More pergola …

We determined that a full pergola wasn’t in our budget, and I’ve since revised my design so that it’s more of a “half pergola,” with three posts/columns and two supporting beams. I think I like this better, anyway – I was worried that a full pergola might block out too much light from our indoor dining room and kitchen.

Intex Millwork ( makes reinforced cellular PVC (Azek is one brand) pergola parts. Their listed prices scared me off at first, but I’ve since learned that the prices you’ll end up paying are much less than what’s listed. I like the Intex option since the pergola can still be painted, is virtually maintenance free, and will match the Azek trim throughout the exterior of our home.

Here’s my updated pergola using Intex’s column wraps and structural pergola beams with decorative tails:

I hadn’t considered using column wraps for the pergola before, but I like how they’ll match the pilasters from our front entry:

We’ve decided to go with Azek decking in “Cobre” – it’s a nice warm color and is fairly close to the color of our front door and interior oak floors.


Pining for a pergola …

We’re moving on to the yard now. We don’t have a deck, but fingers crossed – might actually have one this spring. We’re considering Azek decking for a low maintenance option. I’d also like to bring a little shade to our deck, and a pergola seems like the perfect solution. I’ve pinned a zillion pergolas on Pinterest (check them out here) and have found that they seem to range from detailed and ornate to rather primitive. I’m not exactly sure what I want at the moment – once we have an estimate for some of these options, I’m sure that will narrow things down a bit. :)

Here’s a mock-up of my attached pergola, based on this design:

I’m hoping for cedar for the material. I’d prefer Azek, but from what I understand, Azek beams could end up sagging unless they’re reinforced with steel. That sounds like it could get pretty expensive.

I can’t wait to hang some white string lights among the rafters and enjoy these unusually warm spring evenings outdoors on our new deck:

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Progress Report

I’m really loving how the house is turning out:

The copper cap for the door surround was installed yesterday (there’s a protective plank covering it in this photo). The trickiest part for our contractor will be installing the fascia board up at the top corner where our electrical wire meets the house.

Once this project is done, all that’s left will be adding shutters. We’ve got our old black shutters covered in a tarp in the back yard – we’ll be putting those back on the sides of the house. They’re a tad too wide for the width of our window openings, but they’ll never be closed. However, the top three windows on the front of the house need 14″ x 51.5″ shutters since the center false window needs shutters to fit perfectly in the opening. For the ganged windows, we’ll have to fashion some bi-fold shutters out of 14″x51.5″ shutters so they’ll appear to be functional.


Progress Report

Things are really moving along now on the exterior renovation. A good portion of the siding is up (James Hardie fiber cement in “Evening Blue”), and the door surround is taking shape:

We had to modify the plinth on the base of the pilaster – I disliked the gap between our Thermatru door’s threshold and the edge of the originally designed plinth, so we widened the plinth and added a sloped “cap” on top of it to soften the edges and ease the transition from the base moulding to the plinth:

I’m really happy with how things are going. Our contractor, Brian Burris (Nicely Done Co. in southern NH), and his crew have been really great (even in these frigid January in New Hampshire temperatures) – and I’m an admittedly picky customer. They’re doing a fine job and I’m looking forward to calling them back to build us a deck and pergola – hopefully this coming summer.

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My Google Sketchup home

We began the renovation process over a month ago – a new sliding door was installed in our dining room, new windows in the piano room, and a new front door. So far things have gone fairly smoothly, with the exception of a few areas of rot thanks to some hungry termites or carpenter ants. Fortunately, the damage seemed to have occurred a long time ago and there wasn’t any evidence of a recent infestation.

I finally nailed down the look I wanted for our home. Looking back on my older posts, I’m kind of embarrassed at my taste – and that was only a few months ago! I settled on a traditional colonial look – after all, our house was built in that style. I selected James Hardie Hardieplank fiber cement siding in “Evening Blue.” The front door is Thermatru’s fiberclass Classic Craft American – we had it stained in light oak. They’ve just begun putting up the siding and I’m relieved – I’m happy with the dark blue color.

