Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Curb Appeal Page 1 of 6

OMG OMG OMG We Got New Windows!

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Hallelujah, we finally updated all the windows!

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We used to have aluminum windows throughout the main floor of our ranch. Since day 1, Slav has been wanting to replace them. I do not blame him. The old aluminum windows lack both form and function. They are dingy, hard to clean, and do a terrible job insulating the cold/heat and noise.

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The pictures above show the old aluminum windows on the back and the north side of the house. These are windows in the kitchen, our bedroom, and the office:

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The previous owners added more layers to insulate, which made it impossible to clean between the layers:

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Some of the windows are so rusted that they do not open. During winter months,  condensation formed and mold was growing along the window frames:

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Colorado is so dry that we do not usually deal with mold problems. But these windows were exception. Needless to say that we were ready for this upgrade for a long time. So when DesignCrew, who did our basement egress gave us a very reasonable quote, we jumped on it with both feet. Their quote does not only include replacing 7 old aluminum windows with custom vinyl windows, but also includes the cost of making the office window bigger.

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The picture above shows the old office window on the left, and the living room window on the right. You can see the office window was shorter. To bring some symmetry to the front of the house we wanted to make the office window taller so it would match the height of the living room window.

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Making this window taller requires cutting the brick window sill off, removing a few rows of bricks below the sill, and building the sill back up again. The DesignCrew guys subcontracts the brick work to a masonry contractor so the quality of the brick work is professional.

In the morning of the window installation, we pushed everything away from the old windows and covered our stuff.

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The crew arrived after 8 AM and worked their way from the inside out, so they can clean after themselves effectively. Lee, the father of the company started to enlarge the front office window (the left window in the picture above) right away, while Ryan (one of his sons) worked on the smaller window on the north side (the right one in the pictured above).

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The bricks were removed before the windows were taking down. Lee, the guy in the picture explained to me that doing things in this order prevented the dust from entering the house. I really like how methodical and organized these guys work. Cannot recommend the DesignCrew enough!

Within an hour the bricks demo was done. Lee then removed the window and trimmed the wood framing to meet the new opening on the exterior brick. You can see how much we were lowering the sill from the picture below:

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Before noon, the new opening was done and I had a rare opportunity to peak into our exterior walls.

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Apparently our brick house was constructed in the following layers: a layer of brick, a layer of insulation board, then interior wood framing. There is no insulation between the interior studs as we discovered during the ethernet cable installation.

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It is so cool to be able to look into the walls – I love the mechanical aspect of the house a lot more than the finishes. Maybe one day we will build a house from scratch!

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The rebuilding of the window was pretty quick. I snapped the last picture above and went for a walk in the neighborhood. By the time I was back, the new window was up!

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The new and bigger window let in so much more light and the office was instantly brighter:

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And we can see a lot more of the front yard garden now with a lower sill. All the flower beds are visible as soon as you walk into the office. This new window has become my favorite spot in the morning. I love sipping my tea while watching birds and flowers in the comfort of my pj.

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All the new windows facing the front and back are double-slider windows – both glass panels are movable and can stop at any position along the window track. The panels can also be pop off easily from the inside for easy cleaning. Each window comes with a bug screen which is a continuous one-piece. The screen can be removed for clearer view. This feature is useful during winter months when we do not open the windows.

Lee saved all the sill bricks during demo so the masonry contractor could re-point them back onto the wall.

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He also replaced the bricks on the side that were cut into halves with bricks taken from the bottom of the window, so the wall on both sides of the new window looks seamless.

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And this is the new look in the front of the house! Doesn’t it look much better with both windows at the same height?

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Compared to this:

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So satisfying!

While Lee tackled the office window, Ryan worked on replacing the two small windows on the north side.

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We rarely open these small windows due to the furniture placement. All they are there for is letting the light in. To have a better view we opted for awning windows, a decision we are so happy with.

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We anticipated that awning windows will appear bigger, but we did not think it would look THIS much bigger and better. The unobstructed view out of these windows looks like a picture and instantly made the rooms feel more finished. In the bathroom downstairs we chose a hopper which is also without the middle frame. For small windows I highly recommend this approach. It also made the windows look bigger from the outside.

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And there will be no more mold!

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Also replaced are the kitchen windows:

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Which Roxie is clearly excited about:

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And the other window in our  bedroom. Directly below is the egress window DesignCrew put in for us back in January.

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A much better view of the backyard from our bed:

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The last window we replaced is in the garage! The old aluminum one was completely rusted and could not open.

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And here is the new one:

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We have been living with the new windows for a couple weeks now and really like them. We no longer hear traffic on the street, and every room is a lot brighter. The temperature inside is a lot more stable, and opening and closing the windows have been a breeze.

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In addition to the comfort, upgrading the windows brought such an instant upgrade to our curb appeal. We keep asking ourselves why we had not done it sooner! After removing the old front porch, installing a new roof, putting in new landscaping, building a new horizontal fence, and now with brand new windows, we finally checked off all the big items on our exterior renovation list. Remember the front of the house when we bought it?

