Our newly purchased Mid-Century house is a very loooong ranch style from the front.
How the New Porch will Enhance Front
It had asymmetrical window and door placements that we’ve been working on fixing to a more symmetrical look, (you can see all about that door and windows decisions here). To fix the long look and feel of the house that had the front door tucked in the corner almost as an after thought was the challenge. I decided by adding a front porch that jutted out from the front facade of the house would declare the entrance more clearly. Here’s the method behind the madness on this front porch design.
Front of House Before
First… the before:
The front entry was quite formal looking… if you could find it.
The long house felt like it just kept going… and it wasn’t clear if you were supposed to walk right next to the house, or on the sidewalk out front. The sidewalk goes around the front but it doesn’t actually connect to the driveway… I think they must have had a plan that never got finished? So when a visitor gets out of their car, they have the option to walk in the yard until they find the front sidewalk, or walk the narrow runway next to the house… neither choice felt quite right.
Here you can really get a feel for the long runway feel. (The maroon carpet is gone now too, I’m glad to say!)
Making a Sketch
I came up with a rough sketch for the front porch design… initially I was thinking about making a screened front porch.
After thinking about it a bit, I decided to keep the porch open and not screened. I really want this front porch to celebrate the front entrance… to be inviting people to find the front door. Having screens and a screen door would defeat that purpose by visually closing it off.
Yes, we live in the Midwest and have lots of mosquitoes, but that’ll be only at dusk. We have plans for a ceiling fan out on the porch, so hopefully that’ll help keep them away. Plus, we have a screened porch on the back, so if the skeeters get bad, we’ll just move to the back porch.
Inspiration from a Great Old Movie
Oh and let me share with you a little more inspiration for changing this house into a Colonial Revival style… One of, if not the best Colonial Revival house ever! The house from the old movie ‘Bringing up Baby’ with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Cute movie… Fantastic house!
Here are a couple inspiring pics from it. (I actually paused the movie and took a picture with my phone… not the best quality, but enough for me to refer to for reference:
See those big beams on the porch?
And that bay window? Love that stone planter bench thing under it!
Once I had a plan, it was time to find the materials. After a few phone calls and connections with friends, we found a sawmill an hour or so away that had these gorgeous rough sawn 8 x 8 posts. Hard to tell the scale of them in this little picture, but they are very massive. (rough sawn lumber is exactly what the dimensions say… so 8 x 8 is actually 8″. Unlike dimensional lumber which takes off 1/2″ to 3/4″ making an 8 x 8 only 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ or less)
Buying direct from the sawmill was a fun experience… and it saved considerable money from buying them at the lumberyard.
Time for the foundation. (don’t worry, the electric for that old post light was already disconnected)
We live in NW Wisconsin. We have real winter where we can get frost 3′ deep. (in the winter the ground totally freezes hard as a rock!) That means that footings for the foundation must be even deeper so that the frost doesn’t heave them out.
Here’s our contractor with a rented Dingo digging the holes for the foundation:
Inspector Measures for Depth
Once the holes were dug, the building inspector measured to be sure they were deep enough before we could fill them: (the blue poles are there just for a little safety precaution… making them easily visible)
This was the front of the house the day he filled the holes with concrete. I had just dug out the plants I wanted to save to transplant in a better spot, an old azalea and a bunch of hostas.
Here’s one of the holes all filled up. (This is actually one of the foundation piers for the back mudroom addition that we did at the same time. That will be a different post!)
A week or so later, construction on the porch began. They had to get the construction and top ready for the new roof because we found out the roof in the house was leaking and needed to get replaced.
That’s why our timeline got rearranged… we initially were thinking we were going to do this front porch and roof next Spring, giving us ample time and energy to concentrate on the interior this fall. Well one needs to ebb and flow with the tides of renovation is one is hoping to keep any sanity.
Post Bases Important, but Not Cheap
The posts set on post bases, which then connect to the concrete piers. (those little metal posts bases are not cheap! $75 each!!) The metal post base has a gap between the post and the concrete. They do have an important role, they keep the post off the concrete avoiding rot in the wood, and they have to be structurally strong enough to hold up a lot of weight.
Here’s a tip… if you’re ever ordering post bases… (and how I learned about the rough sawn dimensions being different from dimensional posts, like green treated ones) The post bases will be either regular 8 x 8 bases for dimensional lumber, which really isn’t 8 x 8… that means a true 8 x 8 like these rough sawn post are, won’t fit in those regular bases. You have to order post bases to fit rough sawn posts… they really are 8 x 8. Confusing isn’t it?! (and dare I say STUPID! Why can’t they just call them the size they are? Like a 2 x 4… not really 2 x 4 anymore, now it’s something like 1 1/2 x 3 1/2… so dumb!)
Deciding What to Keep
I determined the size and shape of the front porch based on a few things. First, I had to carefully dissect what on the house facade was quality and worth keeping, or at least considering keeping and what was not.
The brick on the front, though the shape of the individual brick is a bit oblong for a true Colonial Revival, (the style we’re trying to go for with the renovation) still is quality built and worth keeping.
As well as the brick ledges and front stairs the come straight off the front door.
In the planning of the front porch, my contractor and I brainstormed all sorts of scenarios (including removing some or all of that brick ledge) my final design carefully includes the entire brick facade inside the porch, defining this whole area.
