Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marion Explains It All

I could explain how we used the marks on the house (called witness marks or ghost marks) to figure out what the original porch looked like, but I thought y'all might rather hear Mare's explanation.  Enjoy.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Remember those little pencil drawings of the front porch plan that Mare did a couple of weeks ago, and how we hoped they'd be enough for the Building Inspector?  Well, they weren't.  We really didn't expect them to be, so back to the drawing board we went.  And by "drawing board", I mean the concrete slab of the front porch, where we measured and drew and measured again and tried to anticipate questions and finally came up with four pages for the Building Inspector.

The site plan and the elevations, with the suggestions y'all made:

A framing plan:

And a materials list:

So now we wait for approval of the building permit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just Because

A bit of backstory:  All around the house, at the point where the overhang of the eaves meets the wall of the house just above the wide trim boards, whoever built the house used chair rail.  It's a little bit of decoration on a mostly plain Queen Anne Cottage and I've always liked that detail.  When I picked out the colors for the house this time, I chose a dark grayish brown for the chair rail, a color that I never really liked but chose because it coordinated well with the other paint colors.  

So now that I've told you that, a couple of days ago I was doing some invisible but necessary work on the front of the house: painting the eaves and soffit along where the new front porch will go.  I say invisible because, except for the fascia boards at the edge, the rest of it will be hidden once the new porch roof goes up; necessary because the soffit needs to be painted to protect the wood and that's a lot easier now than clambering up onto the porch roof to do it after the porch is built.

Anyhow, there I was on the front of the house, scraping away paint from the chair rail under the eaves that will never be seen again and getting a crick in my neck from looking up.  A big chunk of paint popped off the chair rail and underneath I saw bright turquoise blue.  At one time the chair rail was painted that color!  I love turquoise blue.  It's one of my favorite colors, in all shades.  

Y'all know what happened next, right?

I briefly considered what the house would look like with turquoise blue trim.  I worried that other people might think it was ugly.  Then I decided that, by golly, it's my house and I love that color and I think it would look great!  

So I painted the chair rail turquoise.  

And I painted the underside of the eaves the same pale blue as the side porch ceiling.  Just because.

I think the house looks happier.  I know I am.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Third Time's The Charm

First, the guy who delivered the lumber for the side porch.

Second, a firefighter friend.

Third, the mailman who politely mentioned it.

So now I have a house number.  Yes, I did use my kindergarten skills to trace around the house numbers Steve removed from the now-demolished front porch.  I used a ball-point pen.  The whole process, including the scribbly coloring-in, took about two minutes.

It ain't beautiful, but it serves the purpose.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Nothing says "Welcome to my home!" like a boarded-up front door.  I mean, really, the door, the boarded-up window, the welcome mat thrown to the just screams of curb appeal.

The mailman came by the other day, stopped in his tracks on the front porch, and said, "Uhhhh...."  Apparently my request to hold my mail didn't get there before he started his route.  (I have a mail slot in the front door and no mailbox.)  I jokingly told him he could use that hole in the plywood down close to the floor and just poke the mail through that.  He said that was very kind of me to offer, but after today he'd just throw my mail in a box and I can come by the post office to get it.  That probably works better for all of us.

So why is my front door still boarded over, weeks after we finished tearing off the porch?  I knew y'all would ask that.

It's not procrastination.  Not this time, anyway. I actually put this piece of plywood up after the porch demo was finished.  

With no porch roof to protect it, the front door was taking a real beating from all the sun and the rain.  After about a week or so it looked pretty bad.  See all that faded wood and the shellac peeling off on the bottom half of the door?  I didn't want to let that keep happening for another month or so (and that's being really optimistic!) without a porch roof, so I boarded it up.  That stopped the damage.  I'll still have to give the door a really nice spa day with Howard's Feed-N-Wax and Restor-A-Finish after this is all over.  Poor little front door.  

ps:  Check out the color of the sky in that first photo.  Not edited.  The sky really was that blue the other day.  Amazing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Back To The Front

Things are moving right along on the front porch.  Yep, moving right along at a snail's pace. I finally got the last of the demolition debris off the front porch, so I was ready to start building the new porch about five minutes after that.  And then Mare said he's going to Montana and Wyoming for two weeks.  Also, there's the tiny problem of not having a building permit yet.  Remember way back in March, when I said I didn't want to be building the new porch in the blazing heat of July and August?  Well, it looks like that's exactly what we'll be doing.

