New Roof For Berrybrier + a Dormer!

Even before I bought Berrybrier, I knew the house needed a new roof. The listing actually mentioned this and – despite not seeing any leaks after a strong rain during escrow – it clearly needed to go. It was a hot mess of a roof in a city where waterproofed roofs are pretty dang critical. This was no DIY project my friends. It was time to bring in the professionals!Berrybrier | Roof.jpg

Although it’s not currently in vogue, I knew I wanted to replace the roof with another light colored shingle roof. The Portland summer sun is hot, hot, hot! When it bakes down on the house the upper floor becomes an oven of trapped heat. The lower level of the house manages to stay cool if it’s just a single hot day or even two hot days in a row, but any more than that and the house gets sweltering. A light colored roof can do wonders in keeping a house cooler. I picked Owen’s Corning’s Sierra Grey which I knew would go well with the exterior paint color I had in mind.

There was one other thing that I wanted to do when I replaced the roof though: add a dormer. The layout of the upstairs bedrooms with the stairwell made the house a perfect candidate for a dormer right at the top of the stairs. You see, when you walk up the stairs at Berrybrier there’s a large landing between the two bedrooms and across the landing from the stairs is a little door to a storage space. You can see the little crawl space door at the top here.

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Well a simple dormer added at the location of this crawl space could launch a huge amount of potential for Berrybrier. Adding a room in this space with a window would also allow more light into the stairwell. The future potential though is huge. A bathroom at this location would not only add incredible convenience to the upper floor bedrooms, but it would also turn this house into a 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom house effectively doubling its value from my purchase price. Equity, baby! It’s important!Berrybrier | Crawl Space

I went about interviewing roofers shortly after I bought the house and trying to draw up plans for a dormer to get approved by the city development department. That was stressful! And then there was the whole manner of finding someone who could build the dormer too. A couple weeks into my search I mentioned my need for a roofer to Erik from next door who – of course – had a guy. A few days later Rigo was at my house and he said he could build the dormer too. Woohoo!

After inspecting the roof, Rigo was able to tell me that it had the original cedar shingle roof below two layers of asphalt shingles. This meant, I needed a complete tear off of all three layers of roofing and a new layer of plywood sheathing before the new roof went on. Of course, this is about triple the work of adding a new asphalt single roof and thus about triple the cost. Oh the joys of homeownership!

Berrybrier | Roof Shot

Off to the computer I went drawing up plans for a dormer addition. It took me about a week of a couple hours work after my 9-5 job to complete the plans. I was able to go to the Portland Development Bureau’s homeowners’ night and get my drawings looked at after working hours. It’s a busy Thursday night at homeowners’ night and after waiting two hours I thought I would have to go home without a permit. Luckily, they squeezed me in right at the end and approved my plans quite quickly! Even better, Rigo and his crew were able to start work the same week I finally got permits for the addition of the dormer!

The first thing they did was rip off the entire roof! It was the very bitter end of last September at this point, but 2017 was a hot, dry summer and we managed to avoid any rain. I know, hard to believe it’s Portland, right? They spent about just a couple of days with a crew of 4 or 5 guys to rip off all three layers of roofing. The sheathing then took another couple of days. They layered waterproofing over the sheathing very quickly. They split the roof side by side and did demo, sheathing, and waterproofing on one side before moving to the other. This kept an assurance that just in case it did rain my house wouldn’t end up flooded! I wish I’d gotten a picture of this crazytown Frankenstein roof, but the guys did it so quickly while I was at work a basically blinked and missed it!

They did all of this work on the roof in the existing plane of the roof before on Saturday October 7th in the morning a crew showed up and cut a GINORMOUS hole in my roof! It was amazing to watch them just take a bunch of saws and just go at it! Here’s all the guys smiling once the hole was complete and they were ready to start the next phase of work.

Berrybrier | Whole in the Roof

Within just a few days, they’d built the shell of the dormer and completed the roof! I was amazed that just four days later the dormer went from a dream and a hole to an entire new room! From the outside, it looked like it belonged. I wanted an addition that looked intentional, like it could have existed from the beginning and this one had that vibe. Sure, it was only a shell that first week – just enough to keep the water out – but it felt right!

