Our hottest-day-of-the-year tradition
We’ve had a curiously Southwest-like spring and summer here in the Northwest, with a bone-dry June (June is usually soggy) that’s continuing into July. We had almost as many days over 85 degrees in June as we normally have all summer. Over the 4th of July weekend, we had our ninth day over 90 degrees, with several more to go. Many of us have lost our sense of humor about the situation. I’m finding it a little scary to think about how we and our landscaping will survive our normal drought period, late July through August.
However, this is the perfect opportunity for Eric and me (well, okay, Eric, since I am a hot-weather wimp) to continue a summer tradition of doing a major outdoor construction project during the hottest weather of the summer. Sound like fun??
Let’s see … there was the fence … and the deck … and the front porch … and the brick front walk … all constructed in 90- to 100-degree heat. Not by me!!
This year, we’re finishing the side porch, which, if you recall, we began too late last summer and had to put on hiatus for the winter.
Here’s where we began this spring, with Eric renting a pad sander and scrubbing a winter’s worth of oxidation off his custom-milled decking.
With an eye toward what we think will be a trim color when we repaint the exterior, we used opaque alkyd-based waterproofing stain in barn red on the porch floor. (I’ve always liked a red floor for a porch. The front porch is currently gray, but it’ll change when we get around to repainting.) Two coats should give it a good weather seal … we hope. [Note: The best way to avoid having your backside appear in a blog post is to make sure you’re behind the camera. Sorry, dear.]
Next, Eric framed in the big square corner posts that echo the design of the front porch. These posts don’t provide structural support for anything but the railings. The porch deck is supported by framing underneath.
Everything on the side porch matches the design of the front porch, except that this porch isn’t covered. It’s exposed to the weather, which is our main concern. The top rails are treated 4x6s. Eric patiently applied wood filler and sanded them to disguise the surface cuts.
Yes, I have helped a little on this project … painting, as usual. At this point, the opaque white-stained railings were merely laying on the framing. Duke wanted to know how far the schedule had slipped.
Eric inserted additional framing to secure the hefty railings and to accept the plywood sheathing, which will be covered with cedar shingles.
Even though only the horizontal portions of the railings were up, it gave the porch a sense of enclosure and a preview of what it will feel like when finished. We felt like we were making progress. One evening while we were sitting in our living room with the French doors open, a couple of people walked by. We heard one of them say, “He’s been working on that for a year!” Well, hmph! That seemed to motivate us.
I was excited as Eric began making the slats for the railing, because they are what give the porch its personality. The slats are 1×8, with a 1-7/8-inch decorative hole. These holes are probably the only round design elements on this decidedly square bungalow.
By this time, the temperature was really heating up, with 90-plus-degree days. The blue canopy was a smart purchase a few years ago. Standing in the shade makes the heat more bearable. Eric tolerates the heat far better than I do. I must admit, I spent large portions of the brutally hot days inside with the AC, pretending to be busy, while in reality I was watching golf on TV with a cool drink in my hand … as Eric toiled outdoors. Every now and then I called him in for a cooling break.
But eventually it was my turn under the canopy, heat be damned. I painted three coats of white stain on the slats. The job went quickly because the heat dried each coat in minutes. That meant I could dodge back indoors before sweating too much.
The slats are held in place between two rows of quarter-round, top and bottom. Small spacers fill the gaps between the slats so that winter rain (assuming we’ll get rain again someday) won’t collect in the trough and rot the railing. I still need to slap some white on the spacers.
Now that the railings are complete, the porch feels like a porch, and is functional. We love looking out the French doors and seeing this awesome additional room just outside! It’s more than twice the size of the one it replaced. Plenty of room for our bistro set and a couple of other chairs. Duke and the cats love it.
Over the next several days, Eric will build the top caps for the corner posts and shingle the walls to match the front porch. I’ll do some touch-up painting and planting. And of course, the construction debris needs to be cleaned away. Ditto the pile of saws, drills, and extension cords just inside the French doors. Only then will we be done. We’ve decided to eat a celebration dinner out here when that happens—not a moment before! We’re so close now! Imagine that—we’re about to actually finish a project!
As I finish this post from my porch perch, Duke, Lacy, Tara, Checkers, and Peggy Sue have all joined me at various times. I think this porch is a success!