We are now almost exactly 2 months into our renovation and I can say without question it has consumed waaaaaay more of my life than I ever anticipated. Before we started I thought I had things more or less figured out in terms of what I wanted, finishes, etc but I definitely didn’t expect how OCD I’d be about every little detail (though when I say this to people they all say “really? because I fully expected you to be OCD”) Ha! I also didn’t expect there to be so many small but important decisions to be made on almost a daily basis. I drive by the house multiple times a day dropping the kids at school, picking them up or just generally doing errands around town and I always stop at least once just to see what’s happening. Almost every time I stop there’s a question to be answered or something is about to happen that I really hadn’t thought through which inevitably sends me on a 3 hour Pinterest and/or Houzz binge to find my answer.
Case in point – our front porch. When we started the project we knew this would be our biggest unknown in terms of cost because we really just didn’t know what kind of condition the framework and support system were in. Would it just need some minor fixes and cosmetic updating or was it rotting and needing to be rebuilt? Those are 2 very different budget numbers! Being that it is THE architectural feature of the house, we knew it needed to be addressed and we were committed to getting it right.
Here’s what we knew:
The foundation needed help. We had our suspicions that the support and foundation were in bad shape because the wrap around corner was pulling away and dipping pretty significantly. This is not a camera angle issue below and you can clearly see the right size is much lower than the left.
The siding and porch floor/decking needed help. While the actual siding under the porch roof and the floor closer to the house were in ok shape, the edges were really chewed up from years of water running off. Considering how old it was and that it was never made out of pressure treated wood, I actually think it had held up quite well but yes, it was time.
It didn’t take a whole lot of exploratory work to find out that structurally there wasn’t much holding up the porch anymore other than some old wood sitting on large rocks. How’s that for terrifying?
Because there was no support below, the columns were really blown apart from years of supporting essentially all the roof weight.
So yup, it all came off (minus the roof).
And the stairs which had looked like this got the jackhammer treatment. I wasn’t sad about at all because I’d always hated the stairs.
But last week it was FINALLY time to put it all back together. Our goal was to rebuild the porch exactly as it was with only a few changes. Structurally sound of course but aesthetically the same. Armed with every last inch of measurement detail from column height to wall cap overhang, we got started!
New concrete footings were poured, a new frame went up and the entire thing was jacked up to level and secured with some huge bolts. No more sagging, woohoo! Finally, the porch walls were rebuilt to their previous 26.75″ height. This was a little touch and go for a day because technically building code says if you are more than 30″ above grade, the wall needs to be a guard rail and be 36″ high. That was a major deal breaker for me as a 36″ wall would totally change the appearance of the porch. That old, lower height is what makes it charming and historically appropriate and welcoming. After some back and forth with the building inspectors, they let it go. We ordered the new columns and the decking was installed.
How great does that corner look?!
With the old stairs we hated gone, we finally have the chance to rebuild some that work with the look of the house. But what should they look like exactly? This question is just one example of something that sent me into a searching frenzy. How wide should they be? Building code dictates that there needs to be a hand rail. Should it end up on the porch wall shingle siding or should there be a post there? Should the bottom post end on the stairs or on some kind of bluestone landing pad? And on and on and on…
See what I mean?!?! Here are just a few image I landed on as inspiration.
In the end, we’ve decided to add 1 more column (to go on the left there where the stairs end) and extend the width of the stairs themselves. We’ll add a post (with no cap) on the top step and drop the handrails and balusters down to a beefier post that will end on the last step with some kind of granite or bluestone landing pad that will sit at the bottom of the stairs.
Columns are being installed this week and the stairs are being built as I post this.
Left to do: siding (later this month), pick a floor decking color/stain and paint the ceiling.
Oh and don’t you worry…this is just 1 small piece of what’s been going on at the house. Out back excavation is finally done and framing has started! Things are getting exciting!!