One thing I wasn’t in love with though? The dark black roof vents on the opposite side of the roof. They looked jarring against the light grey shingles and stood out way too much for my liking. I asked Rigo about them and he was quick to let me know they also made light grey ones (like were on the old roof) and he could switch them out in a couple of weeks. Yay!Berrybrier | Black Vents

Back to the dormer though! A quick couple days later and the dormer was sided and trimmed out to match the house. The guys finished up work on the interior of the dormer, adding appropriate studs and structural elements. The only remaining item was the window… which was on back order until November of course! Brrrrr! The weather was starting to get cold now and there was still a gaping hole in my house! A normal person would have selected a different window that was more readily available. But not me! See those green aluminum exterior wood interior windows? I was duplicating that in the dormer, no matter what!

Berrybrier | Dormer.jpg

This was a long phase of a crazy looking house, but wrapping up the new roof was a huge relief, despite the $12 grand now missing from my bank account, I felt like I’d really gained a sense of security knowing water wasn’t going to start pouring in one way or another. The dormer came in a 4k plus an almost $500 window. Both were huge investments in the house, the dormer obviously was an optional add, but the pricing felt right and the timing was good to ensure everything was waterproofed together.

Waiting on the window proved to be the most difficult thing due to the weather. The house was freezing! I slept in my sleeping bag in order to stay warm. The house felt like a stranger at this point because so much was going on. See that picture above? The windows were all taped off for painting, the new electrical meter and service had been rewired by the city, everything was happening all at once and boy did I have a thousand things to do! More on that soon…

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Let there be light!

Happy autumn, ya’ll! The recent turning of weather is making me nauseous as I try to figure out how to schedule the exterior painting of my house and finishing up the dormer. So much to do! So little time! Seriously, I’m not ready for winter! I’m still hoping to break out those breezy summer dresses and dig up bricks to lay out a patio in my backyard. BUT, reality sinks in and I realize a lot will need to wait until next spring. The exterior paint, however, needs to get a move on!

While I’m waiting on things the professionals have to take on, I have to keep busy myself. I’ve been working trying to refinish my kitchen floors which is taking about 53 times longer than I anticipated. So this past weekend I looked for a new project. Something quick and dirty I could knock out and actually finish. I turned again to the back of the house but didn’t make it quite so far as the yard.

That horrific deck and the roof covering it? It was coming down! Remember how bad it was? It was a deathtrap waiting to happen! Those stairs ended 4″ from the corner of the garage. Now, luckily, the actual deck roof (can we even classify that monstrosity as a roof?) had come down during the first two weeks I owned Berrybrier. It was a wonderful surprise when I came home from work to see my cousins, John and Carla, and my parents, John and Kate happy in the backyard having spend a couple hours that afternoon demoing the deck roof. They’d knocked it out and boy was it a huge change! It not only looked a thousand times better, but the amount of light that suddenly flooded the kitchen was the best part!


Yes that is a new-to-me stove as well (bought it from the neighbors who are also renovating!). Before the kitchen was so dark since the two windows were under the makeshift roof! Plus that wallpaper doesn’t help. Good thing that’s gone now too! (Add re-drywalling the kitchen to my to-do list as well…)


So when this past weekend came around, I said to my mother, “You know what would be super fun? Taking down the deck!” My mother had her doubts, she was nervous we wouldn’t like what we found. But I had a good feeling about this one. The home inspection report had called out the presence of concrete steps under the deck and a few sessions with a good flashlight and a long stick had given me the impression the steps were in good shape. Plus anything would be better than this, right?

I even convinced my mother a few weeks earlier to sawzall off a board on one side to get better access to the steps in order to take a closer look and sweep a bit with a broom. This proved the steps were in great shape to me, but my mother still had her doubts. I finally convinced her I could just pull off one board from the top and we could get a good look at things there.

Once you pull off one, what’s the harm in another? Or so I convinced my mother… and slowly, but surely we got all the deck boards pried off that first day. Now it would have been a lot easier if we could have used  power tools like a sawzall, but the roofers were over and the electrical on this house isn’t a fan of power tools, let alone multiple power tools. So we worked by hand using hammers and crowbars. (And luckily the electrical is getting updated at the end of the month!) Slowly, but surely, we made progress!

