The Great Big Outdoor Drainage & Landscaping Project

Last week, I talked about upgrading the landscaping and curb appeal of BHH. Granted, just by the nature of its architecture, BHH draws a lot of positive attention from passersby. All hail! Hale Navy.

Benjamin Moore Hale Navy
Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

However, because we neglected the exterior to focus on the interior, things are starting to look a little shabby around here.

Andy and I are working from a master list of exterior projects, and it turns out that many of our outdoor projects relate to one another. In other words, it is going to be an expensive summer. The timing for each project is crucial to the completion of subsequent projects.

Andy and I were sitting on the porch over the weekend, and I turned to him and asked, “Do you ever think about how much money we would have if we did not own Blake Hill House?”

“Yes,” he replied with a far off look in his eye. Then, we discussed the total we have spent so far and considered how many vacations we could have taken for that amount. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a lot of vacations.

No matter. We are committed, and owning BHH is a labor of love even as we lose the death grip on our wallets.

Iris in bloom


The Exterior Project List

  1. Gutters
  2. Tear out stumps and landscaping
  3. Trench and lay pipe: Phase I
  4. Add fill dirt
  5. Replant grass and new landscaping: Phase I
  6. Finish exterior painting
  7. Prune and add to existing landscaping (Last week’s post)
  8. Seal the driveway

Gutters & Trenching (1 & 3)

To explain about the gutters, I need to back up a bit. I will attempt to make it brief. When we bought BHH, there were gutters around the perimeter of the upper roof and the lower porch/garage area.

After the ice dam debacle of 2015, we got a new roof. At that time, the roofers removed the gutters. The original plan was that they would come back to redo the gutters. However, long story short, I was done with the roofers, and I did not want them to come back. We did not pay them for gutters, and they never called to schedule the install. We backed slowly away from each other, and that was that. No harm, no foul.

We gave it a lot of thought, and Andy and I decided to leave the gutters off and see how the roof fared during the subsequent winter. We were understandably twitchy at the thought of more ice dams. I kept close tabs on the basement, and the summer of 2015, it stayed nice and dry, but we also had very little rain.

The winter of 2015-16 was very mild by comparison, and there were no ice dams. However, at the end of summer 2016, we got tons of rain, and without gutters, the foundation began to leak, and we started to get water in the basement. 2017 has been the same, and our basement is staying damp. (In the next post, I will talk more about our stone foundation. It was designed to allow some water flow, but how much is a complicated answer.)

The past two years, I researched gutters, no gutters, french drains, other types of drains, grading, etc… all to make the best choice for BHH. After collecting bids and planning out many different scenarios, we decided on a combo of gutters, downspouts, trenching, and an underground pipe to divert the water into our woods.

Please excuse the old photo below. I still have not taken a new picture of this particular view of BHH.

Mouse over the pic for the details.

Tear out Stumps and Landscaping & Add Fill Dirt (2 & 4)

I shared this picture last week:

The new drain pipe will run under that flowerbed, across the lawn, and meet up with a trench in the woods. That trench joins with a broad drainage between our property and the property behind us, one street over.

The contractor will bring in his big machine to dig out the stumps and tear out the rest of the weeds and pachysandra. Once he installs the new drain pipe, he will add topsoil to this entire bed. We will reseed the front half with grass, and the back half of the bed near the house will be a perennial flower bed.

Replant Grass and New Landscaping: Phase I (5)

Because the new topsoil will need to settle, we may not be able to do any replanting this season. It is possible that we can reseed the grass this year, but it is unlikely that there will be enough of a summer left to plant perennials in the new flowerbed. That is not necessarily a bad thing. We will have all winter to plan what we want to plant.

This trenching and landscape upgrade is phase I because we have a separate drainage issue on the back side of the house, which we will address in phase II. However, that’s a post for another day. We will probably have to wait until next year for phase II.

Finish Exterior Painting

The company that painted our house the past two summers is a gem. They used top notch, Benjamin Moore paint, and their work was high quality. This morning, the owner gave me a bid for the remainder of the house, and he delivered some terrible news. After this summer, he will no longer paint houses the size of ours. He and I have a good rapport, and I managed to squeak out, “Not even mine?” Ha! His answer was a firm no.

Fortunately, this summer is the last big push, and BHH will have a full coat of fresh paint. If we need touch-ups, it will be easier to find new painters, or we can do them ourselves.

Prune and Add to Existing Landscaping (7)

I wrote most of the details about this last week, so today, I will just share some beautiful photos of the flowers outside right now, courtesy of my 16-year-old.

Lily of the Valley
Vibrant Pink Rhododendron

He is stepping up his photography game these days.

Seal the Driveway (8)

I am currently collecting bids for this job. Because the big digger might mark up the driveway, we are waiting until the trenching is finished before we seal the driveway. It will probably be August before we get to that.

That’s our great big outdoor drainage and landscaping project for 2017. The projected cost for everything on this list is around $20,000. Yes, I wrote $20,000. We could get a lot of time on the beach for that much.

Is anyone else in this same kind of pickle? I feel like surely we will reach a set point soon where BHH will not need so many high-cost repairs. I know a house this old will always need something, but we have come close to upgrading nearly all of the high-ticket systems.

One more little note: Because all of this is going to add up this summer, we think we are going to put off rebuilding the chimney until next year. The preliminary bids for the chimney came in around $7000.

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