Home Sweet Home...

We built our home on 2 acres in Howard County, Maryland. We started it in 1975, and continued in '76, and '77, and '78, etc. It will be done soon! It is a 2 1/2 story 'New England salt box' with a detached garage . We bought the plans from a magazine, House and Garden I think. We had looked at plans for a lot of years and never could really settle on our "dream home". When the time came to actually get on with it, I think we just picked one we liked at the time. As you may have guessed, I've always been interested in building things. I'm not sure I ever really wanted to build the whole house, but the economics of the time would not allow us to buy what we wanted. The dollar numbers involved don't mean much because the values changed so much during the 70's and 80's. Suffice to say building the house may have been the smartest decision we ever made. The house made more money while we were building it than I did at my day job. Everything was built to code with all the proper inspections. We did nearly everything ourselves. We hired some day labor for a couple of the more strenuous tasks like hanging drywall and putting the siding on. The building inspectors were generally satisfied with the work and were pretty helpful in answering questions as we went along. Where we live you are supposed to have a use and occupancy permit before you move in. I asked the inspector what would happen if we moved in before we had the U and O permit and he said he would "write us up". Well, we moved in during the fall of 1976, and sure enough he wrote us up. He was good enough to wait until 1979 before he did the actual writing, though!

We recently finished a major rework of the exterior of the house (October 2003). I was never particularly pleased with the original siding job. It had been put on in the middle of winter. The cold and the fact it was nailed too tight made for a poor installation. I knew the roof was getting bad. Most similar roofs in the neighborhood had been replaced long ago. When I started finding large shingle tabs in the yard I knew it was time to do something.. I made quite a few changes to the outside, correcting problems from the early build and adding some improvements. We then had a contractor provide new roofing, siding, and painting.

But first, back in the beginning... In 1975 we were just starting to recover from the oil embargo of 1973. In 1973 many new homes were being built with 7 - 7 1/2 foot ceilings to conserve energy and many alternative energy sources were in vogue. When I built our house I knew the structure would be exposed to the elements for quite a while so I didn't cut out the window openings right away. There were many passers by who stopped to ask if we were building some sort of solar house. I'm certain the neighbors had some misgivings at this time, also. (pic1) , (pic2)

In the early years we had trouble with water infiltration at the chimney. I would get up on the roof from time to time to apply various sealants. It was a bit of a hassle getting up there . I was too afraid to go up the front of the house so I'd use a big ladder to get to the dormer on the back of the house. Then I'd carry an extension ladder up there and once on the roof I'd separate it into two sections. I had drilled holes so I could bolt the two sections together and lay one piece over the front roof and one over the back. It stayed in place pretty well as long as you keep your sneakers braking on the roof shingles! Since this picture was taken, we have painted the chimney with a waterproof paint, which cured the water penetration problem in the brick. I like the grey chimney in this more recent picture. It looks more like New England. I don't believe I will go up there again.

As part of the renovation I added a deck and stairway to the back of the garage. As originally built the garage had this little hay-loft style door in the back. The door had been deteriorating for years but I was having trouble deciding what to do with it. The garage roof is built with trusses. This is something I've regretted for a long time. When we built it we just didn't have the money to make a conventional raftered roof so the space could be usable. For a number of years I've been trying to figure out how I could replace the trusses with more conventional construction to make a room up there. I finally figured out how to do it so I added this door, deck, and stairway in preparation for this 'future' project.

The windows in the garage were fixed, not openable. I replaced the garage attic window with a conventional double hung window. I replaced the removable muntins that came with the first floor windows with muntins that more closely resemble those in the house. I even added a center divider to make them look more like double hung windows. (Before) (After)

The original design for the front door on the house provided no overhang/weather protection. The design with the little pediment didn't work well with vinyl siding. There was a lot of caulking used between the wooden pieces and the vinyl siding. As a result of water penetration, there had been periodic repairs to the pediment area and other parts of the door trim. I added this portico to provide some weather protection for the front door. I made new trim for the door increasing its dimension to eliminate the many little pieces of J channel trim needed for the original design.

This little shed at the back of the house covers up a couple of propane tanks. I've had a shed-like structure here for quite a while. This one is new and integrated into the building. The original was added after the siding was put on and stood only near the building. The trim and the door on the new one is vinyl. I made tongue and grooved pieces to make the door and it is screwed together from the inside. We'll see how it holds up.

The back door originally had vinyl corners and little pieces of siding between the corner and the door frame. It looked kinda cheesy and the critters would crawl up the corner pieces and nest abve the door. I built out the wood trim and I like the way it looks a lot better.

The roofers nearly destroyed the cupola on the garage. I rebuilt it. All the outside elctrical outlets, faucet surrounds, dryer venets, door bell buttons, etc. are new. All the exterior lights are new. All the exterior doors have been repainted. All the locksets are new. There are new storm doors on the front and side doors. The corner boards have been wrapped with aluminum. The shutters and gutters are new. The gable vents on the house and garage are new. The foundation has been painted. I moved the DirecTV antenna to the dormer roof so it can't be seen from the road. Here are some pictures of the finished project.

Getting all this done was quite an ordeal. Despite his excellent sales pitch, the contractor guy I used didn't do much other than provide foreign language subs. In addition to doing all the construction stuff I outlined, I had to provide constant supervision of the subs. I'm sure they were as glad to be done as I was! Remember the mess!

Here are a couple snow pictures from before the renovation. We usually don't have too much snow here. We only get a good snow every 5 years or so. Anyway, snow pictures are fun. Here's another... and another.

Our view towards our neighbor's property is of an area they are mostly likely to use to store things they don't want to look at regularly. We put up this privacy fence the last time the next door property was up for sale. The fence seemed to be a reasonably attractive and inexpensive design. It wasn't until we were finished that we realized there was a significant space under it, and we had not quite accomplished our objective. We added the flower boxes underneath to fill in the space. It looked pretty nice, but we got tired of planting 180 feet of annuals every year, and the boxes are now filled with shrubbery!

I had some minor problems in trying to take out a cherry tree that was providing too much shade to a couple of really pretty Colorado Blue Spruce trees. The end result was that my chain saw efforts resulted in the demise of the offending cherry tree, and unfortunately, the blue spruce trees I was trying to protect. Oh well! We added this fine gazebo (May 2000) and all's well with the world. Much more comfortable than those spruce trees!