Whew! Easier said than done. The work wasn’t that hard, but between the roofers air compressor and staple/nail guns and the sounds of our own hammers hitting the metal of the crowbars I got a powerful headache and my ears wouldn’t stop ringing. We took a break and I picked up some protective ear muffs at Ace Hardware before heading home. Hallelujah! They are my new favorite protective gear, even beating out hazmat suits!

Boy was it looking a million times better that first day and boy did we learn a lot! That deck, as it turns out, was not in as good of shape as I thought. Sitting on the concrete steps, moisture had filled the wood and when we pressed into it, water would actually squeeze out. It had caused the wood to rot significantly more than I anticipated. Beneath the steps, years of walking over and dust and debris had created mounds of compost that covered the concrete. Actual, really nice compost. We tossed it straight into the garden!

The next morning, my mom broke out her favorite tool: the sawzall and took off the sides of the deck. A few quick bangs with a sledgehammer and everything else was loose. Then it saw just back to the crowbar to remove a few pieces off the house and there they were: the original concrete steps!

The cute star gate used to be in function here, blocking off the backyard from the driveway. You can see the hole in the concrete next to it where the fence post used to be. I am in love with how much better this looks! The kitchen is flooded with light and now you can actually walk between the garage and the house! The best thing though? Not being directed down the stairs and into the corner of the garage! Now the flow from the house is so much more open! It allows you to walk into the garden easily and walk into the house from any side. Truly, it’s a small change, but feels transformative! I mean, the house still looks like crap since it needs paint, but it’s still a big change!

Before this view was crazy! Now it at least makes more sense. A good coat of paint will be the true life saver though.

Plus, the whole project took less than 8 hours. So thank god for that! I need more projects like that and less like my endless kitchen floor rescucitation project. This project leaves me satisfied and happy! Now they stairs will definitely need some tweaking – I’m thinking of painting next spring and trying to skim coat the top stair that’s in a bit rougher shape.

But for now, hopefully the weather will hold out long enough for this house to get painted and then I can stick my red pots on these steps and then they’ll really be popping! It’s one baby step in the right direction!

Winter is Coming

Oh my goodnesss! My brain is doing cartwheels, you guys. There is SO MUCH to do and SO MANY things to plan. It’s hectic and insane and oh so much fun. So what’s going on at the moment? Just a few things:

  • A new roof is going on and so is a dormer!
  • The exterior of the house is being prepped for painting.
  • We’re redoing the kitchen floors… slowly, but surely!
  • I’m designing the bathroom and getting ready for demo.
  • The garden is being worked on, weeded, and seeded with clover!
  • Electricians are scheduled and I’m selecting new light fixtures where needed.

Whew! I’m exhausted just recounting this. Each of these things has taken a whole bunch of time and planning, thinking and rethinking. I’m just a tad stressed and just a tad tired and just a tad sore, but most importantly I’m happy. The major stress lately, however, has been getting the exterior of the house in shape as soon as I can. Because winter is coming. And although Portland winters are not nearly as bad or as long as those in Westeros, you may have heard the rumor that it rains here.

Well, the rumors are true my friends, it rains here in Portland! Which means the roof issue needed to be addressed first. I spent weeks thinking up a plan and drawing up construction documents in CAD. Luckily the City of Portland has a Homeowner’s Permit Night where you can bring drawings to review with their structural engineers for tips and information as well as get permits during non-business hours. I spent two consecutive Thursdays in those offices the first talking with a structural engineer about how to best support the dormer and the second evening actually getting the permit. In between those two Thursdays I spent many, many hours working in CAD to get my drawings ready for approval. It was a huge relief when they passed and I was able to get my permit! The most frustrating part of the process was the long hours on the computer when I really wanted to be at Berrybrier sledge hammering something.