Here’s my most recent Sketchup/Kerkythea render:

My only concern is that the light fixtures might be too big. They’re Hinkley’s “Cape Cod” onion lantern style in the largest size offered. Each one is a full 26″ high, including the tall hook. I’d read that two light fixtures flanking the front entrance should measure about 1/4 the height of the door, which would be 20″ in our case. Since the bulk of our fixture is probably about 20″, it should be OK.

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Open, Sesame

The saga of the front entrance design continues. Below are some new designs I’ve come up with – but first, here is a reminder of what our house currently looks like:

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Here are my favorites so far (Sketchup files rendered with Kerkythea):

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… and the Sketchup image:

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— and also a version with a pediment instead of the eyebrow arch —

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*** UPDATE September 9, 2011 ***
Last night while driving through Dover, NH, I came across this entrance on a hip-roof colonial on Cushing Street:

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… I would be very happy with something like this (minus the fanlight and sidelites – no room for those in our setup). The columns are “engaged columns,” which means they’re rounded and appear to be about 3/4 of the column protruding from the face of the house. The pediment doesn’t extend very far from the house. I’ve been looking for commercial sources for engaged columns, but can’t seem to find them.

Other options:
Pilasters and pediment:

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Pilasters and crosshead (also note the false window covering the current small one with closed shutters):

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And what our architect came up with (he also designed benches to flank the front steps. I added a stone barrier instead):

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The architect’s original sketch:

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The stone might be a bit much around the front steps. For now, it’s just an idea. We wouldn’t even attempt to design & install them until next year.

All of the gray siding examples are Certainteed’s fiber cement Weatherboards (5″ straight-edge shingles) in “Silver Plate.” The greenish-gray siding is Certainteed’s “Nantucket Gray” color.

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Selecting a Certainteed Weatherboards fiber cement color

Deciding on the color of your home is pretty stressful, I’ve discovered. In a way, it’s nice that I’m limited by the slim selection of prefinished fiber cement colors offered by Certainteed and James Hardie. If you’re considering fiber cement, make sure – at the very least – you get a printed fan deck of both companies’ colors. And even better than that, get the actual fiber cement samples. James Hardie will send them to you if you fill out a form on their website. It’s a little more difficult to get them from Certainteed – the company won’t send anything directly to a homeowner (believe me, I tried), so you’ll have to go through a contractor or a dealer/distributor. In my area, Certainteed fiber cement doesn’t seem to be all that popular, but I managed to track down a printed fan deck and a really cool folder with actual FC samples of all their colors from our local Harvey building products warehouse.

Certainteed and Hardie fan decks:

I think I’ve settled on a Certainteed fiber cement color – “Olive.” It was hard to come to the decision, but what really helped was getting equivalent paint colors and painting large squares of cardboard, placing them in front of the house and then stepping back to evaluate. SO … if you’re interested in Certainteed fiber cement colors, get yourself to a Sherwin Williams store – they have an agreement with Certainteed and have formulas for all their colors. Buy samples in all the colors you’re interested in – even the ones you aren’t – you never know!

I also had a hard time finding good photos of homes with Certainteed fiber cement online. But then I had a pretty good idea – I borrowed Benjamin Moore fan decks (Classic Colors, Color Preview, Historic Colors and all the rest) from my local hardware store and used a swatch book from Certainteed (I picked one up from a local dealer) and actual Certainteed fiber cement samples (also from a local dealer), matched them with the closest equivalent Benjamin Moore paint colors. By googling the Benjamin Moore colors, you can get a sense of what the exterior of your home might look like with the Certainteed equivalent. If you’re here because you googled Certainteed weatherboards, I hope this little chart helps you out:

Certainteed Weatherboards color Similar (but not necessarily perfect) Benjamin Moore matches
Antique White Limestone (513), Carrington Beige (HC93)
Silver Plate Baltic Gray (1467), Coventry Gray (HC-169)
Autumn Red Garrison Red (HC-66), Boston Bride (2092-30), Sweet Rosy Brown (1302)
Coastal Blue between Water’s Edge (1635) and Providence Blue (1636)
Butter Golden Lab (178), Vellum (207), Harvest Time (186), Philadelphia Cream (HC30)
Desert Gold Summerdale Gold (HC-17), Grenada Hills Gold (229)
Newport Taupe Fairview Taupe (HC-85)
Heritage Clay Raccoon Hollow (978)
Wicker Sag Harbor Gray (HC-95), Embassy Green (1523)
Linen Coastal Fog (976), Revere Pewter (HC-172)
Merino Tan Sierra Hills (1053)
Olive between Sage Mountain (1488) and Devonshire Green (1489), Antique Pewter (1560)
Pewter Sweatshirt Gray (2126-40)
Heather Squirrel Tale (1476)


