I am so excited to finally share the details around our exterior renovation! I did a poll last week about sharing these updates via stories vs. posts - stories definitely won (yay!) but the general feedback was a recap post at the end would be helpful just to put all of the info in one place.
So here we go! When we first found our home we were SO happy - it was an impeccably well-maintained center-hall colonial that just needed cosmetic updates to balance some of it's traditional charm, especially on the inside. The exterior on the other hand was almost entirely hidden by two massive 80 ft. trees. Here is the before (sorry I only have this tiny image!)
Therefore the first order of business (the day we closed actually) was to have both large trees removed from the front. There was also a gorgeous magnolia tree in the middle of them that unfortunately was rotting and had to come down as well. I felt guilty about losing the trees but aside from even cosmetic reasons, winters in New England are no joke and it's a serious hazard to have trees that large so close to our roof. Once the arborists arrived they actually confirmed that one was cracked and unsafe as well so I'm glad we made the decision. The second these trees came down the house literally FLOODED with light. It was AMAZING and definitely confirmed we made the right decision! I am going to hold on posting images of the full exterior of the house just out of an abundance of caution but it made a HUGE difference.
This is what the exterior door looked like after the trees came down:
The other exterior challenge was that it'd been re-sided in the 90's - a huge benefit (even though secretly I wish they'd kept the original shingle ;) and they chose a neutral color, but it had forest green shutters and now felt dated. There were also shutters surrounding the door, and landscaping that had gotten really overgrown as this couple had been spending half of their year in Arizona for the last few years. We went ahead and ripped that out as well ('we' in the context of yardwork always means C, btw).
Additionally, the front of the house felt a little unbalanced once we cleared out the landscaping - there are two large bay windows on the first floor and then two regular windows on the second floor. The tiny exterior light wasn't helping but in general we needed to balance out the layout. Here is my pinboard where I collected most of my inspiration. (If I had even remote graphic design skills I would make a pretty collage for you but alas, I do not ;)
Here was our proposed plan:
- Remove the shutters around the door and replace with a classic white front door surround
- Add a portico
- Replace the forest green window shutters with black ones that are more to scale, and add traditional shutter hooks to give them character (these are common in our area)
- Paint the front door
- Replace the exterior light fixtures
Next we got to work sourcing bids from contractors. After that we both passed out from sticker shock and almost called the whole thing off.
KIDDING! Kind of. But many contractors were downright OUTRAGEOUS and couldn't be bothered with "scaling" the project over time vs. us awarding the entire piece of business in one shot. Here's what I mean:
- Contractor #1: Agreed to do all of the above minus painting the door, for $18,000. He would not accept the job unless he got the entire job at once. He was super snobby and acting like I was wasting his time and obviously "couldn't afford him." Eyeroll. Even though he was right. HAHA.
- Contractor #2: Agreed to the same as contractor #1 but quoted us $14,000. He would not provide sketches, renderings, etc. however and approaching this more as a product install than a renovation. They also never returned our call or followed back up with us.
- Contractor #3: This contractor was MUCH more flexible and actually proactively sketched out our idea (in stages!) after I sent him my inspiration board he and submitted them along with his bid. He quoted us about $8,600 for the same job as the other two BUT also quoted them separately - about $1,900 for the front door surround, shutters, and light fixture and door knocker/doorbell install and $6,700 for the custom portico. Needless to say it was an easy choice - this contractor was also very responsive, organized, and friendly.
Here were his proposed sketches:
They were pretty freaking close to what we wanted (I would remove the starburst on the portico) so we didn't have too many tweaks to make. The full project wasn't in our budget so we decided to take on the door surround, shutters, and fixtures for now, committing to the $1,900 budget. I painted the door Benjamin Moore "Wythe Blue" myself to save a few bucks (easy).
We knew we weren't happy with the storm door really but wanted to see what everything looked like after we did the surround. Here is the midway progress:
Much better, but I still wasn't feeling good about it - the surround felt really wide (we didn't have a choice on the width as it has to go as far as the shutters had) and it was feeling a little artificial, even though the trim was totally built by hand.
I had been toying with the idea of installing a vintage "West Hartford" door - they are basically screen doors that have another layer of a large-scale iron grid and are really common here in town, but also super hard to source. They are also made of wood and require maintenance vs. a new storm door. I was worried it wouldn't be protective enough for the winters (i.e. our contractor sort of scared me) and also was sort of just wallowing that we couldn't just remove a secondary door all together (I like to have the front door open for light and air, and we have a dog). So, we sat on it for a while.
Then, C found a vintage West Hartford door on Facebook for $100 (the company that made them went out of business recently and they are highly sought after in town - so this was a major score!). It needed to be cut down a bit and refurbished, so after the excitement of the find wore off we kept hemming and hawing about if it was worth the extra work. A solid few months after staring at the front of our house I caved and C had our contractor come back to fix up and install the vintage door. BEST. CHOICE. EVER. It cost us another $475 to have it professionally refinished, sealed, and installed, which is steep but to us was worth it to make sure it was in good shape and would last.
All in all, the project took about three months once work kicked off. We engaged our contractor in January however to lock him in for the prime summer months as we knew they get busy and we wanted to do it while C was home.
Here is the final result!
In summary, here was our total all-in budget, and how we broke it down in stages to make it more affordable:
Custom front door surround, doorbell + knocker install: $1,400 (50% in March, 50% in August)
New shutters + hooks: $360 (August)
Light fixtures: $300 (June, before work started)
Light fixture install: $80 (August)
Vintage front door: $100 (July)
Refurb and install of front door, removal of storm door: $475 (September)
Paint and supplies: $30 (June)
Door knocker: $40 on ebay (honestly I don't even remember when I got it, I snag these things when I see them)
Doorbell: $35 (September)
I also snagged new planters on clearance from Target for $13 ea. but aren't counting them as they aren't permanent. We are really happy with the final result and plan to tackle the portico in a few years. It's purely a personal preference and won't add tremendous value to our home so we need to be careful about how much more we spend (esp. with three original bathrooms to tackle...)
When I tell you that we legitimately changed the entire exterior of our home for under $3000 + some sweat equity (C the landscaper was very reasonable :), I am probably underestimating things. We are so proud of this little project and can't wait to continue improving the home inside now that it's getting colder again.
Note: we also spent $2500 in tree removal but that was last year, partially funded by the sellers as a credit at closing, and not really part of this renovation so I didn't include that either.
Lastly, sorry I can't share the shutters as I don't want to show our exterior in full, but trust me they look great!