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A very different view today:

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Now we can finally move into the decorative elements for the exterior. Slav has been wanting to add stone veneer to the bare foundation, and I’ve been dreaming about climbing clematis on over-window pergolas. Slav is also very motivated to paint the gables and the garage door darker to better match the bronze trims and gutters – or I should say, to let me paint the gables and the garage door darker. This summer will be full of small and fun projects to continue improving our curb appeal, and I cannot wait!

Fence, Finished!

After five weeks of hard work, our DIY fence was complete.

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Do you like it? WE DO. A LOT. 🙂

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Besides a few weeks of planning, this fence took five weeks of physical work to build, including demoing the old chain link fence. Here is a week-by-week task breakdown:

Week 1: Preparing the ground for the fence

Week 2: Concrete work – setting fence post

Week 3: Attaching bottom pickets

Week 4: Demoing the old chain links and a mid-project clean-up. Slav also finished attaching the top pickets during this week.

Week 5: Building Gates

The goal of this fence project is to replace the old chain link with cedar fence for both privacy and curb appeal:

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And here are the new fence we built in the place of old chain links:

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The north front fence is the perfect backdrop for the front yard landscape we installed this summer. To accommodate the slope, we divided this 20 ft of fence in four panels and stepped down after each panel. We also made each panel 5′ wide so we would not end up with a short panel on one end.

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The new south front fence on the other side of the house is only 15 feet long. It consists of a 4-ft walk gate and a 10-ft drive gate:

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You might remember how much trouble we went into building these gates. Now we are fully rested, all the effort feels worth it. The choice of simple black hardware and the decision of having them hidden resulted in a perfect seamless look from the street.

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For finishing touches, Slav mounted address letters onto the new fence, which we have been holding onto since moving into the ranch, 17 months ago.

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The new south side fence is the longest stretch of this build – it is a little over 90 feet and also sits on a slope. Slav incorporated several step downs to keep the height under 6′.

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You may notice that the pattern of the side fence is a bit different. The side fence is constructed with only 1″ x 6″ picket, whereas the front fences have decorative details on the top.

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Slav did 90% of the work. Despite being his first fence DIY, Slav did a fabulous job. Don’t we all expect this though? He is a perfectionist and we all knew it. 🙂

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As expected, the new cedar fence has been the biggest upgrade to our curb appeal. Here is what the north side yard looked like this Spring:

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And here is the same angle today. I loooooove how the color and the texture of cedar play with the evergreens, black mulch, and river rocks.

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This is what the south side yard looked from the street before:

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And today:

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The new front fences not only added privacy, but also enclosed two side yards which we can now access from the back. The northern side yard used to get lots of afternoon sun and had to irrigate. But now, with the 6′ cedar pickets to its west, this area is in shade and a lot cooler.

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Without the chain link running along the northern fence, we can finally landscape this area. It will be a great outdoor project next spring:

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We needed a “utility yard” for a long time and the new south side yard is just that. Behind the drive gates is the perfect spot for Slav’s trailer, and we are thrilled to keep the waste bins off the view from the street.

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With two dogs we always had a poop bucket outside. Someday I would like to have a beautiful porcelain planter just for that. But for now, a Lowe’s bucket with a “bullshit corner” plate mounted above will do.#pitbullmom

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Here you have it, our new horizontal fence. As our first DIY fence, we are proud of ourselves for pulling it off in 5 weeks. Most importantly, we wrapped it up before the harsh winter set in. It is beautiful, it is sturdy, and it will become the perfect backdrop for more pretty things – I am talking about pergolas, climbing vines, and solar powered outdoor lighting. But we will save the fun for next Spring, because the mountain is calling!

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DIY Fence Gates – The Home Stretch

Five weeks into our fence build, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Slav finished installing fence pickets last week, which brought us to the homestretch: building gates.

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The Design

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Being on flat ground, this 15 feet stretch is the only portion we could incorporate gates. We decided on a 4′ walk gate + a 10′ drive gate combo, a big upgrade from the little 3′ walk gate we had before.

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We are excited to have a real drive gate. There has been a handful of times that we had to let in big vehicles (hi, concrete truck), which required taking down the chain link.

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An average truck is 8′ wide, so we decided to build our drive gate 10′ wide. It is more than enough for Slav’s trailer to go in and out easily. In fact, we found that the newly enclosed side yard is the perfect spot for parking the trailer.

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I am particularly excited about the new 4′ walk gate – the old 3′ gate was a hair wider than our wheelbarrow, which I push around a lot while gardening. I love to use my garden caddy on top of the wheelbarrow, which is 6″ wider. It is going to be so convenient to not have to unload the caddy every time when I pass the gate!

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We have erected the posts with the gate dimensions in mind. But we had no experience building gates. Heck, we had no experience building anything before buying this house. With any project, we started with extensive research – getting information online and from people we know, evaluating all the information and creating a strategy/protocol, then off we go. It has worked out pretty well – we never made a mistake so big that we had to backtrack. But this gate build was particular challenging.