And finally, you should do your best to get this sample book if you’re interested in Certainteed Weatherboards from a contractor or dealer:

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Siding situation

I had no idea how difficult it would be to pick out new siding for our home. A long time ago, I thought vinyl was the solution … who wanted yucky old wood clapboard that needed to be painted every few years when I could have something that would outlive me, almost no maintenance required? But then a neighbor down the street resided their home with fiber cement (James Hardie brand) and I fell in love with it. A few months ago, I was all set to go with plain white Hardieplank siding, but then we talked to an architect who got me thinking of some other options – mainly by suggesting we consider shingle siding. I had never considered this – I thought our 1950 hip-roof colonial could only “wear” lap siding, but after driving around and taking notice of all the different styles of homes with shingle siding, I really like the look! Our house is so plain and flat in the front, this would add some much needed texture, shadow and dimension.

Have a look at my latest Google Sketchup rendering (this is Certainteed 5″ fiber cement shingles in Pewter):

So this is what I’m considering:

1. James Hardie fiber cement siding – a combination of their HardieShingle and HardiePlank siding. Problem is that the HardieShingles are REALLY expensive – we were told that the price would be somewhere around $360 a square for materials (a square = 100 square feet). I know from the estimate we received from our contractor that he plans to order 23 squares for our home. So we would probably just side the front of the house in shingles and the rest in lap. The other problem is that their shingles are 7″ exposures, and I don’t know how that would work with 4″ reveal lap siding everywhere else. I like their “light mist” gray color option.



2. Certainteed Weatherboards fiber cement siding – also a combo of shingles and planks for the same reasons as #1 above. My understanding is that Certainteed might be a little less expensive than Hardie, but that the products are essentially the same. Certainteed has two different grays I’m interested in – “silver plate” and “pewter.” They have a 5″ exposure option in the shingles which would work nicely with 5″ reveal lap siding everywhere else.

Certainteed Weatherboards shingles:

3. Certainteed Weatherboards “Perfection” fiber cement siding – 7″ exposure. This siding has the look of shingles but comes in 12′ long planks and installs just like lap siding. You can get in the same colors and stains as their other fiber cement siding. The drawback is that it looks a little fake – instead of actual cut shingles, there are simply randomly placed grooves, so you don’t get deep shadow lines. Might as well go with vinyl shingle siding, I’m thinking.

Certainteed Weatherboards Perfection shingles:

The big problem with Certainteed is that their fiber cement product seems to be less popular than Hardie (which is kind of the “name brand” of fiber cement siding). I find very few examples of actual homes installed with Certainteed fiber cement – in real life and in google searches. I’ve contacted the company and they seem to be ignoring my request for photos. I’m sure they must have them, right? I also contacted every single recommended installer within a 25-mile radius – I’ve heard back from a few and none have used the fiber cement before. It’s hard to shell out major bucks for something you hope to last forever when you can’t even see it installed in person or a decent enough photograph.


A Google Sketchup mock-up of our home with canopy

Inspired by the images from my previous post, I’ve mocked up an image of what our house might look like with the eyebrow canopy:

I’m not sure how lighting placement works in this layout. I don’t think I’d use exactly those brackets pictured – they were just pulled from Google’s 3D Warehouse.

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Desperately seeking some curb appeal

One of the main focus areas of our upcoming exterior remodel is the front entry. We live in a neighborhood of homes built from 1949 up to the 1970s, and many houses have two entries: the one at the center of the house that’s never actually used and the second entry that’s usually situated in the connector from the main house to the garage (for example, the mud room). It’s usually pretty ambiguous as to which one you’re supposed to knock at when visiting. Since we don’t have a second entry, we really need to play up the main one. By the way, our house is a “hip-roof colonial” built in 1950.

