Rebuilding My Porch and DIY Credibility

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back porch before repair
Patched, painted and sistered: My back porch in a weakened state

I keep a mental to-do list, a growing index of things I want to get done, or more importantly that need my attention, or better put, needed my attention yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before…. Well you get the idea. Some tasks have been on the list as long as I can remember, no doubt born in my consciousness the day I signed the mortgage papers.

bulldogs on the porch
Gracie and Boz had no objections to the derelict stoop.

Number one on the oft-ignored, albeit ever-present list, was repairing my back stoop, the most-used portal into and out of my house. The wood was meringue: soft, crunchy and crumbling. I believe there is more tensile strength in a Kit-Kat bar that in the floorboards under my feet. And yet it could still support the weight of one beefy farmer and his cadre of bulldogs, so why rush into things.

porch defying gravity
Day of reckoning: Darn you decay and gravity!

Over the years I sistered joists, bolstered newel posts, replaced a floorboard or two, and even (gasp) painted over rotten wood. My carpentry and DIY bandaids served me well, until last week. I was carrying two armfuls of groceries in, trying to manage both while opening my back door without having to set the bags down. Leaning heavily on the rail was mistake number one; it broke away from the house. In a move that would have made Gene Kelly jealous, I righted myself, and descended full force to the second step. Ah, but safe I was not. The risers decided they had had enough and broke away from the stoop. For my second dance move I tripped the light fantastic to the first step board where balance was returned. No injuries to report, other than to pride.

COPY CODE SNIPPET
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“And just how am I supposed to get from Point A to Point P?

The optimist in me chirped, “Well, I got an extra ten years out of it.” The pragmatist chimed in, “Well, I know what you’re doing for the next three days.” Buddy was incensed by the whole episode and the resulting inconvenience. In his mind, I had basically destroyed the only entrance and exit to the farmhouse. Distraught, and standing on the doorway cliff, he’d bark and whimper as if trapped in the house, never to touch the green green grass of home again. Of course, he could have used any of three remaining exterior doors available to him, which I might add are always open this time of year. Oh, Buddy.

buddy bulldog on the porch
Porch approval from Buddy, “Now that’s more like it!”

I went straight to the internet for help, searching for “How to build a small stoop” which later I changed to “porch” and then later to “deck” as it seems savvy carpenters on the Web have no use for the word “stoop.” Apparently that term is now fully-owned and co-opted by urban hipsters. Needless to say, there were more videos on the subject than I cared to watch, but I did find one that suited my attention span and ability to extrapolate.

porch stairs
Buddy, “You sure these stairs are safe?”

So 32 YouTube viewings, and 16 trips to the lumberyard and hardware store later, a wee porch is born, and Buddy can now leave the house without the discomfort of having to break a habit or a sweat, and I can sit my keister down without fear of crashing through a floorboard or two.  Ah, all is right with the world, at least for the next ten minutes.

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Tom and Buddy pondering the next selection on my to-do list.

Related Video: Tom Silva From This Old House

29 COMMENTS

  1. I really like your new porch, but where do your potted plants go now?

    Amongst the myriad projects on my to do list is fixing my sad front porch that is sinking unevenly into the earth because a previous owner (or builder) liked short-cuts.. I’m feeling inspired to fix it the right way now.

    • Go Jim, go! Yep, after taking this stoop apart, I was amazed it stood for as long as it did. My new one, should withstand earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and morning coffee drinkers. Definitely overbuilt.

  2. I bet bulldog drool hastened the demise of the old porch. Better get some waterproofing on there asap! Good job Tom!

  3. That is one beautiful stoop/porch/deck. That should hold up for a LONG time. I’m glad Buddy is able to go outside again! HaHa!

    • Thanks Susan!
      Thanks Karen!
      Thanks Margaret!
      I’m feel the love and support to move on to the next item on the to-do list: sweep moss off porch roof, or hire someone to do it. Yeah, that’s it, the second option.

  4. That is a beautiful job. I want you to be safe and noticed you did not extend the hand rails down the steps as This old House did. I would hate for you to lose balance and topple off the side. You may want to extend the rail down. As they say, “Once a mother, always a mother.” This is only a suggestion.
    While I have your ear, I have a friend named Joan who is on your island for the summer. I told her to watch for you at the farmers market selling your beautiful flowers. She may mention me to you. We exercise together.

    • Keen eye Betty! That is so funny you noticed the hand rail omission. I’m planning on extending the rail, but I have to order a special newel post plate to secure it. Uh, oh, this sounds like procrastination rears its ugly head again. 😉 Betty, I look forward to meeting your friend Joan. I’m also up at Herban Bloom on Tuesday, working in the flower shop if she wants to drop by. Cheers! And thanks for worrying about my safety. Mom’s are the greatest.

      • I will pass your Tuesday location onto Joan when I hear from her. She has taken this vacation for 4 years now and truly enjoys her summer visits. I was so envious when I heard where she was going. I will get to Whidbey Island later in the summer
        My friend is selling her home and will be moving back to the mainland to be closer to family. I am going to help in preparation for the move.

  5. Tom, knowing how much Buddy loves you, I would have to say it was not the inconvenience of not having this exist but he was probably thinking, “Oh Bloody Hell” now I have to sit here and protect my human from falling out of this exist. I do not know how many times I tried to warn him about that old stoop collapsing. Now, procrastinating once again with the railing!!! My job for caring for my human never ends. Ooooohhh, I need some extra help here. Perhaps, I should petition for some more treats.

    V and the Furry Family

  6. Great job, Tom! It’s a shame it’s at the back of your house – you must host a party so that all can admire. I’m with Betty – get a rail. A few years ago I asked my forty-year-old handyman to put a rail on the steps leading down from my back deck and he looked at me like he was about to call to have me committed. It will take him a few years to realize why I needed that rail! Buddy looks approving, if slightly quizzical. 🙂

    • Sandra, I’m on it. Just ordered the fancy concealed brackets that lock the added newel post in place. I may have to share Stoop Story 2. 😉

  7. Your Mamma is gonna be real happy; they are most beautiful! You are so handy. I’ve got projects over here if you run out of ’em over there. 😉

  8. Glad you weren’t hurt ! I so enjoy reading your blog – it makes the Great Northwest seem a little closer and your varied topics are always so interesting. I always look forward to reading about your ” slice of life “. Thanks 🙂

    • My pleasure Sue, Let me know if you ever make it up here for a little grandbaby spoiling. Again, thanks for the kind words and support.

  9. Tom! It looks great!! You sure can do so much!! I am so glad you didn’t hurt yourself
    tripping the light fantastic!! 🙂

    • Eileen, funny you should ask. Uh, no he does not, and not even close. He’s a beast, about 20 pounds heavier and larger than Boz or Gracie.

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