Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back Porches


Just off the kitchen and master bedroom are my back porches.


My renovation strategy since buying the house has always
been to tackle the ugliest thing.  I started here.


I've ripped things off.  I've added new things.

I've painted them.




And painted them again.

And it's all been lipstick on the proverbial pig.


When I was out last weekend cutting back overgrown plants
and shrubs and I discovered new problems.


The center post is rotting.



You can actually see the lower porch is sagging in the center.



The brick piers are crumbing...



...along with the porch foundation.

The time has come to replace them.


The thing that worries me most about the porches (and the kitchen)
is I don't know what is under one-third of the kitchen.  There is basement
under only two-thirds of the kitchen and the rest is unknown.

Might it be on piers?  It's a mystery.

Historical documents don't help.


On an 1854 map of the neighborhood, it almost appears like
there were porches, or at least one porch, on the house.




But on a drawing of the house from 1856, it's clear
there's only a small staircase leading from the kitchen.

The woman from whom I bought the house told me her father 
added the porches in 1940.  Whether or not there were ever porches
on the house prior than 1940, I don't know.  But these porches just don't look
correct to me.  I wanted to see something with more formal balance.

The porches may not be original but I want them to look
like they might have always been there,

Old Wayland Town Hall
Photo:  Historic Buildings of Massachusetts
The closet thing I could find locally to what I think my porches
should look like is the front of the Old Wayland (suburb of Boston) Town Hall
built in 1841, just a year older than my house.  I don't have the triangular
pediment above the porches, nor would I want the back porches
to compete with the front of the house but it's the symmetry
that my current back porches lack that I'd like to add.



So I've split the columns into two one-story sets that are thinner
than the columns on the front of the house and with no flutes.
This creates smaller-scaled bits that won't compete with the front of the house.

To create the symmetry so quintessential to a Greek Revival, you'll
also note I've created a center entrance.


Adding the back porches to my kitchen has consequences:  the budget.
I've decided not to add a second window above the kitchen sink.  The
cost of removing the old chimney, repairing and residing the house just
to add one window without an attractive view, just no longer made sense.

I also need to take a look other places where I can save money without
holding up the progress.  Right now it's appliances, lighting and cabinetry.

Work should start tomorrow.

84 comments:

  1. Steve I Love your plans for the back porches when you get to them. Hey, since work starts on your kitchen tomorrow do the smart thing and have your contractor see if he can get under your house to see what elese is under your kitchen. I know if anything is wrong it could hold up your kitchen renovation but hey what if your new kitchen suddenly fell through? I love old houses but they do come with their own problems and water always seems to be the biggest problem unfortunately. I hope for you and your homes sake that nothing bad is lurking beneath.

    XXX
    Debra~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, we're going to rip it all open and see what's in there. We'll know soon.

      Delete
  2. Even though you think like a man....I still have strong feelings for you....cause you are also good with decorating. When I see all those plans the left side of my brain goes into spasms. The right side says " what color".

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  3. I like the symmetry in your back porch plan. I envy a pretty back porch but not the bill. Don't go broke, man!

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    Replies
    1. A porch isn't really a bank breaker, not a lot of materials in it. Not that's cheap.

      Delete
    2. I just had a two-story porch rebuilt. I would call it pretty big money - I could certainly have bought a car on that budget. And I didn't even replace the lower deck. Hopefully you'll have a more economical solution.

      Delete
    3. Leith,
      Yeah, I didn't mean to make it sound cheap. I was thinking of it relative to the cost of a kitchen. The budget for the porches is less than the estimate for custom kitchen cabinets.

      Delete
  4. steve you are so thorough. i'm bummed you don't get the window over the sink . i don't have one and miss it dearly.

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    Replies
    1. Janet,
      The sink was going to be centered on two windows but now it'll be centered in front on the one that's there. I think it'll be okay.

      Delete
  5. Porch boy.... I LOVE that you have historical documents of your home! Love it! Old slave route tunnel under your porch......wonderin' wonderin'.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting idea. I hadn't thought of that.

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  6. Yahoo!!!!!!! MORE FAB stuff to watch and enjoy!!!!!

