Our Biggest Mess: A little curb appeal

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We’ve been working on the house a ton lately. Thomas has a big engineering project that should come through at the beginning of the new year, so we feel the pressure to get as much done as we can before then.
The weather here in Utah was uncharacteristically mild until yesterday (we just got around 10 inches of snow in one day!). The days were warm and the nights didn’t even drop below freezing for much of December. Thomas took advantage of the nice weather to get some big projects done outside.
There are two small bedrooms downstairs in a partial basement. The windows in those two rooms were at ground level and were long and narrow. They weren’t up to code for fire safety (they were too small, too high off the bedroom floor, and didn’t even open), but because of the age of the house we were “grandfathered in” and didn’t have to meet the safety code. We didn’t feel great about the unsafe windows, so we went through a lot of effort to change them and bring them up to code. The bigger windows also make the two small rooms so much brighter and happier, a big selling point we hope.
A pit for a window well was dug and then we cut a hole in the foundation to accommodate a taller window. This makes it sound so easy… it was not! There was a gigantic stinky loud concrete saw involved, pouring new concrete because the new windows weren’t as long as the originals, tearing out the drywall from the rooms downstairs which meant moving the kids and everything in the rooms upstairs. Wow, it was a mess. And having 5 people sleeping all in one bedroom is hard too, but that’s a post for another day.
Here are the men-folk sawing out the old foundation.
cutting holes in foundation, new basement windows

Then: back of the house before they replaced the bottom windows:

back of house "before" picture, remodeling before pictures
installing window wells to basement, safety codes for basement
how to fix a foundation with plaster

safe window wells for basement

The foundation of the house that pokes out of the ground (below the siding) was in yucky shape. The rock foundation was covered with a thin layer of plaster which was painted. The actual rock foundation is in great shape, but the plaster and paint are cracked, peeling, chipping, and just looked bad in general. Also, both sets of steps into the house were covered with yucky outdoor carpet. Change was needed.
Thomas discovered this cool product called foundation plaster that does just what the name says… he spent 7 days (in the middle of December no less) making the outside of the house sparkle. It was hard, wet, and cold work which actually rubbed the skin of his fingertips clean off (sick, I know, it’s still healing). But the end product is so very pretty. No pain, no gain.
Here he is working his magic. The front steps have the carpet pulled off of them here but haven’t been covered yet.
foundation plaster, how to replace outdoor carpet on stairs


Side of the house:

Here are some better pictures of what the foundation looked like. The cracks are just the outer plaster but it makes you think the house will fall over.

The corner of death as I like to call it. Generally yucky and well, just plain yucky.

The back carpet-covered stairs and cold Holly cat.

how to replace outdoor carpet, fix stairs with outdoor carpet

After: Ta-da! The wonder of before and after pictures is amazing isn’t it! He replaced bits of the siding that were missing too which helped a ton.

how to fix stairs with plaster

We have a beautiful new door to go here, we’ll paint the hand rails, and replace some more siding and it will be as good as new. By getting this done, along with putting on the new roof in November, the house has seen some major curb appeal improvements lately. HGTV would be so proud!

It was totally worth Thomas’ loss of fingertips for this upgrade, no? I mean, who needs fingertips anyways?

Thanks for checking out our crazy remodel,
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  1. lindy says:

    I jus stumbled across your blog, while finding tips for digging window wells and putting new windows. This is awesome!! We too are looking to change our windows out in the basement so it is safe to put a bedroom down there. Did you guys rent your saw from somewhere? We are wondering what you estimated you costs to be?

    1. Melissa says:

      Changing the windows made SUCH a difference to the rooms. They are small and it really makes them feel bright and roomy (and safe!). We are pretty lucky… my father-in-law owns the saw (and the drill/bit we used to drill pre-holes), so I’m not sure on a price. It was definitely a two man job though because it was a wet saw and someone had to be feeding it water the whole time. Good luck! I hope you get the chance to do it! M.

  2. Nicole says:

    We also have yucky carpeted front stairs and I want them gone, gone, gone!! How difficult was it to remove your carpet and what exactly did you do to them? They look great!

    1. Melissa says:

      So we did this on two set or outdoor stairs and the one what was north-facing and never saw the sun was a lot harder to rip off the carpet. The side west-facing stairs came up a lot better because I think that glue had time to sun rot. It was a bit of work and then I had to hack at what was stuck with scissors. And oddly enough, I used a thing you would use to clean a grill with a lot. It had a flat metal scraper side and a metal bristle-brush side. I used the scraper to help stab at the glue when it was sticking and then we went over the whole surface with the metal brush to make sure any and all loose pieces of goo would come up. It was a fair amount of work but it looks SO much better. Did that answer your question? Thanks so much! Bug me if you have any more thoughts. We love remodeling but rarely go into details for the blog 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    looks great! I’ve been waiting to see some more remodeling pics! Can’t wait to see more inside remodeling. I love your blog! I will have to post some pics of our house (built 1900) sometime on my blog..we still have a lot of remodeling to do- first main thing will be to replace the roof.

  4. Bobi Jensen says:

    Wow…hard, hard work. But makes the house look so much better. Good work!

  5. Sarah says:

    That looks lovely. 🙂 I love the new windows! I’m big on natural light, even in basements. 🙂

    And yes… 5 in one room is FUN. We’ve been living in the living room, kitchen, and bathroom since we moved in. I’m so done and it’s only been a month or so!

    1. Melissa says:

      I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one suffering at the hands of a remodel… will yours end soon?!

    2. Sarah says:

      Phase 1… yes. We hope. 🙂 The walls are up and mud is drying. Now comes paint and putting the carpet back. 🙂 Then begins phase 2 when I lose my kitchen…

  6. BeccaMarie says:

    Fingertips are overrated in general. Thomas is a trouper! It looks crazy wonderful!

  7. Tara says:

    Wow! It looks so great!