Restoring the facade took us years. Once I'd pulled off the vinyl siding, I had to replace sills and clapboards that had rotted away. Most of the decorative trim had been cut off, so we visited homes done by the same builder, and I did my best to replicate their details. Before painting, I used a heat gun to strip the old clapboards, then sanded everything down—all three stories—with a 5-inch rotary sander. (It's a great way to lose weight, by the way.) Last summer I finally finished the front porch, which I had to jack up so that I could pour concrete footings.
We relocated when we bought this place, so fixing it up was a natural way to meet our neighbors. Kids used to ride by on their bikes and ask, "Are you ever going to be finished?" Some of them are almost college-age now. We hope to stay in this house for a long time. Next we have to make the interior look as good as the outside.
Shown: Jim rebuilt the front porch by hand, including stripping and restoring the original round columns.