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

Category: Small Upgrade Page 1 of 4

A Back Fence Upgrade

This week, we continue making small upgrades to our house and garden. Since having completed the main floor guest bathroom, our focus has been fine-toning the details inside and outside the house. We patched holes and touch-painted, refreshed the hidden portion under the roof, fixed broken pickets on the fence, re-potted all the indoor plants, and filled dead spots in our lawn. These tasks are rather keep-ups and do not make into the blog, but they are necessary for preserving the hard work we put in initially.

Over the last two weeks, we started to see some cool weather, which made working outside a lot more pleasant. And it was the time I decided to give the back fence a face lift:

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Ranch house - 2

Above pictures showed how the back fence looked like when we moved in. As you can see, the fence was finished with two different types of pickets, which aged into different colors. Shortly after we moved in, Slav gave the fence a good wash with our pressure washer:

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The washing effort made the fence look great for a while. But over time, the different types of wood started turning into different colors again.

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Challenges and decisions

The problem is that the older fence pickets are cedar, which age into a smoke grey, whereas the newer panels are treated wood, which maintain a much lighter and yellow color. The aging process of the cedar pickets happens very quickly – within a couple weeks, which makes it difficult to keep the fence look uniformed.

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We considered to rebuild the fence to match the horizontal fencing on the other side of the yard, but the current high lumber price puts our plan on halt. Besides, the back fence is actually pretty steady and functional, so it fees like a waste to rebuild just for a different look.

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We debated and discussed many times, and finally reached the conclusion to upgrade the look of the fence with minimal effort, before we have to rebuild for structure reasons. The rebuild will not need to happen until years down the road, and by that time, the lumber price should come down as well.

Painting the treated wood panels

To make the back fence look better, we first needed to stain/paint the lighter color panels to match the darker ones. It happened that we had some exterior paint left over from painting the gable, which are a dark grey color.

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I watered it down just a little bit to make the color a better match, and got onto painting:

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The painted pickets are a bit darker but over time, I think it will look similar to the naturally aged cedar pickets. Here is the same section of the fence before and after being painted:

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Close enough!

Installing the cattle panel

Next, I wanted to train the climbing rose up to the fence. We planted some climbing roses along the back fence in 2018. I did not train it up as I should have, due to our indecision of what to do with the back fence. now we have decided to keep the original fence for a while, I can finally lift the roses off the ground!

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The poor roses, they have been gobbled up by the pumpkins this year:

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I decided to train the climbing roses up onto the fence using cattle panel. I had done it with the front yard climbing rose with success, and I loved how steady these cattle panels are. In fact, we used them to create bean tunnels in the vegetable garden this year, and they look great with vine crops climbing on them:

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We got four 50″ x 16′ panels from Tractor Supply, my new favorite garden store! They have great seeds and soil, plus all the gardening/farming supplies you can think of. The best? They have little chicks year around in the stores. I love playing with the chicks every time I have an excuse to go inside.

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Slav secured the panels onto the fence pickets using metal staples.

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And they look nice! Plus I think they actually made the fence stronger.

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With the cattle panel secured to the fence, I can simply tie the branches of the roses onto the panel instead of trying to secure them onto the fence. It is a much easier way to train climbing roses, and once we are ready to replace the back fence, I can simply stake the panel up with T-posts and keep the roses in place.

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Training climbing rose

I spent an afternoon training the roses up. The most challenging part was separating them from the pumpkin vines and lifting them up. Even with long sleeves, long pants, and garden gloves, I got scratched all over my arms and legs! The awakening rose is famous for the strong thorns and I can tell you, they are no joke!

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But nonetheless, they are ON.

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The upgraded look of the back fence

Here is the upgraded look of our back fence, all in dark, covered by cattle panels, aligned with fruit trees and blackberry bushes, and soon with pink rose blooming all over! Do you like it?

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Painting the Exterior of the House

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Our neighborhood was built in the 60s and early 70s. Most of the houses still maintain their original brick exterior and colors. It feels like a time capsule driving in the neighborhood. However, we have made a lot of changes on the exterior since moving in. We demoed the metal awing in the front of the house, got rid of the cracked concrete patio next to the foundation, removed the foundation planting, and installed a brand new storm door. These steps were taken to address the water issue around the foundation, but of course, these projects improved the curb appeal tremendously.

The front of the house, summer 2017, shortly after we moved in

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The front of the house, summer 2019

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The front of the house today:

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When the roof was replaced, we painted the soffit, the fascia, and the front door to a darker color to match the new gutter, which gave the house an entirely new look and feel. Many neighbors stopped on their tracks and told us how much they loved the new look of the house. Some even said that they enjoyed watching us make decisions during the renovation process. “It is like watching a HGTV show in weekly episodes!” They said and we laughed together. Our neighbors’ praises certainly confirmed our choices of the trim color, and the front of the house looked really good!

But somehow, the house still looked a little strange. For the longest time, I could not pinpoint what was off about the house, until Slav suggested that we should have painted the gable.

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A gable is the triangular part of a wall under the roof, especially between the edges of intersecting roof pitches. Our house is side-gabled, meaning that the gable portion faces the side of the house. Although not in the direct view of the street, one can still catch a glimpse of the gable when passing by.

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Generally speaking, the gable color does not need to be the same as the roof, or the fascia, or the soffit. More often than not, the gable color actually contrasts the roof color, and accompanies the siding of the house. Our house has yellow brick siding. After careful consideration, we decided to paint the gable the same color we used on the fascia and soffit – bronze.

