When we purchased this home, I really underestimated the amount of work that needed to be done. The wrap around porch was something that I didn’t look closely at because it seemed to be in decent condition. Of course, I’ve really questioned our judgment with a few things regarding this home. The first being the home inspector we hired who was 85 years old and working more for a real estate agent than us. I’m not saying his age prevented a good evaluation. However, it did prevent him from looking at the roof due to not climbing on a ladder. Not to mention this roof that he stated would last us for years bit the dust two weeks ago. The roof failure and gutter failures were the main reasons the porch had such a high amount of rot, breakage, and warping. Let’s not leave out the lack of maintenance over the years. It’s just a bad idea to move into a home and never maintain anything. The moral of the story is to seek out a highly rated home inspector that doesn’t come through a real estate agent or through someone who is attempting to make sure you buy the house. Yes, I should have known by now. Regardless, it is what it is at this point.
I had work divided up regarding seasons, and the porch was suppose to be a summer project. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always play out the way we expect it, and the porch wasn’t in the cards. In the big scheme of life, it doesn’t really matter.
Once work could be resumed on the porch, I tackled the first issue of the steps being unsafe. They popped up in the air and no screw could hold them down. I replaced them with the same type of wood originally installed. I would have rather used nice treads, but due to the size and scope of the project I was encountering, some people didn’t agree that the over $400 price tag for treads that were prettier than the initial type of wood was worth the cost. The truth is nobody really would have noticed, and another factor is that the space between the boards permits water to go through and not to just sit on top.
There were three parts of the railings that were very long (12 feet), and there was weakness due to the length. The railings were installed that length to keep the views on the porch where bay windows existed. I decided to install half posts that I cut down to fit to the railing sizes. The posts were installed with lag bolts underneath and decking screws above. I also framed them out for added stability. Maybe it was being over cautious.
I picked posts that seemed to have similar character to the balusters….and that was another problem: the balusters.
Balusters were broken and rotted from leaking gutters. A few of the posts also had rot at the bottom.
The balusters appeared to be something typical that would be sold at any hardware store. However, I couldn’t find any that matched. I considered replacing them with balusters that didn’t match, but it probably would have driven me crazy because I would have KNOWN they didn’t go together. Thankfully, I was able to retrieve balusters at the points where the half posts were installed. This enabled me to replace rotted and broken balusters in different areas on the porch.
There was rot that existed around the porch in places I didn’t even realize existed. I laughed thinking back to what the home inspector said, “Oh, it’s just a little bit of rot…nothing that a little epoxy can’t fix.” A LITTLE EPOXY ? What a joke! The more I started working on this project, the more problems I uncovered. After removing some of the railing to repair it, I discovered more and more and more…..
I really did have difficulty locating places that had pieces to replace things on the porch, so my other option was to repair what was already there. I jokingly stated, “Someone will appreciate this in the future when they want everything that was original to the porch.” I thought about my comment and realized it was true. How many times do people go to Victorian houses and say, “OHHHHH….that’s original to the house!” Maybe someone really will be thankful 100 years from now that they have the original pieces to the home.
However, repairing what already exists is not always the FASTER or CHEAPER option. I kept joking that it would have been faster to replace the whole porch. I think this may have been true.
Epoxy is expensive, and I don’t regret using it. A contractor came by to give me gutter estimates and stated he would have used Bondo, but I was using a system that worked for me (an epoxy system I ordered), and this porch is so huge that I know I saved money no matter what I did. Really, after seeing outrageous estimates for fascia board replacement, I’m sure that my epoxy expenses wouldn’t even come close to what a contractor would have charged me. On the corners of some of the rotted posts, I filled them with wood pieces and used Plexiglas with Pam sprayed on it to make the corners. I set the plexiglass together to form a corner. The Pam made it easy to pop off when the epoxy dried. I didn’t make this up, it was recommended by the company that made the epoxy. As for Bondo, there were places that I did use it. Between epoxy and Bondo, I feel the epoxy worked great for some areas, and the Bondo was great when something was spotted that needed quick repair. The Bondo is much easier to sand, but I personally preferred the epoxy I used. I can see the potential of Bondo coming loose at some point. He argued that epoxy would come loose at some point too, but I was using a special brand that he had never seen, so he gave up on debating the issue when he saw how it worked. I spent about $300 in materials to restore this porch. That price didn’t include paint. I know most people looking at what I did would think that this is a low estimate, but it was a lot of creativity that came into play. With the amount of time I put into this porch, I’m positive I would have been charged thousands to have someone else come out and fix it. The porch is overwhelming in size when it comes to having to paint and fix it.
Baluster replacement – for the most part, I had to saw off the rusted screws where the railings were attached. I had to replace screws through the bottoms of balusters and replace balusters that were broken or missing. Then, I screwed the railings back into their locations with new decking screws.
I felt like I had to be an artist in some areas and was using plastic tools to form epoxy in places that were rotted off. There were edges, corners, etc. that just needed so much help. Everything required a lot of patience. Sometimes, a person just wants to get a project done, yet it drones on and on until you wonder if the day will come that it will be beautiful again. I said this already, but PATIENCE is EVERYTHING when it comes to completing home projects.
The balusters and ceiling and every area that was painted white had more than two coats painted on them. The wood was absorbing it like it was a dry sponge with water. It was shocking. I had several cans of porch paint I had acquired and mixed them all together. I was paying close attention to the weather at this point because we were getting cold days that were too cold to paint. I’d look for a series of days that would permit painting and curing and would pay attention to the temperatures. Every sunny day was a painting day.
I mixed a few gallons of porch paint together that I came from the Oops! Paint section at the hardware store after the season where I SHOULD HAVE been painting. I knew it would be a mystery color, but I always figure mystery colors help me with my indecisiveness with choosing colors. Besides, I painted this huge porch for under $50.00. It would have cost a heck of a lot more with being super picky, choosing colors, and ordering it per gallon. With the Oops! paint, I was able to get each gallon for $7.00 a piece. I believe the prices have been raised again at our local hardware store, but it’s still worth it to buy Oops! paint. Just don’t get crazy colors that will drive you mad, and you should be fine.
The last part of my project was replacing some seriously ugly light fixtures. I had grand ideas for the light fixtures, but, in the end, I settled for some inexpensive lights for the ceiling due to having so many. I found something that fit right to the ceiling and was less distracting than the previously installed lights.
I purchased an Amish porch swing at the end of the season. I stained, applied polyurethane, and then assembled it. I found some hardware to hang it, and placed it near the front door where there is a view. I debated the location because there are different areas the swing could hang. I left enough room for it to swing without damaging my house. I hung it two feet from the side of the house and left room in the front. I may change the location at some point, but, for now, I like it. As for the porch, I love it. It made such a difference in the appearance of the outside of the house. The amount of time put into it was well worth it. No one use to comment on coming to the front door. Now, everyone comments. What a difference with the outside appearance! If you have an outdoor porch project that you would like to share, please feel free to share it with me.