Saturday, May 5, 2012

An unobvious update

Have you ever seen those images in magazines called "Second Look" or "More or Less"; a type of editorial game where you are supposed to look at both photographs and pick out what's different?  Well, here's my take on it with the explanation below (and if you click on the images, you can compare them side by side):

This is my house.  It had it's 100th birthday last year and was in dire need of some exterior updating.  Believe it or not, the first picture is the house on the day that we bought it, and the 2nd picture was taken today after a complete exterior renovation.  Yes, I know it looks exactly the same.  That was the intention.  This ridiculously expensive update wasn't meant to change the look of the house, it was meant to make the house last another 100 years, looking exactly the same as it always has...

So what's different???

1.  Roof.  The 30 year old, slate-look-alike asphalt shingles were replaced with new black architectural shingles, copper drip edging and ice shields, all with a 40-year warranty (by O'Toole Contracting and Restoration).

2.  Gutters.  The rotting wood gutters were removed and replaced with 6" copper gutters to match the already existing copper downspouts.  A Lifetime Warranty (by Gutter Shell of New England).

3.  Chimney.  The original chimney had been repointed many times and had a tree growing out of it.  We pulled down the facade to just above the roof-line, fixed the broken flu, salvaged the bricks that we could and mixed in additional reclaimed bricks that the mason found from another project.  We also added a copper chimney cap to ensure no more trees or animals could damage the structure again (by L.DeAngelis & Sons Masonry).

4.  Shutters.  We added shutters to the face of the house to add historical detail and interest.  The shutters are made of pvc with aluminum reinforcement and come with a 25 year warranty (by Architectural Elements).

5.  Decking.  The decks on both sides of the house were dangerously unstable.  We ripped them off, replaced the flat rubber roofs with new membranes and rebuilt the decks using AZEK composite decking (which comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty).

6.  Railings.   The original railings were not to code, missing spindles and anyone could have fallen over the side, so we replaced them with custom cellular pvc railings.  The center detail is similar to the original detail and matches a brick inlay detail that is on the face of the house.  The finish is warrantied for 10 years, and the product itself has a 25 year warranty (by Architectural Elements).

7.  Paint.  We stripped and repainted all of the trim on the house.  We added some color to the recessed panels (Benjamin Moore Saybrook Sage) to match the patina of downspouts, and painted the front door a high gloss hunter green using a product by Fine Paints of Europe.  We also added the subtle southern detail of a blue ceiling (Benjamin Moore Blue Veil) on all of the covered entries.  (Painting was done by Wright Touch Painting)

8.  Details.  We added mullions to the casement windows, beefed up the surround on the front door, and added an old-fashioned, wooden screen door.  We also replaced all of the exterior window sashes and any other damaged wood with composite.  (All carpentry was done by D. Morin Construction).

9.  Typography.  We replaced the basic house number with the entire street address.  This is my favorite part.  WestOn Architectural Lettering has so many great products to choose from!


So why have I given you the play-by-play on our renovation?  There are a lot of skeptics out there who think that composite material isn't as good as the real deal.  They think that it looks cheap and undervalues the asset.  I think that they are wrong.  From looking at these photos, can you really tell the difference?  Which will last longer?  Does wood come with a warranty???  If anything, I think that the integrity of my house is stronger than ever!


  1. Hi Elizabeth... I agree with you !! I have recently renovated a beach house on the south coast of Australia. We used composite weather-boarding, aluminum windows etc. The house looks very gracious and one cannot tell the difference either. I plan to blog about the whole process!. Your house is beautiful and graceful!. Jenny - congrats on your 1st year of blogging.. I have only just started but am loving it !

  2. What's the name of your blog - would love to read...

  3. My first blog about my garden and living in the country 1.5hr outside of Sydney

    To satisfy my passion for interiors -

    Both brand new and I am driving my family mad !!

  4. Elizabeth, wow! this must have kept you so busy, love the look of the house and i agree with you on the composite materials. Love the new house address with full street name!

  5. I think your house’s appearance was completely changed! It now looks way modern than before. Anyway, the most important thing that you did was to replace the gutter and the roof before you've decided to replace the other parts of the house. As well all know, these two are the first line of protection against an unforgiving weather condition.

  6. WHAT THE – a 100-year-old house? That's one tough house you got there, Elizabeth. The exterior makeover was amazing, and I'm pretty sure that it can last another 100. Anyway, one of the most important parts of a house is the roof. It protects the rest of the house from being too exposed to extreme weather. Replacing that roof of yours was the right thing to do, especially since you did get a 40-year warranty for it.

  7. I couldn’t believe that the house is already 100 years old! It still looks kind of new. Anyway, the new exterior of the house is absolutely splendid. I think your neighbors will love the new look of your house. You have designed it perfectly, and I hope the repairs will make this house endure for another 100 years. :)

    -- Missie Rice