Look up!

One of our first interior projects in the garage was tackling our dormer ceilings. I had my heart set on some kind of ship lap treatment like this for the ceiling, but we weren’t quite sure how to go about it. Like how/where would we stop it. With the loft open to the shop side there was no good way.  One day we were driving to menards and I ran across this photo while scrolling through pinterest. Perfect! Why couldn’t we just put the paneling in the dormer ceilings?!

That solved one problem. The second issue was that Jerm wasn’t a fan of just ripping the ceiling “planks” out of thin plywood like many tutorials suggested. Since we were doing the paneling in lieu of drywall, he didn’t want to lose that fire barrier.

We wandered over to the ceiling tiles and decorative ceiling treatments in menards and found these Armstrong Ceiling Planks that fit what we wanted. They were reasonably priced ($1.49 per square foot), had enough texture to add interest but not too much, were tongue and groove (read easy to install), and fire resistant!


Sold! They were special order, but came within a week. We were also able to take advantage of one of the 11% rebates that menards runs every so often. The planks are made of a ceiling tile material so they are lightweight and can be cut with a razor blade. For their weight, they are remarkably sturdy though.

The way we installed them was kind of unconventional but worked perfectly. Since you can never have too much insulation, we started by covering the dormer ceiling with a full layer of 1-1/2″ pink foam insulation. Besides the added R-7.5, it gave us a big smooth surface to fasten to, and allowed us to install the planks without having to only screw into studs. A more traditional installation requires furring strips or adhesive.

To secure the foam to the studs, we used screws and large washers. The washers kept the screws from going all the way through the foam by increasing the screw head’s surface area.

Now it was time to start attaching the planks. We thought the first row was going to require some additional fastening (since there was nothing to support the bottom), but once we got it up we found it actually supported itself pretty well.  With the addition of a bead of caulk across the bottom edge later, all was good. We simply held it in place and put a few screws through the tongue on each plank into the foam. Once we finished one row it was easy enough to start the next. Just interlock the tongue into the groove and support with more screws into the foam —  staggering the seams like you would with flooring.




Once we had finished installing all of the planks, we needed to trim out the unfinished corners and the ridges with something. We could have gone with white boards to blend in, but decided we liked the look and contrast of cedar. It just felt garage-y to us. Whatever that means..

IMG_8609Cutting the complex angles on these four boards nearly took us all night, but I LOVE the way it turned out.

IMG_8830_edited-1IMG_8821_edited-1Cedar sills completed the window trim and tied everything together. I’m planning on a built-in style “daybed” in the rear dormer and my desk area in the front dormer.

Next up is flooring! We have some reclaimed maple that we are refinishing, and it has been a long process so far.

Taking it inside – Drywall

Last post pretty much caught you up to speed on the outside of the garage, so now its time to go inside. We came up with a few details to give the garage some character. Lots of pinteresting went into the making of this garage.

The main level of the interior space consists of two car parking/storage on the left side, which we planned to leave unfinished for now, and a two story tall work space on the right. The work space will have a car lift and workbench with plenty of tool storage. The loft sits above the two car parking and is open to the work space side of the garage. I love the openness of it all, and the ability to work on separate projects but still be together.

Prior to drywall and stairs, this is what it looked like. This was taken in the shop side looking towards both the parking and loft side.

View into loft with no stairs

We put drywall up behind where the stairs would go before building the stairs to make it easier.

View into with loft with stairs

This gives a better idea of how the three spaces connect.  For safety we made the cable railing one of our first projects. More details about that later!


And finally a view from the loft down into the shop. I love how the angles of the ceiling come together.


And a look towards the back of the loft


Now time for some drywall. Our methods were very scientific.


It’s amazing how much brighter it gets with a little bit (ok.. a lot) of drywall.

