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Planning for the Exterior of Our Tree House!

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Our first ‘family portrait’ at Tree House. Lucy was just the size of an avocado in Kim’s belly at this point!

It’s hard to believe that we’ve owned out little Michigan Tree House for two years! Over the last 24 months, we’ve largely focused on gettting the interior of the home just right. The exterior has received some HUGE improvements, but much of the work has been getting the yard and deck spaces to a managable blank slate. Well, it’s finally time for all of that to change!

In a dream world, time and finances would allow for us to remove all of the tan vinyl siding. Truth be told, the lack of curb appeal was one of the reasons that we passed on touring the home the first few times our agent suggested it! Underneath the siding, we’d hope to find beautifully preserved clapboard, which we’d then restore and paint. (There’s a ​​​​​​​chance​​​​​​​, based on this old photo!) If the clapboard turned out to be in irreparable condition, we’d install a modern solution like LP Smartside or Hardieboard in a color that we love. We’d then paint all of the trim a crisp white and be done with the exterior of the house for the next 30 years or so.

Easy, right? Ha!

The siding has the potential to be a slippery slope that we’re not quite prepared for (yet), and because the vinyl siding is relatively new and has a TON of life left in it, we’re switching gears. The color is certainly not our first choice, but we think we might grow to like it for a while longer if we can find a way to eliminate all. that. brown. trim. So we’ll take a few steps now to work with what we have and start saving for the changes we really want. Here’s what we’re thinking for the first wave of exterior upgrades!

Upgrading the Exterior Lighting

First things first, the rusted, broken, crooked exterior lighting must go! These lights are among the first things we see when we arrive to the house and they make us sad. Bye forever! ​​​​​​​This will be a simple upgrade that will set the tone nicely for the rest of the updates.

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home
Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Replacing the Storm Door

The current storm door functions as a storm door should. It provides additional protection to the main door and the interior of the home – but it sure doesn’t look great doing it! It’s rusty, the handle is crooked and the door hinge is bent. We’ll replace this door with a shiny new one, likely with a full length screen to allow for additional ventilation as well as a better view of that original door we worked so hard on!

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Working With What We’ve Got

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

One small challenge we’ll be dealing with is this somewhat awkward step down toward the front of the house. From what we can tell, our master bedroom (where the French doors are, below) was converted from a screen room at some point. The deck was added on later, hence the ‘step.’ We’ll allow this feature to dictate the use of the space to a small extent, and we’ll create a dining area on the ‘upper’ portion of the deck, especially because the kitchen can easily be accessed from the front – um, side – door. Also, there’s another rusty light at the front corner of the house. (Did I mention we’re excited to get those replaced?)

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

We’ll Be Repairing the Existing Deck …

After many years of being kept shaded and damp by the massive silver maple that we begrudgingly removed, a handful of the deck boards have seen better days. We plan to replace any damaged boards with new pressure treated lumber. After a quick pressure wash last fall, the deck completely changed colors and turned out to be in fairly decent shape overall!

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home
Kim has a habit slipping on my shoes even though they’re 5 sizes too big!

… And Adding a Front Porch!

Yessss! This will be one of the biggest changes of all. The plan is to remove the half wall that encloses the front portion of the deck, line the existing row of boxwoods with built in benches, and…

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

… build a relaxing front deck! Since our house is set back onto the back portion of property, the front yard is almost twice the size of the backyard! We absoluetly have not taken advantage of this fact. Unfortunately, the half wall makes it necessary to walk all the way around the boxwood row and past our parked car(s) to get to the front yard, which is honestly just ridiculous.

We’re looking forward to the much more open feel this new addition will give outside of the home. We envision lazy afternoons with adults relaxing in rocking chairs – cocktails in hand, of course! – while all the kiddos burn off energy chasing each other around the nearly-quarter acre lawn. The planned front porch/deck addition will measure 8′-10′ deep and almost 25′ wide, and instead of a typical railing, we’ll continue the row of bench seating around the perimeter. Finally, we’ll integrate a gently sloped staircase at the front right corner, near where the half wall terminates currently. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Prior to the construction of the deck, we’ll have our trusty landscape contractor remove the current bed of ground cover / weeds / poison ivy (so much poison ivy!). After the vegetation is removed, we’ll have the team install weed screen and a layer of gravel to ensure that nothing grows back under the soon-to-be front porch.

