Before and After Photos How To's

Before and After Cottage – Siding and Colors

As readers know, I love a good before and after project. The following is from a cottage that didn’t look very cottage-like with its beige dutch lap siding that was installed by the prior owner. I knew there were cedar shakes underneath but wasn’t sure of the condition that they were in. Fortunately, they were in very good shape.  I finally decided to take the leap (back into maintenance) and remove the vinyl siding.


This is ‘fine’, just not as cottage-like for my taste.

The prior owner meant well, but the vinyl job buttoned the cottage up and caused a number of water issues.

  • First, he had a reverse J-channel above the sill. You should be able to see it in the first photo. I think he did this to be able to have a full course of siding that began at the top of the deck, but he carried this “water catcher” around the entire cottage. This little sill could have been done for cosmetic reasons, but it allowed water to land and flow behind the vinyl siding. Not only did the water flow behind the vinyl, but it then had the opportunity to sit on top of a board that he used to fir out his starter strip.
  • The siding starter strip was catching water. This starter strip was a piece of clapboard turned upside down. This gave a 5/16″ ledge for water to run back toward the house. This sent the water beyond the shingles and wicked into the sill plate of the interior wall. Of course this wicked into the drywall and the baseboard trim. MOLD!! We pulled the affected trim, drywall and got things dried out. Problem solved. This was then our perfect excuse to tell the wife that the vinyl siding had to go. I had been waiting for a good reason for a few years.


Now this is a classic cottage look. Shingles, bold paint color. High contrast. A light fixture would look better than those wires though.

red and white shingle style cottage New York

After pulling the vinyl and the interior wallboard, I realized how much the prior owner reduced the window size. He went from a 30×46 window down to a 28″ x 38″ window. This is seasonal cottage. Light and airflow can be the best part. Not only did he shrink the windows, but he also covered a window completely so that his wife could have a wall shelf inside. See photo below.

He meant well with every project on the cottage, but the consequences left a house that was wicking water for a number of years and had reduced air flow due to window sizing and the buttoning up from the vinyl siding. Old houses, especially in humid climates, need to breathe. They either need to breath the way older structures did, or they needed methods to create air exchange like a new house does.

The buttoning up of this small house along with the fact that it was in a high humidity environment led to mold. There was mold in the outer walls due to the damp sills from the siding job. In addition, the vinyl siding, vinyl windows, and covered soffit and fascia didn’t allow the house to breathe sufficiently. Water and moister is always present. There are no gutters and this allows water to land close to the house and keep the crawl space wet. The windows that were added were not done properly. There was NO weatherproofing. Typically, you would add a window and caulk the flange. After that, you would add weatherstripping tape to the top of the flange before adding the trim. None of that was done. The window was simply screwed to the top of the trim boards and trimmed with J-Channel. Not only did this allow for mold, but this caused wood rot in some areas (see image below).

Article: How I Dealt With Mold In Our Cottage / Cabin / Seasonal House

Before and After Photos Cottage Project How To's

Is this Maintenance Worth it? You Decide.

Everyone seems to strive for low maintenance in a home nowadays. Well, it isn’t always the best option. We had a sunroom project to work on at a cottage where we are replacing 9 storm windows that were caulked shut to keep out the water. A sunroom that doesn’t have an operable window might as well be called a greenhouse. It got hot in there and there was very little air flow. Since were were tearing the vinyl siding off of this room to install larger (operable) windows, we decided to get rid of the vinyl siding (not very cottage’y). When we decided to remove the vinyl, I considered the options for replacing. The surface area on the room is not too large and we wanted some options in terms of color. A cedar shingle seemed perfect. A cedar shake on a cottage is a classic look. Sure there is maintenance, but it is really minimal (and worth it).


Cedar shingle siding IMG_4888 IMG_4886 Shingle cottage on the lake

Take a look at the before and during photo below. The siding still has 1 more 5″ course to go before the look is complete, but it is a massive improvement.