IMG_7331 IMG_7327

Once all of the drywall was up, we called in the taper. For the sake of time, this was one of the only steps we did not do ourselves. Thank goodness. It took our taper a full 5 days to complete all of the coats of mud and the sanding. He was able to come while we were both at work, so it was nice to get home each day and see the progress. If we did it ourselves I think it would have taken months.

We purposely left the dormer ceilings undrywalled so we could do something a little more interesting. IMG_8193

IMG_8197Sneak peek! I’ll share what we used and how we did it next! I think it may be my favorite detail of the garage.

Lights out on the garage

The verdict is in, and out of the 7 lights in our nautical lighting roundup, we chose option #3!

Nautical inspired outdoor lighting

We bought 2 of the 12″ size to flank the tall shop door, and we bought 3 of the 8″ size to go over the wider parking side door. All together, it was $300 in lighting, but that wasn’t bad for 5 lights. What sold me was of course the cage and the fact that they came in two sizes.

Actually getting the lights turned into a bit more of a hassle than usual. On the day our lights showed they were delivered by UPS, we came home to find the front porch empty. We drove around the neighborhood to see if it was delivered to someone else’s porch instead, but we didn’t see it. We checked with our immediate neighbors, but they didn’t see it either. I called UPS, but they couldn’t help me and suggested I call Amazon. The lady at Amazon was really helpful and said she would have a new box shipped out right away at no charge. After a few days, the second box appeared on the porch, and all was right…. until the original box showed up, too! It turns out that our neighbor 3 houses down had received our original box, and he kept it for over a week before bringing it over. Now I had one very large box of lights to return, so I called Amazon again to get a shipping label. Finally, we were down to just one box of lights, and all was right again… until I got my Amazon credit card statement. Amazon had accidentally refunded me for the set of lights that were returned — meaning that the lights would have been free. I quickly called an re-payed, and finally all was right with the lights!

Now, we just had to install them. Do you see the white ring between the siding and the light? That little guy was all we needed! Since the siding isn’t flat, this mounting ring has a cutout to accommodate the overlap in the siding. You buy it in the right size for your light and your siding lap.


You mount it right over you siding, knock out and drill the hole you need to run the conduit through, and then mount your light to the ring. We still have to mount the three smaller ones, so I’ll try to grab a few pictures of the progress.


Nautical Outdoor Lighting Roundup

When Jerm and I started looking for lighting, we knew we wanted something with a nautical/industrial style, but we did not want to spend a small fortune. Since we were planning on putting a larger light on either side of the shop door and three smaller lights over the parking side door — 5 lights total — we had to keep our cost-per-light down.  After admiring the likes of Barn Light Electric where lights start around $175 each, I reluctantly pulled myself away and put together a roundup of fairly reasonable nautical-styled lights.  You can click directly on each light to link to the product’s page, or you can follow the links down below.

1// This light is definitely a splurge at $200, but it was actually salvaged off a ship. Big Ship Salvage takes original ships’ lights and revamps them to meet current electrical standards. I particularly love the mix of copper and brass.

2// This is probably the least “nautical” of the bunch, but at just over $41 each, it would have been a very reasonable option for an 11″ tall light. It is very similar in shape to the Wheeler lights from Barn Light Electric — but at about $175 less.

3// I ran across this light on amazon, and loved the metal cage around the bulb. The best part was that it came in a 12″ tall size for $74 and a 8″ tall size for $53.

4// When I first ran across this light on home depot’s site, it seemed like a steal at $30. However, after reading several reviews about problems with rust, we decided to pass.

5// and 6// actually belong to the same collection. They are the Kichler nautical light in 7-1/2″ and the coordinating Kichler light in 12″. At $55 and $73, they are decently priced and have the cage I like.

7// Last but not least, is this cage light from Menards. At just under $12, it is a great deal! We bought several to use on the inside of the garage.

Hopefully this will help someone else in their search for the perfect nautical light. I’ll be back to share which lights we ended up with and how we installed them soon!

