Gaining our footing on a new project
Behold our sorry side porch.
When I bought this house in 1984, there was nothing outside the living room French doors but an ugly concrete block planter and a long step down. The original porch was long gone. And it stayed gone until the mid-90s. The previous owner stopped by one day with her grown grandson and she showed me an old photo that revealed a bit of the old side porch. It was uncovered (and vulnerable to the elements), but it matched the front porch with its square posts and decorative low railing. My ex rebuilt a reasonable facsimile with what little we had to go on.
Almost 20 years later, it’s rotten and unsafe. I wonder how many times it’s been rebuilt over the years. The current porch fits over the planter, but we’re going to take it all out. That will eliminate the “raccoon run” that exists now, under the porch and through the planter.
Raccoons are cute and all, but they compete for the food we put out for the homeless cats. And they drive Duke wild. I wish raccoons would stick to eating nuts and berries, and quit stealing pic-a-nic baskets.
When Eric mentioned that he wanted to rebuild the porch to our neighbor Tom, who has lived down the street for nearly 80 years, Tom asked if we were going to make it bigger like the original one. Bigger? Tom remembered the original porch stretching from the cantilever of the dining room to the corner of the house, and extending further out, as well. Wow!
Eric found this circa-1930s photo of our ivy-covered house in the county records. If you look closely, you can see the cedar shingle siding, and just make out part of the side porch railing under the “A” of Auburn.
First step: clear the area for demolition! Eric chopped out the euonymus hedge that fronted the porch, which made the view even worse.
Then I took the loppers and began whacking down the mammoth rhododendron that nearly engulfed the west side of the porch—a dusty and potentially spidery job. I transplanted that rhody from my parents’ house 30 years ago when I moved here, but it was time for it to go. It was overgrown, seldom bloomed, and … it was in the way. The hedge and part of the rhody filled our utility trailer. The extra pile of branches and another just like it are the second load.
That left the stump. Eric made short work of the rhody limbs with a chainsaw, and then attacked the stump with a mattock. And a post-hole digger. And the chainsaw. He even resorted to blasting dirt from under the roots with a hose.
All that excavating didn’t disturb the stump, but did unearth the original concrete footings. The porch had, indeed, come out to the corner of the house. When the water receded, we could see the footings on either side of the stump.
But the stump wouldn’t budge. Its roots had grown under the footings. Eric split it with a wedge and sledge hammer (very manly), and eventually he was able to break it up and remove it. Success!
Little Dot Morse stopped by to see what we were up to. Isn’t she a beauty?
Eric poked around with a piece of rebar until he located the front edges of the corner footing. I couldn’t rest until I did the same at the other end. Sure enough, the original porch did span from the dining room to the corner of the house! I found a narrow footing running between the two corners, which I remembered from when the porch was rebuilt. The rebar stuck in the ground under the rhody marks the east corner footing.
A chat with the city planning department confirmed that we must maintain a 10-ft setback from the sidewalk, so that means we’ll be able to extend the new porch out about a foot beyond where it is now. We’ll go from an 8′ x 6′ porch to 14′ x 7′ — doubling our square footage. Awesome!!
All the action will happen over Labor Day weekend and the following week, which Eric is taking off work. Care to make a bet on whether we can finish in nine days? Now that the bushes are out of the way, we can wail on demolition.
But … by Sunday night, an angry rash developed on Eric’s leg. By Wednesday, he didn’t need convincing to see his doctor, who quickly surmised it’s a hobo spider bite. She loaded Eric up with antibiotics to fight any secondary infection, and outlined the rash in felt pen so we could tell if it was getting bigger or smaller. After five days, it still looks like this, but it is slowly starting to fade. I think. Maybe a little.
You can bet that I will be in the next county when he starts dismantling the porch and planter. I can’t stop envisioning a herd of hopping-mad hobo spiders crawling up our pantlegs and overrunning our house! (Quick—duct tape around the doors and windows!!) I feel sorry for Eric, I really do. He is not particularly fond of spiders, either, but he’s a guy, and he has to cowboy up while I mince around with a can of Raid. He will have rubber bands around the ankles of his jeans. I’ll be the one in the full hazmat suit. In the next county.
So here we go, and here goes the old porch! Labor Day, indeed!