September 14, 2014

Tearing Into The Front Porch

Once we decided that the front porch was the next project to tackle, Dan wasted no time getting started. Since we will have to tear out the entire thing, he wanted to take the opportunity to address foundation issues in the front of the house.

Our house was built on a slight slope, so that the front porch is only one stairstep up, while the back porch is six steps. Obviously the crawl space at the front is impossible to maneuver around in! He's been waiting for this project to accomplish some much needed work. He started by taking out just enough of the porch floor to get to the foundation.

This is the left side of the porch, where the front bedroom is. Part of the
project will be replacing the drafty old windows and installing new siding.

The problem here is that part of the brick foundation had been knocked out to install ductwork when the heater and air conditioner were installed. Dan started with two short 4x4 posts, because nothing had been done to compensate for the removed bricks. The next step will be to seal off the crawlspace. There are gaps under the porch so that there is nothing to prevent all matter of critters from entering and taking up residence under the house, and they have.

The center of the porch, with that front door that started it all. 

Do you see where the floor is separated and sagging in front of the front door?

This is not something that happened when Dan took out the floor boards there. This is something that we've been living with for years. When we first saw the house the porch floor was flat across. It happened after we moved in and began using the porch. What was happening?

Well, when the porch was built, the builder ran the floor joists parallel to the house, i.e lengthwise, instead of widthwise. Apparently, some of them weren't quite long enough to meet the beam.

The builder, in all his wisdom, decided to simply spike them. All that's been holding those joists to the beam has been a very long nail. 

We use the porch to store winter firewood so that the floor takes a lot of traffic and weight. The nails responded by bending, resulting in that sag. The beam is in good shape so it doesn't have to be replaced. Dan hopes he can reuse the joists too. The first step here was to add floor support with a cement block and house jack.

On the other side of the porch -

The right side with a teeny glimpse of the living room windows, also to be
replaced. Dan loves bay windows and would love to put one here. We priced
them but they are way out of budget! He's considering building one himself.

The crawl space is completely open here. You can see a brick support column behind the shovel, and the duct work going to my studio our storage room. Probably cement board will be used to seal off the crawl space.  Dan talks about doing something with the ductwork, but I'm not sure what. We actually don't use our heat and A/C often. 

So that's the beginning. Going will probably be slow because of Dan's job. He has less time off than he has in the past. That's nicer on the pocket book but really puts a crimp on the project accomplishment list. 

Next front porch post here.


tpals said...

How wonderful to have a handy husband! It's a big project but imagine how you will both feel when it's done and done right.

zztop357 said...

Sometimes you do what you have to when you have time! At least the problem is exposed and you know what the problem is. Most people would hire the work done and never get it fixed right. i know you and your DH will put a lot of effort and time into this and it will last as long as your house does!!
Hurrah for you both!!

Quinn said...

Wait...You rarely use your heat OR your A/C? Where do you live? And when can I visit??

Farmer Barb said...

When I see "almost good enough" boards, it makes me want to scream. I imagine Dan had some choice words when he saw them.

Best of luck on the remainder!

1st Man said...

Quinn beat me to it, ha Rarely use a/c and heat? Sigh. OK, here we don't often use heat but a/c is a necessity from about june to, uh, about now, ha.

Aren't old houses so interesting to see the 'bones' underneath? Amazing how some things can be so well done and others not so much. Of course, what we've discovered having the old farm house and the house in town is old (1920), it's not the original work that's bad, that's what holds up the best. It's the later years modifications that need to be fixed.

Just think how awesome (and safer) it will be when it's done!

Michelle said...

In awe of Dan's ability and industry, as usual! (And you're no slouch, either. ;-)

Mark said...

Lot of work to do there! Like the other guys it drives me crazy when someone who should know better tries to get my with "almost good enough". It always comes back to haunt someone.

My parent's house was built right after the civil war, and the original construction is still good. The various remodeling jobs that have been over the decades are hit and miss, and we've found some things like you have. Also, my grandfather (who bought the house and farm from his father-in-law, decided the best method to expand the basement involved dynamite. There's not a square door frame in the place....

Harry Flashman said...

Watch out for rattlers and copperheads. They delight in getting under porches.

DFW said...

Handy husbands come in so handy! I bet you'll feel so good once this project is done & critters can't get in under there. Be sure they get out before sealing it up though!

