Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Porch Building, Day One

I promised y'all yesterday that I'd share photos, and I have a lot of photos, so here goes.

This morning when I got home from work, Mare was sitting on the back patio waiting on me.  I grabbed the 1947 photo of the house and he grabbed his tools and we headed for the front porch.  We spent a fair amount of time staring at the photo, then the house, then the photo, then the house.  The witness marks and this photo are the only things we have to tell us what the original porch looked like. 

Finally Mare took a deep breath and said, "Okay, I think I know where to start."  We started with a plumb line from the witness mark at the edge of the original half-post, across the length of the concrete pad, and out to the edge of the pad.  Then we snapped a second plumb line from the edge of the witness mark for the other half-post on the other side of the porch, down the width of the concrete pad, and out again to the edge of the pad.  After that was a terrifying bit where Mare notched out the porch posts so the header joists would rest on the posts.  

I went around to the side of the house before the actual cutting started and primed a half-post so that I wouldn't distract Mare.  Talking to me might cause him to make a bad cut on the posts or chop off his fingers, and either one of those events would cause a big delay in building the porch.  Goodness knows we've had enough delays already! 

Next we figured out the placement of the posts, traced around the mounting blocks for the porch posts (the blocks help protect the posts by raising them off the concrete a bit), drilled holes for studs that we made out of threaded rod, and hammered the studs (which help keep the posts in place) into the concrete pad.  

After that we carefully measured along the plumb line to get the length of the header joist.  Our header joists are two 2x12's that rest on the notched tops of the porch posts.  We assembled the front header joist flat on the ground, all nailed together.

And then we stood behind that header joist with me on one end and Mare on the other and raised the whole contraption upright.  Now is a good time to point out that the porch posts are 9 feet tall, with a 12-inch plank on top of them, and Mare and I are both 5'4".  I'm glad nobody was around to take photos or video of the joist-raising, because it wasn't pretty.  Once we lifted the thing as high as we could above our heads, then we had to "walk" our hands down the posts until the whole shebang was upright, and then we wrestled the mounting blocks onto the studs and screwed the half-post into the side of the house.  It looked like this when we were done:

Looky, the first two and a half posts are up!!

That thing to the right in the photo is a brace that we temporarily nailed to the corner post to keep the header joist from going all whopperjawed when we let go of the posts.  By the way, my rose bush was sacrificed to the Glorious Cause of Porch Building and chopped off nearly to the ground. 

Now if y'all think that the joist-raising sounds difficult (and it kinda was) get a load of what happened next.  We couldn't do the same thing with the header joist going down the side of the porch (for some reason which I don't fully understand, probably due to sleep deprivation) so we had to set all the posts first and then lift the header joist up on top of the posts.  This photo kinda gives you a better idea of that:

See how there's a little shelf on top of the posts?  The header joist rests on that.  There's no room for error here, and again, the posts are 9 feet tall and Mare and I are 5'4".  Plus, I am a weakling.  We discovered that it's about a hundred times more difficult than you might think to pick up a 2x12 that's 15 feet long, climb a ladder, and then lift the thing over your head to precariously balance it on that tiny shelf while the other person runs to get the nail gun and you pray that you won't fall off the ladder, drop the joist on your own head or someone else's, and plummet to the ground in a heap of splinters.  

But after a herculean effort and a long string of profanity, we climbed down and looked at those three posts at the corner of the porch, and I swear that the angels sang.
That's some seriously beautiful lumber, y'all.

And then we realized that we had two more header joists to place (on the "inside" side of the posts) and I nearly bawled.  As we were placing the first of the two joists, my little noodle arms began trembling and I counted up how many hours I'd been awake:  twenty-two.

"Hey, Marion," I croaked.  "I gotta stop for the day."  I hated to do it.  One more joist to place.  Just one more, and all the framing would be done.  But I know that being really tired physically and mentally is a good way to get hurt, so I tapped out.  

And then I walked down the sidewalk, turned around, and saw this.

And I ran out into the street and looked back at the porch framing.

And then I just stood in the front yard all teary-eyed and took a good long look at it.

Five porch posts.  Three grouped together at the corner.  Just exactly like Mr. Kelly would've done it back in 1887.  

I can't wait for tomorrow.


  1. Yaaaaaay! Looking good!

    Whopperjawed...? LOL! New word on me, and I make them up all the time.

    1. Haha! It was supposed to say "whomperjawed", a word Molly Ivins used in her columns sometimes.

  2. Sniffle...

    (Something odd is going on with comments. I hope 3 or so copies of this don't show up.)

    1. I know...sniffle...long time coming.

      ps: Only one copy showed up.

  3. Amazing job with the posts, despite those pesky delays. I'm sure the porch will look really wonderful after you guys finish everything. Thanks for sharing the pictures, by the way. All the best to you!

    Kendra Tran @ LECO

  4. This looks great! I can see what you mean about getting teary. Projects wait until you just about can't stand it (or yourself) anymore, and then boom. Things start happening all at once. Those porch posts are so pretty!