Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Build a Porch in 437 Easy Steps, Part 2

We can walk on our porch!

Okay, we can walk on half of it. I take my victories where I can get 'em. 

We finished cross-bracing the structure and started laying down the decking. (For more on how we built the structure, read How to Build a Porch in 437 Easy Steps, Part 1)

Installing cross-bracing. Brett says it's necessary. I say he just wanted to play with the nail gun.

This part is really satisfying, because the deck gets more obviously useful with every row we complete. I say "satisfying," not "easy," because although the idea is pretty straightforward - cut board to length, sand and paint, attach with nail gun, repeat - it's also very time consuming.

I keep thinking of the classic Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. That was the first book that really made think hard about the trade-off between time and money, and when to choose which one. In this case, we got used cedar decking for free - awesome! - but it makes our project much slower.

Someone pulled up their cedar deck to replace it with synthetic, but the contractor didn't want to waste the wood that was still in good condition. We were lucky enough to get it, which has really helped keep this project affordable. But because it was on someone else's deck, it's painted, cut to odd lengths, has some damage and moss, etc. To get it looking nice again and make sure it's protected from water damage in the future, we need to sand each board and seal it with paint on all sides. We tried to get as far ahead on the sanding and painting as possible, but most of it is getting done as we build. Slow going.

But - it's going to look SO SO good! I'm so excited.

So.. beautiful... *sniff*

Brett's on crutches for a week or two, so probably not much progress this weekend unless the porch elves pay us a visit. More painting and sanding for me!

Bonus content: Hermie apparently wasn't feeling photogenic this week. As a reward for bothering to read this without the salve of her cuteness, here's a video of her attacking an evil, evil milk carton.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to Build a Porch in 437 Easy Steps, Part 1

Step 1: Begin your weekend with a big pile of lumber and supplies, and a hopefully more or less level gaping hole in front of your house.

Step 2: Install flashing, then spend the rest of the weekend trying not to accidentally step on it and destroy it.

Step 3: Build a ledger board. This was a new term for me! Basically, this is a big board that attaches to the house. It holds hangers that will support the joists.

This is a hanger. Nail it on. Repeat a million times, or every 16 inches, whichever is worse.

Be really, really sure not to hang the ledger board crooked.


Step 3.5: Realize there's a shrub in your way. Spend half an hour learning how to dig up a shrub.

Soundtrack: Brett yelling "I am Groot!"

Hermie is happy to help dig, and dispose of the compost.

Step 4: Place concrete footings. These are the main supports for the porch. 

Footing, with random piece of wood jammed in for no obvious reason.

Step 5: The footings need to be level and on an even surface. Empty a bag of pea gravel under each one, and use that to create a nice even spot. Realize that some of your footings are now up too high, and spend the rest of the day digging holes for them, madly shoveling gravel around, and repeatedly smashing the footings into the gravel piles in a futile attempt to get them to sit right. End the day with the front of the house looking almost exactly like it did that morning. Drown your sorrows in cheap wine (this step is required.)

Many footings (feeting?) set out at regular intervals.

Step 5.5: Next day. Go back outside and roll out a moisture barrier. "Moisture barrier" is architect speak for HORRIBLE smelling black plastic. Hermione kept licking it, presumably because it reeks like barbecued cat.

Step 6: Start building the structure. Insert posts into the footings and attach them with bolts. Make them a little higher than the top of the porch will be - you'll cut them down later. 

Why even build the rest of the porch? I like it this way.
Step 7: Start attaching your joists! This deserves an exclamation point because it's the first time you've actually felt like you were accomplishing something since you started this thing. 

Step 8: Realize that you're not sure you're getting things perfectly lined up, so attach your second ledger board. It attaches to the exposed end of the joist you just hung on one end, and is nailed to a board attached to the house on the other end. 

Step 9: Immediately realize that something is very, very wrong. Discover that you've attached the board the wrong way. Pull it apart and reattach.

Step 10: Realize that something is still very, very wrong. Discover in horror that every. single. hanger. is off by about half an inch. Realize with ever-growing dread that the only solution is to pull them all off (they each have 6 nails in them, by the way) and reattach them.

Step 11: Have a screaming fight with your spouse. Question if you want to continue living, and really why life exists at all when it has no purpose but misery.

Step 12: Take a time out. Eat leftover pizza and let the dog lick your face for a while as you lay on the couch and moan.

Kisses save lives.

Step 13: Come back outside when your spouse has moved the hangers. 

Step 14: Finish attaching the joists to the posts. Cut the posts down so they are flush with the top of the joists.

Step 15: Insert the rest of the joists, which mercifully do not have to be attached to posts. Discover a few small mistakes as you go, but by this time you are too emotionally numb to get worked up about them. Fix and move on.

Step 16: Step back and enjoy your results! There's still one more structural step, and then we'll nail down the decking, but it finally is starting to look like a porch. 


Step 17: Very, very long shower before you start again tomorrow...