Leigh said...

tpals, I have to agree. :)

Donna, that's exactly it. Seems like of our long list of projects, each one comes forward in it's own time.

Quinn, well, the heat pump is a lousy heating system. The aux heat is electric and is ridiculously expensive plus heats poorly. We prefer wood heat. In the summer we don't turn on the A/C until the inside temp gets above about 82. When I turn it on I leave the thermostat set at 80. We had a cooler than usual summer and with the new windows and insulation in the bedroom and bathroom, the house temp stayed in that range. It's a little warm, but tolerable.

Barb, there have been a lot of materials we thought we could reuse, like the tongue and groove walls. But they are so old and brittle that disassembling causes them to splinter and break. Very disappointing.

1st Man, you can see how I explained that to her, LOL.

Yeah, old houses are full of surprises. We never know what we're going to find when we tear into something. That's one of the reasons we waited so long to get started on this!

Michelle, he's definitely an idea guy!

Mark, dynamite!?!?! That's too funny although I'm sure it was something at the time. Not surprising that your parent's home is still sound. I hate to think of modern built homes in a few decades, let close to 200 years.

Harry, Dan has found snake skins in the crawl space! Also ancient poop of unknown origin.

DFW, I agree! And good advice about the critters.

Ron said...

I need to learn how to think that far ahead. I would have just been focused on rebuilding the porch when WHAM! Where did all this crap come from?


Good luck.

Sandy Livesay said...


It sure looks like you both have your work cut out for you on this project. I hope y'all are able to get the areas that affects the temperature on the inside of the house done before winter rolls in. Otherwise, it maybe a bit cooler than expected.

It's not surprising the pieces of wood didn't butt up to the joists and long nails were used to hold the wood. We see a lot of this type of here on the older and new homes.

I was surprised when we went up into my Mom's attic to get her something out. We found main beams not properly secured....scary construction.

Renee Nefe said...

Even with newer homes you come across unusual building techniques (to put it nicely). In fixing our house we've had to do it the correct way.

So glad that Dan isn't afraid to jump in there and get it done. Maybe with these improvements you'll have even lower utility bills.

Unknown said...


Here in Texas we have a used building supply store called Restore. It is run by Habitat for Humanity and it is stocked mainly with either donations or materials pulled from remodeling projects. The prices are quite reasonable. I don't know if you have heard of these stores or if one is readily accessible to you. If so, you may find a bay window you can afford. Good luck.

Kev Alviti said...

From personal experience projects like this do tend to drag out when you're doing them yourselves. But you'v done the hardest bit which is starting it! You're houses are constructed in such a different way to ours, it's a shame as a carpenter I thinik I could do most things to an American house whereas over here everything is masonry (which is better in the long run) so if any is on show I prefer to get someone in to do it as it's the kind of thing that can only be done by someone that does it all the time.

Unknown said...

DIY projects are so much fun! Have you tried looking for a bay window at a Habitat store, or something like that? We got a heavy, newer front door, with glass there for $45.00, over $200+ new...

Leigh said...

OJD, seems like we never get to choose which project is next, rather, something always happens so that it's an "Oh no! We better get that done quick!"

Sandy, I think so too. And as much as we kept pushing this project off, I'll be glad to get it done. I'm envisioning plywood over the door and window openings for awhile!

Renee, I worry about modern built homes because of the poor quality of the materials. We once drove past a neighborhood in the works, the homes were upscale, but on every roof you could see it sag between the joists because the layment was so thin. I can only guess that the first hail storm brought a glut of insurance claims.

Katy, yes! Thank you for mentioning the Restore. We find good things for our projects regularly there. We also have a building surplus store where we find a lot too.

Your intro on your G+ profile sounds like you have an interesting blog somewhere, but there wasn't a link, or else I'd return the blog visit.

Kev, it would seem that your construction techniques over there have stood the test of time. Ours get continually undercut for the sake of profit! Dan talked about a stone foundation for the porch, but I'd rather stick with brick like the rest of the house. He rarely hires out, however! Sadly, we haven't had good experiences with that. It would certainly get the job done faster, but then he'd have to be gone to work longer to pay for it!

Nancy, we plan to make a trip to the "big" Restore when we get closer to that part of the project. Our local one is small and only open a couple days a week. There's a nice big one that is a little drive, but if I can get taken out to lunch too, it will be worth it even if we don't find something. :)