The Wrap Around Porch

While you may have read that Karyn had a few requirements for a house while we were house hunting for 14 months, I had many, many more! One of which was that the house could NOT have a shared driveway … and …ours does … hmmm … 

One Driveway, two houses

It doesn’t matter.  Every one of my requirements faded away as soon as I stepped onto the porch of 60 West Main Street. The first words I declared, standing on the third step up was “We … are buying … this house!” 

There’s no better way of explaining it, and I hope that Karyn doesn’t feel jealous or threatened but stepping onto the porch for the first time was like falling in love. I was overwhelmed, rendered speechless (useless actually) and couldn’t do anything about it! 

(It’s critically important to add that I no longer feel that way about the porch but I certainly do about Karyn!) 

The first day we saw the porch. . .

The porch was in rough shape (the whole house was and much of it still is!) but I could see it for what it was and would become again the moment I was able to step up onto the first few stairs. It took a step or two to really see since it was covered with vines and hidden by the overgrowth of un-pruned trees and shrubs. The vines were entangled onto the porch roof and well upon the second story wall of the east side of the house nearly encroaching on the roofline! However once I was upon that second, then third, then fourth step I was absolutely overwhelmed with what the porch had to offer: an amazing welcoming to our new home, a quiet restful place to waste away lazy Sunday afternoons, a place to dispense candy to the over-300-trick-or-treaters we got our first Halloween, a place to play guitar when the living room feels too “inside”… It’s my favorite “room” “in” the house! 

Side porch now

The front porch wraps around the front-east corner of the house.  It has room for furniture, a swing, glider, tables, chairs, a rocker, planters and more! The porch carries you into the home and welcomes you to stay for a while and at the same time it tells you the house likes you. It was the first “room” I wanted fixed! 

Porch glider

There are two stair cases; the main front stairs and there’s a side stair case that was completely missing when we first arrived. You can enter or exit the living room from two different doors that lead onto the porch as well. The front stairs lead to the main double cherry doors and the side stairs have a single mahogany door that is in desperate need of refinishing however Karyn loves the distressed oil and shellac finish so much she won’t let me touch it yet… yes, yet. She promises I can refinish the door later. 

Side stairs

The side stairs had rotted so much they were basically a pile of decayed wood and dirt. Luckily there was enough of the railings to copy them for the refurbishing. As you may have read earlier in the “Exterior Paint Job” post, the porch was part of that project to satisfy the mortgage requirements so the work was completed by the hired contractors. I had a wood turner copy the spindles we needed and the contractors built the new stairs to replicate what was there as best we could tell. Completely hidden from view from the front of the house, they came out to be one of my favorite features of the entire house as they lead to my favorite side of the garden and yard! 

View from far corner of the porch

Karyn surprised me the week the painters had finished all their work with a new address number plate. I built an escutcheon mounting plate and proudly hung it next to the front door. I hope to get some urns for the front stairs and more furniture. The glider was a gift from me to Karyn for her birthday last March … but I think I use it more than she does! 

60 West Main

Exterior Paint Job

I thought I would write about the exterior paint job we had contracted while I wait for the polyurethane to dry on the bathroom floor. Today I made the text-book error of applying polyurethane to the floor of our newly refinished upstairs bathroom. What’s the error? Today is the most humid, muggy day we’ll likely have all year. The house is damp and the weather is wet. The poly will likely not dry today …. I’ll save the bathroom for another post … 

Back to the exterior paint job: 

As Karyn explained in a pervious blog entry, our house would only qualify for a refurbish type mortgage. The primary reason: The house needed a full exterior paint job, some light exterior carpentry work and new rain gutters. 

 Neighbors tell us that pervious owners made attempts to paint small sections of the house, here and there over time, however a large house in the North East requires good paint with regular and complete maintenance. I’ve enjoyed many hours of watching paint fail in my Paint-Lab days at Golden … I’ll not enjoy watching the paint fail on our new-old house however… 

In need of paint!

The house not only appeared very dirty but there was cracking, peeling, blistering and allirgatoring paint on almost every surface of the house. Siding, shutters, porch floors and stairs all required scraping and sanding of old paint. Much of it came off easily but some was still well adhered. Every surface needed priming, some minor cracks and such were filled and stabilized before priming. 

