Category Archives: Exterior

I Need My Space

The thing about having a baby is that suddenly your house starts to feel REEEAAAALLL small. No room to store bikes, beach stuff, tools… and suddenly everything is scattered throughout the house because someone lost his workshop. And lets not mention the leftover building supplies that have taken over the new bathroom. The house has become a real mess.

Soon after we bought the house we put a small metal shed in our backyard. It was just big enough to fit a small snowblower and a lawnmower. Not much else. Here’s a picture of the shed during our the build of our addition. (That’s it over there on the left hand side).

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Realizing that we were out of space, we decided to move forward with building a shed. The big box stores have pre-built sheds, but they are expensive, even without adding in the floor, and they aren’t built that great. I knew that if I could find the time, I could build something that would last much longer and do it at half the cost. We decided to build a 7’x12′ saltbox. Why 7′? Because 8′ seemed too big, and 6′ seemed too small. And I didn’t want to part with that dear burning bush in the back yard.

The first step was to move the old shed out of the way and start building the base. Fortunately, I had help that day.

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Free help. And he brought his own tools.

I decided to build the shed on a 2×6 pressure treated frame. Working around the roots from a nearby tree turned out to be a chore but I made it work. The final height of the shed sits a bit higher than I had hoped because of it, but not a big deal. I should have mentioned that as a disclaimer, I have no professional training in this, so I’m not saying that the way that I built it is correct. I’m just saying that…. I built it.

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DIY tip: Always have a level handy.

The frame went together fairly easily. If you’ve ever built a deck, its essentially the same thing. The floor joists and decking all went on without too much trouble.

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Floor joists were 16″OC, and I also used joist hangers to make the job a bit faster.

With guidance from my brother, I decided to frame the walls laying flat and then stand them up in place. I also sided the back wall at the same time because it was so close to the fence. This saved me from a big headache later on.

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My friend Dave offering some assistance on the front wall.

Framing walls is fairly straight forward once you get into the swing of things. We’re using 2x4s here where the kits that Lowe’s and Home Depot sell usually are built with 2x3s. I suggest pricing out your lumber wherever you can. I found that I could save a bunch by shopping around and don’t feel afraid to ask for a price match either.

Once the walls were in place and sided it was time to move on to the rafters. A saltbox shed has a more complex roof but I think it adds to the detail. The highest point of the shed is around 8′. That leaves plenty of space for storage and headroom. Rafters are a bit more difficult to figure out and install. It will go much quicker of you have a second person around to help out.

I found that the easiest way to build the rafters was to start off with a top ridge like I have below. This way I can just set the rafters against the ridge and nail them in place.

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I’ll offer a word of advice here, and it’s something that I wish I would have done. Before putting the side paneling up, I would get the rafters in place. This way you can run your siding all the way up to the roof line and not have to worry about a seam. If you have 8′ or less for your full height I would do it that way.

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One thing I hadn’t put much thought into was being up on the roof. I hate height….even at 10 feet or so. I got used to it after a while, but was glad when it was done.   

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Roof is on with trim attached. I used felt paper and 3 tab shingles to close it up.

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I had to cut the burning bush back. It was in the way.

With the roof in good shape, it was time to move on to the doors. I used leftover 2x4s to frame them, and the same siding that I used on the walls. I’m sure theres a better way to do it, but they feel solid and secure. The final step will be to add the corner trim, build some stairs or a ramp and get some paint on it. The siding is already factory primed so there’s no rush with that. I had electricity running to the old shed, so I wired the new one with an outlet and exterior light. At some point I might wire an interior light. Here’s a look at the inside bike storage I built.  

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Even with the bikes stored on with side of the shed, there is still plenty of room to store a 4×8 sheet of something between.

