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In a previous post I talked about the overall plans that we have for our landscape. This year we are focusing just on fixing up what we already have here. With our property currently being wide open and lacking much of any landscape at all that is really just our extremely messy foundation plantings around the perimeter of our house! Next year we will get to the big project of adding in a fenced in backyard. So this year, while we have A LOT more time at home than we usually do, we want to take advantage of the outdoor space that we DO have. We are fortunate to have 2 lovely porches at our house and our back porch is our main hangout these days. It was looking a little worn out so we decided to do an easy and inexpensive makeover.
This is something we ask ourselves a lot in our old house when we get started working on new spaces. For the most part we are doing aesthetic fixes here (with the exception of the kitchen and bathroom inside) but with an older house, even aesthetic fixes are very time consuming because they come with many repairs that almost take you into the realm of rebuilding…but not quite.
I wondered the same thing with our back porch when I started to think about fixing it up. Is this worth fixing up aesthetically or should we really just rebuild it? This is an important thing to figure out before you decide what, if any, work you will be doing. Our porch is fairly crooked so I knew that that could potentially be a larger issue. Upon looking at it further though we saw that the crooked porch wasn’t actually impacting anything and under the deck there was no rot nor was there any on the deck boards themselves. So, upon learning that the porch was ‘sound’ I decided that a simple aesthetic fix would definitely do the trick for now, knowing that in 5 years time we should re-build it as the wood, although in fine condition, is very old. I knew that doing just a small retrofit to it would really make the back of the house look more cared for in the meantime.
Ensuring that what you are fixing up is structurally sound is the most important thing when attempting an aesthetic fix.
The next step is to make a to-do list – everything you need to do from start to completion of the project. Even with smaller projects there are usually multiple steps and each step requires a number of materials. Before starting any project I like to make the to-do list in order of what I will do and with each step list the materials I will need so that I have everything before getting started.
Here is what the to-do list looked like for our back porch makeover:
These wooden steps that are made with pre-made deck stair side stringers are really common on rudimentary decks. They side stringers are sold with the intention of having treads only put on but I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t add risers and clad the sides too to make it look like a more custom set of stairs. When I measured to determine what sort of wood was necessary I was super pleasantly surprised that both the pieces I would need to clad the sides as well as the risers were perfectly standard wood sizes…it’s almost like they planned them that way (yeah, I’m pretty sure they did…).
The riser space was 5.5″ high and the wood on the treads had a decent 1.5″ overhang which meant I could simply get 1×6 wood boards to fill in the risers and there would still be an overhang. 1×6 is the nominal size of the board but they are actually .5″ x 5.5″ which meant they would be perfect to create the risers. To learn more about actual vs. nominal wood sizes, read my post on building a wooden planter.
For cladding the sides, the depth of each riser was 7.5″ meaning an 8″ board with an actual size of 7.5″ would again, be the perfect fit. My lumber yard only had 2x8s so I went with those.
Measure your overall required length to determine how many boards you will need.
Attaching the risers was very easy as we simply cut the boards to length and screwed them into the side stringers. For cladding the sides we had to create a bit of a frame using 2x4s that we attached to the side stringers so that we had wood to screw the new boards into on the opposite end (because we were able to screw the wood into the stringers on the end close to the step riser).
The front of the deck was lattice and previously had no trim around it. It looked fairly sloppy so adding some wood around the perimeter and 2 boards evenly in the middle to cover the lattice seam made a big difference. I am not a big fan of lattice and plan to clad this fully with wood when we re-do the porch but, if we are going to have it, I at least wanted it to look intentional and taken care of! The wood trim definitely gives it a more complete look.
Making sure you select the correct paints for outdoor use is super important, whatever brand you choose to use, ensure that they are good for outdoor use and if you are doing a deck also ensure that it is good for that.
Our deck was badly chipping so I used a pull scraper tool to remove the chips and create a smoother surface (not totally smooth because there are many layers!). Paint chipping is most often caused from a latex/acrylic paint being put overtop of an oil paint. If you have chipping paint, using an oil based primer will be your best bet (you can paint over most oil based primers with latex/acrylic). I also have had really good success with the Peel Stop primer by Zinsser. Saying all this, I am no paint expert annnnd I used the Peel Stop Primer here and after the fact read that it should not be used on floors. OOPS. Do as I say, not as I do? So far, the paint is holding up well but I know that time is the only true test here.
For the porch paint I used Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel in the colour Repose Gray. For the white risers I used Sherwin Williams All Surface Enamel HP in the colour Roman Column which is the white I have used throughout the whole house.
This was such a simple fix for our porch. This took a weekend to complete and cost about $300 for the wood and paint. It has definitely bought us a few years until we need to do major porch work and has made it so this space is much nicer for us to enjoy in the meantime! Later this fall I will start the process of restoring the columns which are original but need to be full restored…I’m oddly excited even though I know this will be a tedious job!
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