Here’s the front entry in all its glory:

We’ll be getting rid of the storm door altogether and replacing the current wood door-with-the-ubiquitious-retro-window-fan-thing. At first I was thinking of going with a fiberglass door, as they’re supposed to be virtually maintenance free and insulating. But I can’t seem to find exactly the door I want in fiberglass. So now I’m looking at paint-grade wood doors from Simpson. I love a colorful door, so we don’t need the highest quality wood. Here are a few options I’m currently looking at:

The next thing to consider is what to do with the area around the door. The current surround is supposed to evoke some sort of granite squares/slab look, and there’s a long horizontal piece of moulding with dentil trim at the top. Until recently, I envisioned a portico for our front entry, but I’ve put that idea out of my head. I’m afraid the cost would exceed our budget, and I’m also concerned that it would cut down on the light our large windows in the front receive. Sigh. I always loved this portico from the first issue of Blueprint Magazine:

I’m now exploring other options, from flat surrounds with pilasters and crosshead (verrrry typical) to some sort of bumped-out canopy or hood. I’m not talking about a fabric canopy like you see at funeral homes and ice cream stands, but something constructed. These appear to be very popular in the UK and Ireland. Here’s an assortment of canopies/hoods I’ve found around the web:

I particularly like the arched hood (“eyebrow” hood) in the 1st, 5th and 6th examples above. Whether or not it would work with our house, I’m not sure. I’ll definitely be soliciting some professional advice from “our architect” (for some reason, I feel sort of pretentious saying that). Also, I’m not sure about the cost of constructing one of these numbers. I read somewhere that any time you deviate from a straight line in construction, it’s going to cost you. I’ve also been told that this sort of construction might demand some kind of cantilever, so any option that’s too involved will have to be scrapped. I figured that if the canopy only extends around a foot from the face of the house, perhaps those corbels or brackets will be enough support. I guess I’ll find out!

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Here we go again!

The last time we embarked on a major remodel, it was 4 1/2 years ago and we were blissfully ignorant when it came to the soaring costs and pitfalls any major home overhaul can bring. What started as a desire to replace our old 1950s oven turned into a complete kitchen remodel with new walls, floor, electrical wiring, lighting, cabinets, etc – the whole shebang. Oh yeah, and the adjacent bathroom was completely gutted and upgraded, too. I learned a lot from that experience – namely that good, thoughtful planning is absolutely essential to a good outcome. For the most part, I got lucky, but there were a few mistakes made that could easily have been avoided.

This time around, we’re going to tackle the exterior of our home. And by “we,” I mean a contractor and crew – no way we’re DIY’ing this project! Here’s what we’re planning:

1. Remove and replace the old clapboard siding
2. Remove and replace the surround around the front door
3. Replace the front door
4. Replace the garage door
5. Replace two small, ugly windows in the back of our living room and replace with windows (or a bay window with seat)
6. Replace two windows in the garage
7. Replace the exterior door on the deck
8. Demolish the dilapidated deck … we’ll replace next year when we can scrape together the $$
9. Install new fixtures (lighting, etc.)
10. Add some electrical outlets while the siding is peeled off

The rest of the windows were replaced last year – about 4 weeks before our son was born. My pregnancy hormones were in high gear and my nesting instincts were in control – I wanted new windows and I wanted them NOW.

So here’s our house as it looks now:

And here’s a close-up of the front door:

And the backyard:

So, you can see our house needs a LOT of TLC. I’ve decided to get a little help with design decisions this time around (the kitchen & bathroom was all me, but I kind of wish I’d consulted with someone back then). We met with an architect who’s happy to take on a small project like this. He met with us one afternoon and walked around the exterior and gave us all sorts of great tips – like moving the gutter downspouts to the sides instead of the front of the house to avoid obscuring the new trim we’ll be getting. He suggested going with a wider front door – 3’6″ instead of 3′. We may not be able to do that, but it’s just the sort of idea I would never have thought of on my own. He’ll be drawing up plans for a new door surround – perhaps with some sort of hood or canopy.

So stay tuned … I’ll be updating with progress along the way. We hope to get started in August or September.

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