When we shared our new interior attic access, we also gave you a preview of the shape of our back yard. So sad! Our little attic hatch door was actually the tiniest piece of a huge puzzle for our backyard, one that included tearing down that beast of an exterior staircase. Since turning the first and second floor apartments into a single-family-slash-duplex-up, we no longer needed that (really rickety, really scary) fire escape – although we did pick up one of these safety ladders to stash under our bed.
This was back in May, and soon after we hit ‘publish’ on that post, we hired a contractor to begin the back-of-the-house repair! For years, we’d been counting down the days until we could say peace out! to that dilapidated staircase, and once we had saved the funds to make it happen and gave our contractor the green light, it was a pretty quick domino effect to get us from point A to point B. See what I mean?:
When we bought our house, there were two back doors, both leading from kitchens – one on the first floor, one on the second floor – one for each apartment. In the last 3 years, we added a double sliding door to our kitchen and most recently, we turned the second floor kitchen into our master bedroom. The next step was taking down the staircase and repairing or replacing the current vinyl siding, and while that sentence is so easy to type, it did take a lot of thought and consideration, of course!
Initially, we thought we might be able to repair the vinyl (just until we could re-side the whole house!), but once the staircase came down, it became obvious that 1) we’d risk rain and/or snow seeping under the repaired area, and 2) it just plain, ol’ wouldn’t look good. So! The main hurdle became deciding on what we wanted to use for siding. Although the back of the house would get all new siding right this minute, we wanted to choose a product that we’d love and would eventually use for the whole house. We considered concrete board siding (Hardie Board was our first contender), but tracking down enough information on the product was a challenge from our location in Chicago. Simply put, not that many homes in our area use this material. The other option that popped up a few times throughout our research was LP SmartSide, an engineered hardwood product with a 50 year limited warranty. There were a few things that had us keep coming back to LP:
- It promises to protect against extreme climates, insects and decay.
- Like concrete board, it can be painted any color we wish.
- Unlike vinyl, it can be patched and repaired pretty easily (just like we’d repair any wood product!), and we were able to touch and feel samples at our local Menard’s hardware store.
- The siding comes in 16′ lengths, resulting in less seams.
- Plus, it’s just really, really beautiful!
Although LP SmartSide felt like a good-for-the-long-haul choice, we couldn’t get the idea of concrete board out of our minds, so I used a lifeline and phoned a friend. I told Scott, you know who’d know what to do? Daniel. (He just went through a very similar project himself, after all!) He talked me off the ledge, reaffirmed our suspicions about LP SmartSide, and he even helped us narrow in on a 5″ smooth lap.
Feeling more comfortable about our choice, we chose the pre-finished color Rustic Silver to closely match the rest of our home’s vinyl siding, but again, we’ll eventually take down the vinyl on the other three sides of our house and replace it with LP SmartSide. The soft grey is safe and easy on the eyes, but when we do replace the rest of the siding, we have dreams of painting it all a color that’s dark and bold; time will tell. Note: We had our contractor provide us with a quote on HardiePlank, LP SmartSide and vinyl. While vinyl was definitely the least expensive choice, we were in it for our home’s long term health and durability of the product.
With the hardest decision behind us, our contractor got to work. The old vinyl came down, and we were surprised to see that our house used to be green! For a moment, we considered salvaging the original clapboard, but upon further investigation, it was missing in large parts and rotted in others. After repairing our roofline, they removed any existing rot, repaired soft spots, added insulation, patched in our attic door and finally, installed the LP SmartSide!
There were only a few surprises along the way, some of which caused delays when new product had to be ordered (there seemed to be a lot of confusion on our contrasting white corner trim), but a big glass of wine always helps. And although I wished with all my heart that the doors, windows and staircase could be centered on the house, the only solution would have been to, well, build a new house. There’s a main support wall that runs down the entire length of our home, dividing our kitchen, living and dining rooms from the bedrooms and main staircase. This is typical for our style and age of home in Chicago, and so, I deal with it. Besides, look at her! What a babe, right?
By no means do we want want to downplay what a difference this made, but this is really only our starting point for the entire Back of the House Project. You can see we added a new, wide and shallow staircase – a plan that was modified no less than a dozen times, as these stairs tie into our backyard plans. We’ve already ordered brick pavers, and we’ll be sharing those details soon!
PS! A bunch of little elves (aka, this girl) have been working hard behind the scenes to make The Print Shop a more affordable place to dress your empty walls. ALL prints have been reduced (permanently) by at LEAST $10 each, and the quality is still exactly the same – top notch. We hope you’ll take a peek around!