We had one last ground prep step, which was to grade out the dirt under the porch, extend the trench we buried the drainage pipe in, and cover it in plastic. We extended the drainage pipe itself and its “sock” and finally covered the whole thing in crushed stone. We need more stone, this was leftovers from the drainage project last year, but it’s enough for us to continue work. We want to put the posts on the footings we just poured, but before we can do that, we need to be able to brace them with some framing. That means attaching the ledger to the house.

First ledger board

We’re installing two inches of rigid polyisocyanurate foam on the outside of the sheathing to improve the R-value, reduce thermal bridging, reduce the temperature extremes the wood has to endure, and as an alternative to making the interior smaller with additional wall thickness on the inside. However, this adds complexity to how things like windows and the porch are constructed. The porch is attached to the house with a “ledger”, a board that is attached directly to the framing of the house with lag screws or bolts. Because of the exterior insulation, we need to attach this ledger a bit differently.

I referenced this image from Green Building Advisor which covers this, but it suggested using blocking around the bolts with aluminum flashing over the blocking. That was a bit more involved than I really wanted to get, so instead I built up two layers of pressure-treated 2×10 boards, sort of a sub-ledger. I installed the house wrap over this, wrapping tight to the boards so that the foam can sit directly above them. Keeping this inside the house wrap ensures that the drainage plane behind the foam doesn’t trap water against the house and instead channels it down and out. Wrapping a solid board is a lot easier than flashing around a block protrusion at every bolt hole.

Ledger attached

Since the ledger was being attached to the 6×8″ rim board through 4½” of lumber and another ¾” of sheathing, I used 12″ Spax structural screws. Around the bay, there was just a regular 2×10 rim board with brick behind it, so I used twice as many 6″ Spax lag screws. Sarah’s dad, Mike, helped me install the 2×12 ledger. With the ledger attached, the next step is the columns and the floor framing.

 

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.

 

 

The first step in replacing the front porch is to take off the existing porch. I took off the roof of the porch a few years ago because it was too short to accommodate the new front door. Before I could take off the porch, I had to move the mailbox and our delivery bin. I mounted the mailbox to the fence by the front gate and put the delivery bin underneath it. Despite this, UPS is being difficult and doesn’t want to deliver now.

Old porch

The peeling paint on the porch made it look like it had been there for ages, but underneath it turned out that it was built not terribly long ago out of pressure-treated lumber. I took off the heavy wrought iron railings. I used an angle grinder to cut the ends off the concrete stoop. By the time I got the last piece out to the alley a scrapper was already loading the first ones onto his truck.

Removal in progress

The old porch used approximately 50% of the lumber it should have, with large spans between joists, stringers, and mediocre at best support. The porch itself came down in a couple of hours. The support posts had zero footings, and literally rested on the surface. I’m surprised it didn’t sink into the ground. It was a positive as far as I was concerned, because it made it that much easier to tear down.

Porch removed

What wasn’t so easy was the front stoop. The bottom step of the porch was a 16″ thick block of steel-reinforced concrete, and I declined to rent a demolition hammer, instead mostly relying on a sledgehammer and a prybar. It took far longer to break apart the stoop than the rest of the porch, and my hands still hurt days later. Bits of concrete flew into both neighbors yards as well as the sidewalk out front, so even once it was broken up I was still walking around picking up little pieces.

Breaking up the stoop

I’ll also need to take out the front sidewalk, but we’re planning to replace it with pavers. Since the main paver project will be in the back yard (some time in the future), for now we’ll just cut the existing sidewalk back to where it needs to stop and do all the pavers together (later). I haven’t done that part of the demo yet. I have to figure out how to run the 20-amp extension cord that the concrete saw uses to the front yard when it’s not long enough to reach the nearest 20-amp outlet.

 

With the bump-out gone, we’ve decided that the next project is to replace the front porch. Given the state of the house, this may seem a bit out of order, but as usual there’s a method to our madness. While we have a lot of work to do on the interior, we want to finish the exterior of the house so that we don’t wind up with (more) water damage on the inside, especially on new stuff we’re putting in. The top of that list is replacing the roof and fascia (we don’t have soffits). Before we can do that we want to take the hips off the gables, so we can put a bigger window in the front of the attic and a door at the back (fire code egress requirements). The new front porch will be covered, meaning it’s going to have its own roof and fascia. So the first reason to do the porch first is that it means we can get all of the roofing and fascia done at the same time. If we follow that on with the second floor windows and back door, we can also do the trim, siding, gutters, and downspouts, which would go a long way to improving our life in the basement, just from a humidity standpoint. Once the outside of the house is done, I can go back to the second floor and level the subfloor, replace the attic joists, and frame out the structure, walls, attic stairs, and so on.

