Please take a look at this front porch. It’s the one that came with our house. Tell me if you see anything wrong with it.
For months, I didn’t give it a second thought, but soon enough, in the mornings, as I pulled out of the driveway and started to drive down the road, I would look it at and get crazier and crazier every time. Forget the fact that the paint is chipping off of it and the fake, plastic lattice has green fungus all over it, doesn’t it look like it is bowed down in the middle? Also, what is with the 3.5 foot wide stairs? You have all that room on both sides.
One day this spring (2006) I was working on another project, which you will hear all about in another post, and I just happened to glance at the porch. I said to myself, “That really looks horrible.” I guess this is what a front porch looks like when it is built incorrectly and not taken care of. I walked over to it and began to wiggle and pull on things. Next thing I know, I looked at my watch and it was an hour later. I looked at the porch and the whole thing was torn down. Uh oh, what was Laura going to think when she got home? Oh well, she’ll LOVE it I told myself very proudly. What woman doesn’t love a man who knows how to tear down a porch with absolutely no idea how to put it back up?
Laura got home and didn’t really care. She had faith. So that night and for many nights after that, I was on the internet gathering ideas and tips. I made many trips to Home Depot and brought back supplies strapped to my new Thule roof rack I had purchased just for this type of work. I started putting things back together, but this time I did them the way I wanted.
I put a center footing in, jacked up the center of the porch and put a nice 6″x6″ post there. The problem was that there was no center support for an 11′ span. Of course it was going to bow downward. I also put new 6″x6″ corner posts in below the porch to the existing footings as well as above the porch to the overhang. I used the existing footings because they were the correct depth and width. I know this because I tried to dig one of them out and gave up after an hour. I really wanted a WHOLE new porch, but with something this secure already installed (and inspected by the building inspector), I’ll take it. I used one inch high galvanized spacers in between the bottoms of the posts and the footings as to avoid wood rot. I screwed a 2″x6″ to the front of the porch as a lip for the top stair which would come later. I also put corner pieces in for nothing more than aesthetics. I found that idea on the internet.
If you noticed on the first photo, the bottom of the stairs were rested on a cement slab. I hate cement slabs. I broke that one up with a sledge hammer and got rid of it. I dug three more holes and put in footers for the bottom of the stairs. I used 5 stringers (3 of which I reused from the old stairs, they were in great shape) for the stairs. The horozontal part of the steps were 6 foot 2″x12″s and for the vertical part I reused the 2″x6″ pieces from the top of the porch. I reused a lot of lumber because it was in great shape and I didn’t want to waste wood as well as throw money out the window.
The stairs went up smoothly and I was ready to move on. I took my…ummm…40th trip to Home Depot and picked up all the supplies for the handrails. Before I stared the handrails, I screwed an 8′ 2″x6″ to either side of the top of the deck. This gave me a perfectly straight running surface for my circular saw to cut off the uneven ends of wood. For the handrails, I used a pretty good system of sandwiching 1″x1″ pieces in between 2 of what they call “Lattice Moulding” 4 inches apart. Code calls for each of the 1″x1″ to be no further than 4″ apart. Then, I placed this new “unit” on top of a vertical 2″x6″ and tucked under the actual handrail piece. This hides all the screw heads for the 1″x1″s. The reason I used the vertical 2″x6″s is because I didn’t want to see any sagging of the rail after 2 months (like I am sure we have all seen). This was a lot of fun and gave me the feeling of really getting somewhere. I cut holes in the floor for the vertical posts and screwed and bolted them to the inside of the joists underneath. I did this because I didn’t want to see the outside of these posts just screwed to the side of the porch. I wanted them hidden. This takes longer but looks much better.
I finished up the stair portion of the railings by using a vertical 2″x4″ instead of the 2″x6″ because when the wood is cut on an angle, the 2″x6″ was just too high and didn’t meet the next piece correctly. Also, please note that I used “screws” for all of this construction. I never understood why people used nails when building things like this. How many times have you stubbed your tow or worse on a nail popping up from someone’s porch? Also, all the wood was pressure treated. These days, you always need to use pressure treated lumber when building anything outside.
After a few weeks I picked up two gallons of Thompson’s Water Seal and gave it a nice coating with a brush. I used only 3/4 of a gallon, so I guess I have enough for next time. The back of the can said that it will last for two years before it needs to be reapplied. When it comes time to reapply, I will use a sprayer. Also, the can said to wait 30 days before applying any protectant, so if you have ever heard the myth about waiting a year before applying anything, that’s wrong. Your porch or deck will be gray by that point. I waited about 3 weeks and figured that the wood has probably been sitting for a while, so I was safe.
Now, when I pull out of the driveway in the morning, I see a nice straight and level porch!