Friday, July 28, 2017

porch posts

Our original plan had been to use 6x6 posts to support the porch for the time being (due to budget, naturally).  We were going to chamfer the edges to dress them up a bit, and leave them until we had a chance to mug Toren's tooth fairy for additional funds.

We'll be reinstalling the enormous porch window (the only element saved from the porch we demolished), so we were interested in installing the permanent columns to either side of it.  We wanted to get this done at this stage because pulling out and replacing the temporary columns would be complicated and expensive.

So, quotes were obtained, and as expected, they were disgusting.  One place quoted me 1200 per column for finger-jointed pine.  Another followed up their initial e-mail with another e-mail two days later after I hadn't yet replied with a "was it something I said" e-mail.  Weird.  Even weirder was an incredibly friendly e-mail, with a reasonable quote attached!  The quote was reasonable enough that we're sucking it up and buying all the columns from them, custom 10 foot 8x8s in western red cedar for $550 apiece.  Once they're on site I'll be more specific about the quality, for now I'm cautiously optimistic.

I'm posting the enhanced images here, along with their drawings, just in case your eyes pick up on details we've missed.  You'll notice the incised carvings don't appear on the drawing, that's only because they're unsure if they'll be able to do them.  If they can't our builders will...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Those with keen eyes (ahem Ross), will surely have noticed that the porch we happen to be building is not quite the one the house was born with.

But in fact, the beautiful porch photo I'm so fond of posting isn't the porch the house was born with either.

Thornfield, approximately 1915

This grand ol' dame has had some serious work done over the years.

Thornfield, approximately 1886

Then she let herself go entirely...

2010, as purchased (fence was added by us)

Thornfield used to be comprised of a rather large estate, with the house facing down the hill, towards what soon became the Westinghouse Switch and Signal (where Tesla worked in 1888, Nikola Tesla has seen my house!!!).  When Kelly sold the house in 1911, he also subdivided the estate into smaller parcels, both above and below the main house.  These lots continued to be built up with small capes and foursquares until the 30's.  Looking at the historic photo with the white trim, the original porch entrance was under the gable roof on the porch, directly in front of the entry doors, with a hidden stair on the other end of the porch.  The second owners undertook a massive campaign to colonial revivalize the house, and added the gorgeous curved stairs to the gazebo, and closed in the original stairs with a paneled balustrade (and possibly extended the porch deck past the roof).

In this modern age however, neither stair will work.  The first iteration would force people to walk around the entire front of the house, into a very narrow side yard to enter the house.  The second stair actually curves away from the main walking path directly into the path of my favorite oak tree and down a very steep hill.

Hill, Tree, and a long wet walk from the sidewalk and driveway

My solution is to duplicate the original gable on what is now the main facade of the house, closer to the sidewalk and driveway, and adding a bit of detail to what was originally the side of the house.  The entry doors are being rebuilt in their original location. The stairs will be simple and cheap at this stage, at some distant point we'll duplicate the curvaceous stone stairs from the teens.

I don't often say this about substantial changes I'm making to the house, but I feel fairly confident this is the right path.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

have I got updates for you!

I've had a few too many people complement the deck I'm building...

I'm almost to the point of laminating the historic house pictures in all their glory and mounting them in the front yard just so people stop COMPLEMENTING MY FUCKING DECK!!!!

On the other hand, the porch is coming along nicely...

I haven't been writing because the whole process has been completely overwhelming.  Decisions that should be easy are all counterbalanced by our inability to afford building things as they should be.  The starry-eyed fairy me should just be able to wave her wand and have the various woodland creatures (not to mention a toddler who may as well be a wild animal) wield the tools and get to work.  I just can't fathom why people aren't lining up to build it for me.


I'll do my best to start to detail the building process later this week, but for now I need some design help.  The porch roof was originally cedar shakes, these will not be reinstated.  In an ideal world I'd use the synthetic slates, which would match the main roof, but allow us to walk on them when necessary for gutter cleaning and Christmas lights.  Those however, are way out of budget.  This leaves us with asphalt.  When we bought the house we were told that very little of the original slate would be salvageable due to it's age and how much of it was coated with tar.

We got an excellent price on new blue slates, and used these on the angles not seen from the front of the house - since we thought most of the slate would be this blue slate, we used matching blue-green asphalt on the back of the house and the schoolhouse.  Well, much to everyone's surprise, our slates turned out to be Buckingham, and were in much better condition than anyone believed possible.  So, I have a patchwork roof of blue and black. This was a screw-up of epic proportions that I can't forgive myself for, and it makes choosing shingles very difficult.  The roofs remaining are the porch and front and back of the kitchen wing.  We have enough original Buckingham for the front of the kitchen wing, so the decision is whether to match the porch roof to the blue or the black.  I'm leaning towards this shingle to match the Buckingham.  It has a nice mix of dark gray and black, with a bit of red that matches staining from years of industrial pollution.

So, am I on the right track?