The other day we were reflecting on all the things we’ve done to our house and property since we moved in October of 2018. The house had “good bones” you could say, but there were a lot of things that had been let go. The couple who originally owned the house had passed away a few years ago and the house had remained unoccupied for some time.
While the interior was in good enough shape to move right in — the outside needed a good bit of repair and TLC. We thought it would be fun to do a roundup of all the things (we can remember) that we’ve done since moving into our house.
A Little Info About Our the 1960s “Maker House”
We affectionately call our house the maker house both because it is very unique, and also because it had been previously occupied by two artists. The original owners built the house in the early 1960s. The house large white walls meant to display their artwork and was designed to look very modern.
In the finished basement of the house, there were already built-in cabinets perfect for storing maker items. We assume that it was their art studio. On the bare white walls, there are still outlines in places of the artwork that used to hang in this house.
I often think about the people who built this house and wonder if they would be glad that our young family had picked up where they left off. They raised their family here and now it’s our turn.
If you enjoy reading about houses and interesting designs, here are a few other fun facts about our house:
- The upstairs bathroom does not have a sink. Instead, there’s a double sink in the hallway (very European!) We like it, but it was a big turn off to a lot of buyers
- There’s a big hole in the dining room floor that goes to the basement. This made a few large walls for artwork and allows the house to feel open. We often have conversations from the basement to the dining room.
- The windows are irregular and most of them are on the sides and back of the house. Most of the windows are tall and thin (which DOES cost more to replace, but are definitely unique). We believe they placed the windows strategically around the house to allow light in but still give privacy from neighbors.
- We own five acres, much of which is wooded and hilly.
- There’s a koi pond that we’ve done 0 maintenance to and the fish are still alive.
Replaced the Electrical Box
Before we moved into our house, we knew that we needed to change the electrical box. We had a Federal Pacific electrical box. If you’re not familiar with this type of box, they’re unsafe and can cause a fire in your home. Most insurance companies won’t agree to insure your house without replacing this type of box. So, this was #1 on our list when we moved into our new house.
Cleared Out the Brush and General Landscaping
One of the first things we did when we first moved in was to clear out the weeds and brush that had taken over our yard. We took SO MANY trips to the recycling center in those early months. Loads and loads of brush and so much weed eating and cleaning up. We discovered that there was a wooden fence on the property and even some flower bulbs hidden in the overgrown areas.
Not only did we weed-eat, but we also dug up roots from overgrown plants that would grow back as soon as they were cut down. I’d also include pruning back shrubs and bushes that were growing wildly, and cutting some down that we didn’t want or were too far overgrown.
It was a lot of hard work, but the fruits of our labor gave us a larger yard and a more manageable property.
Worked on the Grave Yard
There’s a patch of ground behind our garage that is wooded. The trees are nice for privacy, but they’re tall pines and many of them are dying. I unaffectionately call this area of ground the graveyard. My dream is for this patch of ground to become a useable part of our yard. I want to encourage strong healthy trees to grow, but also clear out the dead and dying pine trees so there’s a place to play our maybe even have a picnic someday. This area was also very overgrown and when we first moved in you could barely see through it let alone walk through it.
We’ve made a lot of progress in this area, but we still have a lot of work left to go. Most recently, we had a professional tree cutter come out and they removed seven trees that were directly behind our garage.
Replaced the Siding on the House
Like any responsible house buyer, we had an inspection of our house when we were thinking about buying the place. The list he returned to us was quite long and a good bit discouraging. There were a lot of things he suggested we fix or replace and some of them were more pressing than others.
One thing that we knew needed to be replaced was the cedar shake siding. This type of siding is quite expensive if put on today, but they also wear out over time. Ours had a good life but were at the end of their term. We believe they were original to the house so they really did last a long time.
The transformation from the old cedar shake siding to the new brown vinyl was really cool. Plus, it looks nice against the cement siding of the rest of the house.
Replaced the Front Porch
Another thing our home inspector alerted us about was the front porch. Basically, the whole thing was rotting off. When the house was built, they made the front porch roof flat, and the floor of the porch extended the roof. While it was probably aesthetically what they were going for, from a practical standpoint it didn’t really make sense. The roof held water (and rotted) and the exposed flooring and support also rotted.
One more thing you need to know about our front porch. It looks similar to a drawbridge and a castle. In other words, without the front porch, you don’t really have access to our front door. It made replacing the porch a big priority on our list of things that needed to be replaced.
We hired the same people who did our siding to do our front porch and we’re really happy with the results. While the composite flooring we chose for our porch had a bigger upfront cost, it will save us in the long run and be maintenance-free.
The roof of the porch was finished at the same time as the siding, but the floor was finished in December 2019.
Added Gutters to Our House
For some inexplicable reason, our house didn’t have gutters. We think there’s probably some kind of french drain system, but it’s still a mystery why our house didn’t have gutters. Our house inspector also indicated that we had a bit of a moisture problem in our basement and adding gutters would help with that issue.
