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.

The front of the firehouse: Post clean up

Is there an award for longest time between “before” and “after” shots? If so, this project might win. Last summer, the front of the firehouse looked really, really sad. There were a lot of things to be embarrassed about, not the least of which was the half finished, tarped trailer and mismatched panels on the garage door. It was looking a little hoosier (not a good thing if you’re in Missouri). Oh, did I mention we met with prospective photography clients here? Yeah. No bueno.


So we embarked on a clean up job that started with moving the trailer.


We also removed a crappy sign, got new flags, painted the garage door (including a touch up job after a little snafu with the weather stripping), and updated some of the lighting. Then we promised “afters”… Nine months later we’re finally delivering!


It’s looking pretty fly up there, especially the bright red door and emerald green carpet of grass.


It looks just as good at night!


You can see how the new fixtures (and LED bulbs – which are working out fantastically here and in the studio) cast an awesome glow above and below.




There is still plenty to be done out here. Weed management, uplighting for the cor-ten fence, eliminating the “garden bed” around the mailbox. But we’re happy with how far it has come!

The beginning of the end of the fence

There are a few things we vowed when we moved into the firehouse.
– The half wall in the bedroom was coming down ASAP.
– We needed a fenced yard by the end of spring.
– The studio would get all of our attention and probably be done in 2 months.

Oh, how naive we were…

If you’ve been following along, you know that only one of those (the studio) has come to fruition… and even that took many more months than we planned. But we’re in the process of finally making good on the fenced yard declaration!

Let’s recap. Nearly a year ago, we spent a long weekend installing (most of) our fence, using cor-ten steel panels. (If you’re new to the blog, it’s a good read, complete with a lightening strike!) We purposefully left a few holes near the back, intending to cover them in horizontal slats of wood to match the treatment we planned for the carport (effectively turning that into a garage.)

Here’s how we left things last summer.


It is funny how everything about renovations has an ebb and flow  – time, energy, money. By the fall, we were low on all three (and down one tree). The fence project got pushed and we spent all winter surveying Mojo’s outdoor time… in the polar vortex.

Now that the weather is turning, the fence completion/carport wrap is our top priority. We kicked things off by tackling this hole in the fence.



It’s cool, Mojo. You know not to cross that imaginary line, right?


Here is a view from the neighboring lot



We researched a lot of different options for the fence and eventually settled on B grade ipe.

Ipe is a very dense hardwood from South America that is fantastic for outdoor applications. It is mold, fire, weather and pest resistant. It needs little maintenance, but if you do give it some by rolling on some oil it will stay a gorgeous deep brown color. It’s also very pricey, which is why we opted for B grade (or slightly subpar) wood. This means that not every board is perfect. Some have a little bow to them, some have a crack at one end, some have milling marks.

We ordered our batch from Advantage Lumber, along with the clips, wax and oil needed for installation and maintenance. So far we’re finding the imperfections to be minimal and some of them to be charming. We’re very happy we opted to save a few dollars.

I have a tutorial for you, but for this post let’s jump straight to the reward.


Hello gorgeous!





It’s exactly what we had in mind. The warm wood (which will get deeper when it is oiled) bring a fantastic natural element to the fence. Seriously, I can’t stop staring at it.

The downside is that we’re finding the installation takes A LOT longer than we expected. (Someday we’ll learn our lesson. Maybe I should block off ALL of 2015 for the kitchen reno…)

To give you an idea, those three sections of fence took an entire day. But it’s cool, we only have this much to go…



The fence is mostly done and we’re tired

All of the steel panels are up and we’re 86.67% (that’s math) done with our fence. I know you spent the majority of your weekend worrying about the work we did during our weekend, so I thought I’d end the suspense and let you know that we survived installing nearly 5 tons of steel in our yard. This will be a great overview of the trials and tribulations of installation and we’ll be back with a full Pinterest-able “How to Install the Coolest Fence You’ve Ever Seen… EVER” in the next post.

First, let’s take a look at what we were working with. These pictures are pre “Starting the Yard” but just imagine this space with a bit more grass. The fence line is pretty obvious thanks to some contractor installed posts and cross-beams. I worked from home one of the days the guys dug out the post holes, and I can confidently tell you that it was worth every penny after listening to them chisel their way through our lot, which back in the day sported an entire brick house – most of which (not literally) has been buried in the yard  following its demolition.








I’ll leave most of the details for the next post, but we needed this fence skeleton before we could order the cut-to-order steel panels, which arrived a little bit earlier than expected.


