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I don’t always marry my first cousin, but when I do our house looks like …

You’ve seen the improvements in my wreck of a house and indeed there’ve been many. I take pride in showing off pictures like this:


What I don’t often show you is how absolutely godawful some of it still looks. In some cases, it’s even worse than when I bought it, largely thanks to said improvements. Really, in some ways a tarpaper shack would be an improvement. I’m not kidding.

To wit, I give you the giant heaps of rubble courtesy of the two phases of the Great Bathroom Project.


The rear one’s been there since October, and consists mostly of the misbegotten 4 x 12 addition we tore off. The nearer one is more recent and is made up of old interior walls we ripped out to complete the bathroom (and finally give it a door).

These heaps will be hauled off and burned or hauled off to the landfill within the next few months, for which the neighbors will bless me (or at least stop cursing me under their breath). But more permanent problems remain.


That’s the exterior wall of the (eventual) bedroom. The fact that is slopes four inches down to the left is only one of its problems.


That’s the exterior wall of the kitchen and sunroom. Tarpaper. Really. And worse.

These photos are both of the corner where the notorious not-a-garage used to be. What is now outside used to be inside. It was never pretty and now … it’s just wrong. Just baaaaaad. Even worse because this is still the main entry to the house.

There have been improvements even here (the pleasant roofline exists in part thanks to you; it used to be a hodgepodge of crazy angles). But mostly this remains a sorry, sorry, sorry mess, even aside from the construction rubble and raw materials leaning against it. And sadly for the neighbors and my self-esteem (I may be descended from hillbillies, but they were house-proud hillbillies, as am I), there’s nothing I permanent I can do about it.

Until the foundation is rebuilt and the back wing of the house finally leveled I can’t side these ghastly walls or build a nice porch or deck. With the foundation repair set for 2017 or 2018, this wreck must remain for now.

This year I’m doing no big projects. Just taking a breath and saving for the next (and final) major repair. But I thought I’d at least try to make a few token cosmetic improvements this spring and summer. I’ll clean the property up of course and get all that construction rubble and spare materials out of there soon. But I want to do something a little more substantial to make the walls look nice, even if it can’t be something long-term

I don’t know yet what. Any ideas?

One thing I thought of was kind of fun. I’m considering tacking sheets of plywood over the torn up siding on that one long (bedroom) wall and painting simple murals on them. Trees and animals. Maybe hobbits; who knows? Or leprechauns in keeping with the official name of the place, which is Irish (“Mo Saoirse,” suggested by Commentariat member Pat).

On the tarpaper-and-plastic sheeting (kitchen) wall, I’m not sure. Since that wall doesn’t need leveling (though it does need its foundation beam replaced), I might be able to do something more permanent, as long as I keep anything I do above the foundation area. Maybe I could trim and shingle around the kitchen door as I did on the front door. The front door looks nice, yes? Even though you still can’t enter there unless you take a three-foot step.


I really, really don’t know what to do where the bare stud wall is showing through plastic sheeting. Long term I’m thinking about possibly building a small tool/work shed against that spot. But the area around it needs a handyman’s touch and there’s still the foundation beam to replace first.

Meantime? Ha. Maybe tarpaper over the plastic. That would improve the neighborhood, wouldn’t it?


  1. Pat
    Pat March 25, 2016 2:48 am

    The decorated plywood idea on the bedroom wall is a good one.

    You need some protection from the weather – even just an awning over the trimmed doorway and steps. If you extended it over the window (with carport-like posts), it would hide the view somewhat from the outside, and give you a deck layout to work with in the future. Added to the toolshed, you’d have the plan in place when the foundation is laid.

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 25, 2016 5:35 am

    Hang in there, Claire. I’m sure you’ll do just fine in the long run. Unfortunately, one of the things I’ve learned is that the solution to a big problem almost inevitably shines a light on several others you were not previously aware of… That’s why so many of my first husband’s “week end projects” wound up taking a month or more to complete. And a few just never made it at all because something else, more important, came along to soak up the time and money. 🙂 The fact that we often had far different priorities didn’t help a lot.

  3. David
    David March 25, 2016 5:47 am

    I once lived in a FHA 235 type house, and the entire exterior was plywood, with 1x3s nailed over the expansion cracks. I believe they call it ‘board and batten’ construction. It was all painted. If you did that you’d at least have the plywood to reuse later, or you could leave it like that – my place was over 30 years old and the plywood was still good. Just try to avoid any horizontal battens as they provide a place for water to sit and do damage.