    All the best to you..............crossing my "hope he doesn't find anything BIG wrong" fingers!!!

    Rob

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    Replies
    1. I've had good luck so far, Rob. It's fun unearthing mysteries. Sometimes they're solved and sometimes they deepen.

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  7. You are made of strong stuff, my friend.

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  8. Oh that sinking feeling when you find something on your house rotting! At least this is a fantastic opportunity to upgrade the porches. I appreciate that you're mindful not to take the focus from the front facade. You won't even remember the extra kitchen window when you have both sets of french doors wide open next Spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's also a window that the old bathroom that gets incorporated into the kitchen so it will be plenty bright enough.

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  9. Sounds like building jacks and new cement supports are in your future ...

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  10. It's the foundatin and possible piers undefneath that worry me. Glad you're going looking. The porches will be lovely, tho, and well worth the extra work ... eventually. You may need to plan a wee, small bank heist, tho.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Webb,
      The brick foundation is just for the porch so it's not as bad as it seems. I'm not even sure why they did the brick foundation rather than the normal lattice skirt.

      Delete
  11. It's always scary renovating an old house. We just keep opening up a new can of worms. We had to replace all the sills on the back of our house when we started redoing the back rooms. Not nice. I do love your plans for the porches though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My neighbors across the street just had to do that on both sides of their house. I hate things like that because you spend a lot of money and the house looks exactly the same. What a drag!

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  12. wow Steve, you really do some amazing things to your cottage. The plans look amazing and I love the french doors onto your lower deck. I love watching your project progress!
    Best of luck.
    xo Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The french doors should make the kitchen nice and bright. The low winter sun shines right in through the windows that are there now.

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  13. Oh dear god those porches will be crazy perfect. The French doors will be a slice of heaven. My question is, on the top porch, will those doors prevent you from putting a dresser, etc, along that wall? Would that be a drag for resale someday? I instantly visualized the inside and wondered. But, how gorgeous it would be to have those doors in that room!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good point. EVen thought the doors look centered on the outside, the closet and bathroom put them off center on the bedroom wall. So I think there's room to the left for a dresser but I'll check. It would be "too bad" if i needed to look for a new dresser!

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  14. Your plan is stunning. When we renovated, we had to replace a carrying beam because the morons before us just cut it off. We discovered it when we gutted the kitchen. Our friend, a retired contractor looked up a said "how do you feel about an atrium in your kitchen!" . . Not fun, but we did it ourselves. We had 1/4 inch of room to get that sucker banged in! We all took turns at it. We think they cut it off when thy added a chimney - which we removed when we put the new heating system in!

    Old homes are beautiful, but they can be a can of worms! My husband says we had Helen Keller for a home inspector. He also use to refer to our home as a "Hollywood Movie Set" - now we need the finishing touches after all the major reno!

    So, for appliances, check out State Street Discount in Portsmouth, NH!

    Sorry to be so long winded!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's crazy, Mary. It's lucky that nothing happened.

      Thanks for the appliance lead! I'll check them out.

      Delete
  15. Dear god, the fun never stops does it?

    Guess we won't be gossiping on the back porch...

    You already have a plan?

    You are the man.

    xo Jane

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  16. So sorry you came across that. How did I miss the fact that you have an upper porch? That's such a treat! Your new plans are beautiful. It's fun to see the historic stuff you dig up.

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    Replies
    1. I'm think weatherproof day bed on the upper porch.

      I lucky with the historical stuff. Harvard has a lot of it online.

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    2. The daybed idea is brilliant. A nap on a rainy day...

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  17. BUMMER!

    the unraveling sleeve effect of old house ownership! in our 1856 house, we had to break under the kitchen floor to create a footing for the stove i wanted. what did we find......a 2'deep space, dirt and strategically placed boulders/rocks as supports. good luck steve

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  18. I cannot wait to see it! I'm a symmetry girl myself so of course I'm loving the plans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm with you. Symmetry makes me feel better.