Once we had the panels and the lift (which we didn’t want to keep for more than a week because, $$!!) it was on like Donkey Kong. Aaron started hanging panels on Thursday and made it through 5 (including the front gate) with only one MAJOR hiccup. The steel company made the 8′ panels, which make up the majority of the long run on the side of our building, 1/2″ too long. That really adds up over 100 plus feet… and would definitely come back to bite us. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Friday, I got my first glimpse of rigging panels. Let me tell you that the sound of these panels going from horizontal to vertical while clicking down chains is one of the most terrifying renovation sounds. Seriously. No sarcasm. I wish I would have recorded it for you… maybe next time we install a steel fence (ok, that was sarcastic).


Once the panel was up, Aaron used the super mega lift to drive it into place.  He worked at a grocery store during high school. This experience has yielded at least 3 benefits to our adult life.

1. He knows where everything is in a grocery store. This was immeasurably helpful as a new wife/novice cook.
2. He is a pro at choosing perfect produce and meat.
3. He is surgical with a forklift. Seriously, that man can work a forklift like woah.


Once the panel was set and level, there was a lot of drilling and screwing. (Get your mind of out of the gutter.)


Lather, rinse, repeat.




Friday’s goal: 10 panels
Friday’s tally: 9 panels
The 1/2″ extra on each 8′ panel caused a major slow down mid-day when Aaron had to run to Home Depot for more fence posts.
Feeling: Pretty good

Saturday dawned with ambitious plans. We knew if we finished the rest of the 12 panels we could have Sunday totally off. We dove in with the most intimidating pieces – the big ones that run along the carport (i.e. heaviest) (i.e. if s$#it goes wrong we have NO plan B because they can’t be lifted by people). Things went immediately from “we got this” to “HOLY S%^T” when the chain on the first panel shifted and the whole thing went cockeyed. To make matters worse, Aaron had to drive through a ditch in the front part of the side lot. During the drive, I literally tried not to puke and thanked physics for things like “friction”… and grabbed this pic with my iPhone. Scary stuff.


Thankfully, the panel stayed aloft. We set it and the second one without taking down the carport. Totally winning.


Back on the other side of the yard, we tackled mostly custom cut pieces, including 2 that required hand lifting. Yep, you read that right. At one point we donned furniture moving straps and carried panels weighing 325 pounds each.

In related news, I realized why Aaron married me: “cheerleader legs” and their utility in major renovation. I’m stronger than I look 😉

At some point,  the 8′ 1/2″ panels came back to bite us and we realized that we would be 2 extra posts short and therefore unable to place the last panel. Sunday = not totally free.

In related news, my hatred of the mulberry tree is in full force because of this:


Saturday’s goal: 12 panels
Saturday’s tally: 11 panels
Stupid extra 1/2″
Feeling: Very tired and ready to be done

Sunday started with a trip to Home Depot and then we donned work clothes for ONE MORE PANEL. ONE MORE PANEL! (Yes, at this point I was making up chants to keep us going entertain myself)

Aaron drove the panel as close as possible and then we carried it into place. Yep, one more panel that sits behind a tree/power pole. This one had the added bonus of being in a particularly humid, jungle-like area of our yard that was watered all night by some summer storms. So we slipped our way through mud and got it set. While Aaron drilled in the first screw, the weather kindly decided that all the tools we pulled out needed a little cleaning. Thankfully, the shower passed quickly and we finished screwing the panel into place. We were done after a quick clean up, but the story isn’t quite over.

In the final Home Depot trip, Aaron grabbed mint and basil plants per my request. Having successfully completed our major work for the day (and being covered in a combination of mud and carbon dust) I thought it was the perfect time to get those plants in a planter. I started to say as much to Aaron when out of nowhere lighting struck our building right above our head.

Yep…. you read that right. A bolt of lightening struck our building and Aaron almost threw me into the firehouse before checking to make sure that nothing was on fire. It was an… interesting way to end our outdoor time…

So let’s take a look at the results!


Oh, yeah, let’s talk about the holes. We left a few panels in the rear of the property open. We’re planning to cover our carport and these panels in wood slats (hence the 86.67% done). More on that later.







We need to go back and cut those posts below the fence line along with a few other things that Aaron will explain in the next post.



Bottom line: It was worth it and it looks great… but it’s not done. It’s weathering steel so we’re eagerly watching the panels each day to see the transformation. The solo Sunday panel got a good deal of rain while it waited for installation. So here’s a preview of where we’re heading. We’ll bring you a full post when the rust totally sets in.


So, who wants to vote? Are we crazy or visionaries?

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