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Steps for Remodeling your Front Porch

Construction How-To, Construction How-To, Demolition - Directory, Doors, Doors, Painting, Porches and Gazebos, Punch!, Remodeling, Remodeling, Siding and Exterior, Windows & Doors August 23, 2010 Sonia


By Mark Clement

 

Make your Front Porch friendly again by using the newest synthetic moldings and shingles as well as tried-and-true techniques.

 

I’m lucky to live in a town built in the Mayberry-esque architectural style of the friendly front porch. Of course, that means the town, and its porches, are about a century old and in desperate need of reviving. And by “reviving” I mean remodeling from the ground up.

The first step in a successful porch remodel is being aware before you start that there are probably hidden problems. Expect the unexpected—from structure to flashing to that gaggle of cable wire stitched to the sidewall—all of which can slow things down. If the railing is cast iron, the first thing I do is peel up the escutcheon and see if the steel is in tact.

Working on old houses is often an exercise in fits and starts: The leg bone connected to the … shoulder bone? This is why I try to control what I can, so I can be ready for all the stuff I can’t.

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I make sure my tools are in order before I start, which includes setting up everything from the main tools like a miter saw and figuring out the ladder situation to making sure I have consumables on hand for the oddball stuff. For example, I know on a job like this I’m going to use my angle grinder for everything from stripping paint (need a wire wheel) to cutting in flashing (masonry wheel) to sanding wood (wood sanding discs).

A plan is the key to the kingdom. Before starting, thoroughly inspect the structure. For cast iron railings, for example, I pry up the escutcheon to check for decay.

A plan is the key to the kingdom. Before starting, thoroughly inspect the structure. For cast iron railings, for example, I pry up the escutcheon to check for decay.


Getting There

Removing and replacing soffit, fascia, crown and gutters are usually the baseline requirements for sprucing up anything a century old. And this requires getting to them.

Unlike most jobs, however, porch heights manage to be between a 6-foot step ladder and an extension ladder. And, since you can’t trap the work behind ladder rails, the ladders can’t touch the actual work. Pipe staging or pump jacks would be ideal but they’re expensive.

Part of having a plan in place means protecting what's not going to be trashed, in this case the brand new Simonton windows. I sheet them with OSB before starting demolition.

Part of having a plan in place means protecting what’s not going to be trashed, in this case the brand new Simonton windows. I sheet them with OSB before starting demolition.

For this job I used Werner LeveLok ladders and plank brackets. To reach the porch ceiling I used step-ladders and a rolling Werner rolling scaffold.

 

Demolition

The first power tool I reach for—and one of the last I put away—is a reciprocating saw. In old houses, there’s a constant supply of blocks, nails and rotten wood. Because the saw is always out, I want it to consume as little space as possible. Ridgid’s compact Fuego is becoming my mainframe demolition recip saw for this reason—and for its rockin’ power.

Everything from cast-iron railings to old time molding may be covered in lead paint. Check with code officials for proper removal.

Everything from cast-iron railings to old time molding may be covered in lead paint. Check with code officials for proper removal.

I demolished this porch before the new lead-paint regulations became available. If I had to drape this project with plastic I’d still be working on it—and it wouldn’t have done anything except raise operating costs. Check with your local building official. You need a permit for this, anyway.

Using a halo of drop-cloths on the ground works to capture only so many flakes. And, I have to shake out that cloth on-site anyway. The Worx TriVac leaf vacuum was great sucking up and bagging chips that got into the grass.