House rendering with porch

The other advantage to replacing the porch first is that will work as scaffolding on the front of the house, where we have four very large windows to replace. By building the ceiling frame of the porch before the roof line, we’ll have a flat platform from which to rebuild the second floor bay, which uses the same decorative sheathing as the first floor and needs to be rebuilt before it can accommodate the new windows. Plus while we’re at it we can take off all the siding on the front of the house and the flashing details of the windows can be done correctly. So, in short the plan for the porch is to work our way up, building and taking off siding as we go. When the windows are replaced, we’ll finish the porch roof framing, and then get all of the roofing, trim, fascia, and siding done at once.

With that worked out, the first step to building the new porch (other than planning) is to take down the old one!

 

With the walls gone, the only thing left of the bump-out was the floor. That’s not to say that was the only thing left to do for this project, because there were also large holes in the side of the house and exposed plywood. One of the last things we did when removing the walls was to put the upper corner piece of sheathing on. That hole had served as the primary means of getting in and out of the bump-out. Unfortunately, I realized I’d missed a step, so we wound up taking it back off.

Bottom sheathing temporarily attached

The missed step was to cut the pieces of sheathing that would cover the bottom of the wall and the exposed ends of the floor joists. These pieces couldn’t be fit until the floor was gone, but from the outset I knew I didn’t want to haul them up a ladder. Instead, I cut them and Sarah helped hand them through the re-opened hole so I could screw them to the wall just above where they would fit. That way, once the floor was gone I could simply take out the two screws and lower them into place. I measured the size of the opening at both corners and made sure to leave about a quarter inch extra.

Upper house wrap installed, starting removal of joists

The next step was to put on the house wrap on the upper portion of the wall while I still had a nice platform to put a ladder on. Normally, house wrap is put on bottom-up, because it’s ship-lapped with each layer overlapping the one below. I put on the middle piece first, leaving the bottom foot or so unstapled, then put on the top piece normally. Then I taped the seams, which honestly makes me question why it’s ship-lapped at all, but whatever. The bottom house wrap would have to wait until the bottom sheathing was in place.

My trusty cheap Harbor Freight reciprocating saw

I was concerned that cutting off the joists nice and straight at the right spot was going to be tricky, but a new blade on the reciprocating saw is a marvelous thing. It was easier than expected, and soon I was ready to fit the first of the two pieces of sheathing on. Of course, it didn’t fit. I must not be a very good carpenter, or at measuring, or something, because I swear it never fits. I use a clamped guide when I cut, I measure multiple times in multiple places, but it still never fits. Some of this I attribute to the old wonky house, where nothing is straight, but this seemed pretty consistent when I measured.

Right side joists removed

In any case I then had to maneuver the piece of sheathing onto the remaining joists so I could trim a quarter inch off of it, at which point it did fit correctly. I got that screwed in and then proceeded to cut off the remaining joists. A smarter plan would have been to preemptively cut the other piece of sheathing while I still had a platform to set it on, since I cut them the same size. Instead, I cut off all the remaining joists and tried to fit it, only to discover that it, too, was about a quarter inch too big to fit.

Last joist

Now I could either take it down the ladder, cut it, and then haul it back up, or I could balance it on the ladder while Sarah held the top edge out far enough from the wall to fit the circular saw, going hand over hand between studs to get the saw down the length of the board, swapping positions halfway through. I think you know which option I picked. This (surprisingly) went to plan and I got it trimmed down. If anything I cut off too much, but given the sheathing throughout the house has gaps pretty much everywhere, I’m not especially concerned.

Sheathing and house wrap in place

Back on the ladder, I got the second piece of sheathing attached. The last step was to put the bottom section of house wrap on (under the edge of the course above), including taping it. Being that this was while on a ladder, it took a bit longer than it sounds. I had to move the ladder about four times to get everything tidy, but finally, the house doesn’t have a bump-out!

No more bump-out!