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Finding a Solution for the Stairs

Okay, let me take you back to the rear of the house, where we’ll need to address the current staircase(s) as well:

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Once upon a time, the deck was built around that big silver maple. You may remember that the tree had to come down last summer, so we’ll remove the bed of mulch that the tree left behind and expand the staircases so they join together to form one large angled set of stairs. While we initially tossed around the idea of squaring this off or reconfiguring the shape, we realized that the angle actually ​​​​​​​works in our favor! Keeping the angle will help with the flow between the front and backyards and unify the space.

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Painting All the Trim, Doors and Windows

Okay, let’s officially address the vinyl siding. I mean, the siding color is completely inoffensive. It’s fine. And although it wouldn’t have been our first choice, it does blend nicely into the wooded vibe of our property. (We’ll give it that much.) The brown trim, however, is another story! Since replacing the perfectly good siding seems a bit wasteful, we’ll paint all of the existing trim white. This includes door and window trim, gutters, eaves and soffits. Basically everything but the siding will get a fresh coat of crisp white paint.

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home
Note: This photo is from last summer, prior to the removal of the crooked screen doors and crumbling chimney!
Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

In addition to the fresh white paint on all of the trim, we’ll repair the few areas where the existing siding is damaged. We think it’ll give the house a whole new life!

Budget exterior plans for our Michigan Tree House, including lighting upgrades, new decking and paint! // via Yellow Brick Home

Who knows, maybe we’ll grow to love like the vinyl siding color? Maybe we’ll want to spend time enjoying our yard during the daylight hours? Maybe Lucy will run through the front yard with her toddler friends without fear of a miserable poison ivy rash? Only time will tell, but we sure can’t wait to find out.

May this be the season of Tree House Exterior upgrades!

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  • Janet6.27.19 - 6:10 AM

    This is one of the cases where I would LOVE for you to find a sponsor to paint the siding! ReplyCancel

  • Christina6.27.19 - 6:40 AM

    I agree that painting the trim and doors will make a significant difference to the look of your house however, Sherwin Williams makes VinylSafe paint.  I’ve never used it so don’t know how well it holds up.  https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-collection/vinylsafe-colors-for-vinyl-sidingReplyCancel

    • HeatherB6.27.19 - 8:47 AM

      Lauren at BlesserHouse just did a post about VinylSafe today…looks soooo good!ReplyCancel

      • Kim6.27.19 - 9:17 AM

        Ooh, will check it out, thanks!ReplyCancel

        • Molly6.27.19 - 9:40 AM

          I would be wary of painting the siding- mostly because we’ve been getting siding quotes from a whole bunch of companies and they all said painting it, even with vinyl-safe paint, will void the warranty. Don’t know if you care about that- but if you do it’s something to consider.ReplyCancel

          • Kim6.27.19 - 10:49 AM

            Oh, that’s an excellent point. Thanks, Molly!

    • Kim6.27.19 - 9:20 AM

      We’d LOVE to paint the vinyl as a placeholder until we can investigate what’s under it, but in the meantime, we’d rather put that chunk of money towards expanding the deck. Definitely will check out VinylSafe though!ReplyCancel

    • AP6.27.19 - 4:50 PM

      Benjamin Moore also sells a Revive paint specifically for vinyl siding. I think SW only has vinyl safe colors. I would for someone to try these out and provide a review for them. (There’s not much about these products online from homeowners with experience with them). Here in the PNW most houses have cement fiber or wood siding, but mine has vinyl. I’d love to do away with it some day (secretly hoping it all blows off the house someday in a storm), but for now it stays.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle | Birds of Berwick6.27.19 - 7:06 AM

    Are the double doors off your living room? A nice big landing there and maybe a metal awning would look nice heading out to your backyard. There are a few repeated sentences in the beginning, but even so, what color is the siding exactly? In the front photos it looks kinda of muddy tannish-brown, but the side photos it looks much lighter. White trim makes everything better, though, so it’s always a good choice! I love the idea of the big front deck area and can’t wait to see how that comes together. ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 9:19 AM

      Fixed the sentence repeat, thank you! (It’s a WordPress issue I’ve been struggling with, gah.)

