Lists Outside

The Exterior To-Do List

I didn’t do much to the backyard last year. Or to the front. Really, what I mean to say is that I didn’t do anything to the exterior of the house last year. This year, it shows. The garden needs tending, the grass needs seeding, and to top it all off, we should probably paint. The garage is starting to peel pretty badly, and the house could use some attention, too.

Jenny Lyons' Former Garden
(Not our yard! That’s Jenna Lyons’ former garden.)

I had a grand plan of things I wanted to do to the outside of our home that I put together back in 2009, two months before Eleanor was born. Allow me to quote myself: “Of course, the arrival of spring will also mean the arrival of our baby, so maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves!”

Nah, you think? Childless me was so naive.

So now, two kids and four years later, I’m reassessing. I’m copying and pasting my original exterior to-do list, below, with some clarification.

  • paint & repair the trim
    We still need to do this.

  • paint the front porch and the back deck
    I would miss the hand-painted rug that I did, but the porch needs to be refinished.

  • replace the railings for the front porch with a style more appropriate for the house
    I’d still love to do this, but at least our railings are functional.

  • cover the sides of the front stairs (lattice?)
    Yep. Actually, stucco would be a more seamless choice.

  • build a gate to hide the storage area under our back deck (lattice?)
    Still a good idea.

  • replace our ugly white screen doors with simple, unobtrusive ones
    I removed the front screen door entirely because I couldn’t stand it anymore, but I’ve yet to replace it.

  • install gutters with covers that supposedly don’t need to be cleaned
    We can skip this, and continue to have our gutters cleaned seasonally.

  • remove the aluminum siding on the addition and stucco it to match the rest of the house
    We had a couple of quotes and this is cost-prohibitive.

  • change the house color
    It would be nice.

  • paint the garage to match
    The garage needs to be painted either way, and of course it should match the house.

  • put up cute new house numbers

  • maybe change the mailbox?

  • add an outlet out front and in back (there are none outside)
    We did this! And never use them. Yay.

  • add another metal sculpture in front of the house (we already have one)
    Really? One is enough, Nicole.

  • put in some foundation plants/shrubs
    I sort of did this, but more is needed.

  • plant a small tree (pagoda dogwood?) out front
    Probably not the best idea to plant a tree too near the house.

I feel bad, looking at this list and realizing how much of this has yet to be done, but it’s expensive stuff. And the only new item I’d like to add to the list? Build a wooden fence. The neighbor’s yappy dogs used to be an annoyance. Now that we have kids and they have a more aggressive dog that wants to bite their hands off, a wooden fence would be nice.

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  • Krysta
    April 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    We would like to tackle some outdoor projects this spring/summer as well! We actually just had a wooden privacy fence installed (which was way more money than I had though it would be) but with two dogs who love being outside and will bark at anything it was a necessity. Looking forward to reading as you progress!

    April 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    ha, I think my favorite part of this post is “childless me was so naive.” OH, do I recognize that!

    Same here, our back and front yards have been sadly neglected the last couple years. It’s been enough tackling the inside with a little one.

    It’s so lovely to have the outdoor spaces though, and you’re so much more likely to live outside if it’s “lovely.” I hope you get to your list…I’ll be following. I’m hoping I MAKE a list this year. ;)

  • Laura
    April 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    My favorite part of this post, too, is “childless me was so naive.”

    I’d move the fence to the top of the list. You’ll have more peace of mind.

  • Christina W.
    April 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Are you not wanting to plant a tree near the house because of potential root issues or because it might fall over in a storm? If it’s the latter, what about a Japanese tulip tree? The actual trunk is pretty squat and sturdy compared to other trees, but the branches reach normal tree height. They have the most gorgeous giant pink blossoms in the spring, too! My memaw has an 80ish year old one in her front yard, and despite having trouble with the oak, walnut, apple, and approximately 10 billion pine trees on her property, the tulip tree has been steady as a rock since she moved in around 1960 something.

  • Anja
    April 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Oh, so much to do! We have completely turned around our garden within the last year, with a new flagstone patio, and a fence, a rose arch and all new flower beds… it was so much work. This year, we might actually be lazy and just enjoy what we have ;-)

  • Lindsay Széchényi
    April 10, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    We’re in the same boat as you! Almost exactly, ha :) I have an almost 4-year old and an almost 1-year old and it would be so great for them to have a place to play outside! We’ve been working our butts off and got some estimates for wooden fences, etc. So far everything is EXPENSIVE. Ugh. Good luck and I can’t wait to see what you do. I already think your backyard is great. <3

  • Kathryn
    April 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I want that backyard. So pretty. Also, the “really, one is enough” was excellent.

  • Lauren
    April 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I love the outdoors . . . but I find decorating/planning outdoors completely overwhelming. A few years ago, we put in a line of shrubs that we planned on having grow into a hedge. The plants were EXPENSIVE and it did not turn out to be how we imagined. Very disappointing. (Our landscaper allowed us to take them out since we weren’t happy, which was awesome!) We live on 3 acres with lots of trees and no fence. Nice for privacy, but dang hard to figure out what to do with so much space! (and most of the trees need to go . . . too many summer time bugs and too many hurricanes/storms in these parts)

  • jbhat
    April 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Good luck on that list! I’m glad that you have alread updated the house numbers. That would have been my priority too. :)


  • Andrew
    April 12, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Have you considered cladding the dormers in faux shingles/shakes? Hardy board is this really nice product that makes siding & cedar-looking painted shingles. I’ve used it a lot in projects. Ha- I sound like I am working for them, but I swear I’m not. I just happening to be doing a job (in Oak Park, no less) on a house almost identical to yours, and we are recoating the stucco (NOT with stucco paint, but with a stucco coating product that roles on) and doing the Hardy shingles on the dormers. It should quote out cheaper than new stucco because its less labor intensive.

  • Michelle B.
    April 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Love the list! :)
    We are down the block from you in Riverside. Have been here about 10 years. This time of year definitely makes us revisit it. We have a list very similar that we made in 2003 – new roof, new front & back porch, have stucco professionally repaired/repainted, new windows (we have the original storms from 1915), new screen doors, paint, replace garage, etc., etc.
    It seems like everything we would like to do is $10,000 or more – except maybe the screen/storm doors. I should really get on those! Ha!

    Of course we’ve done things along the way – but there’s always the list. Happy April Showers!

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  • Kate Hyer : This Wandering Life
    April 22, 2013 at 7:23 am

    That tree is so pretty- your exterior is gorgeous even if it’s not done yet. Reminds me of all the gorgeous pink blooming trees we’re enjoying in Paris right now.

  • Lindsay
    April 23, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I’ve been looking into renovating my backyard as well, but getting all my ideas and plans together is a total nightmare. Thanks for sharing your ideas on the topic, they might come in handy when doing my own ;)