The photo to the left shows the green shutters we’ll later turn blue. White siding with green trim and shutter color is a very classic color combo for older houses in the North East. The lovely home to the west of us, the one which we share driveways with is a classic example of this color combo. We chose to differentiate to make the house stand out a little more and to add some visual interest to the neighborhood without being too obnoxious! It would be easy to get wild with color on a house like ours. For now, we chose to be more conservative with color. We did however vary from the traditional “porch gray” for the porch floors and stairs. The brown roof, being only 5 years old and in excellent shape drove us to the khaki porches and stairs. And we feel the blue shutters compliment the overall color scheme nicely. 

As I mentioned earlier, we did not do the paint job ourselves. We were actually forbidden to do so by the bank. The 

Robert Birdsall sanding the porch floor.

very nature of the mortgage required the work to be contracted and inspected by professionals. We were also not allowed to use any relatives for the work. We originally planned to work with my brother’s company “Pecktown Construction”. After researching reputable contractors, we wound up working with a local painter, Robert Birdsall, who in our opinion did an excellent job for us and the house. 

Robert and his crew also did some light carpentry work needed. Directly behind Robert in the photo above is a missing staircase from the porch to the garden on the side of the house. The stairs were a pile of rotten wood. Luckily, the two handrails were salvaged. I found a local woodturner to hire for reproducing the 30 spindles the stairs required. He matched them perfectly to the already several hundred on the porch! This side staircase was one of the two outside stairs Robert replaced. He rebuilt the simple stairs leading off of the back porch as well. 

 A little more involved, Robert also replaced the front, center first-floor window on the Queen Anne tower a previous owner decided to “wall-over”. Honestly, this was the most insane choice for a “home improvement” in my opinion. As you can see in the first photo of this blog entry, the window to the side of the front porch is missing! Compare that photo to this one: 

Window installed with new siding

As you can see, the siding was in need of repair too. We were fortunate enough to find the original window sashes in the attic. 

Although the carpenter had to rebuild the exterior window sill and side boards, the sashes fit perfectly and match the other two windows in this very prominent front room of the house. 

The porch posts stripped very nicely. They were highly textured with allirgatored paint. Decades of oil-based paint tends to crackle in a patter resembling the reptilian skin of an alligator. Luckily, Robert and his crew were able to strip 100% of the paint bringing them back to their original, smooth appearance! 

The entire paint job took about 12 weeks to accomplish however the winter of 2009-2010 interrupted the progress. We got a late start on the project due to a late closing. There was roughly 6 weeks of work done in the late Fall of 2009 and work resumed in the early Spring of 2010 for roughly 6 more weeks. Our final inspection turned out to be a very quick and informal process of having the inspector over one evening after work. He was absolutely impressed. He shared with us that he was the original inspector for the bank’s original assessment during the mortgage approval process. He got to see the before and after and was amazed! 

We’re really happy with the results too.  The house gets many compliments from neighbors we know and many 

Painted and pretty again in 2010

neighbors we don’t know feel good about approaching us to let us know how much they like the work we’re doing. I never realized that fixing up an old house would be such a good way to meet people in a small town. Folks who have lived here either all their lives or for only a short time like to show their genuine appreciation of “fixing up and old house”. 

Now I wonder how that poly is drying upstairs …

An outdoor tour

To give you a full view of what Bill and I are dealing with, let me give you an outside tour.

Removing the huge raised bed in the back

The house was in need of a deep cosmetic painting job, requiring us to get a renovation loan in order to buy it. Right now, in NY state, any home that has peeling paint requires a renovation loan, as banks don’t want to be stuck with foreclosed homes in need of work. Once we found a painter, got an estimate and knew we could afford the home. . .we pursued.

Bill pulling cinder blocks up out of the yard

With the weather being so calm in August and September, Bill and I worked on clipping back the yard so that it was ready for the painters. This is a shot of the back yard and house before the painters even began scraping, so you can see. . . it needs work.

We had to do a LOT of preparation for the painters in terms of pruning back the vegetation, which had been growing for a good 10 years without any clipping. We left at least two piles of debris the size of a car next to the curb for pickup in the first month of cleanup.

Second visit to the house, pre-purchase

(Here you can see that one of the front windows on the ground floor is boarded over. How nice. . . and really weird.->)

After pulling out a chunk of hummingbird vine, we removed a large “L” shaped raised bed from the middle of the backyard. It had road ties to hold in the soil and was set upon cinder blocks. We spent a weekend taking it out.

The backyard is still quite full of vegetation, and the whole house is rather shady because it has been so overgrown. But, we managed to pull the vines off the south side of the house and started pruning the front yard, too.

One can barely see the house for the trees. .

I will show an after picture later of what the house looks like post-purchase with the vegetation cleared. But, this is really amazing growth, I think.