Why must I fail at every attempt at masonry?

I didn’t mean to tear my porch apart. It just sort of happened. Trying to stop the hose from leaking lead to filling in a mouse hole which lead to ripping boards off my back porch. Soon I had exposed the rotting underbelly of my porch, launching an all-weekend project.

My name is Kevin Hendricks, and I have home repair syndrome. I am somehow able to ignore all responsibilities for the day and launch into a project, no matter how large. What amazes me is that other times I can completely ignore a project, no matter how simple the task. Several weeks ago we bought new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. That’s a pretty easy job. They’re still sitting in the package. Yet finding one loose board enabled me to rip out several others and redo my back porch.

Fortunately, I’m almost done and life can return to normal. I still have to do some painting and cut and install the actual threshold, but the hard part is behind me. What did I actually do? I replaced a rotting board that was serving as a threshold, a rotting floor board that was, well, rotting, and installed some fascia and flashing to protect everything from the elements. I also added a new board to the whole threshold structure so I can actually have a threshold. Now all that’s left is to add the aluminum threshold that will cap everything and make it look nice.

In the process I also learned more about the construction of my porch than I wanted to know. Though my house was built in 1910, the back porch appears to be a later add-on. It looks like a do-it yourself job, and it’s probably been shored up a few times. I did my best to shore up what I could without ripping the entire porch down — which was an ugly option. At one point I could see the dirt-floored crawl space below my porch, and the three floor joists supporting my porch. The outside joist was rotting away, clearly offering little support. A true handyman would have ripped half the siding off, jacked up the porch and removed this faulty beam. But I’m just a simple man. I gouged out what rotted wood I could and built a concrete block support for the corner to keep things from getting worse. Not exactly the best solution, but a solution I could handle.

Of the other two floor joists, only one appeared to be supporting any weight. This board looked rather weathered as well, and it had additional support beams tacked on to each side. We added a short fourth board so we would have something solid to drill into. Someday I fear this porch is just going to be a pile of old boards. But as long as the pile of crap is level, it should be OK.

Aside from the floor joists, I could also examine the crawl space. It looked OK, except for the daylight coming through on the far side. Under my deck there appears to be a break in the foundation wall. I don’t know if that was an access point at one time or just a hole, but someone forgot to fill it in. There was no evidence of animals living down there, but who knows how much water seeps through that hole and into my basement. Lifting deck boards will be the only way to address that problem, and I’m not going there now.

I’m no expert, but the other bothering part of my porch construction was the walls. After removing a few boards, it was pretty clear that my walls had been anchored to the floor boards, not the joists. There wasn’t even an attempt to secure them properly in any sense. So at this point my walls were hanging free. Again, a true handyman would have known what to do: rip the wall down and start over. But I’m just a simple man. I looked the other way. In owning an old home, I’ve found that’s really the best defense. There’s only so much you can do, unless you’re somehow paid full-time to work on your own home. And if that’s the case, you only have to face the fury of your wife.

So the downside was I spent most of Friday, parts of Saturday, and a good chunk of Sunday working on my porch. I’ll probably be spending a few hours of my Monday or Tuesday finishing up. On the plus side, my porch threshold is now weatherproofed and slightly more stable.

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