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….


I know you’ve all been waiting anxiously for this post ever since I mentioned insulation here. When it came to building our garage, insulation was very important to Jerm and myself. Jerm cared about being able to easily heat and cool the garage.. and I just didn’t want to be cold. We put in the initial investment, and it sure has come in handy. Especially in the last couple days, as it has been well into the negative temperatures here.

Here is a run-down on what we did.

1// Foil faced OSB rather than regular OSB for sheathing the roof.

And no, it isn’t just to make your garage very shiny. I thought we would be blinded looking at it, but Jerm informed me that it is installed so that the foil faces inward. This step helps more with the cooling as the foil provides a radiant heat barrier and reflects up to 97% of the radiant heat. This was important because Jerm wanted to use a smaller room air conditioner unit to cool the whole garage, and we needed to give the little guy the best chance at success.
The prices on lumber can fluctuate so much. When we purchased, we were only looking at about a $5 per 4’x8′ sheet difference.

2// Foil faced foam for insulating on the outside walls.

This kills three birds with one (rather expensive) stone. The foil face provides another radiant heat barrier to keep cooling costs lower, an inch of foam provides R-6.5 insulating value, and when you seal it all up with a foil tape, it takes the place of a “house wrap.”

Foil faced foam is up :: Insulating the garage

3// Good garage doors with an R value

Thanks to Jerm’s dad being in the door business, we were able to get these garage doors for a very good deal. They have an R value of 16.55 and have a thermal break so that they don’t transfer heat out or cold in. As a bonus they had that bead-board panel look that matched the style we were going for. Pretty and functional!

4// Rolls of insulation, white polystyrene foam, Great Stuff

We used R-19 Kraft faced insulation in between the studs of the walls, and Jerm stapled it all in to seal it up. We lined in between the rafters with the R-8 white polystyrene foam, filled in the gaps with Great stuff, an then covered it with unfaced R-30 insulation. Nothing too exciting… Here is an idea of how it all went together before we drywalled.

And the drywall going up on top of it all. Please ignore our sweet cable railing for now. I will be back with more info on that soon. The details in this garage are the best part.

Drywalling the garage

We saved a bunch of money by buying it all when Mernards was running both a mail in rebate and their 11% rebate. You can combine the two, and we saved a couple hundred dollars. Our basement looked like this until we were ready to use it all.

So there you go! A guide to having the best insulated garage on the block. Unfortunately we can’t take advantage of any tax credits for this since it isn’t our residence, but we hope to update our house’s insulation when we redo the exterior this spring.

Getting a Variance

In my last garage post, I shared some of what we went through to get our garage building permit. After several months of back and forth, we were finally able to convince our town that we knew what we were doing and were following all of their rules. BUT… they still decided to make us get a variance, because that was the standard set in the past when someone else wanted to build a large garage.

The variance process meant more time and more money. We had to resubmit two blueprint sized copies of our plans (not cheap to print) along with a $100 check for who knows what. Our “hearing” was set for a Thursday night, and we were the last on the agenda. Basically, we had to present our plans before a panel of 7 board members, and they would vote on whether or not to allow us to proceed in getting a permit. After watching the three people ahead us get voted down for various business ventures (things like a school in an industrial park…?), things were not looking promising. I feel like all of the board members secretly wanted to be judges in court because the procedures and formalities reminded me a lot of when I was on jury duty for a case. It was almost comical. When it was our turn, Jerm went forward and presented the plans. He told them what we wanted to do, and why we wanted to build a garage that large—I think his speech lasted all of about a minute. He is a man of few words when it comes to public speaking like that.

After he was done, the head of the building department spoke up and started praising Jerm’s resourcefulness to all of the board members. He also told them how much he admires what we are doing and the dreams we have for the garage. It was really nice to hear someone that understood us, and I think he really helped defend our case. I was definitely having a proud wife moment tearing up in the back row listening to him praise Jerm. After a few questions, they unanimously voted to allow us to move forward. We celebrated with chipotle! But we weren’t home free just yet.

After we won that battle, they still would not approve our plans without a licensed architect’s stamp on them. I don’t think they are used to homeowners drawing up their own blueprints, so they wanted another opinion to make sure everything was structurally sound. What did that mean for us? More time and more money… I was beginning to sense a theme.

Architect Stamp

Luckily, our local lumber yard gave us the name and number of an architect that lived a few blocks from us. He invited us to come over that same night so we could go over the plans together. As it turned out, he is into auto racing just like we are, so we had a lot in common. I think the majority of that first meeting was spent talking cars rather than garage. He gave Jerm a few changes to make to the way things were drawn on the blueprints, but overall our initial plans were just fine. The next day we went back with our changes and he stamped the drawings for us. We were very lucky to have it done so quickly and I think we only paid about $300 – way less than if we would have gone through somewhere else.

With our stamped drawings in hand, we went to finish applying for the building permit. But, it turned out that our county demo permit had expired in the time it took to get the variance and the drawings stamped. Guess what that meant! Yup… we had to shell out another $200 to get the demo permit re-issued. Very frustrating, but by that point we just wanted to start on our garage.

After getting that straightened out, we finally were granted this very coveted piece of paper—our building permit.

Building Pemit

We wasted no time in demoing our current garage and getting to work on the new one. We were both so glad when this permit process was over and that we didn’t have to compromise what we wanted in order to build it.