2016: The Year of the Exterior

This past year, most of our money was poured (and painted and planted) into our home’s yard and exterior. The other projects you’ve seen here (e.g. bathroom, bedroom, and desk) were smaller-scale improvements I tackled myself. Our big ticket projects involved plenty of our own labor, yes, but also a lot of contractors and a lot of dough.

This is where we started:

House Front.jpg

Our house’s exterior isn’t necessarily the most pressing issue on our property, but it’s what I chose to prioritize for 2016 for three primary reasons:

#1. It’s an investment in our neighborhood, which I hope will continue to grow and improve. There are several nice properties on our street, but there are also a lot of homes in need of major repair. Should any of those houses go on the market, I want potential buyers to see that there are neighbors putting money and care into their home.

#2. Tackling the landscaping early on in our home ownership will pay off in the years to come as the plants mature. We plan to stay in this house for a long time, so we’re playing the long game.

#3. In the short term, there were major wins that we could benefit from immediately: most notably, a new fence and patio.

I’m going to break up this into several posts, because a lot has changed and I haven’t covered any of it on this blog yet! I’ll start with what we tackled immediately after buying the house: the garage.

garage-fence-back

For reasons unknown, the previous owner blocked the garage with:

1) A chainlink fence
2) A wood fence
3) Several solid steel posts planted in the asphalt

Those aren’t multiple choice options: he actually used three types of barricades. We wanted to park our car in the garage – crazy, I know – so all that had to go.

We started by cutting out the overgrown alley jungle.

Garage Fence Front.jpg

Then we took out as much of the fence as we were able.

GarageFence.jpg

That left us with the steel posts. I bought a $30 angle grinder, psyched myself up, and went out to do battle. Coincidentally, there was a contractor 20 feet away, working on a neighboring building’s metal parking fence. He watched me work for a bit (barely making a dent in the post), and then he shouted “I’ve got something that would probably do that job better.” I walked over and he threw open the back of his van, which was FULL of metal-cutting equipment. (Note: If I get abducted, it’ll be because a man led me to his van with the promise of tools.)

We talked about the options for a couple of minutes, and then I had a stroke of brilliance: I asked “Are you free when you’re finished with this job?” He was. I offered $50, which he happily accepted. He thought he’d be able to cut them out pretty quickly.

Metal Cutting.jpg

He worked on them for over an hour, returning to his van repeatedly to get progressively larger and more terrifying saws. My piddly angle grinder never stood a chance.

SawGif.GIF

Moving along: the garage was full of crap left behind by the previous owners.

Garage Before 4.JPG

The only upside was that I inherited a lot of a nice scrap wood, with which and for which I built a corral in the back corner.

Wood Corral Building.jpg

Wood Corral.JPG

Before:
Garage Before 5.jpg

After:
Garage After Kayak.jpg

(Our second car is a Wavewalk kayak that my stepfather handed down. Jarrod wheels it from our garage, down the sidewalk, to the nearby river.)

Before:
Garage Before 6.jpg

After:
Garage After Tool Wall.jpg

Everything feels more organized when it’s up off the floor, but there’s no need for for fancy garage organizers. I drill holes through the handles of things, run twine through them, and hang them up. Voila!

Handle Hanging String.jpg

Handle Hanging.jpg

Finally, the biggest expense was a new garage door and opener – the previous door was rotted and there was no motorized lift. We paid $1k, including installation, from Roberts Garage Door. Great reviews on Angie’s List, very cost-competitive, and really nice to work with.

Before:
Garage Door Before.JPG

garage-alley-before

After:garage-door-after

I mean, it’s a Chicago alley in the dead of winter, so let’s not get too excited, but it’s still a big improvement. And, you see a sneak peak of two upcoming posts: exterior painting and cedar fence installation.

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