Image Map

The Dormers are Done (and how our dog jumped out the window)

After painting most of the garage, it was time to finish up the dormers. We had been waiting for our windows to come in, and it was nice to put the finishing touch on the exterior. Luckily for us, Jerm’s dad and brother own a glass and window company, so we were able to get nice windows at a great price.


It’s not obvious from the front pictures, but our garage has an identical dormer facing the back as well. Our plan was to put my desk and work area in the front dormer and build in a window seat/daybed into the back dormer.


We wanted lots of windows to let in lots of natural light. The main windows in each dormer consist of two double-hungs on each side with a thermopane in the middle. The three windows installed as one unit. After we had them installed, we measured the top triangular section to order custom piece of glass.

Here is the front dormer with the glass installed. I like that I will have a view to the street from my desk.

The back dormer is facing an alley (and Dunkin Donut’s drive through). Not an ocean view, but it is still nice to have the light.

After the windows went in, all that was left to do was to finish siding and painting the dormers.

When we first started working on the dormer windows, our dog Zulu liked to stand up and look out the opening with us. While I was at work, Jerm was working on the side of the dormer with scaffolding set up outside the opening. Zulu was chilling in the loft making a flight plan.  As Jerm was coming down the roof to climb back inside, our crazy (100 lb!) dog decided that he was lonely and wanted to be outside and proceeded to take a running leap out of the dormer opening. Meaning Jerm came around the corner of the dormer,  and our dog came flying out the window. Thankfully Jerm was able to somehow catch him and throw him back inside — without being knocked off the scaffolding himself. Everything was ok, but needless to say, Zulu was not allowed around open upstairs windows anymore — and the people who run the drive through at Dunkin Donuts think we are nuts.



Picking a color (is hard)

When it comes to our projects, Jerm and I are normally decisive people, but this was definitely not the case for picking the exterior color for the garage — and what will later be the color of our house. I think there is just something about picking a color that a) will be on display for the whole world to see and b) will take days to paint that makes you think really long and hard about what you want.


I think Jerm looks like the grinch here. Seriously though… It took us over a month to decide on a color!

We knew we didn’t want your average cookie cutter suburban house color — pale yellow anyone? No? How about pastel blue? We liked the idea of a darker color that would contrast our white trim. At one point we considered a darker burnt orange color, but we also had to take into account the fact that our neighbor’s house was “number 2 pencil yellow” and orange next to their yellow might look crazy-town.

The other obstacle was that we had to hurry up and roof the garage earlier in the winter, so we now had to make sure the paint went with our existing roof (which was called “weathered wood”).

Our first color inspiration came from one of Jerm’s coffee mugs and this picture we found. We liked the color of the mug and thought it would look good in contrast with the white trim. We found that it was very close to BM Silhouette. However, after looking at it in a bunch of different lights, we worried it would read too purple-y — and we really did not want to be the people with the (accidentally) purple house.

Coffee Mug - BM Silhouette color inspiration

Even though “Silhouette” didn’t work out, it got us looking in the right direction. Our go-to painting resource is our affinity color deck.  The Affinity Colors are a collection of 144 neutrals that all pair well with other colors in the collection. You really can’t pick a bad color, and it is helpful in creating a cohesive color scheme. We actually had picked several of our interior colors from this fan deck, so we started looking through it for the garage.

The most helpful thing was to have a friend slowly flip through the color deck while holding it out the upstairs window next to the roof line. We would have him flag any color that looked decent, and we slowly narrowed it down. In the end we were left with three — BM Sparrow, BM Flint, and BM Boreal Forest. We quickly eliminated Boreal Forest as being too green.  Sparrow was like a lighter, less purple, version of Silhouette, so we bought a sample to try, but ultimately we decided on Flint.

Garage Paint Color Options
We had it mixed in Benjamin Moore Aura exterior paint in low lustre to contrast our white semi-gloss trim. The best part of using Aura was that it covered in one coat!! It was such a relief to not have to put a second coat on the garage.