I wouldn’t recommend this project for beginners as there is a fair amount of details that go into it, but it’s definitely a money saver to build it yourself. I think my total was somewhere around $1k, where the big box stores are much more than that with a floor. Probably the $2k range.  Plan on a good week to get it built if you move as slowly as I do.  The final detail that I added to the outside was this garage sale find window. I attached some leftover black felt paper to the back to make it look more realistic.  Untitled signature

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Breaking on Through to the Other Side

There’s just something about sitting back and watching progress happening to your house without having to lift a hammer. This isn’t the norm for around here. I’m usually the one to get my hands dirty so we don’t have to pay someone to do something that we could do ourselves, but it has been nice to see progress when I get home from work. With the impending arrival of the baby, it was nice to get this project moving faster than normal.

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With the installation of the exterior door and progress being made to the siding, it was time to tackle the new passageway to the house. This was one of the last steps for the contractor before I could take over the construction.

Here is the old doorway getting prepped to be framed in.

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And here is the wall that will get the new doorway.

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The old wallpaper is one of the last visuals of what the house looked like back in the day. I can’t say that I’ll miss it. And just to clarify, it was previously covered up with beadboard paneling inside the laundry closet.

And here it is with the new hole!

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One detail that bugs the crap out of me is the level of the floor. The addition sits a few inches higher than the existing floor in the house. It’s kinda a bummer, and presents a challenge when I try to blend the two room together. Not much we can do about it at this point. This entryway will remain open. We won’t have a door here because we want the light to shine in during the day, and keeping the air flow is going to be nice in the summer. I’m also planning on adding a transom window in the doorway, similar to what I did in our bathroom.

Here’s a look at what it looks like inside the addition.

The soon to be bathroom, which you’ll enter through a pocket door.

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And the future mudroom.

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The outside of the addition has really come full circle at this point, and we were so happy with the way it turned out. It’s just big enough to give us extra space in the house, and still gives us enough of a back yard for Miles to play when he gets bigger.

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We still have lots of landscaping to do. Hopefully we’ll tackle that this spring.

Just as a reminder, here is what it looked like before.

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Finally Sporting Wood

Since the concrete had been poured on the addition, we decided that we needed more room in the mudroom, since we’d be using that room more often than the bathroom. Really the only difference between the previous plan and the current is about 6 inches. This would allow the washer and dryer to not obstruct the window to the backyard.Here is the latest plan.

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The position of the bathroom window changed, and we also moved the vanity to the side of the shower enclosure. The backyard still remained a DISASTER area, causing much stress.

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That door leading to the infinite abyss leads to the kitchen. The ‘Big Plan’ is that once that door is moved to the left and the hole filled up, we’ll be able to add more counter space in the kitchen. The new door from the addition will lead in to the dining room. More on that breakthrough in the next post.

The process of building the foundation took much longer than we had hoped. It seemed to rain for days, and weeks, slowing the process down considerably. Also, we found out that the foundation contractor had an accident with an excavator that put him out of commission for a few weeks. When the concrete had finally cured and the back-fill pushed in to place, we were 3 weeks from the baby arriving.

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To see lumber delivered was very exciting! More progress!

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And that progress would bring us to 2 weeks before the baby arrived. Here’s a picture of Sara just getting home from work to check out the progress.

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In the next post, I’ll cover the removal of the door in the kitchen, breaking in to the new entryway in the dining room, and the exterior will get sealed up for arrival of baby.

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Straight out of “Compostin”

I’m sure that NWA had at least a passing interest in composting when they  wrote the lyrics “Mix em and cook em in a pot like gumbo“.  That’s kinda like composting right?  Are you still with me?

To say I have a one track mind is an understatement, so when I saw my first compost bin I knew I was going to have one someday, and quite frankly so did Matt.  There was one problem however,  we don’t have a lot of space to have one in the yard,  oh and I didn’t want to spend the nearly $100 bucks to have one.  Seriously,  $100 bucks for a place to put my kitchen scraps?  Yeah, not so much.  So, when I saw a post over at Young House Love on how to make a compost bin out of a tote, I was in.

