Mistakes That Make Your Porch Look Bad — OldHouseGuy Blog

Mistakes That Make Your Porch Look Bad - OldHouseGuy Blog

Mistakes That Make Your Porch Look Bad

Is Your House a Clown House?

  • Repairing vs. Replacing your porch and what you need to know
  • Height of Railing for Porches, Building Code vs. Curb Appeal
  • Latticework beneath the Porch
  • Porch Ceiling Color

The Porch Railing and Other Features of the Porch

The porch is a very important feature on a house. It softens the appearance of the facade on the building, creates sharp interesting shadows that are pleasing to our senses, and provides a space for healthy outdoor living. The porch balustrade (hand rail, lower rail, and balusters), columns, posts, and other porch features, all work together to tell a story that represents the style and period of the house. The size and proportion of these various features are all based on the architecture of the building and any alteration to a single element will not only upset the composition of the porch but the visual integrity of the building as a whole.

All the beauty and enjoyment which a porch provides comes with a cost. Being so opened and exposed to the elements, the porch railing, floor, columns, posts, newel posts, and balustrade take a huge amount of abuse from the weather. All of these features require much more preventative maintenance, such as painting, more frequently than the house itself. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not always maintain their porches as they should and their porches quickly deteriorate. Once we notice our porch has begun to deteriorate, we have lost our chance for an easy and inexpensive preventative maintenance procedure. We now need to make repairs, and this is where the problems really start!

Your Porch as You Know and Love may be Gone and Lost Forever

First of all, it is very important to the overall aesthetics of the house that the appearance of the porch railing, balusters, posts or columns and newel posts remain exactly as they are. Unfortunately, this seldom happens even by homeowners who have the best of intentions. It is very possible that your porch, as you know it, may be gone forever. There are a few reasons for this some beyond the homeowners and contractors control. Thankfully, there are a few ways to circumvent this problem, so read on.

Repair or Replace your Porch Balustrade?

The Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation offers the most logical advice for any work done to old buildings. It should not matter whether your home is a prime example of historic architecture or is just an average old house. This publication offers excellent advice, providing your home with the best possible curb appeal. An element on an old building should first be repaired. If that is not possible, it should be duplicated exactly. The rule is simple and basic follow it. Avoid the temptation to be creative or settle for something else. Falling off the path will affect curb appeal!

Mistakes That Make Your Porch Look Bad - OldHouseGuy Blog

Rotted wood can be repaired to look like new with easy-to-use epoxy fillers.

If your balustrade is rotted, it is best to repair before you replace. I personally recommend a technologically advanced product made by ABATRON as follows.

Unfortunately, today we live in a disposable society. Modern products are manufactured not to be repaired. If something breaks, not only is it easier, but it is now the mind-set to send it to the landfill and purchase a replacement. Sadly, this is also the same mind-set of many professionals that do carpentry work today.

If you are lucky enough for someone to actually respond to your phone call and provide you with an estimate for porch repair work, be prepared for a large bill. If a small amount of rot exists on your porch rail, the contractor will rarely offer to repair the rotted wood. Most likely a complete replacement will be suggested.

As stated above, replacement is a second option but there are many problems that come with this option too. You really need to be on the ball here and dont rush into making any immediate decisions or agreeing to have work performed that you may later be sorry for. After all, if the porch were maintained as it should have, you wouldnt have to cope with the dangers and problems connected with replacement of porch features.

Inferior Replacements What you need to know before you replace features on your porch

Your carpenter or subcontractor should be aware that you have an old (vintage) house, but there are a lot of old houses, and a lot of people that just dont care about what their house looks like or at least to the extent that they should. They know that the porch is broken, it needs to be fixed, and in this economy, money is tight.

Many people do not understand aesthetics. There are an abundance of cookie-cutter porch parts manufactured to fix a porch. Be aware that your carpenter may be most accustomed to repairing a porch in this manner. If you request an original historic look, it may be a fun challenge for him. Review his plans before any work is performed. You may need to educate him. You must realize that just because someone loves old houses and works on a lot of old homes, it doesnt mean they understand aesthetics and architecture. Most should stay far away from old houses.

In many cases the carpenter will replace and reconstruct not only the railing, but the entire balustrade with what is currently available and popular in the large discount home centers. That 100 year old wood that was lovingly maintained for you by previous owners for many years will now go to the landfill and be replaced with todays inferior fast grown wood that will never last as long as the original, even if it is well maintained.

Your carpenter may inform you that they are still manufacturing the same style porch posts and railing. They can easily be replaced with something very similar if not exact. Dont believe it. Today there is an abundance of architectural products on the market advertised as period styles. Unfortunately, although advertised as such, these products are watered-down versions of an original or merely a period interpretation designed by someone obviously unfamiliar with period details. Those with vintage houses may hastily, yet innocently, choose one of these products as an inadequate replacement for an original since it is the closest to what they have.

Aside from design, the most important difference in a reproduction architectural product (decorative molding, newel posts, railings etc.) is the size. For example most replacement porch newel posts, although only about two inches narrower than an original can drastically affect the overall appearance of a house, causing it to lose its sense of structure and appear to be off-balance.

Most porch newel posts on older homes were 5.5 inches wide. This size is not easy to find today since it requires a large lathe. The 5.5 inch base width is a good starting point for most newel posts. I would not go any smaller for a newel post on the front porch of the house. Some porches have much larger newel posts. Replacing newel posts to the correct size will require custom mill work.


Leave a Reply