try to utilize our skills when we can.  The issue was timing.  We wanted to get the house refinanced, we wanted to get the room done and we had other 'life things' that needed to get accomplished. 

So we hired a painter,  I will say now, I regret it but I would not take it back.  It had to be done to get the refinance moving.  The fact is there is no one who will do as good of job on the details as you would.  You're more invested.  The room looks 'fine' but I see lots of spaces that were not sanded as smooth, or where you can still see a nail hole, caulk in the bead lines and other issues.  However, I cannot discount the fact they did the space in three days, which would have easily have taken us several weeks to complete. 

So, happy faces.  All I can say is the stairwell is completely transformed. The space is so bright and clean it's almost too perfect!   We chose to paint the entire space our Bone White. I know you just gasped, Taylor actually painted an entire space white! I know I can hardly believe it myself, but in the end I wanted to keep the stairwell light and airy and there was really no color that I felt would do that except for our trusty Bone White.  We have plans to eventually strip and stain the banister, which will make the space more dramatic. Since I haven't completely lost my technicolor obsession I did paint the stairwell window the same red as our doors and windows (not in the pictures because I haven't taken new ones yet).  This was to copy what we also did in the mudroom since that space was also bead board.

For the lights we went to our favorite Schoolhouse Electric and ordered some very delicate glass and bronze pendants.  They are small and simple, possibly too small and too simple.  But I figured if I was going white I should make all the components match the same aesthetic. I eventually see the entire space covered in art and objects and I want that to be the show stopper not our lights or wall color. The room is bare for now, it still needs the art and new rugs and potentially down the line a better cabinet at the top of the stairs.  But for now it remains the lightest and brightest place in the house.
Before 2010:

 After 2012:

Round Up:
Paneling materials and installation: $1,435, Paint materials and application: $600, Two custom built lights: $420, installation- free we installed them ourselves, New window-$700, Paint for window- free- used old paint, applied ourselves. Total: $3,155
This was our least DIY room in the whole house, but it was probably in the worst shape with the most challenging access so I think everything was required.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Staircase Showdown

June 2012

Our major project before we refinanced was to completely renovate the stairwell of our house.  We had the stairs refinished when we did all the floors back in May 2010.  Since then we hadn't done much else.  The plaster walls were all cracked and crumbling, the paint on the ceiling was peeling from some past water damage, and there was one dim light for the entire space  It was a hot mess.  I haven't even talked about the faux wood panelling, fabric wall covering, ceiling hatches, and Asian inspired wallpaper that were throughout the space.

We got several quotes to replaster the room to get rid of the cracks and cover the peeling paint, however the amount of damage was intensive.  Most of the contractors recommended we chip out all the damaged areas and start fresh, or else cover the entire room in drywall and texture it to look like plaster.  Either way it was going to be about a thousand dollars and would involve us doing a large about of demo and not to mention all the dust.

We decided to go ahead and bead board the walls identical to what we did in the mud room.   We felt this would keep the house consistent and allow us to have the best overall product without any demo needed.  We called in the same friend/carpenter Gordon who did the mudroom to install the panelling in the space.  He said it would be about the same cost as the plaster work, with no demo required.

Josh and I, worked to come up with a design for the space.  We added a chair rail in the space.  This was for two reason: one it broke up the expanse of space, two it allowed us to fit all the runs in with a standard 4' x 8' sheet without any awkward joints.  The first day Gordon removed the ceiling fan, the lone light, wood panelling, and one of our attic hatches.  In two days he had panelled most of the room.  It was a huge change and we were super excited. Bye bye scary staircase.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changing Priorities

May 2012

So I haven't written in over a week because my next post should be more about our depave efforts and the work on the driveway.  But honestly, I can't get motivated to blog about gravel and digging.  Also, I am currently STILL dealing with this project so motivation is low until I can truly cross it off my list.  Luckily, we never stop remodeling so there is always another project to talk about. 