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We used bronze on the soffit and fascia to match the bronze gutter, and really liked how it looks. The original gable color appealed very yellow next to bronze, which made the gable portion look very dated.

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To repaint the gable portion, we first had to clean the surface to get the dust, wasp nests, and spider nets off:

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Then we needed to use the sander to take off the peeling old paint and rough the surface to receive new paint.

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We also needed to patch and caulk the gaps and holes:

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I spend a whole weekend cleaning and sanding. Then Slav patched all the holes with sealant/outdoor caulking.

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The gable on the garage side is relatively lower to the ground. I was able to reach all surfaces with a tall ladder. But the west side gable is a different story. With sloped land underneath the gable is very high up. Slav had to climb up for most of the work.

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After letting the sealant dry, I lightly sanded everything again, cleaned the dust off, and it was time to paint!

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The new paint reads a bit blue in the picture above, almost black in low lighting, but it actually looks lighter and warmer in person. I think it made an amazing difference from the old color:

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Here is the west gable before:

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And now:

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Definitely more seamless and better!

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At sunset, the bronze color reads warm. I love it.

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Painting the gable looked like a small upgrade, but it actually took us two whole weekends and many evenings. It provided a big visual impact, and the house finally looks “right”. ūüôā The best part of this project? When I painted the gable on the tall ladder, this girl was watching me closely from the below.

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What do you think? Do you like the looks of our newly painted gable?

Master Bath Got an Upgrade!

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Our master bathroom is located in the basement of our ranch house. It was fully renovated and put in use around Christmas time in 2019, and it has surely seen a lot of use over the last year thanks to the COVID lockdown. In October 2020 we gutted the upstairs bathroom, making this basement bath the only bath in the house. It served us very well, except we started wanting a stronger and quieter exhaust fan.

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The exhaust fan in the picture above was provided by our contractor. It was the cheapest fan – merely $14 from Home Depot. It does the job, but not as strong as we hoped, and it is noisy.

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Then the upstairs bathroom renovation started. Along with recessed lighting, Slav installed a new exhaust fan on the ceiling, and we were immediately smitten. It is so quiet that we hardly notice when the fan is on. It also comes with two CFM settings controlled by a motion/humidity sensor.

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When the main floor bathroom plumbing work started, we lifted the subfloor and exposed the floor joists for the plumber. Of course, the master bath exhaust fan was exposed too in the process. It seems to be a great opportunity to replace it if we wanted an upgrade! I told Slav. So Slav went ahead and picked the same model of exhaust fan as the one he installed for the main floor bath, just in a lower profile to fit in between the floor joists.

One difference between the low-profile fan is that it comes with a LED lighting. And instead of 80/110 CFM, it is made to be 80/100 CFM. Slav took down the old exhaust fan from above, through exposed floor joists:

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You can see the downstairs shower through the floor. One of the master bath recessed lighting is right next to it:

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It was not too hard to install the new exhaust fan. Slav connected the new fan to the existing electrical and exhaust pipe:

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And secured it well. He did have to cut the opening on the floor joist bigger to fit the new exhaust pipe, so he sister-ed the floor joist with a 2″ x 4″ to add some strength:

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He then connected the 4″ exhaust pipe to the existing pipe going outside of the house.

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The existing pipe is only 3″ wide, so Slav used a reducer in between the new and old pipe.

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And this is how the exhaust fan looks like in the basement master bath! It is larger and more powerful, but much quieter.

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And this is how the pipes will rest in between the two stories. We will be closing the subflooring soon. Before that, Slav will probably add some metal straps to secure the pipes to nearby floor joist so nothing will ever come loose.

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In addition to the new exhaust fan for master bath, Slav also upgraded the electrical boxes on the wet wall. He had added some electrical circuits to the bath, But this portion of the electrical work had to wait until the plumbing upgrade was finished.

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Loose connections, old wires. It is amazing to see what is hiding behind walls in old houses…

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We used to have one electrical outlet above the vanity. Slav replaced it with two new outlets including one GFCI, which will protect the circuits in this bathroom.

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He also added a new outlet behind the toilet. This will power the bidet seat we will be installing. The cold water line on the left side of the toilet flange will feed water into the bidet seat.

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With all the electrical and plumbing work finished, we are almost ready to close the walls! The very last thing we need to do is to frame in the pocket door on the entry wall of the bathroom. We are inching closer to tile work as every weekend passes. Although it seems slow, it surprises me how far we’ve come since the beginning:

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights from the attic;
5. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
6. Installing a new exhaust fan;
7. Installing recessed lights and drywall the bathroom ceiling;
8. Upgrading the sewage pipe for toilet and shower;
9. Purchasing a new toilet, a new bidet, a sink/vanity, and sink and shower fixtures; Upgrading/installing water lines to all the fixture;
10. Upgrade master bath (basement) exhaust fan from above;
11. Replacing all the subflooring;
12. Pocket door framing;
13. Drywalling around the pocket door, taping and mudding the entry wall and the ceiling;
14. Tiling and installing a new window stool;
15. Priming/painting entry wall drywall and ceiling;
16. Sealing the floor tiles and grout;
17. Installing new glass shower door;
18. Installing toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, shower trim, and vanity mirror/lighting;
19. Hanging the new pocket door and installing door trims;
20. Accessorizing the bathroom.

 

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