confessions of a serial remodeler

This summer we finally took care of the world’s silliest driveway. It’s silly because even though it consists of tons and tons of concrete and extends all the way to the lot line, you can only get two cars on it.

The neighbor’s driveway also extends to the lot line, making our side yard look like one giant parking lot.

The plan: take out about 1/3 of the concrete, restore and landscape the side yard and add a decorative fence along the property line. More to come soon…

Backyard Pond: update

Remodelnerd is heading for Los Gatos next weekend

When we at remodelnerd need inspiration we rarely venture into our own decidedly blue collar neighborhood looking for ideas- instead we pile into the nerdmobile and traipse across town to the tonier neighborhoods to see what people with fatter paychecks than we can imagine do with their properties.

Luckily for lookie-loos, officially sanctioned “home and garden” tours where citizens open their homes and gardens to the hoi polloi offer guilt free (though heavily monitored) snooping- not to mention cookies and cheese, and the proceeds go to charity so we can all feel good about it. The Los Gatos fall tour is one is the best, so if you are in the bay next week consider signing on- we at remodelnerd think its money well spent!

I have a whole hole in the ground

Well- here it October and my pond project is far from complete- Current status is: Future big pile of mud and swamp land about 5 minutes after the rains start- which is likely to be any day now.  I don’t know about you but I’m always saying to myself- ya know, I would really, really enjoy digging a great big hole in my back yard with a pick and shovel.  In fact- I am so looking forward to it, that I have been putting it off so that I can savor the moment with all the appropriate relish and glee due the occasion.

This weekend, I actually finished enlarging the hole that my liner sits in- The next step is to level and back fill- then I need to get the waterfall built.  At least the really labor intensive work is done.   I think.  I haven’t give much thought to the waterfall- stay tuned…

My foreman inspects the job site- Hopefully she approves of the work.

Finished my windows- installing a window box

This weekend I finished trimming out my windows, and I installed the window box requested by my wife.

Backyard pond- part 1

I’ve also been working in the backyard this summer…

Green Gables

My house is turned sideways- a little detail we didn’t even notice when we bought it.  What I mean is, the gable end is actually facing the street, and the front door is along the side of my house- you can’t even see it from the street.  This is a very unusual configuration and it means that most of the traditional curb appeal techniques like adding a front porch, dormers, or sprucing up the front door and entryway weren’t going to work.  It is such an unusual configuration that I have found very few examples in my neighborhood walks (we’ve been incessantly trolling around the upscale neighborhoods looking for ideas.) 

Another problem was the enthusiastic overabundance of material used by the builders- This small little house front featured brick, stucco and two different styles of siding, not to mention a prominently featured brick chimney.  The siding on the top 1/3 was particularly hideous- a very wide “V” groove pattern- I’m sure it looked great mid-century when they build it, but it was beyond dated when we moved in.  Ultimately we decided to replace the “V” groove siding with the same siding that was on the bottom, and instead of replacing it, my handy man and I figured out how to build a fake wall up top which was cantilevered out over the stucco section, and install the siding over that- leaving the old siding in place.

Right side built- then installed

The left side

Installed and ready for siding

Working outside this summer


This is the way our house looked in 2001- about 2 months before we bought it. afterThis is the way the house looks in August 2007.  We did the landscaping soon after we moved in, but the rest of the transformation took place this summer.   This project started late May, and the front is almost finished here in the last week of August- but just like always, there are still things left undone.  This time I actually hired help and they were great- but my lead guy became suddenly “unavailable for an extended period” about half way through the project, which is why it has been dragging on for so long.  These are the main highlights of this particular project:

  • New exterior paint job

  • New siding on the upper part of the house.

  • All new fascia, rain gutters, and barge rafters.

  • New vent, trim, and shop built window casings

  • The main part of this project was creating a false 6” cantilever on the top 1/3 of the gable end where the siding transitions to stucco- and adding a row of decorative corbels underneath- and finally, some nice white trim along the bottom of transition.

In my next post, I want to share some of the details, and show some construction pictures.

Safety first- how to avoid the most common cause of death when starting a remodeling project.

This is also from the outline of my “book”:

CHAPTER TWO: Safety first- how to avoid the most common cause of death when starting a remodeling project. 

You may think the most important things to consider before starting a remodel project might be budget, downtime, planning, tools, design or implementation.  You would be wrong.  The most important thing to consider is that your spouse will probably kill you before you’re done.  Don’t think that making this a joint venture that both of you are going to work on is going to save you- this only means you will probably kill each other.  Since in my personal experience, the remodeler: me- is male and the spouse: my dear, long suffering wife, is female- these are the genders I will use but don’t think this is always the case.  Even if the remodeler is female, and the innocent spouse is male, (and that does happen) everything presented here still applies: 

·         You see the grand vision; she sees a hole in the wall.

·         Why it’s important to get “buy in” from the start.

·         Things change- divergence from the agreed upon plan that’s obvious to you as the project progresses may be a nasty surprise to her.

·         What do you do when your long suffering spouse complains about the unfinished state of the current project?

·         If you answered “start a completely new project from scratch” give yourself a dope slap.  

·         There is no stronger power in the universe than the need to deliver yourself from the agony of the exceedingly boring and tedious labor required to complete a stale and long overdue project by starting a new adventure.  You must resist.

·         If your urge to start the next project occurs right after the demolition phase of the current project, you need professional help- you may not have long to live.

·         Why temporary interim solutions during the project are important, even though they ultimately are dismantled after the project is complete. 

Why do it yourself?

This is from the outline of a “book” I’m working on: 

CHAPTER ONE: Why do it yourself?

Here’s what happens when you contract out your kitchen remodel:  Five sweaty men who don’t speak English show up at 6:00 AM, walk into your house and take a fire ax and sledge hammer to your kitchen- tear down every cabinet, gut every appliance, punch holes in your drywall, rip it down to the studs, drag the dirty dusty writhing mess through your living room, down the steps, out your front door, and toss it into a seven story garbage bin they installed on your front lawn next to the porta potty- then they leave.  You will never see these people again. 

It is now 2:30 in the afternoon of that same day, and you are standing alone among the ruins- shell shocked and helpless, in an empty, gutted shell that once was your kitchen.  Now it looks like a deserted homeless camp under a freeway overpass, and realize you have just been through the “demolition” phase of your project.  Your only hope is to hire another contractor to finish the job after foolishly waiting weeks for the original crew to show up again. In the mean time, enjoy cooking on a toaster in the laundry room and washing dishes in the bath tub. Here is why you should do the work yourself:

·         Nobody cares about yourself and your needs like you do.

·         It’s easier to implement exactly what you want than to transfer that vision to someone else.

·         Save money- better quality for fewer dollars.

·         Avoid having your house completely torn apart for months- do the work in sections while leaving the rest of your house intact.

·         Stick it to the government- your labor is tax free, baby- If you spent the time you would need to complete a remodel doing what you normally do for a living to earn the money to pay someone else to do it, all that extra dough would be taxed at your marginal tax bracket! 

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