      The siding looks like a million different shades of brown or tan, depending on how the light is hitting it. It’s just… blah-tan. Here’s hoping that trim paint will make a world of difference!ReplyCancel

  • Amy6.27.19 - 7:51 AM

    So excited to see the after photos! What color would you want your siding in the future if you were to change it?ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 9:18 AM

      We’ve gone back and forth on so many ideas! Anything from something really quirky and unexpected (like peach or pink or something), but we keep going back to a really deep green. Almost black. So, you know, completely opposite ends of the spectrum, haha!ReplyCancel

  • Susan6.27.19 - 8:30 AM

    As someone who owns an interior painting business, I can testify to the fact that changing the trim color will make a huge difference in how the color of the siding reads. It will look 1000 times better. I also appreciate that for a season you are going to live with what you have, even though every part of me wants to see what the original siding looks like. You’re taking a thoughtful approach.
    I also frequently slip on my partner’s shoes, which are 5 sizes bigger than mine. That part made me smile! :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 9:17 AM

      Thank you for the vote of confidence, Susan! Fingers crossed…ReplyCancel

  • HeatherB6.27.19 - 8:49 AM

    I did have one question…the deck looks like it has water damage from roof runoff in a few places.  If so, are there any plans to address that?ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 9:16 AM

      We’ll be replacing boards that have been damaged, definitely.ReplyCancel

  • Sheila6.27.19 - 9:03 AM

    How exciting!  I can’t wait to see how it all works out.  Is the new “big front porch” going to be a covered porch or an open deck space lined with benches?ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 9:17 AM

      Open deck space, lined with benches, and more of a ‘look out’ for the adults while we sit on our rocking chairs and watch the kids run around. :DReplyCancel

  • Megan6.27.19 - 9:45 AM

    I also have a tan house with very dark brown trim. I thought our house was yellow at first but now I think its just the awful dark trim tricking my eyes. I really want to paint the trim and replace the gutters and I am very excited that you’re at least considering working with what you have.ReplyCancel

  • Claire6.27.19 - 10:22 AM

    It all sounds exciting! I’m sure the siding will look much better with fresh white trim! 
    Do you have a floor/garden/plot plan (even in a previous post)? I’m having trouble visualising where the new front deck will be in relation to the inside and your existing garden 🙃 Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 10:50 AM

      We don’t, but I can tell you that those front windows you’re seeing is our bedroom window! I don’t know if this is at all helpful, but here’s a really rough video ‘before’ tour of our Tree House: https://www.yellowbrickhome.com/vlog-tree-house-home-tour/ReplyCancel

      • Claire6.27.19 - 5:03 PM

        Thanks Kim! The video was helpful – and so nice to be reminded of how far the Tree House has come already!ReplyCancel

  • amy6.27.19 - 10:27 AM

    We bought our house two years ago….the exterior was/is a similar neutral tan color. The paint/siding are in great shape….but the house was very boring….had no depth.  We recently painted all trim/fascia boards a charcoal grey and WOW what a difference that made.  Such a simple fix and it looks great!
    We used Sherwin Williams Iron Ore….swapped out lights and house number for matte black finishes.ReplyCancel

  • Amy6.27.19 - 10:59 AM

    These plans are awesome! Do your pups do ok with a screen door? Our pit bull has gone barreling through every single screen door on our house! She just can’t resist the desire to chase the rabbits in our yard, ha!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 2:59 PM