We had big plans for house in the spring and summer, all of which had to do with us working in the yard.  We wanted to build a back patio cover, enclose our patio into a screen in porch, add raised beds, install fences and gates, and put in a fire pit.  All of these things were exciting, but we knew that none of these things would really help our resale value. They would be nice additions to our house.  The problem is.... we really need to think about the resale value of the house and make some priorities. 

Before you get too nervous, we are not planning on selling our house.  I hate a half-finished project and could never turn my back on the Castle now.  However, several houses in our neighborhood started going up for sale and selling for above asking price.  It appears that the Portland real estate scene is back and our neighborhood is a hot place to live! Yay!  That coupled with even lower interest rates then when we bought two years ago made us think about refinancing.  We started talking our mortgage broker who was great!  If you live in the Portland area Gary Boyer is where it's at, and he encouraged us to think about it as well.  The goal was that we could refinance and actually have a mortgage that is lower then what we used to pay in rent in downtown.

The problem I saw was that there were a few GLARING issues in the house that might make an appraiser a little nervous about the house.  These were not big deals to us, but I know to an outsider they showed some red flags.  1. The stains in the basement from a few small but persistent winter water leaks, 2. Small outstanding issues from past work, missing trim, unpainted windows, etc.  and last but not least.... The staircase.  This is one of the worst parts of it all.  Just to give you a reminder see pictures below... Scary!

There was no way anyone was going to give us a positive appraisal with the current state of our blue trimmed, cracking plaster, water stained ceiling, poorly lit stairwell.  It looks like we had a new project and it was a big one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Depave Chain Gang

May 2012

The weekend of our Depave, Josh and I took the Friday before off and worked to pre-cut the concrete, prepare the house and ready our yards for the work.  Everyone showed up on a chilly Saturday and we spent the first part of the morning explaining how and why we depave.  We were the experts, we then gave everyone a trial on the concrete saw.  It was about this time that we started realizing the concrete was thicker then we thought.

We had assumed for about 2-3 inches thick, which is standard for non-structural walkways and driveways.  It turned out our concrete had not been poured on an even surface.  They poured the concrete unevenly onto rock. In some areas it was 6 inches thick.  It was rough.  We had to rent a jack hammer and our volunteers diligently worked with pry bars, jack hammers, and sledge hammers to remove the concrete. In many ways it looked less like a workshop and more like a chain gang.  We had 30 people working their butts off and we were making progress at a back breaking snail's pace.

The good news, everyone was amazing! Hard working and determined to at least get our driveway strip completed before the end of the day.  When they left we were had only removed about 250 sqft of the 1500 sqft we had planned.  But the bigger issue was that the slabs of concrete did not come out as slabs.  Since we used the jack hammer and sledgehammers, we had made rubble.  Josh and I had originally planned to use the nicely cut concrete slabs as stepping stones, we had no use for the rubble.  So in the short term we dumped all the concrete on our patio and ordered up a dumpster for us to recycle it.  Here is a great picture of our rubble pile at night from the kitchen.  We joked our back yard now had a 'derelict" look to it, a la Zoolander. Nothing like turning your backyard into a third world war zone to really spruce up your curb appeal.

On Sunday, we decided to divide and conquer.  Josh continued to jack hammer the strip and areas along our patio, while my neighbor Mary and I came out and dug out the drive way strip.  We added new soil, planted our ground cover and installed a pea gravel top.  I felt a little better by the end of the day. But we had only done about 1/8th of the work we had hoped to achieve.  This was the first real 'what were we thinking' project and we knew we had about 4 weekends worth of work to go. Gulp.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Depaving the Castle

May 2012

Some of you may know that Josh and I have been involved in an organization called Depave for the last three years.  We like to take a few summer weekends and give back to our community that has been so welcoming.  We volunteer to help rip up asphalt and concrete at schools, churches and small businesses to allow for green space, water infiltration, and general place making.  After doing this for over 10 locations we have really seen the benefits.  The transformation of black top to gardens, playgrounds, and bio swales have been truly inspiring.  One of the things Depave wanted to try was to have a workshop to show how homeowners can depave their own properties.  In Portland,  many of our small yards are filled with driveways and parking areas that we don't use. These spaces could be growing plants, absorbing water and providing habitats for animals and birds. 

