Cape Cod needs some lovin'

mreenrnJune 10, 2014

Help! We just closed on this house. I love dormers and steep pitched roof lines but this house needs some SERIOUS curb appeal.
Details: total lot 6 acres. 2 or so is front and immediate back of house and it's green-not saying grass but....there is a creek midway through the back yard and the rest is woods. The house faces true north. We are in MIchigan Z5 The house is approx 8-10" taller than the unattached garage and the natural gas line was added between the house and garage.
1. Add a true covered front porch that is covered to the garage. We are moving the service door toward the front on the left side of the garage. The "bridge" between the garage and the house will be converted to a covered porch with steps to a landing that will access the front (toward the service door of garage) and the back yard.
2. Address the drainage issue due to the house being higher than the garage. French drain? There is several hundred feet to the front ditch or to the creek in the back.
3. All the dogwoods and other shrubs were planted too close to the house-so they either get replanted or torn out.They have been severely pruned back since the picture was taken. So I need planting ideas.
4. Did I mention the front porch?? The current monstrosity is neither attractive nor sturdy and it's constructed of untreated lumber. yuck
5. The roof is being replaced as we speak- dark charcoal gray. The siding is light gray and the shutter color will be changed. I like clean, crisp lines- no curlicues for me- so all trim will be bright white. Do we make the single front door a double? I'm concerned about proportion.
6. The septic drain field is front left as you look at the house so no other trees can be planted there. We have a beautiful maple just off the field. How do I fertilize/seed such a large area?
any help or guidance would be GREATLY appreciated.
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The architectural renovations of which you speak seem reasonable, necessary and as though they will improve the property if done with taste and style. Do you have any drawings that show them?

I'd be sure to fix the grading all the way around the house. It looks a little lumpy at the house and falls off on the left side. It could be level all the way around, slope away for 10' and then blend with the surrounding grade ... which should probably be smoothed for 50' out. When the grading is worked out, I'd consider something like a concrete lined gutter/flume, at grade level, running through the breezeway area (placed below whatever decking comes) to handle any water that ends up between house and garage, in order to be certain that there remains positive and adequate drainage there ... sloped to be self-cleaning, of course.

Given the poorly located nature of existing planting at the house, I would remove (or cut and kill) all the woody plant material and start over from scratch. I see one blank wall place (between the two left-most windows) in front of which a small multi-trunk tree form (made of large shrub) would work well if set adequately away from the wall 5' or 6'. It could be made from burning bush, pg hydrangea, lilac, beautybush, etc. ... something that won't get taller than 12' to 15'. There is not much point in making too many suggestions until it is known how the architectural changes will shake out. It would be good to post a wider view photo taken from a greater distance away that shows more of the yard.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:18AM
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Thanks Yardvaark. We don't have any drawings yet as I wanted an idea of what to ask for in regard to how big or small the porch should be in keeping with the style of the house.

A full front porch might emphasize the asymmetrical effect of the windows and front door. Would a double entry door minimize that? Another idea would be to start the porch at the middle window (LR inside) and extend toward the garage and I would counter balance that with planting a larger bush/tree in the far left area.

I didn't think about using a concrete gutter for drainage. Interesting idea since I thought a drain would need to be trenched out to the road or the back creek. You are correct in that the yard slopes away from the house and needs to be smoothed out. It's raining today but I'll post a full view picture soon.

Again thank you for your thoughtful response.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:13AM
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You are thinking of drain underground and that is the last thing I think of, always preferring to keep it simple and at the grade level if at all possible.

You are concerned about architectural possibilities that in my mind are not yet ready to be worried about. Where to start the porch ... well, first, how big a porch is NEEDED and how will it be used? It's likely that any size porch can be made to look good. You could make things look better with an expanded entryway, but whether it's a nicer door with sidelights or a double door I don't think matters much. Either can look good so what do you NEED?

Whenever I have looked for property to buy, whether it is to live in or for investment, there are a couple of features that I find so distasteful that if they exist, I look no further. One of the features is bad, difficult-to-correct grade. It's expensive to fix so I always think why not find a comparable property that doesn't need it. (Fortunately, you don't have that here!) The other distasteful feature is a hacked up roof job from a remodel. (Again ... a lot of them out there!) Not only are these permanently ugly, they create problems down the road should one ever wish to remodel. Or, they are expensive to fix with no almost no gain in value. You don't have it now, but it is a puzzle how you're going to connect the breezeway, porch and garage and have that connection all covered with nice looking roof. There is no obvious and immediate solution so it's going to take study. Sure there is a way to do it, but will it be within budget? That's about 99% of the reason why the hacked up roof jobs come about in the first place. Any thoughts on how you're going to solve?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:26PM
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The roof issue is one of the reasons only the house is being re roofed now- plus we were losing shingles with each gust of wind. I anticipate the breezeway will go away in the next phase of remodeling. Our roofing contractor has some ideas, I have some ideas but I hope a landscape designer will have the ultimate idea!

Our idea for the breezeway: from the house make one step down to a covered landing (4x4' or so) and from that landing have a T stair, with one set heading to the back yard and the other toward the front yard . Each staircase would be approx 4-5 steps down and be against the garage wall. The front stair would end and have a boardwalk like path to the relocated service door to the front left of the garage. This proposed door is in line with the proposed porch off the front of the house. The stairs, back yard and front, would be somewhat protected from the elements by the garage roof.

Need? Hmm- I WANT a porch I can sit out on and smell my soon to be planted lilacs and watch the horses on the far side of the road. I don't particularly need a covered breezeway-it would be nice since this past winter in MI was just awful. But what I NEED is a path, be it concrete, asphalt, wood, or paver stone, that I can safely carry stuff in from the garage. I would like to have the choice of using the front door or the side door of the house (at least one of those choice should be covered), and allow for drainage. If only the garage was built just 4 little feet farther west....but it wasn't.

I agree there are somethings that can't be fixed in a house, location, design, and atrocious remodeling debacles, to name a few. I think, however, this can be fixed....I'm just at a point where there is so much to do, both interior and exterior, that I'm getting a bit overwhelmed by it all. We may need to live with the current set up for awhile and then allow function, instead of aesthetics, to influence our decisions.

Once our current house sells (praying!) I can afford to hire a landscaping design professional to help figure this out. In the mean time, we need to think about the foundation landscape work: drainage, regrading, irrigation systems (DH will hate that one!) and re-seeding.

Any ideas on how to join the house and the garage would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:49AM
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That it can "be fixed" was the substance of my earlier message: fix properly instead of creating an unappealing roof connection. Saving $ on the process apparently temps many to create the hideous roof.

I did not understand that the breezeway is going away. I thought you were linking to it with the new structure. The longer the descriptions of what is and what will be seems the less well they are understood. I think it would be helpful for you to provide a plan view sketch of the house and garage showing your proposed intentions ... where doors are or will be. It's difficult to gauge depth of an object from a picture that shows a single view.

"Need" with the front porch includes the functions you expect it to accommodate. How much seating will "reside" there? ...And what else?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Can you take a farther away picture? I don't think the breeze way and garage roof look that badly since they are a 'step down' from the house. I do think the front door area needs to be wider to balance with the double windows. A porch from left of the middle window to the end of the house would be nice.

You could terrace the bank at the end of the house and have the ground in front of the breeze way level.

Does your yard dip in the middle? It appears to dip from the front door steps through the middle of the whole yard.

Some trees and landscaping will make a big difference.

Yardvark is great at doing mock ups. I would like to see what he could do with a picture from farther back.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:44AM
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