|The porch before demolition|
This summer I have a full-time, non-paid job as a carpenter’s apprentice. We are rebuilding our screen porch, and Mike is the carpenter. He named me “The Apprentice”, not to be confused with the Donald Trump variety.
What Mike sees as the apprentice may vary slightly from my view of the roles and responsibilities of an apprentice. He thinks I should shadow him so I can learn the trade. But not being one to sit still very long, I am often back in the house doing chores with the comment “call me if you need me”. Ok, you can already see a few dilemmas. Mike is holding a board, and he needs a nail. And he yells “Diane! Diane! Come out here!”
So over the past 6 weeks, I’ve settled into my own apprentice groove. Basically I am the gopher for screws, tools, staples, wood, and power drills. I hold boards while Mike fastens them into place. I hold boards he is “ripping” on the table saw and “cross-cutting” on the radial arm saw. I accompany him on many trips to Lowe’s, and I help select new boards. I offer opinions on various approaches to the building, and am sometimes Mike’s “voice of reason” (his words, not mine).
So, keep in mind that this DIY post on re-building a porch is coming from the vantage point of the apprentice, meaning it will be in very elementary form. Why? That’s all I know.
The “old” screen porch
Our house was built in 1989, and there is a screen porch off the kitchen. The bottom of the porch is brick, and the top is an American Cedar wood frame to which screens are attached. And therein lies the problem. American Cedar s not impervious to weather, and the wood was painted and trapped rain and moisture over the years. The result was rotting wood, and until we were able to rebuild the porch this summer, the porch roof has been supported by two large jacks.
|Mike at Pro-Build Lumber|
Not wanting to make the same mistake, we decided to rebuild the porch with western red cedar which holds up well in wet conditions. After checking a couple of local lumber yards, we decided to purchase 4x4 architectural (smoother finish than rough cut) western red cedar posts from Pro-Build (formerly Carter-Lee), a well-known lumber yard in Indy.
Rebuilding the screen porch
1. Replace the 2 corner posts.
With the floor jacks in place, Mike cut out the first post. He found rotted wood below the brick line and used a shop vacuum to get out the pieces of wood. He then realized that the base was not level for one of the beams. He created a new bottom using concrete and a metal screen. He also drilled a “weep hole” in the brick so water would have a place to drain.
|Looking into brick enclosure where post used to be|
The roof was being held in place by the jacks, and the next challenge was to get the side beams in place between the ceiling and the brick encasement. Bottom line is the beams would not fit into this tight angle, so Mike had to “dado” cut the corner post into two pieces. He then put the beams in place in the corners and joined them with wood glue and weather-resistant deck screws. Ok, I had no idea what "dado" meant, and I found the following in the dictionary: a rectangular groove cut to make a joint in woodworking.
|Gluing dado cut board|
He “toenailed” 4.5 inch deck screws through the new beam and 2x4s and 2x12s beams that held the roof in place. Again, dictionary at the ready; "toenail" is driving a nail at an angle through a board.
And every time he installed a new post, he used the jacks to raise the roof slightly so the new posts would slip into place. He would then lower the jack so the post would be load-bearing.
2 2. Replace the other 8 posts.
On the old porch the posts sat on top of a horizontal piece of wood which sat on the brick. It looked good, but the horizontal wood collected water and moisture. Our friend Craig recommended placing the posts directly on the brick and eliminate the need for the horizontal boards. Another new approach was using right angle galvanized steel brackets to support the top of these beams into the roof beams.
When Mike removed the beams next to the brick wall of the house, I got the job of scraping caulking off the bricks. I used the Fein Multi-Master with a putty remover tool for this job. Mike then put new clear caulk in place before installing the new beams. This eliminated any gaps between the bricks and wood thus avoiding insects entering the porch.
|Removing old caulking from bricks|
|Installing new caulking|
3. Install upper level horizontal wood between the posts.
When Mike removed several of the old posts, he found that the wood between each end was in good shape. Keeping them for reuse, he salvaged the beams in such a way that two sides retained the original rough-cut finish and paint. These were then used as non-structural trim between each of the posts at the top that matched the ceiling and remaining trim on the porch.
|Horizontal trim piece|
4. Install 2 door posts.
We decided to leave more of the brick exposed on the door posts, and Mike cut the new posts to sit on the brick and to then extend to the floor. This was an extremely challenging task. I'm happy to say that I was somewhat removed from this chore as our friend Kevin became the apprentice that day. After measuring, cutting, cutting a second time and a good amount of cursing, the posts were put in place.
|Door beam in place|
5 5. Install a new wooden screen door.
First, let me say that I hated the original door since I moved into the house. It was flimsy and had been shored up over the years with additional wooden brackets, a steel rod and a hook and eye closure. So I was pretty excited to pick out a new unfinished wooden screen door at Lowe's. We found a simple door and a wooden insert for the bottom of the door. The wooden insert would prevent cats trying to escape or other animals trying to enter. I know, I might be a bit paranoid (or overly dramatic) here...
|Screen door insert|
My job was to finish the wood door with stain and a waterproof finish. First I sanded all the wood to remove splinters. And as you might expect, within the first 5 minutes a 3 inch splinter was sticking straight out of my finger. I pulled it out and discovered that if you are going to bleed on the wood, this is a good time to do it because you can sand it right off.
We then selected an Olympic outdoor wood stain that included the waterproof finish. We tried to match the red cedar, and let’s just say that we are getting used to the orange-ish color of the stain which has a certain rustic look. I applied two coats over a several day period.
|Staining the insert|
Mike carefully measured and installed the door with three hinges. Next he installed a "transom" piece(goes immediately above the door) and the wood trim inside the door. He then installed the new door handle. Voila! We have a wonderful new door to replace the ugly old door.
|Putting hinges in place|
|Carefully adding the transom|
So, six weeks have elapsed, and the porch is structurally stable and looking good! And yesterday we made another trip to the lumberyard to purchase more red cedar for the trim. Yes, there is more work ahead…
But last night as we sat in the screen porch and watched a wild thunderstorm and drank martinis, I felt pretty good about our progress and my new “apprentice job”.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of Rebuilding a screen porch, where we finish the trim work!
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