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  19. Steve! I love love love the plan. The symmetry just adds so much - it feels so balanced and right when I see the plans. You really are the right curator for this old house. Does the location of the center doors work well on the inside too (it must, or you wouldn't be doing it)? I also agree about the second window and the chimney. So much more value here and lots of light from the new porch doors - and they also make the kitchen feel more part of the outdoor space. So proud of you. :)

    xo Terri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moving door in the kitchen actually frees up wall space to create a pantry area between the dining room and kitchen. I'm calling it the butler's pantry. I think it will have to be a custom cabinet but I'm on the hunt for a Steven Gamrel type glass front cabinet.

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  20. I'll be interested to see how it all pans out! All the best!

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  21. Steve, when I saw the rotting post and crumbling brick I thought, "This Old House!" Are you a fan of the show? You're in the right area of the country too! Good luck with your work. Hope all goes well.
    Claudia

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    Replies
    1. I do like the show and I've learned a lot them. I'm not sure I'd want the cameras around though.

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  22. Good luck to you, Steve. You are honoring your house with each step you take. I hope that what's "under a third of the kitchen" is a king's ransom of gold coins... you deserve it!

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    Replies
    1. I'm not sure why anyone would have hidden gold coins in there but it's funny you say that. I was thinking of getting a metal detector because this area has been covered for over 70 years. There could certainly be some old coins.

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  23. While it’s too bad you have to opt out of the idea of removing the chimney and adding a window (while ideas are endless, the contents of our wallets are certainly finite), the French doors will bring in a lot of light. Besides, you can always “tweak” the kitchen down the road. I’m looking forward to seeing the under the kitchen floor pics.

    Just a quick share note. Watch the door opening on your refrigerator. The doors really need more than 90 degrees to open in order to have clear access because of the larger door shelves. We caught this problem on ours before the cabinets were complete and solved it with a 12 inch sliding pantry.

    Your house is looking great. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right. Anything that gets cut now could be done later. I forgot to mention that the additional kitchen window requires a Zoning Board hearing because it's within the current required setback. I'm adding a new window outside the new bathroom that I'm almost positive is outside the setback. We're a little iffy about the new kitchen doors. They're within my rear setbeck so we're crossing out fingers the switch from windows to doors won't raise bureaucratic eyebrows.

      Good info about the refrigerator!

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  24. The joy of owning an old home is never-ending. My husband used to call our late 1700s home in the Hudson Valley "Builtmore." Every reno would reveal the necessity for the next one. I love your new porch plan. It will be a beautiful enhancement to the exterior as well as the interior of your home. I cannot wait to follow along on this journey of yours.
    XO, Victoria

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  25. I think you could rap that rotting support with duct tape, and it would be fine!! The new porch plans look great!

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    Replies
    1. Joan,
      I didn't think of that. I could do zebra duct tape to add a little pattern.

      Delete
  26. Well, this is exciting! I'm looking forward to seeing this project proceed.
    I'm wondering if you've looked at any of the homes in historic Charleston for inspiration on your porches? Many of them have lovely two story porches running along the side of the house from front to back.
    Keep having fun! Ruth

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    Replies
    1. Ruth,
      You're right. I did find a lot of good examples in the South. I didn't think of Charleston but I looked around New Orleans because it has a lot of Greek Revival architecture and double porches.

      Delete
  27. The first place I go to save money on remodeling is "Habitat". Appliances, building materials, paint, light fixtures. I've used them all.

    Habitat for Humanity
    240 Commercial St, Boston, MA ‎
    (617) 423-2223 ‎ · habitatboston.org

    Love your new idea about the porch.
    Ann

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info. It's certainly worth taking a look to see what they have.

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  28. Hi, Steve,

    I had exactly the same problem with my porch supports — rotting from the ground up — because I hadn't used pressure-treated wood. Your new plan looks great (and I note the enhanced copyrighting that you've included on your images!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess I can't be disappointed they lasted 70 years. The new columns will be a cementitious material that be painted to look like wood and won't be susceptible to pests or rot.

      Yes, I add the copyright using picmonkey. I do the text once and copy it to paste into the other ones. I takes about 30 seconds to do each one once you get used to it so that's not too bad.

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  29. Steve,
    The new French doors will be so handsome and stately. Is your house located in a historic district? Is it difficult to make exterior changes?