The process to obtain a building permit in one of Lexington's historic districts  First I have to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness (a name which never fails to crack me up) from the Historic Preservation Commission.  They have to approve any exterior work on a building in a historic district, including paint colors.  Once I have a COA in hand, then I have to apply for a Building Permit.  It's possible to get the approval for one and not the other--it's rare, but it happens.  I went before the HPC back in March when this whole thing started and my COA is a two-for-one deal: it gave me both permission to demolish the old front porch, and permission to build the new one, provided the new one looks substantially like the house's original porch.  The President of HPC is my neighbor, and as he put it the other day, "It would be very unfortunate if you don't get a building permit, now that you've demolished the front porch."  Indeed.

So on Wednesday I'll fill out the Building Permit Application and attach the COA to it.  The prior Building Inspector and Codes Enforcement Officer (she who famously said "Continue on!", giving me her permission to do something which I knew I already had permission for, ahem) told me back in April that my building permit would have to have a detailed drawing of the planned construction including exact dimensions and a plan for attaching the porch to the house.  She's since moved on to another job (and I can't say I'm unhappy about that) so Mare decided to go with a minimalist approach to the paperwork accompanying the building permit.

The little squares mark the placement of the porch posts.  The L-shaped area around them is the concrete slab, which will stay.  The porch posts are set in a ways from the edge of the slab, but that's where the posts were originally, based on witness marks on the sides of the house.  We know from photos of the house that there were originally three posts at the corner of the porch, so we're duplicating that.
The posts will actually be turned posts (I think Home Depot calls them "Colonial"), although Mare drew them straight because he said, "I don't wanna mess with all the squiggly lines."  Fair enough.  

We'll see if this paperwork passes muster.  If not, it'll be back to the drawing board.  Literally.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Other Porch

Remember the other porch?  The one on the side of the house?  It hasn't gotten much mention lately, what with all of the effort and attention being on the front porch.

The last time I showed it to you, it looked something like this:

And then I tore up the rotted flooring, and found a rotted header joist.  Sigh.

 When I went back a few days later to pull the nails left behind in the joists, I found this:
To the left is the screen that's over a basement window.  It's not attached to the house, but it does have two cinder blocks wedging it against the house.  To the right is a little paw print which looks like it belongs to a raccoon.  The position of the paw print relative to the window screen has me imagining a raccoon leaning on the foundation of the house with one paw while using the other to try to pry the screen off and saying something like, "Dangit!  Why won't this stupid screen come loose?!"

A few days ago Mare came over and we removed the rotted header joist.  When he went to put the new header joist in, he found something interesting. (And cobwebby.)

A mortise and tenon joint in the foundation of the house!  This is really cool to me because when the National Register of Historic Places folks surveyed the neighborhood back in the 1970s or 1980s, they described my house as being balloon construction. Most houses built around the time mine was (which I think was 1887 or so) are, in fact, balloon construction.  Mortise and tenon construction dates back thousands of years and it wasn't until the mid 1800s that balloon construction became popular in the United States.  This means one of two things about my house:  either the main part of the house is older than I think it is, or the house was built by someone who preferred mortise and tenon construction.  I traced the deed history of my property back to the 1850s and no house is mentioned on the property until after James Kelly bought the land in 1887.  The interior window trim, the stained glass windows, and the carved front door all indicate Victorian era rather than anything earlier.  Also, Mr. Kelly was in his 50s when he and his wife bought this parcel of land, and according to Kelly family history he and his brother built the house, so it makes sense that they might have used mortise and tenon joints in the foundation.  

We also found evidence that the original side entrance was just a small stoop and not a porch--the stumps of bushes planted on either side of the stoop.  (I wonder what they were?  I like to think they were spirea or hydrangea.)  The Sanborn maps are proof that the side porch wasn't always there.  It's not until the 1910 Sanborn map that the side porch shows up, after the addition was built onto the back of the house. 

(We like a little archaeology along with our new construction.)

Mare built a sturdy new header joist and then put in a new floor a couple of days ago.  
I primed it in a hurry to beat the rain, because Mare said, "If you leave that unpainted with all the rain they're calling for, those boards will swell up and because they're so tight they'll push the house apart."  Umm.  I'm never sure if he's kidding or not.  So I primed the porch floor.  
I think the side porch looks a thousand times better already, even though we have a ways to go before it's really done.  Little things like a 1x8 over that treated lumber that's the header joist, and some shims on that center support, and big things like lattice across the open part, some steps, and a railing with balusters.  All in good time.