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Jim McClain 04-11-2013 02:09 AM

Quick & Easy Curb Appeal
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Been living in a low and lean triplex for the last 6+ years and the landlords let me do what I want to my apartment. During the last couple years, I also did some outside projects, beginning with an arbor. The arbor turned into some new fence in front of my apartment and the landlords liked it so much, they wanted to know if I could finish the whole fence the same way (it's actually a divider "wall" that faces the street and defines our patio/shop areas).

I finished the fence and added a couple interesting "windows" to break up the stark linear look (you'll see in the pics that I also added some support beams to his workshop area). Then they asked if I could do an arbor for them. So, for the last couple years, I've enjoyed making the property look better and adding some architectural interest. But when your gaze wanders past the fence and arbors, the house is still kinda plain Jane looking.

The landlords leave for the Winter every year, so this Spring I decided to do some simple curb appeal enhancements and try to finish them up before they return in May. I haven't told them about it, but I've been pretty close friends with him for about 40 years and they both seem to like my design styles. It's an easy gamble.

For some reason, I began this project without a plan on paper. That's not a good idea and I usually don't do that. I will pay the price for that though, as you'll see. My first day was spent tearing off the old door and window trim, as well as the trim around the porch opening. Since you can see the tops of the door and window in the shop area when the gate is closed, I decided to do the trim for those too.

Tearing stuff apart is the easy part. But I'm dealing with less than 25% lung function - doctors call it severe emphysema or COPD. So, my day is timed by the batteries in my portable concentrator, the effectiveness of my meds (mostly inhalers) on any given day and the level of exertion I use on a particular task. I can usually count on being able to work for several minutes, then resting/catching my breath for a few more minutes. On a good day, I can do that for 3 or 4 hours. Some of you accomplished DIYers and construction pros can see that the amount of work I do in a day is prob'ly about equal to an hour or so for a healthy guy. I love doing stuff like this so much that it just doesn't matter that it takes so long to do something.

First day, I got most of the trim off and the nails pulled on scrap that my landlord will probably want to keep (cheap bastard that he is ;)).

Your comments and critiques are welcome. I'm here to learn as much as I am here to share.


Jim McClain 04-11-2013 03:53 AM

Days 2 & 3
6 Attachment(s)
This sorta reminds me of my case modding days and posting work logs on computer modding forums. :yes:

When I removed the trim from the front door, I saw that the builder (my landlord) didn't fill a big cavity with insulation. It's my opinion that all gaps around windows and doors need to be filled with a foam or regular insulation. You can lose a lot of heat that way. So, I filled the cavity with some pink insulation I had left over from a remodel project I did in my bedroom a couple years ago (winter is a good time to work indoors).

The plan I have in my head for this project is to give this California Ranch style (and it's barely that) a more California Bungalow style. I wanted to make the porch area look like it was being supported by posts and to add considerable detail to the really plain looking door and window trim - something with a cornice. I haven't seen anything like that in our little community (Quincy, CA) - not that there isn't any, but I haven't seen any. This will give it a very unique look. With the trim painted white and the porch walls in a pale yellow and the door in a medium blue, this will give the long gray building a nice focal point.

Most of the fascia and other lumber is Western Red Cedar, but I also have some leftover primed spruce from the arbors. I had to use solid pine door stop material for the fillet because it was all I could find in the right thickness. I make a few executive decisions based on my lung issues, usually to save having to use the saws more than I have to (still, there's a LOT of cutting involved). I use a face mask, but it's pretty difficult to breathe through them. Even though I don't think pine is a good stock to use on the exterior, I'll use plenty of caulking and primer/sealer to protect it. And the door stop is glued (Titebond II) and nailed to the head casing.

The front entrance porch has a single door and a 4x4 window. If I used the same trim on both, the window would be a little taller than the door and look odd to me. So I thought I could make a faux transom. I think I'll have a center divider and paint the background the same blue as the door.

The shop area door and window has the same height problem, but the nature and function of that door doesn't warrant the same treatment as the front door. I used 1x4 casing top and sides of the windows, but the shop door got a 1x6 head casing. If the door and window had been further apart, I might have not been bothered by the odd height issue, but they were so close, I wouldn't have been able to do the cornice cap wrap.

I thought the windows would look good with a tilted sill. I wasn't sure how to attach it to the wall, so I pre-drilled some holes and countersunk some 3" galvanized screws. I filled the holes with paintable silicone and thought I would add another bit of silicone and smooth it out. But then I wondered how difficult it would be to repair or replace the window, so I am opting to leave the screw holes slightly indented so anyone can find the screws and remove the sill. I should have cut a drip gap on the bottom of the sills. I completely forgot. I'm hoping to cover the support beams in the shop area with clear plastic roofing, so both the porch area and the shop area will be protected from weather. But I still shoulda cut the drip gap.

