Porch redo, need advice and good railings!

concretenprimrosesJune 7, 2008

Our 1920s house is not beautiful, but it is wonderful! The main part of it was made from an old post and beam barn from up the hill, with an addition on the back. The front porches (first and second floor) have victorian style posts and plain balusters that we will copy when we replace the broken and missing first floor railings. The problem is the back porches which have started to move and need to be fixed. The house has aluminum siding, but I think where there is siding there are clapboards (in other words the style wasn't changed). The lines on the back are all straight and plain with no victorian elements as on the front. The upstairs porch is screened in and we sleep on it in the summer. This upper porch is pretty stable. The downstairs porch, which is listing due to failing footings, has solid (siding on the out side,verticle boards on the inside) "railings" with a nice 6" wide top, wide enough for a drink or a book. I am not worried about the structural work, new concrete footings etc. which we have contracted have done. The problem is we want to replace the "solid railings" which are not in good shape on the first floor with something that we can see through into the garden, except on the near neighbors side. And we want the 2nd steps to go back into the garden instead of toward the near neighbor. The 3 posts are square and we want to keep that look but slightly larger to give a more weighty look, since we won't have the solid walls. The contractor who is also an architectural designer, thinks we should use a railing system. I'm surprised because I don't think he would put it on his old house. They seem to me to be kind of cheap looking, with narrow useless top rails that you can't set anything down on. Are there some products that are better? Or can I find plans somewhere? For him to design based on our specs would probably be very expensive, but I want the porch to look like it belongs to the house, and to me that means not skimpy looking railings! Oh and they must be paintable. Thanks if you made it through this long post!


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If you got an ironwork artist, vs using some standard pieces from the local bldg centre, you could end up with a really nifty New Orleans look, a unique wrought iron design that would look special. I normally also don't go for a lot of railings for the same reasons as you, but depending on the house (can you post a picture?) there are times it makes sense.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 6:37AM
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You can put a wooden top rail on the existing railings if you want.
Even a piece of 2x lumber with some eased edges can conceal the narrow top rail.
A groove is cut into the 2x to slip over the narrow metal rail, and then it is fastened to the posts.
Once I had to drill and tap into the rail for extra fasteners, but usually you can anchor well enough at the posts.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 1:55PM
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I'd re-create all you can esthetically correct. Hold on to those bold top hand rails and all.

Sounds like a real beauty!

Good Luck

The PorchGuy

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 12:03PM
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Thank you all. Porch guy your pics are great. I'm going to have my husband look for ideas/solutions to a couple design problems we have been contemplating.
Its no beauty, but its nice to live in. I'll try to post pics in a day or 2.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 2:57PM
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I'm embarassed to post this it looks so awful. The front porches look a lot better, at least they are all straight tho missing some rails and skirts. We are also removing the narrow aluminum corner pieces and replacing them with appropriately wide wood or wood composite boards which we will paint dark brown. (Dark brown, light brown which you see onthe two windows to the left of the porch, and dark green are our trim and accent colors. Not sure what to paint the doors yet.) Thing to the right of the back door is a water heater which will be going down to the cellar. The main steps are on the leftt side, 2nd steps currently on right. Plan is to move 2nd steps to right hand side of the back, to go down into the yard.

My dh removed the cheap skirts so the crooked support posts are exposed. I don't know where the yellow on the eaves came from. Its there in real life, guess its the sun!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 8:03PM
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Agree with trying to add back all the character you can. Seems like you're on the right track. One day you won't remember the "before!"

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 11:32PM
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