Renovation Reminiscences – Exterior

I mentioned in my previous post that the living room is the last of my “completed” house projects.  But there are a few more works-in-progress to note.  And since I’m in gardening mode, I think I’ll start with the outside.

Looking back at the “before” picture below, I can’t help but wonder what I saw in this little house.  And this was the best of the houses I saw that day!  Of course, when your search criteria is any house without termites for under $25,000, it’s tough to be too choosy.   And to be honest, I never really thought too much about curb appeal.  I figured that if I could just fix up the interior, that alone would increase the market value when I sold it a few years later.  Or so was the plan.

One thing that had to go was the siding.  I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but this is not brick.  It is tar paper embedded with a brick-like substance. Not only that, it was old and fragile and crumbled at the slightest touch.  Underneath the tar paper is the original wood siding, but it was too damaged to repair.  All I could afford to do was slap some vinyl siding on top of the “brick” and call it done.  And despite my cheap fix approach, the result wasn’t really that bad.

For the record,  I did not do the siding  or window replacement myself.  I actually had to pay someone to do those  jobs.  I do have my limits!

Original Exterior   

My favorite exterior picture has got to be the one of my first garden.  While I’d attempted to grow plants in containers every now and then in the past, this was my first attempt at an organized garden.  Isn’t it sweet?  In all honesty, I can’t remember how the plants fared.  But it couldn’t have been too disastrous, or I’m sure I would have given up on gardening all together.

I’m also reminded of just how awful those windows were.  Replacing them with new double-paned windows is one of the best upgrades I made (second only to a new furnace).  I saved several of the old sashes as the glass panes are old and full of character.  I’d like to do something special with these panes, but I haven’t come up with a great idea yet.

And as you probably noticed, fixing the roof will also be a major improvement.  I’ve been putting it off for years as I am not too fond of heights.  But with all the leaks and rusting seams, I can’t put it off any longer.  More on this later in the summer.

Back to the yard.

While I’d played around with container plants in the past, I had never done any kind of landscaping.  I accidentally killed one of the original boxwoods (apparently they aren’t keen on road salt), which ended up being a blessing in disguise.  Once the second boxwood was removed, the house seemed to double in size.  And I have to say that I was quite pleased with myself when I put in my new little shrubs and edging.  I was definitely on the right track.


I do not remember when I got it in my head to get rid of the front lawn altogether.  But once I got the idea, there was no turning back.  The grass was so old and rooted that I had to use a pick axe to get down through the roots.  And as small as my front yard is, it took a month of weekends to get the yard clear.  It took me almost as long to decide on the type of shrub I wanted to use as a natural fence.  I ultimately went with forsythia, a decision I’ve yet to regret.

Here is where the “work in progress” begins.

For the last three years, I have added hundreds of plants.  I’ve lost a few along the way, but most have stuck around and even thrived.  I have filled in nearly all of the bald spots but still struggle with certain areas – namely the dry clay slope next to the basement that gets only late afternoon sun.  And I then there’s the back yard near the house that remains in full shade and grows only moss.  A job for another year, I assure you.

There’s still so much to do, but I’m loving what I’ve got so far.  I’m not planning any more yard projects this year (aside from the vegetable garden, that is).  Instead, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the show.  I’ll sign off now with just a few pictures taken during these last three years.  Hopefully this year will be the grandest display yet!

3 thoughts on “Renovation Reminiscences – Exterior

  1. The combination of clay, afternoon sun, and slope screams purple homestead verbena to me. I assumed it wouldn’t survive your winters, but I see it’s good as far north as zone 6B. Might be worth a try!

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