...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Truth: It’s Tuesday. I’m a day behind on Honest Mondays this week. It could have something to do with this.

The underground internet cable was disconnected for obvious reasons.

Truth: We hired someone to excavate our yard. Specifically, we hired someone to pull out all the old stumps and roots remaining from numerous trees we had cut down shortly after we bought the Underdog. The excavator also removed a few random shrubs and a termite-damaged redbud. Then he leveled out the entire yard to help rainwater run away from the house. We’ve never had a problem with water pooling around the house but we all know that keeping as much water away from the foundation is the best possible scenario.

We decided to hire out for this project because of plain ol’ time. HH is itching to get the yard in shape and we’re planning to reseed this fall. HH has a buh-zillion work trips coming up. He just emailed me his itinerary for the next three months. At the end, it said “see you at Christmas.”

We got several quotes for the job and one guy completely underbid. We picked him. Not that I would always recommend going with the cheapest estimate but this time it worked out. The young guy said he was just starting out and looking to get some jobs right away. He thought he had overbid a few bids before us and lost the jobs, so decided to play it safe and underbid ours. Works for us.

He was a little flaky about showing up when he said he would {who starts their work day at 2:00 p.m.??} but when he worked he did a great job. We’re happy with how it turned out. Before I share the dirty, muddy afters later this week {someone following me on Instagram got it right when they said “it gets worse before it gets better”}, let’s take a look at what we’re starting with.

Other than the metal roof, there’s no curb appeal going on here. In fact, I would venture to call it curb appall if you’ll allow me to be grammatically incorrect.

Do you like how the one spiky shrub hides the hose reel? Classy.

We have plans to conceal the cable satellite. My feelings towards the satellite are similar to my feelings towards surround sound. Maybe that will be next Monday’s honest post.

The driveway is in horrendous shape. HH wants to replace the blacktop with concrete but that’s not happening this year.

The garage door isn’t much better. The paint is peeling. It works though, so we’ll probably clean it up, paint it {gray like the roof?} and live with it a while before we replace it. It’s hard to tell but the second row of rectangles from the top are actually windows that the previous owner painted over. And I have no idea what that weird vinyl soffit thingy is at the top. All the houses in our neighborhood have it.

All the hardscaping – which really only includes a sidewalk to the front door and a small back patio – is uneven and cracked from old tree roots. They’re tripping hazards. We’re hoping to install a new front walk of large concrete pads surrounded by river rock.

Where the sidewalk ends. Literally. You can’t go in the front door. The jamb is crooked so the screen door is nearly impossible to open. Talk about curb appeal! {Don’t mind the heart. I added it to cover up our house number.} We’re thinking of reusing the original front door and painting it a moody gray then adding a storm door in front of it painted a bright pop of color – maybe fire engine red or sunshine yellow. We want to add large modern house numbers too.

This planter outside the picture window is begging for termites. Our first thought was to rip it out but, upon further inspection, it’s tarred to the house and would leave an ugly scar. So now we’re brainstorming a way to turn it into a bench.

The backyard is just as bad as the front. Up until last week, there was a ginormous yellow jacket nest back there. We’ve completely avoided the backyard all summer. That’s sad. We’re backyard people.

The plan here is to rip out the old patio and install hardscaping that encompasses both sets of french doors – off the mudroom and off the kitchen. We’re hoping for a patio-low deck combo. We want alfresco areas for food prep, dining and lounging.

So that’s the outdoor tour. It will be a good day when we don’t describe our home as “the crack house with the metal roof.”

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

35 Comments

18.September.2012

You have great plans for this yard, I can’t wait to see it a year from now!

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18.September.2012

All in due time! Landscaping is a huge ginormous task. We recently moved into a 40 year old half-duplex. Right now, I am happy that I have grass for my kids to play on. :-) Ps. I love House*Tweaking, your honesty and candor . . .and humour mixed in. A fan from Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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18.September.2012

Sympathy! Our house had scruffy cedars obscuring a glorious 10-ft picture window facing a mountain view, and bushes blocking the English basement windows that brought light into the lower-level family room. We took ‘em all out and had the stumps removed and added a French drain to direct water away from the foundation. Money very well spent, but it was a process.

Re: The brick planter, could you remove the front piece (parallel to the house) and leave all or part of the perpendicular sections (the ones that attach to the house) and still retain their structural integrity? That might give you more design options for a bench or plantings in that spot. Your grounds have tremendous potential for beauty and function.

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replied on September 18th, 2012

I love this idea!

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I love the tour of the outside of the house! Can’t wait to see how you tweak it!

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18.September.2012

Niiiice ;-) Our front yard looks a little better than that, but our backyard is a lot worse. No grass except spiny weeds, piles of rocks-n-dirt from excavating, cinder block dust and leftovers on top of the only good dirt for growing things. It’s very sad. It probably won’t be started on for another 6 months minimum, but we too have great visions of a large patio and comfortable backyard living!