  4. Joel
    Joel March 25, 2016 8:23 am

    The windchimes are a nice touch. 🙂

    I’d go with painted plywood as an interim nod to neighbors’ sensibilities – UNLESS you’re like me, and any “temporary” band-aid is likely to become the permanent condition until either the whole thing falls down or hell freezes over, whichever comes first. But I don’t recall that you’re at all like me in that regard.

  5. MJR
    MJR March 25, 2016 9:21 am

    Claire if you have a few bucks then you can use some Dow Cladmate 4-ft x 8-ft Extruded Polystyrene Insulation along the exposed area.

    Add some plastic vapor barrier then put up some Textured Redwood Grain Pattern Composite Panel for that board and batten look

    Last hit it with some paint and that should hold you until the major project takes place.

  6. Bob
    Bob March 25, 2016 9:51 am

    Years back, when I was building my first house, I mentioned to my neighbor something about how slow my progress was. He said, “Nephew”(he had adopted me as his nephew), “what’s the rush? You have the rest of your life to finish that house.”

    I’d go with painted plywood, and, as David says, you can reuse it when you’re finished with it. Anyway, if the neighbors haven’t said anything about it, you really don’t know if they have an opinion or not. 🙂

    Good looking work, Claire

  7. Claire
    Claire March 25, 2016 11:20 am

    Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions, guys. MJR, I like yours but think it’s pretty expensive for a temporary fix. David’s board-and-batten idea is appealing — esp. assuming I can pull it down and use the plywood elsewhere later (say, on a shed).

    And yeah, Joel, the wind chimes do add a certain something to the overall tarpaper-and-plastic look, don’t they? I can annoy the neighbors with noise as well as with ugliness. 😉 (Actually not true; I take the loudest windchime down when we have storms and nobody can hear the others. Anyhow, I really do have good neighbors and I’m sure everybody understands that the mess will improve.)

  8. RickB
    RickB March 25, 2016 1:36 pm

    Use high-tech tarpaper. Tyvek is about $0.13 per square foot, very tough, and paintable. Install it white side out and grab a can of latex paint. It’s like Gore-Tex–waterproof but not vaporproof.

  9. LarryA
    LarryA March 25, 2016 2:57 pm

    A. Neighbor’s house looks like a shack but it’s improving as she has funds and;
    B. Neighbor’s house looks okay but it’s going downhill for lack of maintenance;
    I’ll take A any day.

  10. Karen
    Karen March 25, 2016 3:07 pm

    Claire, I suspect that whatever your artistic soul comes up with will be amazing.

  11. Beth
    Beth March 25, 2016 5:37 pm

    For a few bucks more than plywood, you might want to try T1-11 wood siding sheets. Like plywood but tougher, with vertical grooves plus ship-lapped edges.

    You could still do a mural if you like, or just stain or paint it a single color. You can even leave it untreated for a year or more without worry — ask me how I know…

    The “inside” face of each sheet is just like regular plywood, so you could even reverse the sheet and get a nice new surface if and when you pulled it off to move to a shed, etc.

  12. Beth
    Beth March 25, 2016 6:02 pm

    OBTW…you might also like to look into exterior plywood beadboard siding panels. About the same price as T1-11 ($26-30 per 4×8 sheet on, but looks just like interior beadboard, only the panel is thicker and tougher. Smoother exterior surface and maybe a more appropriate look for your place.

  13. old board
    old board March 26, 2016 7:40 pm

    “David’s board-and-batten idea is appealing — esp. assuming I can pull it down and use the plywood elsewhere later (say, on a shed).”
    Easy; if you screw it on [galvanized] 3/4″ or so longer than the thickness of the plywood. Roofing screws have weather proof gaskets that will seal against any weather. It’ll last for decades or come right off when it’s time has come.

  14. Kristophr
    Kristophr March 27, 2016 12:54 pm

    I’m thinking a rusted out Model A on blocks in the front yard would be a good homey touch.

    Seriously, it is starting to look good.

  15. A.G.
    A.G. March 27, 2016 10:38 pm

    Finally something about your house project I could help with if we lived closer! Lisa and I would haul that junk away.

    Fire as a means of construction detritus desposal is interesting. Never heard of it before.

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