Exterior Progress

As we are rounding into the third year of homeownership, I wanted to post a quick update on the exterior of our house. Most of the projects we’ve done are inside, but the outside – while low on our priority list – has been chugging along slowly as well. Year one was spent mostly on upkeep and taking a lot of crazy overgrown ivy (both English and Poison) off of things and other plants. In the past two years I was able to start improving a few things by adding a Craftsman touch to the outside.

Such as, do you remember a year ago when we fixed up our back porch and added 10% of a design element but didn’t finish it?

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Well, as house projects tend to go, after about a year of procrastination and figuring out how to get those little wood pieces affixed to the railing, we finally finished the last of the porch!

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We also started to acquire things like gardening tools (gasp!) and I was able to start getting a few things under control, such as the vigorously growing Rose of Sharon tree/bush.

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And we finally chopped down our neighbor’s crabapple tree that had been growing over our driveway (we had her permission guys, it’s cool). It’s amazing what you can do in an afternoon with a saw and a vibrant hatred for a plant that has dropped tiny pebble-apples on your car (and threatened to fall down on it during any large windstorm) for two years.

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We also started to spruce up the front porch with some cool iron crosses that we found at a Goodwill.

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We installed a new Craftsman style front porch light, which looks great! I’ve also been keeping seasonally-appropriate wreaths on the door. Combined with a boxwood that I potted from the backyard (future bonsai project?) and an antique mailbox, and the porch is looking cute.

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We finished trellising in both sides of the front porch as well. Now two new grapevines are making their way up one side, and a climbing rose is making its way up the other. Hopefully we will have some nice Concord grapes in a few years!

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In the front, I took out a lot of pricker bushes and sharp needled pines and am replacing them with plants that either fruit or flower. The gooseberries that I planted last year put out flowers already this spring, so I might get berries this year!

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You probably can’t tell but there are two tiny blueberry bushes in this picture. They also have little flowers on them so maybe I’ll get a few berries off them too.

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I also am starting a lavender garden in the back. This is inspired by a lavender farm I visited on our honeymoon in Hawai’i. I hope to have as many varieties as possible – limited only by how cold hardy they are. One of them is blooming already and I put it in the ground only this week!

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We also tackled the driveway a bit last summer. It’s in bad shape and really needs a re-do, but that’s not in the budget right now. I couldn’t find a resurfacer to work on it (most of them never called me back, and one guy yelled at me because there were weeds in some of the cracks. Now you see why we do everything on our own!!! Sheesh!). We ended up doing a DIY resurfacing job by filling in the cracks and sealing the surface. It actually looked pretty good and helped the driveway hold up a lot better over the winter. It cost us probably $150 to do this ourselves, and it was pretty easy, so I’d recommend this to anyone, especially compared to hiring a contractor to do it.

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Before

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After

The BIG project, however, was fencing in the back yard. To begin, the yard was only enclosed on two sides, but not the front or back. Due to the way the yard is laid out, we needed to place a gate over the driveway for maximum yard space and room for cars to get in and out of the garage. We found a contractor who was willing to put in a gate and fence posts for us and it only took them… 8 months to finish the job (and they burrowed through an underground gutter line in the process). Again, why we refrain from hiring contractors as much as possible. Finally, this spring the gate was installed and the yard is now fully fenced! Below are start-to-finish pictures.

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Posts up and existing fence being painted

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This is a “tough spot” where you need to fill in a gap between fence and an existing structure. For brick like this, you can use a hammer drill to attach a 2×4 to the building, then you can nail the fence up using that as a backing.

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Another funky spot – since this one was over concrete, the contractor put in a metal post rather than a wooden one.

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Progress! The panels are painted and beginning to go up.

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Since the back looks out over a pretty wooded area (this photo is from early spring, so nothing had sprouted yet), Dan wanted to make something more open for the back fence line, rather than a privacy fence. We looked at photos of Craftsman style fences online, and Dan came up with a design inspired by them.

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Back fence completed, but not painted. We used square lattice for the top part. The lattice holes were too tightly spaced for the look we wanted, so Dan popped out every other piece to make the squares more open.

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Painted and done!

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Loki loves to run in the backyard now. He is one happy pup!

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The contractor purchased and installed this gate for us. We really love the look of it, and it’s aluminum so it is light, easy to open, and will not rust.

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The current look off the back porch. Welcome sign was purchased at Graycliff, a Frank Lloyd Wright home near Buffalo, NY.

We love how everything is coming together to create a more beautiful, but also more functional space! Future landscaping plans include putting in more fruit and flower plants to provide for pollinators, but also to give us delicious food and beautiful flowers in summertime. Stay tuned!

 

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