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porch & exterior, part 2: railings

05.05 no longer a lawsuit waiting to happen

click to see the full photo galleryAs regular readers know, we were saddled with an awesomely bad porch rebuild when we bought this house. Waa-aay back in Fall 2003, we spent a considerable amount of time, without the benefit of a power miter saw, prettying up the two main porch posts and building shorter posts for new porch and stair railings. Our plan was to make use of the materials we already had from the awesomely bad porch rebuild, but redesigned in a manner more befitting a Craftsman bungalow, rather than a treehouse fort.

The posts turned out quite nicely despite the obstacles, and when we last wrote about this, we were looking forward to building the railings and wrapping things up. We finished the posts just before our Arizona trip, leaving them primed and painted to protect them against any wet weather while we were gone.

Which is a good thing, since it rained pretty much the entire ten days we were gone. Unfortunately, we'd nailed the four short posts (at the top and bottom of the stairs) directly down to the porch, spanning across two floor boards on each one. And this, dear reader, is the kind of mistake you make when you don't know what you're doing. Because it seems like it should be fine, right? But the reason you don't nail your porch posts into the floor boards is that when the boards expand from moisture, they pull apart anything that's nailed to them. So when we got back, our nice new short posts were destroyed.

We took the short posts down with the intention of salvaging what we could and redoing them correctly, but I think we were so discouraged about the whole affair that neither of us really got motivated to tackle it. And then we started other projects, like the yard and the bathroom and the attic. So there it sat through that winter, and then another winter. It made the house look unfinished, not to mention being a hazard for people needing a railing to go up and down the stairs.

Fast forward May 2005, when Sal's dad (Bob) decided to come out for a nice long visit and mentioned that he'd like to help us work on the house. Like we're going to say no. He originally mentioned wanting to help with the attic, but since we had that project well in hand and we really needed his years of woodworking experience for advice on the porch, we asked him if he wouldn't mind helping with that instead.

And that's how the porch went from being this big unmentionable in our home improvement career to one of the best projects on the house. His first full day here, Bob and Sal spent a day measuring and figuring and running to the hardware store for what we needed and before the day was done, holes were cut in the porch at the top of the stairs for the two short posts and 4x4s were in place on pier blocks underneath. The next day they worked on it, the other four posts (two more at the top of the stairs, two at the bottom) were in place and all six were level and firmly bolted in.

They then faced the posts with plywood, which we'll trim later with corner trim to finish them off. After that came the railings, made from the banister and spindle pieces salvaged from the previous owner's porch rebuild, the spindles cut shorter and attached to a 2x4 along the bottom. And before we knew it, the project that had been mocking us for a year and half was finally finished!

There's still the corner trim to do, as well as the priming and painting -- and lordy, we need to do something about that hideous lattice on the front! -- but man, it looks great. Someday, maybe a few years from now, we hope to redo the porch entirely, after some research about what it used to look like and some recovery time for our bank account. In the meantime, though, this was a great way to make use of what we had and still reflect the house's original design. It came out beautifully. And big mondo thanks to Bob, who helped cross off one of the big four projects on our list.

click to see full photo gallery