For this shingle project, we were able to located a grade of shingle that wasn’t just the “utility” grade from Home Depot or Lowe’s. We found a nice grade from LenCo Lumber in Buffalo that is only about $25 per bundle. Each bundle covers 25 square feet. When comparing that to a vinyl siding that has the shake look, the price is less than half. I must say that I am thrilled with the look.

We decided to go with a shingle pattern that was not just a repeated reveal. The original cottage did have cedar shake and the reveal alternates every other row. There is a 5″ reveal followed by a 7″ reveal. When installing, we simply made a 5″ x 7″ block and this helped us to be sure we were keeping our fasteners hidden and our rows true.

Take a look at the images below for the Before/During (not quite after). When looking into installation methods, we decided to follow the “how-to” in the following “Installing Cedar Shakes” video. We are using a weaved corner rather than a corner that has a trim piece to but up to. This is another part that creates more work, but the look is worth it. The method involves using a pin nail to fasten the 2 corner shingles. I was skeptical, but it seems to work out well.

Before and After Photos Cottage Project

Cottage Project – 2 Year Update with Pictures

We purchased this cottage about 2 years ago this month.  There was nothing “wrong” with the cottage at the time, but we decided to make many improvements to move the place forward.  I wanted to write this post to outline the major work that was done since we purchased.  This article certainly isn’t a “how-to”, but it is a nice chronicle for when we look back and forget what things were like before we started with this little project.

Our cottage project is moving along nicely, if you consider a weekend handyman’s pace “nicely”, that is.  Still much to do, but that is the reason that I wanted a weekend cottage.  We were fortunate enough to find a place that has a very large garage to store tools, material, debris, and offer a nice work space for me and my son (age 10)  Funny, but the garage is the best place to be during a hot afternoon (Shade, incredible view, and a great breeze).

I am going to run through the bigger projects while viewing my photo log:

  1. Painted Floors
    Removed old Vinyl and painted wood floors with a high quality white floor paint.  This was one of the first projects tackled along with the pre-requisite ceiling, wall, and trim paint. Best to paint floors before you have your furniture in place.
    painted cottage floors
  2. Built in Bookcase / Window seat
    This project was great since the period of time between a sale contract and a closing on the cottage was about 60 days.  I took detailed measurements of the window that we knew needed a built-in (my wife always wanted this).  With detailed measurements in hand, I built this in my garage at home. I built this as 4 parts for easy transport (2 end shelf units, upper shelf section, middle bench with hinged lid).  Once on site, and with the help of my stronger and taller brother-in-law, I secured this in place.  When it was secured, I then added the face framing to tie the 4 pieces together.  Paint, a nice cushion, and a re-purposed table and we had an eating area.
    cottage window seat wall
  3. Bunk Beds
    Not exactly a part of the cottage, but this is another item that was built at home between the sale contract and the closing date.  These bunk beds were built with a plan from and were the perfect item for my son’s room.  It was nice to build them at home and make it a family project with my son assisting in the construction and my wife handling the painting.  Part of the reason that we selected this plan is  the style, but also the fact that we could break these down into 4 flat pieces to carry in the back of a truck with ease.
    bunk bed cottage project
  4. Platform Bed
    Who knew that our old Olympic Queen mattress would fit somewhere?  The olympic queen is a mattress size that is 6″ wider than a queen mattress.  Because of this, it doesn’t fit properly on any bed frame and there are very few sheet sets that fit.  When my wife tired of these issues, we put this mattress set in storage in hopes that we would have a future use.  Would you believe that the bedroom wall in our cottage was an EXACT fit for this mattress?  To maximize the space in this small bedroom we build a platform bed with storage underneath.  This turned out as a fantastic setup with no space taken up by a headboard/foot board and a nice solid foundation for the mattress.
    cottage platform bed
  5. Cottage Kitchen Redo
    The cottage kitchen is only 6′ x 6′.  The end is open, so it sort of spills out into an open area, but the basic foot print is 6′.  Obviously a kitchen this size creates many challenges.  My wife refers to this as a one-butt kitchen.  The prior layout had a stove on the wall opposite the sink.  You had to stand to the side to open the oven door.  My wife was able to salvage the old sink with the built-in cutting board and steel cabinet.  This is really a classic cottage kitchen piece.  The other 2 cabinets in the kitchen (that is right 2 cabinets) were a wooden upper and lower. We pulled those items and were able to reuse in the new setup.  To deal with the narrow kitchen, we moved the stove to the same wall as the sink.  This, along with 12″ deep cabinets that we built for the opposite wall helped to make this space feel much larger.  You can see that the cabinetry, flooring, walls, and counter tops were redone.  The cabinets were the perfect winter project in my home workshop.  We were able to build them to our exact requirements to fit this tiny space.  Once completed, we sprayed on a quality finish that should help them last for years.  A great Ikea butcher block counter-top (only $189) really tops this off and keeps a classic feel.
    cottage kitchen redo
  6. Cottage Bath Redo
    The cottage bath was very interesting.  As with the kitchen, it is rather tiny.  It had a shower that must have come from a submarine back in the day since was 30″x30″ and had 3 sides made of steel.  We had to open up 2 walls to handle some new plumbing so we decided to do a subway tile on 2 walls with an open shower that is simply curtained off.  This gives the bath a larger feeling than it would have had we placed a shell with an end wall in the room.  New walls that included a frame and panel design and new fixtures made this a pleasant room.  We also added a “dual flush” toilet since we are on septic. This is a great water saver for anywhere.  If you press 1 button, the flush is only 1.1 gallons of water, the 2nd button is the full 1.6 gallon flush.  Head into Home Depot or Lowe’s to take a look for your own dual flush toilet (stock item).
    cottage bath - after cottage bath - before
  7. New Water Line
    Not much heavy lifting on my part here, but a new water line to replace the old well made us feel a lot better about the water coming out of our taps.
    Cottage water line Water line digging
  8. Cottage Sun Room Project (in progress)
    We are in the middle of our sun room renovation right now.  There were many decisions with regard to this room, but the easy one was the window replacement.  The current windows were simply triple track aluminum storms.  Not only that, but they caulked them shut to keep the water out. The real bad part of this is that it kept the AIR out as well. No lake breeze for us.  The windows have been replaced and re-sized.  We added about 12″ in height to the windows which gives us much more light and a better view from the main part of the cottage (we no longer need to duck to see the horizon from the kitchen).   The exterior of this room was done in a vinyl siding.  Although nice, and low maintenance, it doesn’t have the charm that we are after.  You can see the new window trim in the collage below (click for a large version). We will be pulling the vinyl and replacing with cedar shakes.
    cottage sunroom windows
  9. Book Case Door
    This bookcase door is still a bit of a work in progress, but it is coming together quite nicely. What 10-year-old wouldn’t want a “hidden” room.  We are building this bookcase door that latches using a book as the handle/latch.  We will accomplish this with a 2×4 that is hinged at the bottom (to the shelf) and then tethered to the shelf on the back side with a cable that provides strength so that the book can be pulled on to open the door.  This block will be wrapped with a book that is glued solid.  The actual latch mechanism is a gate latch at the top of the door jamb.  A fishing line is attached to the top side of the book, runs through the door, and operates the gate latch.  See photos below.
    bookcase door for cottage
  10. Address Marker – Made by my Son
    I had to include this one since it was hand made by my son when he was 9.  A box with 117 nails, a piece of driftwood, and a hammer and my son created a one of a kind marker!  The rust and discoloration is expected and adds to the charm of the piece.
    sign with brads
  11. Lake Erie Sign – Made by my Wife
    Need a cool sign for your cottage on Lake Erie?  Rather than the standard “Go Jump in the Lake” sign that everyone seems to be using nowadays, come up with your own cool item. My creative wife came up with this great item to adorn the porch/deck area with. The colors are great and really suit the space.  There will be a nice red star to show where you are along the lake (it was drying when the photo was taken).  One added feature of this sign is that we used the original clapboard sheathing that we removed when adding a window in the living room.
    lake erie sign
  12. Driftwood Mirror
    This was a real family project and really capped off the bathroom renovation.  We made a simple frame to fit an existing mirror out of weathered cedar.  The weathered wood had a color that would give a nice backing to the driftwood.  From there my wife collected the driftwood and bleached it (just to be safe).  It was given plenty of time to dry and then she worked on placement of the wood. There are a number of special little pieces of driftwood in here and my son can describe them all. There are initials for our last name, a ‘shark’, a ‘dinosaur’, etc.  We had fun with it.  Once my wife and son had the ideal placement, I cam along with the brad nailer to fasten things in place.   A real cool, one of a kind item.
    driftwood mirror

