How we get into the garage and staining the backside

Apparently we caused a little confusion with our ipe garage post. I didn’t actually show you how we get our cars into the garage. My bad. The post was picture heavy and I really wanted something to chat with you about this week. Projects are slow because w-editing. That’s short for “editing wedding images” for those non-wedding photographers out there… of which there may be many more thanks to our recent feature on Apartment Therapy. Hi, new readers!

I digress. We can, in fact, get our cars into the garage thanks to the alley access on the backside of the building.


Part way through the ipe wrap we got garage doors, which was a happier day than I ever imagined.


Then we grappled with how to finish the alley side of the garage. We L O V E the look of the ipe and we usually choose aesthetics over… well, over everything else (specifically time and money.) But the ipe wrap had turned into a very tedious project, and we questioned whether the alley side really needed that treatment. We were also really happy with how the stain on the fence posts turned them into a deep brown the mimicked the tone of the ipe.

Stain (and common sense?) won. While Aaron worked (tirelessly) on the ipe, I spent a few hours on a few weekend days to coat the exposed wood with Behr Semi-Transparent Weather Proofing All-in-one Wood Stain and Sealer tinted to chocolate.


We are really happy with the results. It gave the wood a rich feel that ties in nicely with the ipe AND it was a project I could tackle. It’s always nice when I can get in on the renovation and take something off of Aaron’s plate.

Here are a few angles: pre-doors, pre-stain and finished.









These two pictures (above and below) are a good example of how the light (cloudy above, sunny below) affect the appearance of the cor-ten fence.


A few people asked for pictures of the interior of the garage. I’m giving you an IOU for that, but I promise it’s not very exciting or photogenic. More to come!

The light at the end of the carport

You know how I keep saying that we’re STILL working on the carport turned garage? I’m a veritable broken record these days. Well, I’m happy to report that some unseasonably cool July weather and the three day holiday weekend gave us the last push we needed to get this thing done!

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. We employed a contractor to do some heavy projects around the firehouse before we moved in, including laying a bunch of concrete (hello super huge patio) and building a carport. Our intent was to turn this into a garage. Last spring things were looking a little bare…



We installed five tons (literally) of steel last summer, which gave us most of a fence but still zero privacy. Nothing says “home sweet home” like chaining up your barbecue grill…


After we installed the section of ipe fence, Aaron turned his attention to framing the walls of the garage. This included building two doors (one on the east side of the building and one between the garage and firehouse.)




The only major regret we have so far with this entire renovation is that we told the contractor we wanted ” a standard sized garage.” We should have gone for an extra deep garage to allow for some storage. In lieu of that, we planned to install a shed to house a few things we don’t want to keep storing inside, like our lawn mower. Thanks to the addition of the garage doors, we changed the plan slightly and decided to add more storage to the garage itself. Aaron framed a bump out that fits the bill perfectly.


It’s a bit more apparent from this aerial view.


In all the framing only took around 2 weeks thanks to some mild spring weather. What took FOR EV ER was adding the ipe. We used the same method as we did to build the ipe fence, but there was a just a lot more: more square footage, more biscuits to cut, more measurements (around both boors) and a lot of odd cuts thanks to the sloped roof and uneven base.

The rainy spring weather that quickly morphed into muggy summer didn’t help either. Little by little, Aaron chipped away at what had become a monstrous, tedious project. Just shy of 3 months after the start of the project, he added the last one.

That still left us a few tasks before we could official call this thing “done.”

For one, the boards on the east side (which went up first and get a lot of sun) were looking a little light. Un-oiled ipe will turn a silver color and this side was well on it’s way.



We knew this would happen, but we had read that power washing would bring the wood’s deep color back. So we gave the whole garage a bath (which is a good practice anyways) before oiling it.





Then we coated the exterior in ipe oil. We split this task, each taking a turn with the roller to cover large sections then following up with a small brush to get in between the boards. It sounds really tedious, but it’s much faster and easier than staining or painting. It is, however, very messy.

Here’s how it looks going on. You can instantly tell a difference. It’s very rewarding… and very messy. Just plan to be coated in oil.



Here’s how the wood on the east side looked.




Here’s a look at another section:


Power washing brought back a lot of the color on the east side. If we did it over again, I would have taken the time to oil that side before it sat in the sun.

The only thing left was add two sections of roof to the carport garage, which we special ordered from Home Depot after some exhaustive research to try and match what was already installed.



Whew! We’re so glad to be done. Come back tomorrow for some radical before/after shots.

Staining the fence posts

After installing the ipe section of fence, our fence posts were starting to look a little bare. Originally we planned to paint the posts a rusty color to blend in with the steel, but the warmth of the ipe totally changed our minds. Instead, we had a gallon of Behr Semi-Transparent Weather Proofing All-in-one Wood Stain and Sealer tinted to chocolate, which looked like it would provide the closest match to the ipe. Then it was as simple as wiping down the posts with a wet rag to rid them of spider webs and grass clippings then brushing on the stain. I used a large taping knife shoved against the steel/ipe to keep a crisp line on the edge. Voila!


What? That’s not the most blinding transformation ever? Ok, let’s take a look at some before/after combos. Everything is looking a little raw before the ipe was oiled.


After oiling and staining:




Here’s a good side by side by side (ipe, post, steel) – un-oiled/unstained vs oh so pretty.


Against the steel, the wood posts looks warmer and much more finished. Before:





It’s a bit more subtle against the steel, but it definitely moves your eye pasts the posts instead of causing a visual break.




