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Public Displays of Renovation

When it comes to houses, it’s not just what’s on the inside that counts. The exterior needs some love, too. That’s exactly what This Old House readers gave their homes in these laborious makeovers. A family farmhouse remodel ready in the nick of time for the homeowners’ wedding, a historic log cabin saved from demo, and a storybook bed-and-breakfast made inviting by removing overgrown brush are just a few of the stories our readers shared in this year’s Reader Remodel Contest. Read on to get the details on these exterior overhauls and more.

“Old” Fiber-Cement Revival: Before

Who: Anne S.

Where: Newton, MA

“Unbeknownst to us, our walls contained ‘back plaster,’ and the only way to spray in foam insulation was to remove not only the old siding but also the sheathing and back plaster (by hand, with crowbars). Our contractor literally stripped the outside of the house, and then put it back together after the insulation was complete, with all of the sheathing going back in its original position.”

“Old” Fiber-Cement Revival: After

Who: Anne S.

Where: Newton, MA

“We love the interior of our home, but the outside just didn't indicate the beauty inside. Now the house lives up to its potential, albeit somewhat changed into an Italianate–meets–Queen Anne design. We are proud that, as we dealt with some of the odd features that left the house feeling unfinished, we were also able to add new architectural interest with the tower and new porch. We enjoy every detail.”

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

Cost: “More than $100,000”

For Generations Past, Present, and Future: Before

Who: Kendra G.

Where: Athens, LA

“Grandparents lived in the house for 40 years and gave the house to us. Before the renovation, the house had been vacant for three years and needed a complete remodel. We wanted to revive the house for sentimental reasons and make it a ‘home place’ where our future family can grow.”

For Generations Past, Present, and Future: After

Who: Kendra G.

Where: Athens, LA

“It was truly a chore of love for us to complete this project. We knew exactly what we wanted and enjoyed every minute of it. Our ‘open house’ occurred the day after the renovation was complete by having our wedding at our farmhouse. It was a time of celebrating not only the accomplishment of our farmhouse remodel, but of our new life together as well. The white wedding/white farmhouse pictures are so beautiful!”

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

Cost: “More than $100,000” (whole house)

Freshen up your porch by reinstalling porch posts and copying these breezy design ideas.

Charming Backyard: Before

Who: James S.

Where: Riva, MD

“The house was purchased as a short sale. While the sale was being negotiated and before closing, the pipes froze and the vacant house was flooded, resulting in mold throughout the structure. The entire house was remediated, gutting the floors and walls. This made it easier to rewire and add central air and heat. The floors and all fixtures were replaced.”

Charming Backyard: After

Who: James S.

Where: Riva, MD

“We have taken a marginally habitable house and modernized it. We were able to maintain the period appearance of the house while repairing and upgrading the structural integrity of the building.”

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

Cost: “More than $100,000” (whole house)

Set up a similar outdoor area by installing a bluestone patio and building an Adirondack chair.

Polishing Up a 1928 Gem: Before

Who: Laura C.

Where: Panama City, FL

“This house was built in 1928 and remodeled into four apartments in the 1930s. My grandmother bought the house in 1944 and ran the apartments until 1998, when I bought the building from her and began to restore it to a single-family home. I had to start from the studs and investigate what the original floor plan had been. I restored the interior as close to the original as I could, yet made it livable for a modern family.”

Polishing Up a 1928 Gem: After

Who: Laura C.

Where: Panama City, FL

“My little house was so ugly, it didn't even get photographed for the local library's historic houses photo album before I began my restoration. When it was finished, my house was featured in the local magazine, Panama City Living, as one of the most charming and beautiful homes on Massalina Bayou. That’s enough to make me very proud of all the hard work I put into her to restore her to her rightful status as a beautiful historic house.”

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

Cost: “More than $100,000” (whole house)

Make a waterside-worthy front yard by learning how to choose and plant palm trees.

New Roof Design Rejuvenates Home: Before

Who: Wanda C.

Where: Farmington, NM

“We previously had a flat roof that caused many years of leaks and damage to the interior of the house.”

New Roof Design Rejuvenates Home: After

Who: Wanda C.

