Porch repairs

While visiting my sister in Thunder Bay, I innocently asked "anything that needs doing?" - there's always a project or another that needs doing at her house.

She suggested that the front steps need replacing and, oh, new siding on the porch would be nice too. Of course, it totally makes sense to tackle the siding while doing the steps. Also the porch doesn't have a proper foundation and was sagging a little bit, so I figured I should jack it up before doing the other stuff. All in all, it ended up being a pretty big job.


That same evening, Marlene's husband Olivier started tearing up the old stairs. We also had a four year old supervisor on site!

Next the siding came off. Good to get that out of the way, but it also meant that I was now committed to doing this whole project. No backing out now!

Jacking it up

First the supports for the porch had to be tackled. The porch had been built 100 years ago, supported by two cedar posts. The in-ground part of those had completely rotted away, and at some point, some extra supports had been installed. But these too were sagging.

There was a pile of big rocks in one corner. When they built the field stone foundation for this house, they just put the leftover rocks in a pile and built the porch over them. I had to move that pile of rocks to get at the front wall that needed propping up.

I used two of the larger stones as the new "foundation". Not entirely proper, but better than the thin patio stones that were the improvised footing of a previous repair.

I used a hydraulic jack to lift up the porch. I also installed two 4x4 beams under the joists as a new support. That porch turned out to be surprisingly easy to lift, much lighter than jacking up cottages.

I put a 2x6 on either side of where I was jacking it up, Once the jack was released, the 2x6's took the weight. I deliberately put these in at a slight angle so that the support would more or less help push the porch up against the house.

Then I nailed some leftover boards to the supports that I'd just put in. Just to be on the safe side. Frost heaving tends to move things around a bit, but hopefully, these will stay in place.

More about foundations:

Foundation for a
House Addition
Cottage foundation
frost heaving problems

New siding

Next it was time to dig down around the old porch walls. The idea was that we'd put cedar boards on the outside of the porch, and that the lowest ones would end up going into the ground.

Not a perfect solution, but better than what was there before, and that had lasted for quite a while. My American readers will probably say "but that's just inviting trouble with termites". But we don't have termites in these northern latitudes. We did find some carpenter ants in the walls, but those aren't nearly as destructive as termites.

Nailing on a layer of tar paper.

Next came the cedar boards. The cedar was twice the cost of OSB boards that looked like siding, but it's much more rot and moisture resistant, so we could run it right up against the ground. The cedar came from a local lumber yard, probably locally cut, whereas the OSB siding boards would have come from far away, which is probably why the cedar only cost twice as much as the fake OSB siding.

Oops - minor boo boo. My sister decided she needed a band-aid. And our four year old helper changed into his "first aid man" outfit for the occasion. My sister said "I wouldn't have put a band-aid on, but I didn't want to get blood on the nice boards". My kind of attitude! :)

Here I'm nailing on more boards. Note the long sleeved shirt. This was June 9'th, but a cold week for June, even by Thunder Bay standards!

With those nice boards on the porch, that kind of highlighted the shabbiness of the door and windows. My sister asked me if I could do something about the door sill. A banged up old hand plane would have been good for stripping it down a bit, but I didn't have a hand plane handy. So I did a really dangerous operation with the skillsaw to trim it a bit. Just as well I didn't use a hand plane. I ended up cutting through two nails in the process!

Next: New porch stairs (and finishing up)