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Let me be clear, building fence gate is not hard, not technically. What’s difficult were all the small decisions we had to make, which are often arbitrary and require a certain level of experience. We also insisted on a certain look, which added another layer of complexity onto the build.

Step 1: the Gate Assembly

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We made a good decision to use these EasyGate kits. Each kit contains four corner brackets, which make constructing the 2″ x 4″ assembly a breeze. The hinges are welded directly on two of the brackets, which adds stability.

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To use the kit, we needed to decide the dimension of the 2″ x 4″ assembly. Deciding the width of the assembly was easy – it is the width of the gate opening minus 1″. In our case the distance between the post and the side of the house is 48″, and we had to mount a 2″ x 4″ onto the house to receive the latch, so the width of the assembly/gate was set to be 45 1/2″.

The nightmare came when we had to decide on the height of assembly. For vertical fencing, the top and bottom rails can be at any height, as long as they make sense for the weight distribution. But for horizontal pickets, the rails are better hidden behind the pickets, an issue we overlooked during the initial build. Slav had to rebuilt all three gates so the top rails would not block any gap.

The second challenge is the location of the hinges. Without any prior experience, it was hard for us to decide how far to space hinges for the best weight distribution. We initially made the top rail on the drive gate higher considering they are heavier, but immediately regretted it. Misaligned top rails made the gates look choppy next to each other.

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Slav ended up adjust the top rails once again. Ugh. Fortunately we accidentally over-purchased cedar 2″ x 4″s. #mistakenotmistake

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The actual construction was not too bad. With the kits, all we needed to do was cutting 2″ x 4″s to length. Slav also polished the ends so the two matching 2″ x 4″s were at exactly the same length, which helped to square the gate.

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He also chipped the corner of the 2″ x 4″s down to accommodate the welding spots. Nice! I knew I praise Slav frequently on the blog for his attention to details, but things like this are the exact reason why I trust his DIY over contractors.

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Everything was dry-fit before screwed together:

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Then onto the post!

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Step 2: the Hidden Hinges

For 15 ft of space, it is pretty crowded to have three gates. We wanted them to look more like a fence from the street, which means running horizontal pickets all the way continuously, including the front of the posts. To get a seamless look, we decided to hide the hinges, by mounting them on the side of the posts.

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To accommodate the thickness of the bearing, Slav carved out shallow tunnels on the side of the posts:

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We really like the hidden hinge look. It enabled us to attach pickets in front of the posts.

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Step 3: Creating Support for the Top Pickets

Once the gate assemblies were mounted, it was time to attach pickets. Unfortunately, it was not as straightforward as it seemed. A work of advice – for your first fence DIY, do not go horizontal. The second word of advice: with a sloped land, do not go horizontal. Yes, we are building a horizontal fence on a steep slope as our first fence, and we lived to tell the tale (almost), but boy did problems rise daily! In case of the gate pickets, there had to be continuous vertical support along the entire height for the pickets to screw onto. With the top rails being at the eye level, we needed to mount additional 2″ x 4″s over the top rails.

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We could have brought the top rails all the way to the top, in which case the pickets would be screwed onto the side rails. But we have decided to run a different pattern with narrower pickets on the top for the front portion of the fence, which forces the bulky top rail to sit at the eye height, behind the first 1″ x 6″ picket:

I know, I know. First fence, no prior experience, horizontal pickets, sloped land, and now, decorative patterns…we are asking for troubles. And surely, we’ve gotten them. But we have already gone this far and embraced all the problems along the way, there would be no concession now.

Slav added 2″ x 4″s on top of all the top rails with pocket holes:

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Patched the holes with saw dust and glue:

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And attached the pickets:

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With short panels covering the post from the front, the gates look more seamless from the front.

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Step 4: the Latch Work

The last step was to install latches on all the gates. Slav picked a push latch for its sleek look and easy-to-open mechanisms from both sides.

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In order to have something to latch onto, a piece of cedar 2″ x 4″ was mounted to the house:

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Slav attached the 2″ x 4″ using masonry sleeve anchors, drilling through the mortar. He also filled the holes with sawdust and glue:

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A bit had to be cut off near the ground to accommodate the foundation. Little details matter.

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The finished product:

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Gates, 95% Done!

We are 95% done with the gates, with only one task left: setting the drive gate cane bolts into the ground with concrete. With all the snow, concrete work has to wait. To hold the drive gates together and in place, we mounted the pair of cane bolts horizontally, and put the sawhorses I built last year on both sides.

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We’ve taken down majority of the chain link during the mid-project clean-up. With the gates installed and operational, the very last bit of chain link behind the gates has come down. Finally, we are chain link- free! I will not miss this pit bull-behind-chain link look.

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We are waiting for the next warm day to finish the cane bolts. In Colorado, it could be a day or a month away. Weirdly, I feel no rush. I am enjoying the wait, as if I am savoring the moment. The big reveal is coming, and I am looking forward to it as much as you are. Happy Winter, everyone!

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