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18.September.2012

looking forward to the afters…although probably not as much as you : ) I thought the idea of a muted door and bright storm door was intersting. I’ve been debating whether to just take it off our current house or paint it the same red as the door. Hadn’t thought about that option.
On an unrelated note, where is that circular coffee table for? I’m on the hunt and that one looks great!

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replied on September 18th, 2012

An outlet find for $40!! It was red and I primed and painted it white.

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18.September.2012

We just finished 6 months of documented backyard work. The before was Grey Gardens-esque and now we finally have it as a blank slate for next spring’s design. Everything was done by hand-I envy your wise decision to hire it out. Rocks, roots, trees all removed by our two hands, dozens of trips to the compost center and dump, and then replanting of grass but only after we tiled and regraded the yard thanks to some water issues. Can’t wait to see your yard ideas! I have no idea what I want at this point. Well, beyond a break from thinking about the yard.

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18.September.2012

I love these before pics because it makes me look so forward to seeing the after shots! I love what you’re planning.

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18.September.2012

Nice tour ! It’s good to know where we come from to appreciate where we’re going ! As far as the planter is concerned, maybe you can keep the sides and manage a piece of reclaimed wood in the middle to make the seat of the bench ? Keep up with the good work and good luck to HH for his busy schedule. Take care !

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18.September.2012

Love the tour of the exterior of your home! This is going to be a big project! Keep us posted :) Lol on how you describe your house “crack house with a metal roof”

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18.September.2012

What a nice tour ! It’s good to know where we come from to appreciate where we’re going ! As far as the planter is concerned, maybe you can keep the sides, get rid of the dirt and manage a piece of reclaimed wood in the middle to make the seat of the bench ? Keep up with the good work and good luck to HH for his busy schedule. Take care !

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18.September.2012

It’s going to look great someday! Lots of potential. Hang in there with HH’s busy schedule- I know how hard that can be sometimes!

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18.September.2012

The yard doesn’t look too terribly neglected considering all you’ve done (not to mention HH’s crazy travel schedule & 3 kids).

I’ll just throw out a few random thoughts and question –

Not sure why the planter is begging for termites. I have a similar set up and love seeing the flowers from inside. We have pentas planted in ours and in FL they bloom pretty much all year.

Love your idea for “moody”gray front door with bright storm door – turquoise is another bright color that looks great with brick.

Whatever you do with the house numbers make sure they are well lit and highly visible from the street. Pet peeve of mine is house numbers that are nowhere near a light and are hard to see even during the day. You want emergency personnel and guests to be able to find you! Of course all this is moot if you have a mailbox at the street with house numbers on it – then you don’t have to worry so much about the utility of the numbers on the house.

I noticed that one gutter downspout empties onto the front walkway – will you change the location of the walkway to get away from that a bit?

I love brick with gray for trim that you don’t really want to call attention to – so I’m loving the idea of gray for the garage door (maybe just a tiny bit darker than the roof). I’m not sure about the bit of soffity trim above it either – maybe to camoflage the header? I’d just paint it the same as the door. It would probably be a pain but is it worth trying to scrape the paint off the windows or reglaze them to get more light into the garage?

I remember you sketched out a plan for the back yard when you were talking about the new french doors. That will be a wonderful space in time.

Keep up the good work but make sure HH gets his Steeler time!

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replied on September 18th, 2012

WOW – I sure can ramble on!

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replied on September 18th, 2012

As is, the planter is filled with mulch. Our home inspector advised us to get rid of it since there were signs of termite invasion and damage. I guess we could try filling it with soil. The problem is the planter sits so far beneath the deep soffits that I would have to physically water it and I don’t like the idea of pouring water down towards the foundation. We’ll be running all the downspouts into corrugated pipe underground away from the house, so that downspout that empties onto the walk will be remedied. It’s funny you mentioned gray trim with brick… as I was editing these photos I thought painting the downspouts and window trim gray would look pretty good. That’s a ways away though. Thanks for all of your advice!

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18.September.2012

For the garage door, if you need to strip paint and you’ve never used Soy Gel before, I highly recommend it. I was wary it might be one of those “sure, everyone on the Internet SAYS it works, but will it really?” Doesnt really smell, don’t need to use gloves or setup a chemical hazard perimeter :) Took off 5 layers of paint on a 65-year old back door that gets full afternoon sun with hardly any effort; actually looked about in the same shape as your garage door.

It’s just bubbles the paint up and it’s more satisfying than getting good long peels of wallpaper when you take it off. Don’t mean to sound like an infomercial, but it really works! My Home Depot didn’t carry it, but I found it at a Rockler woodworking shop; little more specialized.

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replied on September 18th, 2012

Ooooh, thanks for the recommendation!

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18.September.2012

I can’t wait to see more pictures!

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19.September.2012

You have such great potential with you house both the front and back. Our house lacked major curb appeal and my husband didn’t want to go in and see what it had to offer. We love being outdoors and our backyard was all rocks and the front was covered in ivy and brush. Oh and the paint job was horrible. Little by little it is getting cute and having curb appeal. We too need a new driveway and roof so we have started saving and hope to get one of those next year. Landscaping is slowly coming along. Enjoy your blank slate!

