Unlike the previous porch, we want to have footings supporting the new front porch. The plans call for three columns: one at each of the front corners and one in the middle, but while they specify the size of joists to use, they don’t specify the size or type of column or footing. I decided it was better to oversize than undersize, especially since I’m not a fan of either spindly-looking supports or the quality and trueness of the average pressure-treated 4×4. The result is 12″ round, reinforced concrete footings that go deeper than the frost line and 6×6 pressure-treated columns. We plan to clad any exposed lumber in PVC trim.

I figured out the locations of the footings using tape measure and a board that I marked with the distance from the house, since it was easier to lay that down that remeasuring with the tape. The corners are set in from the edge of the house by six inches so the gutters and soffits won’t extend past the edge. That also made it (slightly) easier to dig the footing that’s right up against the neighboring fence.

Augered holes with cut down tubes

Digging the footings by hand sounded awful, especially since I was still sore from breaking up the old stoop. So we rented a two-man (person) auger with a 12″ bit and an extension. Between drive time, use, and cleaning, we used just about the whole 4 hour window for the three footings, but Sarah and I were able to get them all dug while my mom watched the kids. We put down tarps for the dirt since we’d installed fabric and mulch last year and I didn’t really want to mess all that up. We still need to haul all of the dirt to the back yard. I don’t have any pictures of the actual augering, since we were under a time crunch and obviously both of us were using it at the same time.

After the holes were dug, we dropped in the knock-off Menards-brand sonotubes. Then I used the laser level to mark the same height on each and cut them down by a few inches so they were even. This wasn’t critical, since the posts can be different lengths, but I think it will look better visually. The next step was concrete. Our poor Subaru Impreza hauled two loads of twelve 60lb bags of high strength concrete mix. We mixed up a few bags at a time in the wheelbarrow and shoveled it in. We added three ½” rebar rods to each footing, spaced evenly, with a ⅝” J bolt for the post base proud of the surface by about an inch. Derek helped by mixing up concrete in his own wheelbarrow and dumping it in.



2 Responses to Front Porch: Footings

  1. Jeanne H says:

    Hi,Matt. Greetings from Wicker Park! I’ve spent the better part of the entire weekend reading your and Sarah’s home renovation saga in its entirety, and wow, have you opened my eyes into how much really goes into a 2-flat conversion (which is how I initially found you, by searching “two-flat conversion,Chicago.”

    My husband and I have been eyeing an ugly little two-flat in our neighborhood, wondering if it might continue to serve as a two rental units, covering the mortgage and then some on itself until we are able to save enough to hire out a conversion,since neither of us is very handy.

    While from listing photos it doesn’t appear to be a roach den, my God, I guess you just never really know until you are in the thick of it, eh?

    I’m wondering what things you both would suggest considering when scouting a two-flat for possible conversion, knowing all that you know now.

    It’s amazing to me the things that have caused so many issues for you both,such as water management, a cause I hadn’t even realized existed before reading your site.

    My other question would be how expenses have stacked up when you compare your estimates at the beginning of the project to where you are now, and where were the biggest surprises? (Lots of unexpected plumbing, I’ve noticed. ☺)

    I would be really interested in a post for noobs, a “knowing what I know now, warts and all” post for those considering a conversion. (Or alternately, links to other blogs addressing this topic; the more the better.)

    I apologize if those questions are too invasive, especially from a total internet stranger, but I’ve been just absolutely enthralled during my weekend binge. I actually just had the realization I’d caught up to real time,so I can binge no more.

    So my hat is off to both of you, not only for taking on a project of this magnitude, but for also having two kids in the process, maintaining careers, etc. All I can say is wow! This endeavor is certainly not for the faint of heart! I imagine your kids will remember fondly the time their parents spend creating a wonderful home for them. Good luck!

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks so much for reading! We’ve discussed “lessons learned” type posts before. Unfortunately, like so many of these things, there’s a lot of “it depends” involved. For example, for our situation, where we’re not keeping it a two flat and we’re replacing virtually everything, it would have been far easier, and probably cheaper, to literally tear it down and build new. Many situations won’t be that drastic though, especially if you’re not completely changing the floor plan.

    As far as what to look for, again, it depends, but the biggest thing we’ve told any home shopper, and especially older home shoppers is to start in the basement. A good 75% of what you need to know about an old house is there, in the condition and type of structure, in the mechanicals (plumbing, hot water, heating), not to mention the most likely place to find things that may dissuade you like mold, leaks, pests, asbestos, etc.

    Random other thoughts: We got a home inspection, and I can’t underscore how important they are. He even told us he’d recommend most people not buy this place (ha!). If I was doing it again, I would skip radiant heat, since it doesn’t provide cooling and you wind up needing multiple systems. Highly insulated houses are a good fit for mini split heat pumps. I’ve learned to hate old brick. It’s like a rock sponge. We’re having a tough time keeping the basement free of mold and the humidity under control. I have yet to find a plumber I like. The City of Chicago has made this whole process a tremendous pain in the ass, and far more expensive. We’re not doing great at keeping our costs in check, but fortunately the projected home value (when it’s done) has kept going up to compensate. We won’t really know until it’s all done.

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