Anyway, the pictures below are from day 2 and 3 of the project.


oh'mike 04-11-2013 05:18 AM

Two thumbs up!

You have a good eye for design----that's a simple, plain Jane house----your fancy detail work adds a lot to the looks and value of the property-----Your landlord owes you a vacation.

Nice professional work.---Mike-----

Jim McClain 04-11-2013 09:35 PM

6 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by oh'mike (Post 1156674)
Two thumbs up!

You have a good eye for design----that's a simple, plain Jane house----your fancy detail work adds a lot to the looks and value of the property-----Your landlord owes you a vacation.

Nice professional work.---Mike-----

Thanks Mike. I was beginning to wonder if these project logs got feedback or not. My landlords are also very good friends. I've known him for about 40 years. I did flooring sales & installations for 35 years and he was one of my first customers. When I got sick and lost my business and home, he gave me a place to live. I met his wife shortly after he did and she's treated me like a family member all this time.

Doing this kind of stuff is just about my favorite thing to do. Some people like to go on trips, some buy expensive toys and play. This is what I do for entertainment most of the time.

Although I like to think my DIY projects have a professional look to them when finished, I make plenty of unprofessional mistakes. But we'll get to that in a bit. The following is what should be...

Day 4

Part of my plan - still residing in the confines of my head - is to make the porch area look like an actual portico: a roofed porch supported by posts or columns. In the original construction, there's only one exposed 4x4 post on the corner. That has a fence and gate attached to it, so it doesn't look like a post at all. The landlords sit out there in the afternoons, but the space is all concrete and siding. It's not the oasis I think it could be.

I don't want to close it in by adding evenly spaced posts. I prefer to frame it by making the outside corners of the porch look like columns and adding another column on each side just one foot away from the corners. Since the added posts are not structural, I think I can eliminate the standard post bases.

I drilled a single hole for each post, 1/2" in diameter. I marked the right spot with an X, but the aggregate in concrete has a tendency to make a bit squirrely. This is why I think it's a good idea to wait to drill the pilot hole for the anchoring bolt in the bottom of the post. I had to move both holes slightly off center to still end up with a post on each side that is parallel and a somewhat precise distance from the corner posts. The anchor bolt is only 3/8" too, which allows me to have an eighth-inch of play to get it just right.

I filled the holes with an epoxy adhesive and got a good amount around the hole too, dropped in the post bolts and then fastened the tops with some Simpson ties for posts, filling every hole with deck screws.

The posts are pressure treated 4x4s, so they will be there long after I'm gone. But The corner post that isn't a post (on the left side), is covered with siding front and back. I thought I could easily make it look like a 6x6 column by wrapping it with the cedar fascia boards, smooth side out. This, of course, means I will also have to wrap all the 4x4 posts the same way. I also wrap the leading edge of the porch roof to make it look like a support beam.

I'm disappointed that the only lumber yard in Quincy didn't have a 16' 1x6 fascia board, so I make do with a 14-footer and add a couple short pieces on each side so it looks like the columns are holding up the "beams." By the end of this day, I had fashioned some 2x4 trim collars to see how they'd look.

As I said above, this was supposed to be day 4.

Jim McClain 04-11-2013 10:34 PM

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Okay, you might be wondering why I said that was supposed to be day 4. Well, here's what actually happened on Day 4:

Because I was working without a real plan, I had this idea stuck in my brain that because the left side post that wasn't a post was clad in siding, I had to build out all the other posts with scrap wood to make them all the same size. THEN I could wrap them all in the fascia boards.

I forgot that my lung disease doesn't just effect my lungs when I am short of breath, it deprives other organs of precious oxygen too - like my brain.

Sooo, after I got the posts glued and screwed, I took a break, ate some, came back and started "shimming" out all the posts with some scrap fence boards. Then I started facing them with the cedar. I don't know why I didn't find it curious that my faux 6x6 columns needed some fascia that was almost 7" wide to cover the fronts and backs. The lumber yard didn't have 1x8, so I bought 1x12. We had to dig through a bunch of 1x6 to get to it.

I was thinkin' how proud I'd be if I could get all the columns faced before my batteries started beepin' at me to let me know I got 2 minutes before shutdown.

I was taking those end of the day pictures when I thought, gee, them columns look kinda big for that porch. I ignored it though and was actually more worried how I would fill that nasty saw blade slip I made earlier. I put everything up though and called it a day. I uploaded the pictures to my computer to edit them and noticed it again. I actually went next door with a flashlight at friggin' 11:30PM and thought, DAMN, what th' heck did I do?