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19.September.2012

One other comment on why we re-graded the entire yard. Not only did we want to achieve some “fall” away from the house, but the surface was extremely uneven. There were some real ankle-breakers in the front yard. And of course, after 2 1/2 full trailer loads of roots, stumps, and various debris were removed, we all but had to smooth things out. I’m really glad we did. The house no longer looks like it’s sitting in a hole, and having a smooth surface will be great when the lawn gets established.

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19.September.2012

Wow – quite a tour! Makes me realize you really did take on a project when you bought this house! You’ve done such a fabulous job with the inside {your kitchen/great room is really lovely} that I’m sure the outside will be great too. I just know the amount of work and time it takes and I admire your ambitions and your vision. We are in the position of leaving our “dream house” and taking on a fixer upper {in the name of freeing ourselves from a mortgage} and you’re an inspiration. Thanks!

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19.September.2012

As always – I think everything is coming along great and the yard will too! I’m 3 years in at my house and if I had known it would take this long to get stuff done – you have done so much already be proud!

I think you’ll be ok with the planter – ask a pest person maybe to be sure. If it’s just the mulch as an issue you could use stone.

I have a house that had termites before and I worry about the mulch too, especially as low as the house is to the ground – but you have to have mulch.

Another idea – you could put a liner in it and make it a fountain!

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replied on September 19th, 2012

I read again – I see it is full of mulch now – yes take that out and put some soil in and just mulch the top. I think a pile of mulch is probably the issue and you can also spray around in there a few times a year too. Also, if you are worried about water against the foundation when watering the plants – you could put a liner in or even just on one side similar to if you were going to do a pond – that type of liner – but just to keep the water away from the wall.

As for having to water it – you’ll have to water any potted plants or even plants in the ground under the overhand or not if it’s dry – I find that if I don’t over do it – I enjoy watering. But, when I try to have a botanical garden and I have to do the whole yard – no thanks. I’m down to pots on the porch and patio and that’s enough.

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replied on September 19th, 2012

The more we talk about the planter, the more we think it will be perfect as a bench anyways. We’re thinking of DIYing a treated wood top with access to the inside of the planter for outdoor kid toy storage. To balance things out, I’d probably put some sort of bench on the other side of the front door as well. Only time will tell!

I love the fountain idea!!

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replied on September 20th, 2012

Oh I like the flip top idea for storage – you could even throw your shoes in there once in a while when going in the door.

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replied on September 20th, 2012

Oh I like the flip top idea for storage, you could even kick your shoes off into there if you wanted to in the summer.

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19.September.2012

We are in the on going process of redoing our yard. We have an acre plot of land and we (have done ourselves over the last 2 years) cut down 45 trees (don’t worry, there is still about 40 left), completely dug up and leveled (with proper drainage and grading) our yard while putting in irrigation from the river, (hired a friend with large equipment for this part) to completely straighten, level, and rock our riverbank, redid the back landscaping with timbers, mulch, and solar lights, and this weekend we are getting ready to tackle the front landscaping that we dug up this spring.

It does get worse before it gets better and I am starting to see the better so STICK IN THERE =)

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19.September.2012

would the blinds you used in the nursery work in your mater bedroom also? Or would they not have enough contrast?

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replied on September 19th, 2012

Good question! I’ve been pondering that myself. I’m trying to keep the rooms cohesive, so I’m leaning towards using woven blinds in all the rooms. Not sure what color wood or what I’ll end up doing though!

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19.September.2012

I have a question – not landscape related. When I look at the front of your house I only see what appear to be two bedroom windows, but thought that all three of the bedrooms went off the hall to the right and had a window to the outside front. Just wondering about the layout and if all the bedrooms are on one side or if one of them has a window that faces the back of the house.
I can’t speak about the landscape, there are so many ways to go about it and it can be done in one fell swoop for a price or in increments and personalized. I opted for the second one and love my outdoor spaces.

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replied on September 19th, 2012

Two bedrooms {Mabrey’s nursery and the boys’ shared room} have windows at the front of the house. The master bedroom is actually off the left of the hallway and has a window on the side and back of the house. Hopefully, that clears up any confusion.

We definitely won’t be doing all of the landscaping in one phase. Priorities are getting the yard established and installing some hardscaping to access the house.

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20.September.2012

Our yard was an absolute disaster when we bought our house. We affectionately called it a jungle. We’ve done some major work ripping out so much vegetation, pruning/cutting down trees, planting grass, demo’ing an old slab, putting in a patio. And we still have lots more work to do!!

I can’t wait to see your exterior take shape. It’ll be beautiful just like your interior spaces!!

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20.September.2012

Love your plans for the yard! We just spent our summer re-doing the front yard house. It wad a ton of work but looks so much better! Can’t wait to do the back next year!

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