After my drawings were done and the permit procured, I had to select a roof color so the roofers could begin, but how to select a color for the roof without selecting a color for the house? Well, let’s go back to the pictures of Berrybrier. It’s a bit difficult to see in pictures, but the windows of the house are dark green. On the plus side, a previous owner updated all the windows to double-paned, vinyl-exterior, wood-interior windows which is *almost* what I would have selected myself. If it was me, I’d have selected wood interior and exterior windows. But, alas, what’s done is done and I don’t have to do it! The decision for dark green, vinyl-exterior windows though is a pretty permanent one. As these windows can not be painted, I had to pick a paint color for the siding that would coordinate with dark green.

Berrybrier Before | Land of Laurel

What goes well with dark green windows? White? Hmm… an all white home with green windows would be classic. White siding paired with white trim is also very popular right now. I found this inspiration photo which shows a house with white trim and siding, the windows are dark brown here, but you can easily imagine them as green. You can barely see the roof here, but it looks to be a dark charcoal.

White house and Trim | Land of Laurel

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As classic and lovely as this is, it is very popular. Would I recommend it to a client? Absolutely. But, for myself, I wanted something a bit more exciting. I wanted something happy. A house that makes you smile just walking by it. What is colorful and happy that goes well with green? Coral! And coral is another name for salmon and salmonberries are delicious and the house is already called Berrybrier, so really, could there be anything more perfect? (Did you see how my brain works there?) So! A salmonberry colored house it was. Luckily, I had the perfect inspiration in mind.

Young House Love, my favorite blog, bought a beach house last year and they painted it coral! Their house is too cute and much more charming than Berrybrier, so it’s the perfect inspiration. Their home is in the final stages of a complete renovation (which is incredibly exciting to follow) and it’s just too cute!

Young House Love

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Luckily, they documented their careful color selection process and I followed their journey from paint swatch to paint swatch. They landed on Sherwin Williams 6324 Mellow Coral. I was determined to take this into consideration, but select something different. I pulled a ton of samples from work. At first I thought I’d go much darker, but eventually I came around.

Coral Colors | Land of Laurel

Bold colors tend to look even brighter on larger surfaces, so it’s important to select ones that go much more grey than you’d originally think. I ended up landing on Sherwin Williams 6611 Jovial. I picked up a color test pot at Lowe’s and popped some swatches on the house. Instantly it was bright, happy, and colorful!

Jovial | Land of Laurel

It looked good by the door, bright and happy. It’s always shady here and since this is the main way you get into the house, it’s an important view. Of course, it would look even better if the trim wasn’t filthy dirty!

SW 6611 Jovial | Land of Laurel

Still, I wasn’t sure. What if it was just a tad too bright? I brought in a back up swatch: Young House Love’s Sherwin Williams 6324 Mellow Coral. You can see below it’s just a little duller and a little more grey/brown in tone.

Paint Swatches | Land of Laurel

So although I had a color selected, I did not have the exact color finalized. I’m still debating endlessly. Mellow Coral is safer, it will clearly look bold on the home. Young House Love’s beach house is happy and absolutely colorful. Jovial is happy, just subtly different from Mellow Coral, and just a tad brighter. But is it too bright? What do you think? Which do you prefer? Which would you choose?

Luckily, although I’m stumped on the color for the siding, the color selection for the trim is easy: SW 7012 Creamy. It’s a happy white with a warmer undertone which will brighten nicely against Portland’s often cool grey skies.

And the roof? Also a quick decision! I’m going with a 40 year roof by Owens Corning in the Sierra Grey colorway.

Sierra Grey | Land of Laurel

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This is a nice light grey shingle with plenty of color variation. As Berrybrier has no air conditioning (and as someone who’s never lived in a house with air conditioning I have no plans to add it) I wanted something lighter that would reflect more heat in the summer. Dark colors absorb heat. It’s a basic scientific fact that almost everyone knows. So although dark roofs look fantastic and are extremely popular, I knew it wouldn’t be for me. Something light, bright, with significantly less heat retention would be most important. This picture also from Owen’s Corning shows a look similar to what I’m hoping for with the Sierra Grey. It’s light, but it’s not white and it has plenty of color variation. Decision made!

Sierra Grey | Land of Laurel

Now if only I could be one hundred percent sure about the siding color! Help! What would you pick? Random strangers walking by my house are being accosted for their opinions on paint color and I need yours too!

Paint Swatches | Land of Laurel

Brighter or more subdued?