June 25, 2012. I measured 8 feet from the house wall and tapped in stakes 8 feet apart to mark for holes to be dug for concrete piers.

June 26. I cut and nailed OSB strips along the box under the first floor. To this box will be screwed 2x8 pressure-treated ledger boards for the porches:

I rented this auger for the afternoon:

We dug 16 holes with various degrees of success. The auger was able to dig only through relatively loose sand and clay. Anything else stumped it: dry surface dirt, hard packed earth, gravel, small roots. We had to start every hole with a shovel. Bad auger. Very bad.

Holes dug:

June 27. The holes failed inspection. They must be 12" in diameter. These are 8". I believe this means I will have to rent another very stupid auger. At least the holes are deep enough, but I will have to buy more concrete.

June 28. We had to rent a bigger auger to get a 12" bit. Now this is an auger:

It weighs about 100 pounds. Add a bit full of dirt and it is quite a workout pulling earth out of the ground. This auger performed better, probably because we had already dug 8" holes, but also because it is a more powerful machine. We dug out all the 8" holes to make them 12".

In the afternoon, we closed up the east side of the house with OSB:

June 29. The new holes passed inspection. I poured the first three concrete piers. Each hole took about 5 80-pound bags of concrete. Great. Interesting work on the hottest day of the year. In this picture of the cluttered construction site, you can see a red mason's line across the tops of piers:

Here is a close-up of a concrete pier with embedded 14" galvanized anchor bolt:

I put a cardboard ring on the top of the poured concrete to raise the pier above the surrounding soil. This will keep the post from sitting on damp ground. A post base will be bolted to the anchor bolt. Here is a post base sitting on the pier:

July 2. To keep the band joists forever dry, we stapled 1-foot wide strips of Weatherwatch ® to the first floor box:

Then we bolted on the pressure-treated 2x8's. The bolts, Ledgerloks, alternate high and low every 23":


July 3, 2012. I cleared the vegetation away from the east side of the house and put up one temporary post to start porch framing:

I ordered 50 more 80-pound bags of concrete. In the evening, we filled 6 pier holes. When will we be done pouring concrete? After filling the holes and setting the bolts, I covered the piers with plastic for a day. This keeps the concrete from drying too quickly. Here is a pier ready for its plastic cover:

My friend Walt sighted a Higgs boson in the above picture:

Good eye, Walt!

July 4. We gained independence from concrete pouring this morning. The mixer is now slightly used. Here it is churning away:

It has fallen over twice, shut off a few times due to our excesses, but the reset button does what it is supposed to. Three holes to go here:

All piers done. Now we can get back to framing.

July 6. We set posts on the east and west sides. I determined the post height of an end post by temporarily nailing a level joist to it and measuring down from the top of the joist. I allowed 7 1/4 inches for the 2x8 joist and 9 1/4 inches for the 2x10 beam the joists will sit on. Then I pulled a mason's line to the next corner. This works OK for short runs, but a string will always sag a little:

I hung a line level on the mason's line to define the horizontal. Here is a close up of the line level:

Here are the cut posts in place, not plumb yet:

Building the double 2x10 beam on the posts and testing a joist for level:

On the east side, building the beam:

July 7. We hung all the joists on the west side and nailed on the first deck board:

At the end of the day we tacked up joist hangers on the east side, 16 inches on center:

July 8 - 11. Framing and decking porches. West porch decked:

Building the front beam:

East porch decked, front porch framed:

July 12. Front porch decked after a long hot day:

Here is a front view. Note the front scaffold is down and we finished OSB details on the east side:

July 13. We finished filling in OSB on the walls of the first floor. I went around and checked all the walls and shot a few more nails to make sure the sheathing had enough nails. Then we wrapped the first floor with Tyvek:

July 14. After great suffering, wondering what kind of post and railing system to use, I went with pressure treated 4x4 posts. The other option: structural vinyl posts and vinyl railings. I went with wood because it's wood. Real wood. And wood is very much less expensive than vinyl. Here is the west side with braced posts sitting in metal post bases on the beam. We plumbed the posts and braced them with 2x6's toe nailed to the wall, then set the first 2x10 headers on the posts. We toe nailed the first ceiling joists and removed the braces under them. There is still a low brace on the first post in the back:

