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Wowza Exteriors

When it comes to our homes, there eventually comes a time when we all need to invest in a face-lift. Whether it was simply a fresh coat of paint, or an entire external revamp, you all showed us that there's a lot of hard work, dedication, and pride that comes with being the best-looking house on the block. Here is a look at the top picks for curb-appeal remodels in our fifth-annual Reader Remodel Contest, chosen by the editors at This Old House.

After you've browsed these stunning curb appeal makeovers, you can see this year's entries here.

Winner: Colorful Queen Anne Restoration: Before

Who: Diana K.

Where: Bloomington, IL

We wanted to preserve this 1894 Queen Anne house, for which demolition was imminent. In order to do that, we purchased and moved the house to a vacant double lot in 2004.

Winner: Colorful Queen Anne Restoration: After

Who: Diana K.

Where: Bloomington, IL

We have successfully restored our house to its 1894 appearance, and we have created an authentic landscape that is appropriate to the period and architecture of the house. We acted as our own general contractors. We did all of the exterior painting and window restoration, in addition to a million other tasks—including all of the landscaping—ourselves. Retaining a positive outlook was also often difficult when we were constantly reminded by others that we "didn't know what we had gotten ourselves into." What I like best is that we have preserved a piece of history and with the yard we have created a thing of beauty.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: More than $100,000

Read more on this winning One-Room Wonder

Restored Charm and Vitality: Before

Who: Ken M.

Where: Glen Ridge, NJ

This tired old house had been vacant, vandalized, and broken. It is a small house in the historic town of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, highly rated for its proximity to New York City and top-level school system.

Restored Charm and Vitality: After

Who: Ken M.

Where: Glen Ridge, NJ

We turned a sad, abandoned, and foreclosed house into a sunny new home for a happy family! This house was a complete rehab. We did all the landscaping and design and hired an architect for the interior plans and town permits. We expanded upon existing perennials to create a country garden effect. The new mahogany door, portico, and lamps bring perspective and beauty. The window shutters bring balance, and the new doors and paint job bring function and beauty.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: More than $100,000

Porch Changed Entire Look of Home: Before

Who: Ryan B

Where: East Liverpool, OH

Our old house had a smaller and outdated front porch and awning. Large trees in the yard also covered up the facade.

Porch Changed Entire Look of Home: After

Who: Ryan B

Where: East Liverpool, OH

Our remodel consisted of a major landscaping job, including removing two trees and reseeding the entire lawn. We replaced the siding on the home and painted it a harbor-blue color, replaced all the windows, installed a new storm door, constructed a new gable roof over our porch, and put on a new architectural shingle roof. We always obtained three estimates and did some of the work ourselves to save on labor costs. Our new porch has changed the look of our home and we like that the most.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

Diamond in the Rough: Before

Who: Todd D.

Where: Vincentown, NJ

While others saw a dilapidated, overgrown old house, we saw how beautiful it would be when restored.

Diamond in the Rough: After

Who: Todd D.

Where: Vincentown, NJ

We are living in our dream house. It is satisfying to see it return to its former self. The hardest part was having the patience needed for a project this size. And, of course, things are never straightforward when working on an almost 200-year-old house; there are always hidden problems. We are fortunate enough to have the HABS drawings for the house and were able to replicate all of the details.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: More than $100,000

Glowing Compliments From Others: Before

Who: Mike M.

Where: Williamsville, NY

We called the old color of the house "chewing-gum green." A huge 2-foot hole and rotted corner in the house necessitated a complete tear-off of the old vinyl siding and cedar and asphalt roof.

Glowing Compliments From Others: After

Who: Mike M.

Where: Williamsville, NY

I love the feeling I have when I pull in the driveway at the end of the day. It's as if we replaced our little '40s-era tract home with a quaint Cape Cod cottage. The glowing compliments from the neighbors don't hurt, either. I mounted all the accessories and did all the external electrical work. We also found a contractor who was willing to install upgraded trim for the same price as standard aluminum. The detail honors the original shake siding.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

Renovation From the Top Down: Before

Who: Seth S.

Where: Camp Hill, PA

We had to fix some structural issues left from a prior remodel. This was a top-down remodel, stripped down to the studs, and we did all the landscaping ourselves.

Renovation From the Top Down: After

Who: Seth S.

Where: Camp Hill, PA

The hardest part was dealing with the mortgage company and their draw schedule, which never followed our timetable. We went more than a month at one point waiting for a draw check. The second hardest part was keeping the timetable as on-track as possible, even with some of the additional work needed.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $50,000 to $100,000

Hometown House Is a Dream Cottage: Before

Who: Corey and Katie G.

Where: Costa Mesa, CA

We bought this as our first house because it was the only way we could afford to move into the area we grew up in. Although it had been on the market for a while and everyone else viewed it as a dump, we saw its true potential.

Hometown House Is a Dream Cottage: After

Who: Corey and Katie G.