      Oh, no! Yes, they do fine. I think ours are just lazy, haha.ReplyCancel

  • Ann6.27.19 - 11:25 AM

    I think it is smart to keep the siding you have as long as it is working, and distract from the color with trim paint.  Sure, you could also paint the siding, but if it doesn’t need it, why do it?  Once something is painted, paint peels, so it needs more maintenance.  (It seems to be a fairly maintenance free siding for now, which is a good thing.)
    I was thinking you should try two colors in the the trim – perhaps the white you want, and an accent color – two colors always distracts from a blah house color better.  (While you don’t have multi-layer trim like a Victorian painted lady, you can always use one color for windows, and another, say, along the roof line.) 
    Then I saw the suggestion of someone above who used charcoal paint on the trim, and I thought, the second color doesn’t have to be a typical “color” color – if it looks good with your siding color, why not do a grey as your trim second color?  (I for one never like the long gutters that come down from the roof too the ground in white – those parts, and maybe the roof line trim, might look nice in the grey.)
    Also, check out how the bright whites with the tan siding color – it may be that an ever-so-slightly-creamy-shade of slightly off-white (which would still read as white visually) might look better with your siding than a bright white would – I find it looks better with many of the warmer tones of colors than a bright white does, and I’m thinking this tan might be one of those colors.ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.27.19 - 3:01 PM

      Thanks, Ann! Our only concern with choosing two colors would be that we’re trying to keep things as minimal as possible. When we eventually go to redo the siding (in which we’d love to remove it and repair the clapboard underneath), we know that white will go with anything, and if not, at least we won’t have to redo much! That said, I think you’re right about a creamy shade of white. We will have to play around with it and choose a white that doesn’t read too cold.ReplyCancel

  • Natalie6.27.19 - 11:52 AM

    Can’t wait to see what you do with the bench seating. We have a very similar deck at home that needs some upgrading!ReplyCancel

  • linds6.27.19 - 12:06 PM

    Keeping something and working with it instead of ripping it out? Breath. Of. Fresh. Air. With updated trim, better lighting, an updated and styled front porch, it will look completely different and fresh. Looking forward to this!ReplyCancel

  • Heather O.6.27.19 - 1:53 PM

    Painting the trim is going to make a WORLD of difference! I’m so excited to see your porch come together!! ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa6.27.19 - 10:28 PM

    Voiding the warranty on vinyl siding by painting it isn’t likely to be an issue unless you were handed the warranty information with the transfer of deed.  I do hear that type of thing on occasion though.  Last year when I was replacing carpet I chose not not to replace the pad as well and the salesman sad, “if you don’t buy new pad now, you’ll void the warranty on the new carpet.”  And I wondered who was making claims on their carpet?  Maybe some people, but I have never actually heard of it.ReplyCancel

  • KC6.28.19 - 8:24 AM

    Love that you’re working with what you’ve got! Can’t wait to see how it turns out! ReplyCancel

  • Carrie6.28.19 - 9:40 AM

    I love the plans! Honestly, I’m excited to see a more budget friendly makeover. All the whole house reno’s on HGTV are beautiful, but leave me feeling like there’s no way I can ever do anything like that. And I love that you’re saving up for “the dream” siding situation, but that you’re hopeful that the budget solution will be so beautiful it may be a long-term keeper. Thanks for sharing with us!ReplyCancel

  • Susannah6.28.19 - 1:34 PM

    I am sure there is TONS of poison ivy all around (ugh ugh ugh) but the plants with the five leaves in the picture immediately below the paragraph that mentions poison ivy is actually Virginia Creeper! They look almost identical when they’re first sending up shoots/before all the Creeper’s leaves have unfurled and they have the same serrated-looking edges (4-5 instead of 3), but Virginia Creeper, while definitely invasive, will not give you a rash. I have a two and a half year old and am constantly eagle-eying around my old farmhouse to keep tabs on any insidious poison ivy vs. Virginia Creeper. As she’s starting to rage around and explore the wooded areas of our land more, I feel like I’m getting to the point where I can tell the difference between the two from 50 feet away (like… do I need to RUN OVER THERE!?).ReplyCancel

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