Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Porch Projects for Summer: A New & Improved Back Porch, now with Screens!

Adding the second bathroom is not the only improvement we've made to the Ear during this summer that just ended.  Over the course of a few months, by spending an afternoon here or a weekend there, we upgraded our back porch.  Now, instead of a dumping ground for empty boxes, recycling, and miscellaneous junk, it's now a nice place to sit.  We are really looking forward to evenings out there in a few weeks.

We began back in the spring, when we ripped up the nasty, deteriorated vinyl tile flooring to expose the original wooden porch floor (which, it turned out, was in pretty good shape).  This process was much, much, much, harder than anticipated due to a well-installed subfloor.  Someone really knew what they were doing there (unlike with so many of the other "improvements" that we have corrected).  I do not have photographic evidence.  Take my word for it that it was awful.  Once the stuff was gone, we put several coats of floor paint (same used in basement) on the old floorboards.

Next, I spent several weeks trying to repair the jalousie windows.  We have nine of these, each operated by a set of two crank mechanisms.  Fewer than half of these crank mechanisms were working when we bought the Ear.  I resolved to get as many functioning as possible.  Below, a properly working mechanism.  Note that all its hinges are connected with either screws or rivets.

On the non-working mechanisms, the screws or rivets were missing.  A commonly-not-there screw was the one my finger is pointing to in the picture below, that attaches the crank to the hinges that move the glass louvers.  It's a strange one to be missing, because you can only detach it if you removed the entire mechanism from the window.  Nevertheless, we lacked most of these.  I guess previous denizens of the Ear did not appreciate air flow? 

Slowly but surely, through sacrificing/cannibalizing a few mechanisms and multiple trips to hardware stores and salvage yards to dig through bins of old screws, I got all but four (of 18 total!) mechanisms working.  Now, only the windows on the sides of the porch don't work, and they wouldn't catch a breeze anyway.  To finish up this aspect of the porch, I gave every joint in each jalousie a good squirt of silicone lubricant.

Our next order of business in our quest for a nice porch was to buy and install screens to keep out the mosquitoes. Because of the presence of many old screen clips attached to the windows' metal frames, we knew there were previously screens on all the windows (you can see an old clip in the first photo).  After carefully measuring twice, we ordered nine new screens from Frager's Hardware, a Capitol Hill institution.  (Let me stop here and appreciate Frager's for a minute.  About two hours after these screens were delivered, Frager's went up in flames.  It was a huge, multi-engine fire that raged all night and totally gutted the building.  Our community has felt the loss ever since, as it's now much harder to find parts to fix our weird old houses ((and knowledgable people to help us find said parts)).  Frager's has a garden pop-up at Eastern Market and is continually adding back products it can offer while plans are made for rebuilding.  So if you are in the neighborhood, please shop there!)

Back to the screens.  These were somewhat difficult to install, as old, bent, non-working clips had to be removed, and new holes drilled for new clips.  And since each window is slightly different in size, etc., each screen required a slightly different installation strategy.  We got this done over a couple of weekends.  Here's Mr. MJ in action with the drill on the ladder:

Behind him you can see the new screens in place all around the porch.  We worked at night when the sun wasn't beaming directly into the space.  Also notice the blue porch ceiling, a quickie paint job I did with a quart of paint left over from another project.  I touched up a lot of the wood out here too.

After this point, our porch project was put on hold for about a month while the new bathroom in the basement was created.  The porch became a holding area for tools and other items that had to temporarily move out of the basement.

But after last weekend, we've finally got our porch back!  And maybe for the first time in a long time, it is an orderly, pleasant space.  I decorated it with furniture we already had, a yard sale table cloth, and a large sisal rug I got for free from the neighborhood listserv.

I first posted about this space back in May of 2010.  At that time, I deemed the back porch a longer-term project.  I had no idea that "longer term" would mean three years and change.  However, I think we can now call this one more-or-less done!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I can't wait to sit on the porch with you!