Next day - DAY 5 - I went over and was convinced I had made a big mistake. I pried every fascia board off real gentle like, yanked all the shim boards off and them 4x4 posts looked like porcupines. I got all the nails out and re-cut all that expensive cedar one more time and finished the day with the columns looking like the last picture in the previous post. I am ashamed to admit it, that was actually the end result of DAY 5. It's a sad state of affairs, but I make my amends to you now. 'Course, I won't be foolish enough to say it'll never happen again. Heck, if you check the numbers on those pictures below, you'll see that I have made mistakes in the past, so I will prob'ly make more in the future. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it. :yes:

shumakerscott 04-11-2013 11:18 PM

Don't worry about making mistakes. The fun part is figuring out how to hide them! I've made plenty of them on my project. I like what your doing. dorf dude...

Jim McClain 04-11-2013 11:47 PM

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Thanks Scott. I was telling my neighbor about the goof and how I didn't mind too awfully much 'cause it's still all fun for me. Expensive, but still fun.


I didn't get a lot done today that is picture worthy. I worked on the column collars and bases - well, only one base. I had to do some fancy transcribing on the base because the concrete is not flat. I used 2x4 primed spruce for the collars because I already had that lumber. I went with 2x6 cedar for the bases because it's better lumber for being in contact with the concrete. I wanted the bases to be a little beefier for aesthetics, thus, the 2x6 instead of the 2x4 like the collars. The bevel cut was done on my table saw at a 15 angle. I tested a couple scraps and liked that angle best.

As the project progresses, I see that I'll probably spend one day just caulking and sealing. That will be an important step, not just to fill cracks and nail holes to make me look better, but to prevent any weather and bugs from getting where it don't belong.

Part of the day was spent moving trash out of the way. I got tired of getting the pneumatic nailer hose hung up and tripping over all the scraps and old trims. It is taking shape though and I can see me finishing this before too long. I'm kinda anxious to get to the job I hate the most: painting. But it is the step that transforms all that work into something nice.

So, we're up to date now. Day 6 is today. Looking forward to more good days.


oh'mike 04-12-2013 05:00 AM

That's looking good----I like to work without plans--then when something doesn't work out---it's not a mistake--it's an evolving design change!!!

Keep up the pictures----

And remember to work drip caps into your designs so water doesn't get inside the columns or behind the trim---

Jim McClain 04-12-2013 05:41 AM

Had to google that term. I've used them before, but didn't think about drip caps while doing this project. How would I work them in this? There's nothing to overlap the drip cap flange. Seems like, if I would have to caulk the cap to the wall, why wouldn't I just caulk the trim where it meets the wall?


Windows on Wash 04-12-2013 08:45 AM

Digging it big time.

Looks great.

oh'mike 04-12-2013 05:26 PM

Man, I must learn to post pictures----

A wood drip cap ,properly caulked, is okay,but a maintenance item---however, with existing siding you don't have much choice---

In the future---adding a shallow groove to the bottom,near the front edge, will cause the water to drip off the trim without rolling back to the supporting trim or column--

A good example---you run a garden hose onto a glass topped table---and you will see that the water will stick to the underside and roll back a few inches---if you add a groove a quarter inch back on the underside--the water will stop there and drop.

oldhouseguy 04-12-2013 07:57 PM

Looking really nice, man, what a big difference it is going to make.

Your attitude towards your COPD is awesome! You seem to make the best of it, which is great. We just had a friend's mother suffer with a similar condition for many years, her daughter worked tirelessly to get her on a lung transplant list. She finally got her lung a few months ago, and all is going really well.


Are my eyes tired tonight... or is that your Segway parked there?

Smithingell 04-12-2013 10:09 PM

That does look really good!
Everybody makes mistakes, the trick is making them look intentional:thumbsup:!

Jim McClain 04-12-2013 10:59 PM

3 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by oh'mike (Post 1157900)
Man, I must learn to post pictures----

Really? A bigshot moderator like you doesn't know how to post pictures? :eek: Well, time's up to learn. You helped me, now I'll try to help you. Here's a tutorial I posted for the members of my own forum (flooring only, which is what I sold & installed for 35 years): We tell our members, "pictures, or it didn't happen." It's the same forum software, just the styles are different, so the tut should help you figure it out. I hope. :)


A wood drip cap ,properly caulked, is okay,but a maintenance item---however, with existing siding you don't have much choice---
Yeah, but maintenance for the landlord, right? ;) I'll use a really good quality paintable silicone, so it should be okay.