All in all, the painting took about a solid week. Since we both work during the day, most of our painting was done at night. Even though we had to cover such a large area, we found it easiest to use brushes rather than rollers. It was easier to get in the spaces between the siding boards, and it was easier to get in all of the texture on the siding.

Painting the Siding

Next step is just to finish the detail and windows on the dormers, and get to work on the driveway!

Siding the Garage: Fiber Cement vs. LP Smartside

There are a lot of siding choices on the market today, so it took us a while to sort through all of them and choose one for our garage (and eventually our house).  New vinyl siding can be done nicely and is pretty standard for our area, but we wanted to do something with a more authentic look. We also didn’t want to be limited to only the colors that vinyl siding comes in.

Our house was built in 1924. Currently we have 3 layers of siding. On the inside is a lap wood siding that would look so cool restored to its original glory… we just don’t want to deal with the high maintenance that comes with wood siding. Next is a layer of some fiberboard siding with who knows what in it (hopefully not asbestos). Finally, our house if capped off with a layer of aluminum siding that has seen better days. As I mentioned, we liked the idea of siding that looked like wood, but without the maintenance.

House Siding LayersAluminum Siding

Told you it is bad! Eek. I can’t wait until we can re-side the house.

After a lot of research, we eventually narrowed it down to two choices: Fiber Cement and LP Smartside. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Fiber Cement

1// Gave us that wood look we were going for.
2// Durable in most cases (very moisture resistant, fire resistant, etc.)
3// Can be painted in any color and doesn’t expand/contract like wood so the paint stays put.
4// Carries a 30 year limited warranty
5// Comes in several style options like vertical panels, shakes, etc.

1// Requires special tools to cut. You’ll also want to have protection from breathing in silica particles released when cutting.
2// Heavier.. Harder for Jerm and I to lug up a ladder.
3// Not as resistant to impact — Can break or crack.

LP Smartside

1// Gave us that wood look we were going for.
2// Impact and moisture resistant.
3// Can be painted in any color.
4// Carries a 50 year limited warranty and a 5 year full warranty (better than Fiber Cement)
5// Comes in several style options like vertical panels, shakes, etc and has matching soffit/trim.
6// We can cut it with a regular saw and it is easier to maneuver on a ladder.

1// Since it can expand, you need to leave a small gap where two pieces butt end to end. This means you have to go back and caulk all the gaps, which is more labor intensive.
2// Since it is made up of wood, it can burn.

In the end, we wound up going with the LP smartside, which we purchased pre-primed from Menards.

Here it is in all of its beige glory!

Siding is up

As far as installation went, it was pretty straightforward. Jerm began by trimming out the garage in the coordinating LP Smartside trim, and then we got started on the fun part. Once we nailed on the bottom two rows of siding, we used this super handy tool to help us position every row above it.  It is the PacTool Gecko Gauge, and we found it for about $70 on Amazon. First, it lets you set your “lap” or how much overlap you are leaving between the rows of siding. Then, you snap it onto your existing top row of siding.  Finally,  you can set your next row of siding into the grooves to hold it in place while you nail. I didn’t take any pictures of this, but here is one from the manufacturer’s site.

Gecko Gauge

We really wanted to add some kind of architectural detail in the tall peak. We debated board and batten, but ultimately decided on shakes. LP makes a random “cedar style” shake out of smartside, so we special ordered it from Menards.

Shakes are up

One funny story from siding the garage. Do you see our neighbor’s “no. 2 pencil yellow” garage peeking out on the right? Their house and garage were originally red. Last year we came home from Florida to find it painted this awful color. While we were starting to paint our new siding, the neighbor came out and said “Why are you painting it? I like that color” We explained that the beige was only primer. As it turns out, he thought that the color he picked was beige — just like our primed siding — and didn’t realize it was yellow until half of his house was painted….