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Gaining our footing on a new project

August 29, 2014

Behold our sorry side porch.

side porch from inside

rotten corner post

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.

concrete block 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.

raccoon on porch

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.

b&w photo of house in 1930s

First step: clear the area for demolition! Eric chopped out the euonymus hedge that fronted the porch, which made the view even worse.

hedge removal

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.

utility trailer full of branches

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.

flooded stump excavation

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.

stumo excavation and original footings

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!

eric taking a break

Little Dot Morse stopped by to see what we were up to. Isn’t she a beauty?

tabby kitty Dot Morse

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.

rebar 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.

spider bite on Eric's leg

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!

19132013new

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From → Exterior

14 Comments
  1. How exciting! So lovely to have neighbours with such memories.

    • It really is … unfortunately, he just moved out! He’s only a mile away, but it’s not like having him two doors down. Bummer.

  2. Are you going to cover the porch? It’s going to look great! Eric’s bite looks awful.

    • No cover. We want to restore it just the way it was. Eric insists the bite is getting better.

  3. Poor Eric! He does not look very happy in that picture and then got a spider bite to top it off. Hopefully the rest of the project goes better. I have never heard of hobo spiders, but when I lived in Oklahoma I had to contend with fiddleback/brown recluse.

  4. Eric was disappointed that I didn’t mention it was 93 degrees while he was excavating! How quickly I forget! Hobo spiders are only in the Northwest–lucky us. Wikipedia says they came over from Europe early in the 20th century. I wish they would go home!!!

  5. D’arcy,
    I’m not particularly afraid of spiders until they casually get on me. Poor Eric. The new porch will be wonderful and knowing you two, you won’t rest until it’s finished. I’m so excited to see how it looks with the new porch and details that accompany that. Yikes, 93 degrees? That sounds like Southern California, not Washington!
    Happy Labor Day weekend.
    Karen

    • It may have been 93 last week, but it’s raining and 65 today! That sounds more like the NW. Happy Labor Day to you, too, Karen!

  6. I’m so sorry about, Eric’s bite! His is the second awful spider bite photo I’ve seen tonight going through my blog reader. 😦 We had a brown recluse in the house that was so big I actually had to go outside and wait for John to get home… Ugh. I can’t wait to see more progress on your side porch though!

  7. Thanks, Lisa. Eric’s bite has improved a lot. I’ve got some great photos of spiders from the demolition! Yuck!

  8. Eric you’ve done a great job removing the stump especially in such heat!!!
    The porch is going to look fantastic. We have a neighbour over the back fence. She’s lived in the house all her life and in her mid eighties.

    • These people are community treasures! We have a couple more who have lived here all their lives. They have great stories!

  9. Your planning department wouldn’t let you rebuild the porch to the original dimensions, even with the photo documentation? No matter, it’s going to be great for you to have something that will be such a great, usable size!

    • Yes, we are rebuilding it to the original size (as far as we can tell). I don’t think the city had setback restrictions in 1913, as some houses are built right up to the sidewalks, which they can’t do now. Judging from where the footings are, they work with the current setbacks, anyway. Onward! 🙂

      Connie, I wanted to comment on how beautiful your husband’s painting of you and Daniel is going to be, but I can’t get my WordPress ID to work in the comment field.

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