Add distinction and curb appeal to your home without spending a fortune.
Maybe your house lacks character. Or, perhaps its past charm was stripped away by a misguided renovation. Take heart — it's possible to add or restore what Realtors call curb appeal to practically any house. You can also add comfort with a porch or a roof to shield you from the elements while you grab the mail or say goodbye to friends.
The three successful face-lifts on these pages transformed the front of the house by focusing on the entryway. While the first was part of a major house remodel, the others involved little more than porches, a foyer and a $10,000 investment. Their differing styles and approaches illustrate just some of the possibilities.
There are several rules of thumb for changing the face of a house. "Aim to make it better and provide the missing amenities or character while making the changes look like they've always been there," says John Sylvestre, the Minneapolis designer and contractor behind the farmhouse face-lift shown above.
Because the new must blend seamlessly with the old, consider the style or type of your home. Is it a ranch, colonial, Victorian, Cape or some other style? "You can't add a cedar-sided sunroom with casement windows to a two-story brick Georgian and expect good results," Sylvestre says. If you're undoing previous mistakes to restore the character your home once had, check for original materials layered beneath the present siding. Also study other homes built around the same time for clues to materials.
How you connect a new porch or foyer will also help it look as if it came with the house. "Don't have the old and new materials meet on the same plane," Sylvestre says. He suggests, for example, setting an addition 12 inches back from the original house so the old and new meet on an inside corner rather than on the same flat plane.
Next, plan the mass or size of any new structure so that it relates to the scale of the house. Also be sure to match or complement the existing roof pitch. For example, don't add a low-pitched 4-in-12 roof to an existing 8-in-12 roof. Finally, pay attention to existing details, such as soffits, window muntins and trim. Study the way materials were used. Then transfer the same look to any new details your front face-lift includes.
Back to Its Roots
This face-lift was part of a larger remodel and addition on a circa-1924 farmhouse in Edina, Minnesota. The aim of the project was to restore the simple details, which had been wiped away by a remodel in the 1970s.
Sylvestre Construction, based in Minneapolis, wrapped the first story with a sunroom and added a covered entryway. The new hip roof, which has a 5-in-12 pitch, matches the original roofline and blends the addition into the existing structure.
Sylvestre also relied on texture and color to unite old and new. The addition is sided in clear redwood applied horizontally. But for cost reasons, the owners didn't want to reface the entire building. Instead, both the new siding and the existing rough-sawn vertical cedar were painted the same shade of red.
Because casement windows didn't exist when this farmhouse was built back in the 1920s, all the casements were replaced with vertical-muntin, double-hung units. "Don't go half-way," Sylvestre says about this type of remodel. "Missing details will compromise the overall look."
For example, the new wood screens and storms resemble what might have existed earlier and present an opportunity to add another trim color to the house. Other details that help integrate the addition are the wide window trim and the sidelights added to the existing front door.
Railings for the new front entryway are made of construction-grade cedar, while construction-grade cedar was used for the decking and pressure-treated lumber was used for framing members that contact the soil. To cut costs, Sylvestre used an engineered-wood product ? Prime-Trim from Georgia-Pacific ? for the details, including the pillars on the new covered entry and the fascia, corner boards and trim applied to the entire house.
The sun can make any house sweltering in summer, especially if the home you live in is in Kansas and faces west. So Kenna and Russ Byram, of Olathe, Kansas, decided to add two porches to their
25-year-old, west-facing brick ranch, including the one that's shown here.
The Byrams opted for timeless, classic materials. The list includes 12-in. structural architectural wood columns and wood railings, 3/4-in. tongue-and-groove Douglas fir flooring painted a traditional gray and hand-split cedar roof shakes - all from local suppliers. They invested about $10,000 in the porches and saved money by doing part of the work themselves under the watch of friend Bill Yeamans, a remodeling contractor who also worked with them.
"Building each porch was as simple as building a covered deck," Yeamans says. First, they poured four 12-in.-sq. concrete-pier pads, and then used pressure-treated 656 posts and 2x10 joists set 16 in. on center for the framing. To keep the porch from overpowering the house, Yeamans and the Byrams followed the outline and scale of an existing courtyard. They also left plantings in place so the new porch looks as if it was always there.
The Byrams achieved their goal of making the house cooler, and also cut their electric bill by not having to use the air-conditioning as much. The family now also has a place to stow boots and umbrellas on rainy and snowy days. The additional 250 sq. ft. of summer-living space is another welcome bonus, as is the curb appeal that distinguishes their house from the four other brick ranches on the street.
Where to Find It:
Back to Its Roots:
133 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
Benjamin Moore & Co
51 Chestnut Ridge Rd.
Montvale, NJ 07645
Marvin Windows & Doors
Warroad, MN 56763
Sylvestre Construction, Inc.
7708 5th Ave., South
Minneapolis, MN 55423
Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau
515 116th Ave. NE, Suite 275
Bellevue, WA, 98004-5294
Exteriors Unlimited, Inc.
17521 E. 24 Hwy.
Independence, MO 64056
A Field Guide to American Houses
by Virginia & Lee McAlester
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1994
This is an excellent source of information on house styles, details, decoration and materials.