Where: Farmington, NM

“We installed a pitched, pro-panel roof. From there we installed all new windows, including the bay window in front. We installed new stone on the front porch and re-stuccoed the entire house. Once the exterior of the house was done, we finished the front porch and built the fence. We have lived in this home for 40 years. It is great to have the exterior completed prior to our retirement.”

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

Cost: “$10,000 to $25,000”

Revive a similar home with pro tips for patching and painting stucco.

Open Up to Lake Views: Before

Who: Rhonda S.

Where: Geneva, IN

“We wanted lake property, but to afford what we have, sweat equity had to be involved.”

Open Up to Lake Views: After

Who: Rhonda S.

Where: Geneva, IN

“Two picture windows inside the enclosed porch were replaced with two bays once the porch was opened. I love all of it: the openness, the style, the proximity to the lake. It was a very fun project. I have redone houses before, but never to this extent. It’s a perfect size—two bedrooms, two baths. It was a downsize, but there is also a library that could be converted to a third bedroom if we should decide to sell. For us, it's perfect.”

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

Cost: “$50,000 to $100,000” (whole house)

Turn a fixer-upper into your dream property with curb appeal boosts for every budget and a new fiberglass entry door.

Revamping the Yard After Kids Get Older: Before

Who: Daniel C.

Where: Poughkeepsie, NY

“Our rear yard was nothing special, but had some privacy. We wanted a koi pond for our anniversary, and built that first. Over time, we added plants and began forming pockets of mini spaces to create a room-like feel.”

Revamping the Yard After Kids Get Older: After

Who: Daniel C.

Where: Poughkeepsie, NY

“The pond is just a small section of our property. We have landscaped the remaining areas (several times) over the past 25 years. We are weekend warriors, though we have only recently recruited outside help. Our small pond has more than 60 fish in it; we try to give them away to others just starting their own ponds.”

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

Cost: “$25,000 to $50,000”

Revamp your backyard with everything you need to build the perfect pond and glean outdoor room ideas from a Seabee’s long-distance backyard remodel.

Bed-and-Breakfast Renovated and Reopened: Before

Who: Jeff C.

Where: Muskogee, OK

“We fell in love with this house before it went to auction. However, it was missing many lights, fixtures, and appliances when we purchased it.”

Bed-and-Breakfast Renovated and Reopened: After

Who: Jeff C.

Where: Muskogee, OK

“The house is known in the community, since it was a bed-and-breakfast for 23 years before it closed. Many locals had previously stayed at or attended events at the house. Now, during open houses and home tours, guests ooh and aah as they see the changes. Since our reopening of the bed-and-breakfast, our new guests say they love the look and feel of the home. From our perspective, we are very pleased with the living and dining rooms and the new landscaping.”

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

Cost: “More than $100,000” (whole house)

Turn the scariest house on the block into the prettiest by removing overgrown shrubs and tree stumps.

Cottage Crush: Before

Who: Kathleen B.

Where: St. Augustine, FL

“We found this little cottage during a vacation trip to St. Augustine and fell in love with the location near town and old friends. That’s when we decided this is where we want to retire.”

Cottage Crush: After

Who: Kathleen B.

Where: St. Augustine, FL

“Our home in north Georgia has 10-foot ceilings and is on three acres. By contrast, this cottage is cozy, charming, and surprisingly well-known as the 'Art Zone' house because of the sign in the front window. We can walk or bike to downtown St. Augustine and are close enough to the coast to breathe the ocean air. The area seems to be going through a resurgence now, so it's a great location.”

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

Cost: “$5,000 to $10,000” (whole house)

Reclaiming an 1840 Cabin: Before

Who: Brian M.

Where: Dalton, OH

“This cabin was built before 1840 and has been designated a Pioneer House by our county historical society. We are only the third family to own the property, and the house was slated for demolition by the second owners. It sat empty for about 40 years and was in total disrepair when we started.”

Reclaiming an 1840 Cabin: After

Who: Brian M.

Where: Dalton, OH

“When we bought the property in 2007, we were told that part of the old house was a log cabin. When we started tearing things apart, we were surprised to find the entire structure was! We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to save this beauty. With the exception of landscaping and a front porch, the cabin was completed in March 2016.”

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

Cost: “More than $100,000”