We started to do the same on the east side. No header here yet:

July 15. Ceiling on the west porch:

East side:

July 16. In the morning we set front posts and started the front header:

In the afternoon we finished the header:

I know it's a porch, but I get a strong feeling as I build it: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

July 17. Front ceiling done, it's going up here:

July 18. West ceiling corner. A metal tie plate secures a 2x8 diagonal beam to the house corner:

All the shorter joists get nailed to it. This was a little time consuming but easier than I thought it was going to be. The hip roof above it will be more "interesting."

July 19. East ceiling corner:

July 20-22. I lay out a full sized porch roof rafter on the second floor bedroom floor:

I marked the plumb cuts and the birdsmouth cut. This will be the template rafter:

Then I cut dozens of rafters and we installed them on the west porch...

...and on the front. Before installing the rafters, we installed Tyvek and ledger boards:

Here is a fast video showing the cutting of 4 rafters. Follow these steps: put the 2x6's on the saw horses, site along the board to find if it "crowns" and mark it so that the crown is up, use the template to mark each rafter, cut the plumb cuts on the ends, cut the birdsmouth where the rafter will sit on the header, then toss the rafter onto the growing pile.


July 23. We finished all the common (full length) porch rafters today. Now I have to figure out how to do the corners. Here is a view of the east rafters:

July 24-25. The corner rafters are not too tricky but they are time consuming. First I had to cut the hip rafter, the diagonal rafter that goes from the corner of the house to the corner of the porch roof.

Then each additional rafter (called a hip jack rafter) is a different length and has to be measured individually. I pulled a mason's line along the top edge of the common rafters so I would know how long to cut the hip jacks. I have to measure on the roof, but cut the rafters on the porch. More time consuming. Here is the west corner, done:

View from down the road:

Some trimming to do but it looks good so far.

July 26-27. We finished the east hip roof and tacked on fascia. All the joists have been nipped to prepare for plywood. The fascia needs trimming on the corner:

The west corner:

July 28-29. Plywood on the corners. This is the hardest part of the roof since each piece of plywood has to be measured, cut and sometimes recut. Much of the remaining pieces should go on as stock 4x8' sheets. The top row is about 20" wide. Plywood strips will have to be cut for that row:

Friday, August 17. When I came back after a two-week vacation in Togo, the porch roof was done:

The back roof:

December 21, 2012. The porches have trim and ceilings. See the Siding page for more details::

We got our temporary certificate of occupancy at the end of April, 2013. We had to bar the doors onto the porch to get that certificate since the porch had no stairs or railings:

June, 2013. Back stairs and front stairs. To save time, I bought pre-cut stringers from the generic big box home improvement store. Since I had not yet graded the ground around the house, I had to use temporary supports for the steps. Back steps:

Front step stringers:

A picture of treads will have to wait till July.

July, 2013. Time to grade the area around the house. Here is the little backhoe I rented. You can see one of the three piles of dirt left over from the septic pit dig. Well, someone has to move all that dirt. It might as well be me:

Here are the front steps after spreading around a few tons of dirt:

The back steps, with a wooden form for a concrete pad. I lay some rebar in the space to reinforce the future concrete pad:

Here is the very definition of a screed, "a leveling device drawn over freshly poured concrete."

A finishing trowel and an edging tool:

Back steps done:

Front steps done the same way:

Though not part of the porches, I also had to build a small deck off the back sliding door. I include that here. Ledger board anchored to the wall:

Deck and stringers:

Finished, with gas grill:


August, 2013. Back to the porches. We need railings everywhere. Vinyl is final. Here the first railing section goes up. Post wrap, rails and balusters. I got these from Great Railing in Williamstown:

A few growing pains as I figured out the easiest way to cut and install these railings, but it was not difficult or time consuming. Solid, strong product. Successive pictures over about 5 days:

August 20, 2013.The porch is done except for some trim.