 We offered up our house as a good candidate for the workshop.  We actually share our driveway with our neighbor Mary.  In the backyard we have a confusing, code breaking triple garage that we share with a huge parking pad in front.  I mean huge.  The pad actually is one continuous concrete area that is our patio, parking spot, two other parking spots and her own patio.  It was a crazy 100' x 20' area which frequently flooded due to a capped storm sewer line.  We decided we would be willing to remove huge areas to become flower beds, gravel parking, and a center planting strip to improve our drainage and allow rain to sink into the ground and refresh the water shed instead of running back into the street and sewer.
All in all, it was about 1,500 square feet to remove.  We designed a landscape plan, ordered tons of gravel, rented a concrete saw and bought plants in preparation for 30 workshoppers, 10 depavers, and one videographer to document our progress.  This was a big project, which in many ways will not improve the value of our home, or even make a huge difference in curb appeal.  However, we felt it was the right thing to do for our planet and for the organization.

The weekend before in the relentless rain that is May in Portland we worked to get the space ready for the workshop.  We look down our fence which divided the patio from our parking spot, pre-cut the concrete, selected the materials, and made numerous trips to get supplies ready.  Plants in hand, on soggy and cool Saturday we started to work....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mudroom Before and After

April 2012

After taking some time off from our bedroom and hallway paint-a-thon we finally got enough good weather to finish off the mudroom.  This room seriously feels like it haunts me... how can we still be working on it?  Over the winter, I had sanded the closet door and painted it and also stripped the hardware and reinstalled it back in place. I also added two coats of poly to the floor so that it was easier to mop up.  The porch paint tended to scuff and discolor so we thought this would help make it more resilient.  Josh also install some base shoe around the room to clean up the edges. The only thing we had left to do was to paint the doors and add the finishing touches.

Josh and I took a Saturday and teamed up to add two coats of our favorite red paint on the doors. We decided instead of painting the doors white in an all white room, to paint the doors the same color that we did on the exterior.  We felt this was in keeping with our theme of this being a porch, not a staircase landing.  We wanted it to feel more a part of the outside then the interior. I think this reforced our decision to paint the floor with porch and install exterior bead-board.



After we finished painting, I added the old hallway runner to the space and started to think about accessories.  The room gets a lot of use and a lot of bangs and bumps. We were a little nervous to put up a lot of artwork in the space.  In the end, I pulled out two photographs I bought in London ages ago and decided it was their time to shine.  I took them to Michael's to be framed, using our signature black frame and white mat to beef them up and hung one on the wall from the kitchen and another on the wall to the basement.  I was happy to see them find a home after 8 years of hiding in a box. I also think the pops of red, black and white work well with the room as whole.  My last addition was a cute brass dog head coat hook I got a couple of years ago at anthropologie.  It made the perfect spot to hang Gus's rainjacket (yes my dog has a rainjacket, you laugh, but the smell of wet dog 9 months out of the year is not a joke).



Down the line, I would like to update the rug and add some additional art.  Hopefully in a year or so this area won't be as much of a construction zone and we can put some nicer things in it.

Dare I say... I another room down?

The round up:
Where we paid:
New custom made French door $1,900.00, New energy star dog door- $175.00, Installation of new french door and dog door $300.00, Cost for paneling, installation, and skim coated ceiling: $650.00, One gallon Acrinamel Semi-Gloss basic white paint- $43.00, One gallon porch paint- $45.00, Artwork- $120 for custom framing and matting, Coat hook-$12.00 Anthropologie, New light fixture-$120 School House Electric, Electrical for light- $60.00

Where we saved:
Tore up the linoleum ourselves, decided to keep original floor instead of installing tile, sanded the floor ourselves, painted the room ourselves, reused an existing rug, reused existing paint for the doors, reused existing poly for the floors, reused existing hardware by stripping it.

It still a huge expense which feels crazy for a mudroom, but then I have to remember: we had an unusable door, structurally unsound framing, no light, falling down plaster, horrible floors all of which greeted you from our kitchen.