The Back Porch

January 10, 2011

So here's a more recent project.  The old back porch at ol' 173 was in baaaad shape.  I don't have a complete "before" picture, but this first one should give a clue to its condition.  Of particular note is the peeling paint on the walls and ceiling.  The windows were the kind that opened into the porch on hinges.  While when we first moved in we thought this was unique and charming, we soon found out that they were simply old and worn out.  On top of that, when the windows were open, they reached almost halfway into the porch.  AND...they leaked like the proverbial sieve! 

The first step was a bit of demo.  Above the windows, the walls were covered over in 1/4 inch plywood and had been painted white so many times the paint was cracked and "gatoring".  

The next step was to strip the walls. Now THAT was a job. I hate the tedium of 2 or 3 inches at a time with the Wagner heat gun so I tried some paint stripper. As it turned out, there were so many coats of paint that the paint stripper was totally useless. Sooo, back to the heat gun. Now, I have a bit of patience, and just a little bit of mental "toughness" (heck, I've even run marathons), but stripping these walls with a heat gun nearly drove me to the...well, you know where. Take a look at those walls after all that work! Also notice the missing boards in the ceiling, I wanted to see what was up there and what was ahead.

In the next picture you see that the new ceiling is in. I opted to put up a paneling instead of trying to strip the old ceiling. The wood was old and dried out and wouldn't have been worth the work. There's no heat on the back porch, but I have this thing - whenever an outside wall is open, I put in some insulation. I dunno, maybe a waste of money, but.... Then it was window time. (I'll spare you the progress pics.) There were five original windows of varying sizes. I'm not that great at math (although you'd think addition and subtraction should be simple enough) so it took me weeks of mental exercises to figure that I needed four new windows on the back (with two different widths) and three on the side. Worked out okay though!

Without taking you through every-single menial task, we eventually put up the ceiling, new walls and painted. We went with a brown deck and floor paint. It used to be that old-school blue-green porch floor color (which I love), but it just wouldn't go with the look we were heading toward.  Here's a pic with all the "big" stuff done.

I really like the following picture. It really shows off how great the windows turned out. When I trimmed the windows (inside and out) I decided to spend a little more money and went with PVC molding. I always remember Norm Abrams saying, "Vinyl is final!"

So then came the cabinets. We have limited cabinet space in the kitchen, so the wife wanted some "overflow" storage for kitchen utensils that aren't often used. We found a nice set at Loewe's, and a neighbor had a 10% discount, so we got a great deal on the whole set. With a kitchen remodel looming in the very near future, I thought the cabinet installation would be good practice.

So hear it is pretty close to done. All that was left was some molding around the base cabinets, then the little additions like wall hooks, and a bit of decoration. Maybe in the spring I'll put up some shots of the complete "after".


Again, so much was learned that I couldn't possibly list them all.  But here are a couple that really stand out in my mind:
1.  Review the products you're going to buy, then review them again.  I reviewed paints and primers over and over again, but still came away disappointed.  We used Baer Premium plus primer and paint.  This was the #2 top quality paint on several websites.  It was about 1/2 the cost of the #1 and received excellent reviews, but after this experience - I definitely don't recommend it.  Next painting project - I'm paying the extra and going with #1!  HOWEVER! The Baer porch and floor paint was excellent!
2.  When installing upper cabinets, join the cabinets together, then put up a ledger board to rest them on and keep them level while fixing them to the wall.
3.  Spend a lot of time walking around Loewes and Home Depot.  Look through the aisles, eavesdrop on conversations and just ask people questions!
4.  Grossman's sells the exact same windows as Loewes and Home Depot, but at roughly half the price!

Legacy Post Third Floor Renovation 1998

January 1, 2011

Okay, so in the beginning I don't think there were blogs (or at the least I didn't know about them), and I didn't really have the foresight to take a lot of "Before" pictures. But I did take some "Progress" pics!  Back in 1998 we renovated the third floor.  I'd call it an attic but, there were two small rooms up there when we bought the house, and (obviously) there's one now...besides, after all the work that went into it, "attic" seems a little unceremonious!  Here's the earliest picture I could find:

At this stage I had already gutted the floor of the two rooms.  The walls were covered in beaver board and the floor had two layers of linoleum.

By the design of it, the bottom layer was probably from the 1940's and, as an added bonus, the floor was insulated with old newspapers dating from the '40s through the '60s.  The downside of finding the papers was that I (as I so easily do) became distracted and spent an entire afternoon just reading World War II news!

At the time of this pic I had already insulated the entire floor, ran all new electricity all the way from the basement (which in itself would be worth a post or two) and had begun hanging sheetrock.  Luckily, the two radiators were already up there and just needed painting!  The next pic is just a "proof" pic.  Yep!  That's me!

In this next picture, you can see two interesting things. First, the knee wall. It turned out plumb and straight, but as I found out later, I didn't build it quite correctly. Alas - it turned out okay though! The other thing - the little dog you can barely see: that's Bruegger the beagle. He was our buddy for a loooong time and just died two summers ago.

On the other side of the floor I built the knee wall out a little further so we could have a little "attic storage".

Here it is with the sheetrocking nearly done...

At this point it was getting very nearly done...

To the left of the chimney I put in some simple book shelves and created a bit of a reading nook. 

 Which turned out to be a cozy little spot!

Looking the other direction...

And here's just a couple bonus shots...

One more of the reading nook...

So that's the third floor makeover. As I troll through the photo albums I will include some more "older" projects, and certainly newer projects will be more thoroughly documented (not to mention recent!).


This was my first major project so the lessons were innumerable!  But here are a few of the key ones:
1.  When building a knee wall, build it as one unit then insert it into position.  This will make level, square and plumb a much easier job.
2.  When mudding the sheet rock, several thin layers are vastly superior to one thick layer!  Oh the mess!
3.  The local library has a lot of books!  Some of them even cover topics like electricity!  
Maybe in future posts I will be a but more informative with my lessons learned, but looking back these were the chief lessons!

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