We’re refreshing the front of our Chicago home’s exterior! Today we’re breaking down the updates we’re tackling, and the few that we’re skipping.
When we first saw the house that what would eventually become our Chicago home 8 years ago, we were immediately struck by the front porch. While stoops and small landings are pretty common around here, a full-fledged front porch with room for more than two people to sit and relax, let alone a porch swing, is a pretty rare commodity!
A Brief History of the Porch
While the structure of the front porch was relatively sound, the detail and finish work on and around it left a bit to be desired. The siding above the porch didn’t quite meet up with the roofline. The front staircase needed to be completely rebuilt. The concrete pad was jagged and crumbling. But we saw through the tricky spots to appreciate the home’s potential nonetheless!
Now, eight years later and without a major renovation on our hands, we’re finally able to focus on the details that we wish we could have tackled all along. First, let’s talk about the work that our GC and his team (more on that later) will be tackling…
Exterior Refresh | Contractor To Do:
- Brand new roof (complete!)
- All new gutters, downspouts and soffits
- Repair flaws in vinyl siding
- Raise sagging roof corner
- Add ceiling light fixture
- Install wood tongue & groove ceiling
- Wrap roof support beam in PVC trim
Since the existing brakemetal that wraps the support beam will be removed and PVC trim boards will be installed, we’ll take this opportunity to add a bit of detail to the area. It’ll be subtle, but much like installing new baseboards inside a home, it’ll elevate things nicely.
Exterior Refresh | Kim + Scott To Do:
In addition to hiring our contractor to handle the heavy lifting, we’ll be tackling some of the more manageable portions of the project ourselves. Here are the items we’ll be knocking out.
- Repair damaged railing components
- Touch up paint railings/lattice/aprons
- Touch up porch floor stain
- Install PVC trim and crown to posts
- Stain tongue & groove ceiling
Items We’re Putting Off for Now…
When we first started discussing this multi-faceted project, the intended scope was significantly larger. Originally, our ambitious plan included all of the items above, plus the following:
- Replace vinyl siding on front and sides of home with LP Smartside to match the rear
- Blow additional insulation into wall cavities from exterior
- Install 8 new windows (approximately half have been replaced already)
- Replace front stairs and railings
- Replace porch floor with Trex or similar composite decking
…And Why We’re Putting Them Off
We reached out to around ten exterior contractors to ensure that we were receiving comparable quotes and took a half dozen meetings to discuss the project. We were shocked by how many contractors simply turned down the opportunity to bid on the work! Different contractors told us everything from ‘your house is too close to the houses next door‘, ‘the porch will need to be completely torn off’ and that our house ‘looks like crap’. What?!? Sure, we’ll give it to you – it’s not the prettiest house on the block (yet!), but that’s why we called you… and subsequently didn’t hire you.
We get it. Chicago is unique. Our houses are close together. And many of them are old. Like really old. Our home was built in 1887 and taking care of it is a unique process that takes a lot of patience and understanding and a lot of help from the right people. In the end, the idea of a summer-long project that would require a substantial investment just wasn’t in the cards for us this year.
After 2020 pelted all of us consistently with curveballs and uncertainty, we decided to keep the scope of this project manageable. We’ll now be able to get the work completed in time to enjoy lazy morning coffee and warm summer evenings as we watch the world go by from out front. We’re confident that we made the right decision for us, for now.
Yet Another Note on Working With Contractors
As we mentioned, finding a trustworthy contractor can be tricky. There are good apples and bad, and even the best among them have their quirks. They’re people, after all. We’ve written about the process (more than once!) in the past and needed to remind ourselves to take our own advice! In the end, we scaled back the project to a more manageable size and hired the team that saw us through the majority of the Two Flat renovation. They work efficiently at a fair rate and they live in our neighborhood, so we’re also supporting the local economy, which is very cool.
As you may have noticed earlier, the work has already begun! Our contractor called us frantically a couple of weeks ago to let us know that the roofer had a cancellation and could start on our house the next day! We jumped at the opportunity to get the biggest, messiest portion of the work out of the way early. We chose dual black architectural shingles and are thrilled with how it looks. No more inconsistent patches or missing shingles! The remainder of the work is slated to kick off next week and we’ll be posting progress reports here and on instagram, so keep an eye out! We’ll be sipping our morning coffee out there in no time!