For the depth of the porch, I knew I wanted the part over the stairs to jut out more than the rest of the porch, so once that depth was determined by coming off the front ledges, and ending before the existing sidewalk, then the large porch area was set back from there, and viola! the porch size was designed.
The main construction of the porch got done and the roofers came basically the next day and finished the roof just in time… that evening the snow started to fall.
Removing Old Posts and Railings
The old cream colored railing and posts of the garage are starting to get removed in the photo below. Removing the line of those posts and railings will bring the visual line of the house back to the wall. That will highlight the front porch jutting out and emphasize the visual effect of breaking up the long house feel.
Once the maroon carpet was ripped off, the adhesive needed to be removed. (as of today, there is still a lot of adhesive that needs to be removed, but is probably going to have to wait until next spring. We got a nice layer of ice and snow this week… feels like winter has arrived!)
Porch Floor Decking
The main porch floor is now a composite decking…
I priced tons of different brands and styles of decking. Some brands are very expensive. All are more expensive than wood, but unlike wood, the composite floor doesn’t warp, rot or need to be finished.
After over 30 years of owning many different homes, I have learned that somethings are totally worth an extra investment at the beginning to save time and energy later.
Menard’s, a Wisconsin based lumberyard, had the best priced composite decking and seems to be great quality. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available everywhere across the nation, though I have seen them popping up further and further away. A very close comparative is this one from Home Depot, which has Veranda brand decking.
The section of porch with the decking, (the large part that is under the windows) was built to the level that the long runway was. To avoid it looking like a deck, with it just being open underneath, (not my favorite look, especially at the front entry) I perused the internet for inspiration pics of porch skirting. By having skirting around the bottom of the porch deck, it will look more like a porch.
Using Composite Wood by Ground
I loved the look of the white contrast with the grey tones of the composite decking and posts. (the whole house will be painted white next summer too)
But I didn’t love the idea of boards that needed to be painted right next to the ground. My experience is that they get dirt splattered on them when it rains and lose paint quickly and look bad. But we had an answer to that!
Composite wood! It never needs painting, if it gets splattered on, I can just hose it off and not worry about getting it wet. It saws and screws just like regular wood. It’s a great option for this! They sell it in a few different sizes and shapes and we easily found what we needed in stock at Lowe’s.
Here’s a tip… Look it up online, see what’s in stock, place your order online and a few hours later your order is pulled and ready for you to pick up at the Lowe’s you selected. I love shopping ‘site-to-store’ like that… Saves me so much time hunting down all the things, and then trying to hunt down a cart. And if the pieces I need to get are heavy I don’t need to try to manhandle them myself or search for someone to help me. It really is so convenient!
Back to the railings… They took the rest of them down, I listed them on a garage sale Facebook site, and they were gone in a couple hours! They will be a fun project for the folks that bought them… Reclaim It, They will make something wonderful of them and give them new life!
There are so many details in this porch…
Things like this bay window, and how to finish the ceiling, and adding lights, and… All those details take time. Plus, this porch is kind of huge… I think it’s around 30′ long. Once a detailed is figured out, it takes a lot of time and material to do it on a big space like this.
Kind of fun picture above… you can see the reflection in the window of the pond across the street. It’s a very pretty setting. I look forward to the day we can actually sit out on this porch and enjoy it!
Fascia and Soffit done
They just finished all the soffit and fascia around the porch, and are starting the ceiling. I pre-painted the wood beadboard panels in a sky blue color and there will be white boards detailing a paneled effect. (I’ll show you that in a porch progress post) but here here you can get a glimpse of it:
Staining the Posts
The posts of the porch got a coat of stain on them. I did it once they were up, but before any soffit or floor was installed. Staining can be kind of messy. Especially something like this. I put the stain in a roller tray and used a super thick nap roller to apply the stain to the posts. Needing a brush only for the corners and inside edges.
The color of stain I chose is just a light grey color. I really like how it tones down the yellow of the pine posts, but still feels light and natural. They grey tones work well with both the dark mahogany new door as well and the grey composite flooring.
This is the stain I selected: Chatham Fog. I could only find it on line. I did a bit of research and everything I read about it said it held up really well. Even though these posts are fairly protected and don’t get much sun on them, it’s still good to know that the stain is good quality and should hold up well.
Progress so Far
So here’s the house as of Sunday…
They finished more details on Monday, but it’s cold, snowy and icy today, so they’re inside working on the mudroom addition. The new windows for the garage wall, (the wall to the right of the porch) are on order and should be in in a few weeks… that’ll finish the symmetry of the front.
We still have huge curved support brackets to add to the front porch posts… similar to the ones like the Colonial Revival house in the movie… only better, I hope. 🙂 That’ll make it look so different from this picture, but that’s going to be a while… I’ll give you an update when those are done.
If you’d like to see the other projects I’ve written about on this Mid-Century-to-Colonial-Revival house, you can check it out here!
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This post is linked up at these other sites: Savvy Southern Style, A Delightsome Life, Pearl Street Design, My Thrift Store Addiction, French Country Cottage, Olives & Okra, Simply Sweet Home, Chic on a Shoestring, Tatertots and Jello, The Boondocks Blog, Refresh Restyle, Coastal Charm, Between Naps on the Porch, Skip to my Lou, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Stone Gable, A Stroll Thru Life, The DIY Dreamer