Work work work work

This summer we’ve been working on the porch. Two years ago when we painted, web we never got around to the porch columns. If the brick isn’t repointed soon the railing’s going to disintegrate, so that’s underway, too.

The columns were covered (sort of; a lot of it was peeling) with a thick layer of paint. I figure the last person who painted the house was paid by the gallon.
I scraped them, then hit them with chemical stripper to take off as much as I could.

I still had a lot of paint to straighten out after the stripper, and I guarantee it’s lead-based. Safety first!
Also, say hello to my little friend – the Wagner Paint Eater. I love this tool.

That was a nasty, filthy job. I figured stripping the columns and the bulkhead would suck mightily, and it did.

Anna thought bandannas make a good fashion statement.

So did Claire.

In that picture you can see the trim is missing at the bottom of that column.  With the exception of the two house-side columns, all the trim was badly damaged on the bottoms, and on several columns the bases had rotted as well. We had to rebuild bases, in some cases jacking up columns where they’d sunk, and replace the wood. Then I cut all new trim with my router and installed it.

In this picture you can see one of the columns that had to be removed, along with the “ghetto column,” a
pole with an aluminum cover that had been added sometime in the 80′s (we think.)

We suspect it was needed because the removed column wasn’t doing it’s job anymore. We reinforced the roof to better distribute the loads, and built a new column to replace the old one.


With the new column in place, we cautiously removed the pole.

The roof didn’t fall in! A section of gutter on the corner had to be repaired as well.

Once all the columns were primed and painted, the porch looked 100x better.

The exterior brick on that side of the porch has been repointed. Our neighbor was kind enough to teach us how and give us a hand to get us started.

We’re still working our way around the back side, and eventually the inside of the railing will have to be done, too (it’s a double layer of brick). Some of the concrete caps need minor repairs.


The mortar was so soft you could shove it out with your bare finger in most spots. For other spots, we have a grinder. I love that tool, too.

A house’s #1 enemy is water. When water gets into a wall, the wall gets leprosy. After unsuccessfully sealing up the flashing under the window above the spot, I redid the flashing altogether and it’s all dried out now and under repair.

It’s obvious in several pictures that the beadboard ceiling has seen better days.  While we’d love to replace that, 600sq ft of beadboard is not in this year’s budget.  Or next years.  Or the year after that.  (I want a new bathroom first)  We will patch, scrape, and repaint to freshen it up.  It won’t be perfect, but it will be better.

The other spot we’ve been having water trouble is in the back corner of the house. There’s been a leak up there that allows water into the bathroom. It did a number on the ceiling. I resealed all the seams (there’s an EPDM membrane roof on that addition) but the water still poured in. To find the leak, we’d have to pull down the damaged portion ceiling. It needed to come down anyway.  (this shows only part of the reason we need a new bathroom before a new porch ceiling)

Despite the damage, which was as extensive as we figured it would be, it was really interesting to see what was above the bathroom. This is in the newest addition to the house, if you consider 1923 to be new. We knew the membrane roof replaced an old tin roof that had leaked in the past – there’s still evidence of prior leaks in the hall outside the bathroom and in the 4th bedroom. In this picture you can see the old exterior of the house (yellow-ish; I suspect it’s aged white oil-based paint), the underside of the eaves of the original roof (green), and the remains of a roof they covered over with the current roof (nasty rotted wood and tar paper).

I climbed up on the roof with the hose while Mr. Unreserved stuck his head in the hole. I called him on my cell phone so he could tell me when the water was coming in. Turns out the leak was from a small flashing area where the sealant had pulled away. I don’t think we’d ever have found it without hosing down the roof with a head in the ceiling. We’re really relieved to have figured that out.
How high up were we working today?

That high. I love my ladder.
Fortunately it was a beautiful day. With the leak sealed up, I started nailing flashing along the roof line.

When they put on the membrane roof, they didn’t bother with drip edge but rolled the membrane around and behind the gutter. In theory, the rain should drip straight down into the gutter. In reality, rain sneaks down behind the gutters and made a utter mess of the whole wall and all its windows.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Once the flashing was nailed along the roof edge, we smoothed over the transition with a special EPDM membrane repair strip.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain. Bring it on!