In the future---adding a shallow groove to the bottom,near the front edge, will cause the water to drip off the trim without rolling back to the supporting trim or column--
I knew about that. I just forgot to do it when I was putting those sills in. My bad. But if I cover the support beams with some clear roofing (and use a drip cap on that), all the windows and doors I'm working on now will be protected from the rain and snow.


Man, those column bases were a pain in the... Took most of the day to do the 3 I had left. Lots of get up, get down, which wore me out fast. I wore my old flooring knee pads, so at least it was comfortable when I was kneeling on that concrete.

My estimate for the amount of lumber required to make those column bases was off by about a foot, so I got more and picked up some extra for 2 gates I want to top off. I don't like the look of dog-eared fence boards, which is what the landlord has on the gate to his back yard.

I added a fascia board to the corner of the house, where the gate closes against. The cedar is thicker than the old trim boards, so I had to take a rasp and sander to the gate so it swings freely.

After removing more old trim and doing a little cleanup, my batteries started beeping, so that was the day. I let them charge for about 20 minutes and then came back to take some pictures.


Originally Posted by oldhouseguy (Post 1158006)
Looking really nice, man, what a big difference it is going to make.

Your attitude towards your COPD is awesome! You seem to make the best of it, which is great. We just had a friend's mother suffer with a similar condition for many years, her daughter worked tirelessly to get her on a lung transplant list. She finally got her lung a few months ago, and all is going really well.


Are my eyes tired tonight... or is that your Segway parked there?

Thanks for the nice comments. I had a heart attack about 7 years ago - was helping my now landlord load some lumber over in Reno. After a couple weeks of tests, they told me I had severe COPD. They wheeled out one of those tall oxygen tanks and I cried like a baby. I pouted for about 3 years and waited to die. That was NOT a good attitude.

Watching a DIY television program one day, I realized I knew how to do most of that stuff (it was mostly about interior design). It took some convincing because my landlords thought I was just a washed up carpet layer, but a small project here and there was all it took to get the free-to-do-whatever-I-want sign.

It was this very same landlord who helped me get the Segway. I got to borrow one for a flooring convention - never been on one 'til then - and I told him how great it was to be able to do things I wouldn't be able to do unless I sat in a damn wheelchair. He bought the used Segway for me and let me make tiny payments for a really long time. I have the only Segway in Quincy - heck, I think the only one in all of Plumas County. I love it. I use it to save steps as much as I can on these projects. And of course, I use it to glide all over town and everywhere I go. I made a ramp to put it in the back of my minivan, so wherever I go, I have my Seg. About 6 years now.


Jim McClain 04-13-2013 11:01 PM

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Another good day on the ranch - soon to be bungalow - upgrades. The pictures don't show a lot of changes, but really, I worked my butt off today. :yes: I don't know if you call it baseboards when it's referring to the exterior trim at the bottom of walls, but that's what I did part of the day today. I also didn't like the way the top of the gate looked going to the back yard, so I took that off, trimmed some boards and put it back together. It doesn't look much different, but I like the fit better.

The rest of the day was spent planning and starting the double-gate that is in front of the shop area. I decided to build the gate in-place, hoping that it will be straighter and sturdier. I've never built a gate before, so this is a new experience.

The gate will be about 6' tall, with about a 3 or 4" gap underneath. The pickets will be the same kind of cedar fence boards he has used all around the property, but I'm not going to have any dog eared tops. I'll be capping the tops with a painted 2x4. There will be a drop bolt that holds the right gate closed and a handle and latch for the left gate. I found decorative hinges and handle in the same style and they appear to be very sturdy.

The diagonal brace was the most difficult to measure and cut. I haven't screwed it in yet and I'm wondering if I should just angle the 3" galvanized screws I have, or try to find some really long screws. If you want a closer look, here's a link to a 1920x1440 duplicate of the smaller pic below: Your advice on this would be appreciated.

I guess I'm getting close to the caulking phase of the project. I have a couple small pieces of base to put down on either side of the right gate and that will be it for the boards and trim attached to the building. I'd like to paint the gate frame too, but the doug fir 2x4s are pretty heavy, so I suspect they are wet and need to dry out before any sealer or paint goes on them. I'm hoping if I leave the gates screwed in-place for several days after I finish them, it may prevent them from twisting. There's an opening I can use to go in and out of the shop area I can wait to close up until I cut the gates apart.

Hope this project isn't boring for you people. I thought about getting some dancing girls in the pictures, but they all just laughed at me like I was some doddering old fool. Gee, it didn't used to be that way. :(


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