After four long years, we finally wrapped up our front portico repair project. It's one of those projects that doesn't have a ton of "hip-hip-hooray!" to it, but foundationally, it lends a sense of comfort and stability that make me happier living in this house.
The picture above shows the exterior of the house on the day of purchase. Bright and sunny skies were the perfect mask, hiding all of the important details and information about that front portico. Who knew that there were ant colonies living in that wisteria? Who knew that the wisteria branches had bent the portico structure to one side such that the integrity of our house was being compromised?
I sure didn't know. All I saw was a location for cocktails and deck chairs. I'm good like that.
We knew we had to remove the front portico in its entirety once the significant colony of carpenter ants moved in from the wisteria tree branches to the upstairs bathroom. I'll never forget the day I opened the bottom cupboard by the toilet and a flood of ants raced out. Nor will I forget the sound of my husband sucking them up with our vacuum. I still shudder thinking about these events.
By the way, the wisteria on the front of the house was why this blog was called The Wisteria House. Funny, huh? Because there is no longer any wisteria. It was cut down, the house was fumigated and I moved away from the dream of a canopy of purple wisteria blossoms on our front porch.
After a the house had been resided (shingles only) and re-painted, we spent a significant amount of time just hanging with a makeshift front portico. I cannot tell you how many neighbors commented, asking whether we were actually going to do something or if our plan was to leave it as-is.
In all honesty, there was some truth to their question. The one thing I've learned about home renovation is that, after awhile, you no longer see the issue. The peeling spot above the window in the living room, the unpainted trim in the entryway. It just starts to be part of your day-to-day experience and it takes shocking neighbor comments to jolt you out of that state. For my neighbors, I am eternally grateful in this respect. They've helped us with our house in more ways than you can imagine (A couple of them have now taken a disliking to the white picket fence. More on that later.)
My husband scored two columns at an architectural salvage shop in Seattle. They were about $100 apiece, which in Seattle, is a score. Please let me be clear: Absolutely nothing is cheap in Seattle, even on the salvage front. You want another example of overpriced Seattle? We received a $50,000 bid to paint our house. $50,000 people. $50,000. You could say this was just a contractor who didn't want to paint our house but our next door neighbor received a $40,000 bid for his house. It's just a Seattle thing.
With the help of my father-in-law, the hubbie built boxes on the bottom of each column to support the columns and boxes at the top of each column to lend architectural detailing and support. You can see both boxes (unpainted) in the picture above.
After the columns were built, the final step was rebuilding the actual front portico. My brother-in-law, the woodworker, came out to the house to handle the project. What he did was build a frame around the original portico. He added new beadboard and vents along the entire underside of the front portico, as well as along the front soffits.
Done-zo. Next up? The front porch light debacle of 2010 (it was awesome) followed by a lengthy discussion of shutter options. Get your popcorn ladies.