On why the side porch tilts

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A couple of weeks ago I posted an entry about how I rented a jackhammer and removed some brick steps on our side porch. This is different from the kitchen porch which I built a couple of years ago and also documented here. In the following photo, the side porch is in the foreground and the kitchen porch is on the right further down the driveway.

Side porch

You can see where the steps were by the doors of the side porch and you can also probably tell that the front corner of the porch slopes downward, and does so much more than what would be needed, say, to divert any rain water away from the house.

You can see this more easily by looking at the porch window next to the house. There’s probably about an inch and one-half difference between the window and the frame when you compare the bottom to the top.

Side porch

One evening last week I took off the skirting including the finish frame and lattice from the front section of the porch. This photo looking at the east side makes it more obvious why the porch is slumping into that corner.

Side porch

Wood-wise, things are not nearly so bad when looking from the south side. What you are looking at is a small rusted lally column and some bricks and concrete pieces that were insufficient support to begin with, and are practically useless right now.

Side porch

What should be there is a concrete footing with a wooden post coming up to support the corner. The lally column should not have been left in place in this outside application because it would rust eventually, and it did. The stacked bricks and stones are just a hack. All this needs to be replaced.

I started the process by digging down back from the corner so I could put a 4″ x 8″ x 16″ solid concrete block on undisturbed soil. I then placed and leveled a new lally column to provide temporary support.

Side porch

Over the next few days and weeks I will slowly raise the corner of the porch by turning the screw on the column. While I’m doing that, I’ll dig a hole under the corner and pour a concrete footing reinforced with some short pieces of steel rebar. I’ll then replace the wood that has rotted, and put another temporary lally in the corner. I’ll raise this to slightly more than final height, support the corner, slip out the column, and put in the final wooden post.

If I raise the corner too quickly, I might get cracking in the wood making up the infrastructure and trim of the porch or even possibly break a window. I’d rather do it slowly and correctly.

There are two or three other places where I’m going to have to add new and proper support to the porch. When I’m done I’ll rebuild the skirting around the porch, replace some of the trim, and put in the new steps.

Since the house was built in 1820 and the porch is on the oldest part of the house, I really have no idea when this work was done. When I took off the skirting I could tell that some newer wood was present but also some very old cedar lattice. Similarly there were recent finish nails employed but also some cut nails that probably went back to the 1800s.


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