We got this bad boy at Walmart for a whopping $8.  That’s more my speed.

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I drilled some holes in the bottom and top of the tote to let air move around and *hopefully* make a nice home for some worms.  (Another one of my obsessions currently revolves around having a worm family in my compost bin).

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Then I took a newspaper and shredded it to put in the bottom of the tote.  (Do you see a misbehaving puppy in my former lily garden?  See her little mouth open and biting.  That’s what we like to call “Velociraptor” Claire. Women and children first!)

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Once that was done we put in some soil and added some of the vegetables we grew this summer that we didn’t pick in time.  Note that our vegetable garden was a pretty big fizzle.  We got some cucumbers but they were pretty bitter, and the rest of our vegetables either didn’t grow or we didn’t pick them in time to eat them.

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You’ll probably want to cut up your vegetables before you put them in the compost bin, at least that’s what the internet tells us.  I’m a little bit lazy and couldn’t be bothered.  We’ll see if it makes a difference or not.

We finished by mixing everything together and putting the top on the tote.  Ultimately the bin went behind our shed, a nice shady area away from the house where we made a bed of sand to put it on.

We also bought a container to put kitchen scraps in so we don’t have to trek outside every time we have something to put in the bin.

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It’ll take a while before we reap the rewards of our effort.  I’m hoping to have compost for my side garden next summer.  Fingers crossed! Have you ever made a compost bin? How did you do it?

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Can’t see the chicken wire, can you Russ?

We had a few more sections of fence to finish up in order to keep Claire safe and off her leash in the back yard. Some of it had to be done with chicken wire, and the other few sections we finished up with the fencing that we used in the other project. The fencing we were using before from Lowes was out of stock, and they had a delivery date of 3 weeks from now, so we opted to use a smaller height fence of the same style from Home Depot. The first section to go up was the area next to the deck. I had originally intended to use a full height section, but given the change in elevation that wasn’t going to work. I think it was Sara’s idea to use the different size, but I’ll take credit for it 🙂

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We may end up doing something for under the deck, but for now we’ll keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t escape. Don’t let her cute looks fool you. She can be a terror.

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The shrubs on the side of the property were an easy getaway spot as well, and we didn’t want to use the decorative fencing for this since it would have cost alot more, and it would have been difficult to install with the shrubs being in the way. We decided to go with a 3′ chicken fence from Home Depot, in green.

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It was a little more for the green color… but not by much, and it would blend nicely with the plants. The entire time I was putting this bad boy in, I had a line from Christmas Vacation running through my head….”Can’t see the line can you Russ?”.  Don’t know that movie? Watch the scene here.

So here I am with my head in the shrubs.

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I used my trusty staple gun to attach it to the shrubs. It was an easy project. Can’t see the chicken wire, can you Russ?

On to the next corner of the house. These sections of fence go in quickly and do a good job of keeping puppies in, and stray cats out. For those out shopping for this stuff, these sections were $5 cheaper at Home Depot. Sometimes it pays to price shop the Lowes/Home Depot, and if you find it cheaper at Lowes… Home Depot will beat it by 10%. I don’t think Lowes will do the same thing, but it may be worth checking.

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And that completes the fencing project for this summer!

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Olympic Fencing

I’m not much of a sports fan, so this weekend while the Olympics are in full swing on the “teevee” I’m spending the day out back working on our own fence. When we had Charlotte, we had planned on installing a fence out back to keep her in the back yard. She was good at staying on our property, but it was more a peace of mind for us to know that she couldn’t escape if given the chance. When Charlotte passed, we kept with the fence plan. The newest member of our family, Claire, learned alot at her foster home before we adopted her but she’s still learning her name and commands. “Come here Claire!” hasn’t registered yet.

Here is Claire visiting the ocean for the first time. She’s about 17 weeks old in this picture.

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She’s been a great addition to our family, even if she is a handful.