Where: Costa Mesa, CA

We love the fact that we can proudly say we put our own blood, sweat, and tears into building our little dream cottage. Besides doing all of the work ourselves, we constantly visited garage sales and Habitat for Humanity's ReStore for deals on appliances and building materials. The hardest part of the remodel for us was having to live in it during construction, the strenuous labor, and not having a social life for years. However, this house is very special to us because we completed it as a family.

Who did the work: I did all of the work myself.

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

Saved a 1940 Beach Cottage: Before

Who: Dan D.

Where: Virginia Beach, VA

My wife and I purchased the "Pepto-Bismol Beach Cottage" in 1997. In May 2008, we did a complete interior and exterior remodel.

Saved a 1940 Beach Cottage: After

Who: Dan D.

Where: Virginia Beach, VA

We saved a 1940 beach cottage and part of the charm that makes beach living so appealing. Plus, now it takes only one person to open a window! I was the contractor; I ordered everything in advance, so there was no downtime waiting on materials. All trim and shakes were primed and painted before installation. That saved more than $7,000 in painting costs alone. We started the remodel on Memorial Day 2008 with a completion date of Labor Day 2008, which is when we moved back in. The landscaping took a little longer.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: More than $100,000

Saved a 1940 Beach Cottage: After

Who: Chandra W.

Where: Beloit, KS

This is what our 1930s home looked like the day we bought it, but I could see the potential.

1930s Stucco Home Transformed: After

Who: Chandra W.

Where: Beloit, KS

We ended up with a home that we had poured our heart into. The neighborhood was so nice, with neighbors who enjoyed watching the transformation of our home. The new character of this home was exactly what we were going for. My husband and I did this remodel while both working full-time jobs and raising our 3-year-old daughter. Working on the house ourselves in order to save money while our daughter spent many hours watching TV was probably the hardest. The remodel seemed to go on forever, but she grew up so fast.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Resuscitated With Fresh Paint: Before

Who: Andrew N.

Where: Fargo, ND

Our house before had trees growing out of the gutters, a yard that was a mess, and paint that was 30 years old.

Resuscitated With Fresh Paint: After

Who: Andrew N.

Where: Fargo, ND

We enjoyed hearing all the comments from the neighbors walking by while we were doing the work. The house had been in disrepair for decades, and everyone was excited to see it breathe new life. We saved money by doing all the work ourselves; we learned how to rebuild all the single-hung windows and re-glaze glass. The entire exterior and interior was remodeled over the course of two years.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $500 to $1,000

Warm and Inviting: Before

Who: Patrick G.

Where: Delafield, WI

The old exterior colors practically yelled “stay away!" It was scaring the neighbors!

Warm and Inviting: After

Who: Patrick G.

Where: Delafield, WI

Our home looks warm, inviting, and beautiful—and we love it. It is lovingly finished to welcome new and old friends. Depending on comparisons with other contractor bids, we saved as much as $7,500. Our contractor was marvelous, and we would recommend him to anyone.

Who did the work: A contractor did all the work.

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Ranch-Style Home Gets Upgraded: Before

Who: David B.

Where: Simpsonville, KY

The old porch had a concrete-slab floor and a small roof overhead. Our exterior consisted of a single peak, old asphalt shingles, and a crumbling stacked-stone front.

Ranch-Style Home Gets Upgraded: After

Who: David B.

Where: Simpsonville, KY

We got our larger, more comfortable porch with the added benefit of making our home appear more modern and beautiful! My wife has always complained about the look of the front of our home and now she loves it! The old concrete porch floor was replaced with new composite deck boards, and the three peaks change the whole look of the house. The neighbors have all stopped by to tell us how great the house looks now and they have all said we have the best-looking house on our road. That makes my wife happy and I get a new porch to sit on!

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

New Exterior With High Gloss: Before

Who: Dennis B.

Where: Memphis, TN

Our old exterior needed a lot of prep work.

New Exterior With High Gloss: After

Who: Dennis B.

Where: Memphis, TN

We got excellent results. The paintwork was difficult, but we saved money by hand-sanding the outside woodwork and trim before the high gloss was applied. We had a contractor do the roof, with soffit vents and ridge vent added.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Kept Original Character: Before

Who: Nathan L.

Where: Nashville, TN

This house was in very bad shape. Our goal was to restore this home to its original beauty.

Kept Original Character: After

Who: Nathan L.

Where: Nashville, TN

It was always a dream of mine to renovate a home. In a time where houses in this area are razed, it's very satisfying to know that we saved this home and restored its original charm. With the help of my brother, we rebuilt the front porch, gutted the interior, landscaped front and back, assisted with the painting, and many other small jobs. The best part of the home is its character—though the structure was completely gutted, the original hardwood floors, windows, and front door were saved and restored.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $50,000 to $100,000

Restoring the Architectural Style: Before

Who: Maureen G

Where: Chicago, IL

When we first saw this while house shopping, we almost didn't ask for a viewing because it had no curb appeal and the exterior was poorly maintained. It had a middle pillar and white vinyl siding obstructing views, as well as a deteriorating floor structure, aluminum ceiling, and crumbling stucco.