There are many future plans for our cute little cottage.  Inevitably, they will be detailed here.  A few of the plans on the board are:

  1. Lake Stone Patio
    This is a patio made from stones brought up from the beach.  When you have large, and flat, stones like this one (below), you must make a patio from them.
    Lake Erie stones
  2. Chimney Removal
  3. Pergola above the garage door
  4. Laundry Room
  5. Garage conversion to game/room
  6. Attic converted into loft bedroom


Before and After Photos How To's

Simple Porch Column Plans – Wrap your ugly 4×4

Have you ever looked at a porch column that was nothing more than a 4×4 and thought it just didn’t fit the scale of the porch/house?   Even worse, you could have 2 2″ x 4″‘s sistered up to make the 4″x4″.  It isn’t too difficult to wrap your 4×4’s with some off the shelf lumber to give a look that will be more in scale with your porch/house.

I had a project a couple of years back and decided that I would simply wrap my columns with 1x pine.  Pine was used (rather than pressure treated) since this was a well protected corner of the house, the porch had a nice overhang and the wood was to be painted.

You might look at this plan/design and think that it was a waste of quite a bit of material and you could be correct.  However, pine boards are inexpensive.  If you are in the Buffalo or WNY area, check out LenCo Lumber (  LenCo has fantastic pricing on pine boards (side note… and MDF trim).  In our case, we had just torn out some pine storage shelves and had an abundance of free material that we were able to upcycle.

You could just wrap your column one time with pine and beef it up by 1 1/2 inches each way.  By following our plan you will be going one step further and giving your home a custom look with a raised panel style design.  Take a look below and take a look at the plan at Sketchup.  Keep in mind, this is not meant to be structural.  This is a decorative touch.

Tip: You should be sure to avoid direct ground, or flat surface contact with your pine.  The wood will wick up any water that it comes in contact with.  You can avoid (or delay) this by sealing the end of each board with a primer or sealer (I smear caulk on my end grain for protection).  In addition, you should elevate your bottoms by about 1/8″-3/16″ and then fill that gap with caulk.  This will add many years to the life of your porch columns.

You can find the full Sketchup Plan for the column here:

Take a look at the end result:

1-Search results for lombardy1-IMG_1050 2-IMG_1051 2-IMG_2351 3-IMG_1052

Before and After Photos Interior Projects

This DIY Board & Batten Will Make a World of Difference

If you have a boring entry, or really any room, you can add a ton of character by simply adding a board and batten wall panel detail.  It is not expensive, but it is a classic look that adds a lot of charm to a space.

Your situation might differ depending on your existing baseboard and/or casing, but the 2 examples below should help you to create your own paneled wall detail.  Here are a couple of before and after pictures.

Give this project a try.  You will be amazed at the difference in feel that a board and batten wall detail will provide in a space.

Version 1: (original post)

Before and after board and batten entry

Version 2 (a variation for 1 wall)

diy board and batten wall panels


Project Version 1:

Project Version 2:

Before and After Photos

Mold Removal Project – 2005

Mold Removal Project

Dealing with Mold in a basement? Take a look at this before and after.
This is from a project that we completed around 2005 but we hadn’t posted this directly on the WNY Handyman site.

We had some mold issues due to neglect, improper grade, tree and shrub growth, a block foundation, plugged gutters, and downspouts draining straight down at the foundation.

  1. Corrected water problem (outside grade, downspouts, gutters).
  2. Removed tree, overgrown shrubs, and trimmed growth back from house.
  3. Bleach and water treatment to remove the mold. More Information can be found at
  4. Patched failing mortar joints inside and out.
  5. Drylock walls after moisture subsides.

If you have your own mold issue, there is hope.

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