A Luxury Front Walkway

It’s been a long time in the making but The Downtown Luxury Slum now has a walkway leading from the sidewalk to the front porch so you don’t have to trample over the grass.

When we bought the Downtown Luxury Slum and until now, you’ve had to trample over the grass to get to the front porch.

New roof

This has generally not been horribly problematic aside from the one hidden hole that I could never successfully fill in and that always seemed to attract unsuspecting ankles.

It took me quite a while to figure out what kind of walkway might look good because the steps are 10 feet wide and the entire length of the walkway would also be about 10 feet and having a square walkway seemed weird. And having half of the steps not leading to a walkway also seemed weird. But I finally came up with a plan and submitted it to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission along with my request to build a backyard shed. The plans were approved way back in July but that happens to also be when we bought the Mulberry House so I didn’t get around to actually building the walkway or shed until now.

I actually started in January, and then it snowed, and it finally got warm today so I finished up!

Here are some progress shots:

Laying out the walkway

I used green spray paint to mark where I needed to dig. Thinking about colouring the entire lawn this way next winter.

Digging up the lawn

After I marked out my plan, I started digging. I had this idea that I would start participating this this cutesy Instagram thing called #RenovationFancyFriday, but it turns out that I am not cutesy.

After getting the appropriate amount of lawn dug up, I laid down some heavy-duty landscaping fabric.

Then I laid down these paver panels and this edging which is basically what allowed me to not have to dig another couple feet and buy a ton of gravel. I’m going to admit that maybe I still should have leveled the soil a bit better before laying bricks, but oh well.

Our very first pile of bricks actually came from the chimney of a house that had been moved from a block away from us. A few more bricks got collected randomly as we went on walks over the summer, and I grabbed a couple from the crawlspace of the Mulberry house. But that wasn’t enough so we went on a search for more.



Andrew helped me collect some bricks from various brick graveyards around the neighborhood. This one is just around the corner from us on our block. Another was a few doors down from his old house. Another yet was a neatly stacked pile that a Nextdoor neighbour tipped me off about.

I love the way the pattern turned out and also how incredibly obvious it is that we did not buy these bricks from a brickyard.

The last step for the actual walkway was filling in all the little gaps with sand, which is honestly still a bit of a work in progress. But this picture was taken the day before it snowed, I think, so the rest of the project got put on hold for a few weeks.

But today I was able to finish up digging the garden beds out a little better and filling them with as much soil as I could fit in my shopping cart.

Hopefully I’ll get to plant some pretty flowers in the next couple of weeks.

The mailman is enjoying the new walkway. I hope someday you will get to too.

A New Downtown Luxury Roof

After initial inspections and structural examination of the Downtown Luxury Slum when we bought it, the conclusion was that we didn’t need to do any work on the roof. But we were suspicious so we did allocate a fair bit of extra contingency money in case the roof needed work. And that money all got used replacing the back half of our roof, which is a flat rubber roof. After one hurricane season, it became clear that the front roof was not in perfect condition either. But it took us until now to finally bite the bullet and get the historic metal roof replaced.

A quick review before I get into the meat of this post:

Our Downtown Luxury Slum is a contributing structure in the East Raleigh – South Park Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The listing reads: “5-bay hipped-roof duplex with hipped metal roof and
weatherboard siding ; original 4-over-4 doublehung-sash windows; attached porch with flat roof , twin wood-post supports, jigsaw-cut brackets, wood railing.”

Separate from that, we’re also part of the Prince Hall Historic District which is a Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) designation.

Because of this second designation, any changes we make to the exterior of our home require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA, basically a permit from the RHDC). And the RHDC is generally going to be very picky about making changes that would contradict the listing information in the National Register of Historic Places, since those are our home’s contributing historic characteristics.

This is generally okay with us because the exterior look of the house is one of the major things that drew us to it. The other being the location.

We were able to get permission to convert the house from a duplex to a single family home because we were able to find some rudimentary evidence that it was originally built as a single family home, but otherwise we’re pretty happy with our contributing characteristics.

So when we finally gave in and decided that no matter how many roofing companies came out or how many times they came out, there was just no fixing this roof well enough to completely stop the leaking, we knew we were going to have to replace the old metal roof with a matching new metal roof. And luckily, normal repairs and maintenance don’t require a COA.

I mentioned we had a number of roofing companies come out and a number of frustrating experiences with one company just completely ghosting us before they ever completed any work (but they came over several times to assess the roof, provide an estimate, show us samples). Another company refused to even try to do any repairs on the roof and instead quoted us an exorbitant amount to replace the roof. Finally a friend referred us to Roofwerks and I just can’t say enough good things about them. The first time we called them, they came out to put in their best effort to dry-in the roof (basically apply a tarp and some sealant as a quick band-aid to prevent further leaking until they could do a more complete repair). They then put together a quote to do the repair, did the repair, and then came back several times when we discovered the repair wasn’t good enough. The not good enough was not entirely their fault. Our roof was really old and probably just not suited for repair, but also, as it turns out, we had two uncovered, unused pipes directly funneling rain from the sky into the attic.

Anyway, Roofwerks put together an extremely reasonable quote for roof replacement. The only complaint I can offer is that we had to be extremely persistent with them (getting the quote, getting the job scheduled) otherwise it seemed like they would just forget about us.

When they started removing the old roof, they quickly noticed that there was a layer of shingles under the the metal roof. The shingles were definitely old and worn and of a shape I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, but there’s no telling how old they were, or how long the metal roof has been in place, or what material the original historic roof was. All that to say, maybe we could have gotten away with really fancy shingle replacement, rather than metal. It’s my new mission in life to see if I can ever find some older pictures of this house.

Old roof shingles

But, like I said, we got a metal roof. I somehow thought they’d get the job done in a day, but I think it took them six full working days. They first had to remove the old metal and old shingles.

After removing the metal and shingles

Then they replaced the old, hole-ridden, some rotten, some charred roof decking with plywood and added a synthetic underlayment.

Underlayment installed over new plywood decking

And then finally they installed the Snap-Loc metal roof system along with custom ridge caps and hip caps and flashing and everything else needed to finish the job.

New roof

We couldn’t be happier with the outcome although I’ll have to wait do see if it leaks when we have a major storm.