Replaced the Garage Side Door
Things rotting seems to be a theme we’re on at the moment, but here we are. The side door to our garage (Ned’s workshop) was warped and splitting. Basically, the door they had installed wasn’t meant for outdoor use. While they were replacing the porch, Ned asked if they would also replace the side door. How nice it is to have a door that opens and closes easily 🙂
Built a Lean-to
While we’re on the subject of things we hired people to build — let’s also talk about the lean-to built on the back of our garage. We had this built for several reasons:
- A place for extra storage (main reason)
- Gave Ned more room in his garage (workshop) to make things
- A place to store our wooden slabs. If you didn’t already know, we have a chainsaw mill and we’ve been slowly building up our inventory of wood. But, it needs a place to dry until it’s useable. This waiting process can take quite a while so the storage is probably the number one hurdle we had to overcome.
We’re hoping to possibly turn this into a side-hustle, but only time will tell if that dream comes to fruition.
Built a DIY Firepit
No backyard in Pennsylvania would be complete without a place for an outdoor fire. We’ve built a fire pit at every house we’ve ever owned, so of course, we had to put one in at our new house. We also created a blog post and video about making a fire pit if you’d like to make one for your home.
Built a Bee Yard
We love beekeeping. It’s one of our favorite things to do and we really love our buzzing little friends. We have over a dozen beehives currently at my Hannah’s parent’s house, but none at our house. So, we set up a little bee yard in our backyard. We started with one hive of package bees and put in an electric fence to keep out bears (we live right next to the woods).
While our beehive did not survive through fall, we do hope to bring in new beehives this spring and start fresh.
Chimneys and Fireplaces Inspected
This year, we had a professional chimney inspector come out and let us know if our fireplaces were useable. Turns out, both of the fireplaces we have can be used. They gave the chimney a good cleaning and put chimney caps on top (we didn’t have any for some reason).
We’ve had several fires in our living room fireplace now and we really love it. We even had one on Christmas morning.
Ran New Gas Lines
Another thing we had done in 2019 have professionals install new gas lines into our house for the stove and for a future gas grill. Our property has free gas, but for unknown reasons, the stove and oven are both electric. We prefer a gas stove so we ran the lines both to save on costs and also to use the kind of cooking range we like best. However, we’ve yet to replace the stovetop because it still works and new stovetops ain’t cheap. 🙂
When it comes to planting this year, most of our gardening was done at Hannah’s parent’s house. We did manage to plant a few things including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. We hope to continue this trend in 2020 with more plants and perhaps even a small garden.
We also discussed growing a small plot of Christmas trees but this may just be a passing thought.
Cut a Path Down Through the Woods
Blazing a trail is no easy task. And to be honest, cutting trails can be a little more complex than simply knocking some brush down and calling it a day. To say that our new trail is complete would certainly be dishonest but it is definitely a huge improvement to our property.
Our property is roughly five acres with the house sitting on approximately one acre at the top of a hill. The rest of our property traverses a steep hill into a valley below, mixed with forest and field. We always wanted to have our own property with room to roam and explore and we finally have that with this property.
However, due to the steep hill down to the back of our property, we often found ourselves thoroughly exhausted by the time we make it back to the house after a hike. One of our favorite purchases over the past year helped us remedy this problem. We bought an Echo weedeater with a blade for cutting down brush and small saplings.
Using this tool and a traditional chainsaw, I cut a path along the hillside in an attempt to make a more easily accessed trail. One of the biggest considerations when making a trail is determining the best route to make it both easily traveled and efficient. Another consideration is drainage. Any time you begin to change the landscape you run the risk of creating new water diversions.
In this case, I used a shovel and a gardening hoe to make the trail more level so anybody using the trail wouldn’t be walking on a steep grade. I also took some dead tree logs and laid them along the lower side of the trail to make a berm. This berm holds up any dirt, rocks and other materials used to level the trail. Every so often, I dug a small ditch across the trail in an attempt to keep any run-off water moving off the trail and hopefully not washing anything out.
The trail isn’t complete and I still have some work ahead of me, but by simply cutting out this path, we have drastically improved our property and our enjoyment thereof.
That’s a Wrap On House and Property Updates for 2018-2019
That’s it for October 2018 – December 2019. Of course, we had a few extra things like unexpected plumbing issues that had to be addressed. And, you can’t really discuss our house without bringing up the fact that we still have a hole in our ceiling from a leak that sprung the very first night we moved in. All in all, though, I’d say we’ve made great progress and are extremely grateful for the blessings God has given us and for the things we’ve been able to do.
We’re looking forward to many new projects in the future, and most of all for the ones we do with our own hands.
What are some of the projects you did in 2019, and what are the ones you want to accomplish in 2020?