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….