Old porch needs help

fannerJune 22, 2008

Hi, this is my first time posting here and I am excited to get your advice! I will try to post a picture of our porch to give a good idea. We were told by a builder that the whole porch needs replacement except the roof. All of the corner supports are rotted. The problem right now is that he can't re-produce the siding that is curved around the rounded corner. Any suggestions?

The siding in question is at the bottom part of the porch, below the iron railing. Thanks for any advice, I can't let this porch go!!!

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Oh!!! What a gorgeous place! What you need is a local historical society to point you to the nearest contractors who do such work (and usually very well, too). They will research it properly and work with you to get it done, but don't wait too long - if things have rotted, you don't want it all collapsing down one day onto yourselves or visitors.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 2:26AM
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Are the fishscale shingles that are visible the original siding? I assume they are. If so, that is the easiest siding material to bend around a radius such as you have. I can't imaging any contractor not knowing that. They even sell pre-cut shingles in the round-ended style you have. In any case, matching shingles can be cut on a bandsaw very easily.
I think you need a restoration contractor who has worked with curved porches enough to be comfortable with it. Perhaps your contractor is sending a signal that he is not comfortable with the job.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 7:22AM
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Ok, thanks. The fishscales along the top won't be a problem I don't believe. The concern is along the bottom where the actual siding is bent around to make the corner. It is hard to see with the bushes in the way. But, I hadn't thought about using fishscale along the bottom..... do you think that would look ok? Our contractor claims to have "helped" on jobs doing restoration on victorian style homes in a neighboring town. There is a historic street in that city that he said he has helped on. I do know that we will get a second opinion though before we actually start. This summer we are scraping and painting the back and side as it is in serious need of new paint. THanks again!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 3:14PM
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It's hard to see exactly what material you're asking about. But lumber can be bent, pieces can be custom milled. And there are a number of bendable plywoods that are amazing to work with.

It would be nice to someday replace that iron railing as it doesn't look original.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 3:44PM
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Oh, I see. You mean the trim skirt below the floor's edge. That can be done with "bending plywood" a flexible wood veneer product that allows it to be laminated and glued up to the needed radius. It could also be done with a select piece of white pine. That radius is within the range of radii that can be done with dry wood under 1/2" thick. If you need the trim 3/4", you'd bend and glue together two 3/8" layers, and so on. You want to glue up the piece about a foot longer than necessary, so as to get a good end to the bend; it's impossible to do otherwise. I have dry bent a few similar porch trims in my career, not that I'm a wood-bending expert.
The pipe railing just may be original, I know of some similar. Is your house pink? that's how the color reads in the photo.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 8:32PM
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Ery Azex for your benable apron. It bends.

The Porch Guy

And the iron rails are not origional.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 9:06PM
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I will pass your information along to our contractor. He was open to suggestions, withing his ability limitations. I think if he is not able to pull it off we will go with someone who can. No, the house is called "polished pewter" and is a pale grey color. We are painting it more of an earthy sage green with cream trim. If it is ever done I will post a new picture.....
As for the railings, I didn't realize they weren't original! How can you tell? And why would somone add them, I wonder? Would there have been some type of wood railing around it then? I have been trying to get my hands on old pictures of the place but so far no success.

Thanks again for all of the input!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 11:06PM
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Here is a closer picture of the area I am talking about. Maybe it will make more sense from this picture. And again, any suggestions on a replacement for the iron railing, if it is not original?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 11:05PM
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I am pretty darned certain the pipe rail is original. To the naysayers, how do you eliminate the possibility that it's original without seeing it in person? They had iron pipe and fittings when this house was constructed, and that fact alone makes the railings possibly original. I believe they represent the designer's intent of highlighting the sweeping curves, horizontal lines and quirky shingle details. The pipe rails integrate very well into the aesthetic scheme of the house.
It looks like your lattice porch has survived intact; its lower trim details are what the contractor should duplicate on the curved area and elsewhere. I don't think the smaller trim board that is just below the flooring is original or really needed. You need a square-edged 6" skirt board that tops off the narrowly-spaced clapboards.
Very cool house, I enjoyed looking at the pictures.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 8:01PM
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Are the curved siding pieces rotten? From the pictures they don't look in poor shape. If they aren't that bad, a good old house contractor could fix them, ie. caarrrefulllyyy remove the siding, cut or scrape out the bad parts (assuming they aren't very large), fill in with wood and/or putty, prime, paint and reinstall. That might be a cheaper option than replacing.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 2:49PM
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Whoa! I would definitely get another opinion because what you are showing us doesn't look that bad. NO WAY would I let someone pull that porch out!!!!!!!!!!! It looks to me like you could have the supports reinforced, repoured or sistered and maybe, only maybe replace a few of the clapboards. For sure the siding needs to be scraped and painted, but it sounds to me like your contractor needs a new car and wants you to help pay for it.

You need to find a contractor or an engineer that really does know about old houses and not some one who is just looking for big bucks. And he/she should have referrals that you can call and the jobs they did should be similar to yours.

You have a fabulous house and that porch is spectacular!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 3:21PM
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We had wondered about the possibility of saving the original pieces of siding. They are in tact, as is the majoirity of the siding on the house. I will protect the integrity of this original porch with every inch of my being. I do agree with the possibility that the iron rail is original as so much of this house has remained original in it's 104 year history. Now to coinvince my husband to get some opinions from other contractors...... THank you all so much for your very valued opinions. This is my dream house and as I said I will do all that I can to keep it as original as I can.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 7:55AM
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Agree to try to save the main structure of that fabulous porch. It truly looks phenominal! Find a trusted old house contractor, be very picky about checking references, and don't jump at those who want to tear the whole thing off. If you're in the Chicago area I can give you a few names.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 11:02PM
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I am pretty darned certain the pipe rail is original.

How do you eliminate the possibility that it's a later addition without seeing it in person?

It looks old, but awful clunky and intrusive. Still, it could be original.

Much of the decking and the shingles are obviously rotten. Or covered with innumerable coats of lead-based paint that I sure don't want to be scraping or sanding.

What you preserve, what you replace comes down to budget and personal input.

I've seen mind-blowing renos where I was certain the trim and porch rails were custom milled new. But, no, the homeowner had spent untold days patiently stripping and sanding it all.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 11:07PM
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So if this iron rail is not original, what may it have had instead? It seems like the base is far too low to have been standing alone ~ could it have had a wooden rail instead? Maybe I should post a close up of the railing and a strait on shot of the front of the house, would that help determine it's possible originality?

The decking will have to be replaced for sure. As will the structure underneath the fish scales along the bottom, you can see how rotted the wood is where the shingle is missing. As for the structure under the decking, that looks good to me, but I am not a construction expert.

I am not in the Chicago area, but about 5 hours north of there. Thanks for the offer though!

So, any suggestions on what may have been replaced by the iron rail *if* it is not original?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 11:29PM
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I would imagine that if the iron rail is not original there was probably no railing and the base was it. Old porches often times had very low railing or none at all. In any case I think the railing looks fine with the porch and for modern building codes you would need something there. Why not iron?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 11:47AM
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