So we decided to still go ahead with the installation of the fence since she is still a puppy, and learning. We would need it now more than ever. I did some price checking to see what was the best way (and cheapest) to get a fence installed. We decided to go with the decorative metal fence from Lowes. It didn’t involve setting the posts in concrete, and was less than a third of the cost of permanent aluminum fence. It won’t be as solid as the permanent aluminum fence, but after setting a few sections up…. I think it will be fine. It will certainly keep Claire where she needs to be, and if she gets big enough to jump the fence like a crazy Olympic horse jumper, it will be easy enough to replace.

Here is the before.

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The little square area next to the deck had to be leveled off to keep the fence straight, but since we haven’t had a solid rain in weeks the grass peeled right off the top soil.

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The gate doesn’t have a solid locking mechanism yet, but we’ll figure something out. I also have one more section to go on the right had side that will fill in to the deck. That should keep the pup out of that area. You might also notice the plant next to the steps in the picture above. We got them both at a surplus store earlier this year and they were doing great, then all of a sudden one of them died on us. I’m not sure what we did to it, but it lost it’s leaves. Any ideas? They are the same plant and get about the same sun and water.

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So that is the start of our fencing project. Do you have any DIY fencing stories? Please share!

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This Retaining Wall Wasn’t Built in a Day

Have you ever heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Well, this retaining wall wasn’t built in a day. Even if we had the time to build it in a day, I’m not sure my back could take it. The project started off with a new driveway. In past winters we’ve had to shuffle cars around to dodge the winter parking regulations in Bangor. Sara gets home before me, but leaves earlier than me., so I would get home after work and either drive up over the lawn to get behind her car, or move her car out and mine in and then hers back in. It was a pain in the ass. Not knowing how much a new driveway would cost we always put it off. One spring day I decided to call a neighbor who owns a paving business to see how much it would cost. After he gave me the quote I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how convenient it would be in the winter (and it would really add to the look of the house). We set a date to have it done. First step was to dig out the old driveway and set the base in for a few weeks. Here is a look at the before and initial work on the widening.
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Not very pretty, eh? When we got back from a trip to Arizona, the first step had been done. We decided to have the walkway to the porch prepped for pavers, or something, that we will eventually put in.

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Already a huge improvement. This will allow us to park side by side… and in the winter I’ll be able to store my new boat in the back of the driveway and the cars up front. Of course I’m dreaming, but whatevs.

So the driveway sat this way for 2 weeks or so. Just enough time to let the base set. I may have ruined the clutch in my truck driving back and forth to pack it down. If I had a steamroller I would have used that, but who has a steam roller? Nobody.

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And here is the paved driveway. They did a great job, and I’d like to think that I got the friendly neighbor discount 🙂

One problem that we were left with was the side of the house with the sloped lawn. It was useless space. We could have seeded it but I wanted to put up a retaining wall to clean up the side. I started off by digging a trench along the edge of the driveway and setting a level line from one end to the other. You can kinda see it in this picture.

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I’m not gonna lie and say this was the easiest process. First off, I made about half a dozen trips to Lowes to get the bricks. My truck (and back) can only handle a few hundred pounds at a time. I did about 15-20 bricks at a time, setting the paver base and tampering as I went along. The wall isn’t level with the driveway, but level with the house, so the tallest part of the wall is towards the front of the house. The further back it goes, the fewer bricks I needed. In the end it turned out looking pretty good.

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We backfilled with what was dug out from the trench, but eventually we’ll roto’till some fertilized soil on the top for the plants. The original plan was to install some lights in the wall that would shine down onto the driveway, but I didn’t find anything cheap enough that would have worked well for that purpose, so that is on hold for now. We may just opt with lights in the flower garden.

Here is a before and after so you don’t have to scroll.

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And there it is! More progress towards cleaning up the outside of the house! Shutters and flowers soon 🙂 Some work has been done to the dining room and laundry closet as well. More on those once it is finished up.

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