Restoring the Architectural Style: After

Who: Maureen G

Where: Chicago, IL

We had a vision (now realized) to restore the bungalow's architectural style with a welcoming porch and period-appropriate details. We opened up the porch with custom pickets and the removal of the middle pillar. We created an inviting space with Trex decking, pine beadboard ceiling, and cleaned brick. The porch redo has created a great entertaining and relaxation space for us and we smile every time we come home!

Who did the work: A contractor did all of the work.

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

Picture-Perfect New House: Before

Who: Bob B.

Where: Prairie Village, KS

Our exterior before was unsymmetrical with nothing above the garage. We had an ugly aluminum awning, AstroTurf, and bad concrete.

Picture-Perfect New House: After

Who: Bob B.

Where: Prairie Village, KS

I'm a cartoonist/illustrator and I freelance out of my house. That has allowed me a lot of free time to do all this work. Right after we moved in, I drew up a color sketch of what I wanted the front to look like. It took a long time, but the house looks just like my sketch! I love every aspect of it—it's my second love, my hobby, my passion! I've also loved all the attention our house gets, including the constant comments from neighbors and strangers. People have asked to buy it outright, and folks drive by shooting pictures. Numerous builders have asked to copy it.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Original Door From 1920s House: Before

Who: Bradley O.

Where: Glen Rock, NJ

I cut down all the overgrown bushes by myself; it was grueling work. I had to call in a tree company to finish removing all of the stumps after I got through the third of 10.

Original Door From 1920s House: After

Who: Bradley O

Where: Glen Rock, NJ

The yard has a nice, fresh, clean look with the new bushes. Pulling off the old beaten-up storm door revealed an original beautiful door from the 1920s house. The fresh coat of black paint completely transformed the shutters and front door. I replaced some of the small fixtures on the door and replaced the two lights on the front porch, which really made the front entranceway stand out from the street view.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $500 to $1,000

From Trashed to a Treasure: Before

Who: Laura D.

Where: New Albany, MS

The condition of this house was unimaginable. It was a rental unit for over 20 years, the last tenant left the house filthy, filled with trash, and infested with bugs and mice. This house obviously had potential, but if we had not purchased it, I am sure it would have succumbed to a bulldozer.

From Trashed to a Treasure: After

Who: Laura D.

Where: New Albany, MS

It turned out better than even I thought possible, considering the condition this house was in. The cleanup was by far the hardest part. The house had no sheathing and was bowed about 6 inches, so straightening the walls was difficult but necessary. This super-cute cottage is only 950 square feet, but one of the most satisfying projects.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

Adding Dimension and Character: Before

Who: Curt B.

Where: Chesterland, OH

Our house before was plain, flat, and boring. There was a lack of character, warmth, texture, and dimension.

Adding Dimension and Character: After

Who: Curt B.

Where: Chesterland, OH

We love the details and materials: the eyebrow dormers, the front entry with cedar beams, and the overhang across the garages all added dimension. The textured shaded shake, dressed fieldstone, and cedar garage doors—with 200 pieces of hardware—completed it. We were the general contractor. We researched and purchased all the materials; removed all the siding, gutters, fascias, and garage doors; put up the house wrap; did all the painting and staining; and put all the hardware on the doors. We hired talented trades for the stone and carpentry and then labored for them.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $50,00 to $100,000

Calm After the Storm: Before

Who: Kathleen B.

Where: Sullivan, WI

Before moving day, a tree hit our house during a windstorm, but it didn't do much damage. The damage that did occur was just to some rain gutters and a few shingles.

Calm After the Storm: After

Who: Kathleen B.

Where: Sullivan, WI

Although the tree didn't cause much damage, we still needed to make the repairs. We screened in the porch and added a berm. We also saved by doing all the labor ourselves and by purchasing trees from a nursery three miles away. We loved doing the landscaping part because it was the quickest way to see the fruit of our hard labor. The neighbors' compliments didn't hurt either.

Who did the work: I did all of the work myself.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Crisp and Classic Styling: Before

Who: Chris M

Where: Noblesville, IN

Our house was previously a rental for quite a few years. The existing old cement siding (over wood siding) was very plain, and we wanted to introduce some architectural interest and color in the house.

Crisp and Classic Styling: After

Who: Chris M

Where: Noblesville, IN

We re-insulated the house using open-cell foam (from the outside, after removing the existing siding), so we now have a more comfortable house to live in. We did quite a bit of the work ourselves, including the removal of the existing siding, landscaping, and all design work. We left the large project (siding) to a contractor in the interest of time as well as specialty work (insulation). While it's mostly complete, there will always be more work being done inside and out. An old-house project is never done!

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

More Space and More Storage: Before

Who: Ashley M.

Where: Greenville, SC

The exterior paint was peeling off, and we wanted a larger front porch. The wood deck was in bad shape and rarely used.

More Space and More Storage: After

Who: Ashley M.

Where: Greenville, SC

We added a new front entry with a fresh coat of paint. In the back, we added a screen porch and patio, with new windows from the sunroom to the patio. The exterior was part of a whole-house remodel, and the hardest part was living in all the mess for months on end—especially because I work from home. I felt like there was no escape from it for a while. However, we have so much more space now.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself, but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: More than $100,000