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    Replies
    1. Loi,
      There are various levels of historic designation. I'm not in a historic district that protects every detail but everything built before 1940 is protected from demolition. Door and window changes are controlled by zoning laws that often place an entire house within setbacks so any change to a door or window require a special permit from the zoning board. Adding a window is really tough.

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  30. Argh....challenges....it's a way of life in the "reno lane." Positive thoughts! franki

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    1. Thanks for the positive thoughts, Franki. It'll feel good to have it all done.

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  31. What an inspiration you have been since the start.Love everything you have done and I'm sending all the old house karma out there for this next adventure. Best wishes from another old house nut!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much. It's all a careful editing process, knowing what to take off and what to add. I try to be thoughtful and I hope my contributions to the house are appreciated for generations to come.

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  32. Man I so feel your pain...our house is nearly 90 years old and my practical hubs wanted to redo EVERYTHING not seen--that in my opinion had already lasted 90 years and how do we know that vex pipe will last 90 years???

    but...so we did...and now that all that work is so far behind us, it just doesn't matter..but at the time...whew...I just wanted to add a coat of paint and call it good

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    1. There's definitely some comfort that comes from knowing all those unseen things are in good condition.

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  33. Can't even imagine owning a home from 1842 and the pandora's box that comes with it. I've re-habbed 5 houses over the years but none older than 90 years. Love the new design for the porches. Your idea to keep the symmetry of the house by redesigning them really adds to the beauty of the home and what you've already done with it.

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    1. Knock wood...so far, so good. It seems the house when through a major renovation around 1940 nothing really terrible has cropped up. The house stayed in the same family for almost 70 years so there other than bad cosmetic issues like vinyl siding, bad wallpaper, shag carpeting, cheap vinyl windows and a rotting porch, the house was generally well maintained. I've been lucky.

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  34. OMG!!! What a project. Nothing is simple in home renovations. I cannot wait to follow the progress. (Your present kitchen is quite charming.) xo

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    1. Yeah, it turned into a much bigger one than I expected but by next spring, I'll be thrilled to be opening up my double doors from a new kitchen to a new porch.

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  35. I love the thought of french doors.
    I love the symmetry.
    I can imagine an elegant daybed and other beautiful pieces that you will find and make amazing.
    This, along with your kitchen remodel, will be so exciting to see.
    (I've fantasized about knocking out the 2 windows in my own kitchen and putting in french doors that open out onto a patio area with an in-ground pool.)
    Sigh.
    Reading the other comments about what might be under the house makes me think I might be watching too much of crime TV. I'm much more morbid I guess, but I do hope it's bricks of gold that you discover (and not some "lost" family member of the previous owners!)
    ;)

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    1. It's crossed my mind too. Jimmy Hoffa.

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    2. Ha! I was actually going to say Hoffa but Detroit isn't very close to you.
      Anyway...Good Luck!

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  36. shoot...this is a big project...it looks like fun to me and cant wait to follow along!

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    1. It certainly is bigger than I planned but it'll be nice to get it done.

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  37. You know, I think sometimes these kinds of obstacles require creative thinking. Which somehow contributes to a home full of personality. So, I have no doubt that you'll come up with something even more fabulous that previously planned as a result of your new porches going up. Which will be amazing. Those double doors...
    Camille

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    Replies
    1. You're right. I have spent a lot more time looking for cost-effective solutions for cabinetry and lighting especially.

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  38. Ah, the never ending saga of owning an 1850's house. When we first purchased our home, the front porch was sagging and in need of repair. We couldn't decide whether to tear it off or not, until the paper boy's foot went through one of the floor boards! Since it was not original to the house, we tore it off-dramatically changed the look of our old house! Good luck- it's an expensive and messy project!

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    Replies
    1. Susan,
      Yes, a porch can be very transformative to a house. But I'm hoping this isn't a never-ending journey!

      Delete
  39. Despite the cost and inconvenience, just focus on the fact of how wonderful porches are, and how lucky you are to have a multiplicity of them! They are such a marvelous 'middle ground' between public and private space, and a great spot to spend time, read, sip a drink, write a letter, greet passing neighbors, watch the world go by, etc.

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