We were happy with the look after one coat, so this update only took a few hours to complete. Even better, it was an update I tackled solo while Aaron (you guessed it) worked on wrapping the carport. (It’s the build that never ends… yes it goes on and on, my friends… we started building it, not knowing what it was… and we’ll continue building it forever just because, it’s the build that never ends…)

Good news: He’s on the last few rows of the last side of the carport! Bad news: The weather has turned to steamy summer mode, making long days working outside nearly impossible. In the meantime, I’m getting my stain on (is that a thing) on the backside of the garage.

How to build a horizonal ipe fence

I know I sound like a broken record, but work on wrapping the carport in ipe continues. It’s a tedious project, but each row makes a visual impact. In case you’re interested in (or crazy enough to think about) building a horizontal ipe fence, here’s a guide.


Obviously you need to order some wood. Here are some other products you’ll need:

The folks at Advantage Lumber helped us estimate the quantities. Once we’re done, we’ll let you know if they were on target.


Let’s talk for second about ipe clips. Each box includes:

  • 175 ipe clips
  • 190 screws
  • A star drill tip
  • A drill bit
  • 12 ipe plugs
  • Instructions

You want all of these things. If you don’t buy them, you can just drill each board into the fence post and live with all of those screws staring back at you. But your yard (and your eyes) deserve better than that. These fasteners will anchor the wood to the post and remain hidden. Plus they help space each row appropriately. They come in different gap sizes, we opted for the smallest gap.

Ok, let’s build a fence! Choose a piece of wood. Ideally you want a piece of wood that is rather straight. We’re working with B grade wood, so sometimes that means chopping off a bit that’s warped.

Cut the wood to size. Note: It’s helpful to have someone who is good at measuring perform most of these steps. (You’ll notice that it’s not me.)


The boards are held together and anchored to the post with ipe clips, but to start a row you’ll need to secure the bottom directly to the post. On each end of the board, measure how much the board will overlap the post and then mark the center point. Keep that measurement in mind (or write it down) because you’ll use it a lot.


Drill a hole using a 1/8″ drill bit and then a 3/8″ countersink bit. Aaron loves this one from Rockler. The hole is for the screw and the countersink is for the ipe plug. (More on that later.)



Then seal the end of the wood. This keeps the ipe from cracking over time. It’s also important to do this after you measure/drill so you don’t end up with wax all over your tools.



Liberally apply the wax to the ends of each board use a brush. It’s a good idea to do this in the grass in case there are drips.


Construction adhesive offers additional holding power. Add some to the post before placing your board.


For the first board, screw one side into the post.


Level it. Then add a screw to the other side.


The boards will need a space for each ipe clip. This is easily achieved with a biscuit joiner set at the appropriate depth for the ipe clip. We did a few tests on scrap wood to get the depth correct. For the first row, we opted to make the biscuit cut once the board was in place.





Drop an ipe clip into the biscuit cut.


Use the drill bit from the ipe clip kit to pre-drill a hole for the screw. Then use the screws from the kit to attach the board and clip to the post. Screw down and at an angle.


Choose another board, cut it to length it and mark the center points that you measured earlier. From here on up, make the biscuit cuts on both sides (and both ends) of the board now.


Don’t forget to seal the ends. Add construction adhesive to the post, and place the board onto the ipe clips from the row before. Level the board <– This is very important to ensure your fence stays level all the way up. If you’re working with B grade wood, which we are, most of the boards are not going to be perfect. You can compensate some by pulling down on one end of the board (or sitting on it in extreme cases) to make it level.

Repeat until you reach the top of your post. For the last board, make your biscuit cuts only on one side. Then drill a hole to attach the board to the top of the post.

Use the ipe pegs from the ipe clip box to fill in the screw holes. Add some wood glue.


Tap it into place with a hammer.



Once the wood glue dries, chip off the excess with a chisel so the plug is flush with the board.



Congratulations you just built a section of horizontal fence. From here you can apply ipe oil if you want to darken the wood or let it weather to a silvery color. We opted for the former.


It’s a pretty simple process, but it is time consuming. This section of fence took us an entire Sunday. Of course, we took A LOT of breaks to admire the progress and exclaim how excited we were. Make sure you build that into your timeline.

The current state of the yard

The thing about landscaping (or anything having to do with plants) is that the reward is not immediate. Being a very visual person, I always find this frustrating. So if you asked me what my least favorite project was over the past year, I would definitely say starting the yard. It was an entire weekend of hauling of trash and buckets full of bricks out of the yard, manually tilling some of the bare spots and laying expensive seed that didn’t take root. The whole time I told myself, “Someday this will be a gorgeous yard. This will all be worth it.” Well, someday got here a little sooner than we expected.

Let’s take it way back – to the only picture we have of the “yard” right after we purchased the lot.

It was blank canvas that didn’t stay that way for long thanks to the addition of a huge patio. The patio came with a side of jacked up dirt, which we shaped into a yard in the aforementioned weekend. After we procured the correct type of grass seed, Aaron gave it lots of water, 3 total rounds of grass seed and 4 rounds of fertilizer and weed killer.

Here’s the view from the back of the yard looking forward (before, during and now)




Near the patio stairs looking forward:




Front of the yard looking to the rear:




The concrete guys got a little overzealous with the bobcat so we had some work to do up front as well.




What a difference a year makes! We’re really happy with how the grass is coming along, especially in such a short time frame. The cor-ten fence is also rusting beautifully. The vision is finally coming together!

Is anyone else starting a yard from scratch? Or maybe taking over a yard that’s seen better days? Aaron got lots of yard rehab experience at our first house, which he’s putting to good use here.