The Bad Back Porch

This section of the house was so terrible I wondered if I should just remove it ?

Many late 19th c and early 20th c houses in this area had an addition stuck on behind the kitchen. I’m not sure what the fever was that swept through, that made people do this ? Was it a space for the new fangled washing machine (1910’s onward ) or matching washer and dryer (1950’s) ?

The porch/room was so terrible that there are no listing photos of it. I could never even bring myself to take any photos of it. It only appeared in small sections as the background to something else. It was a structure stuck onto the back wall of the house. The interior had horrible dark brown wood panelling on the walls AND ceiling. The door fit so poorly that if you could wrench it open, you would have to spend 5 minutes kicking it back into place. There was a small vinyl window at one end, mounted SIDEWAYS. There was a single light fixture, so it was dim. The washer and dryer were back here, and the entry to the basement.

Originally the doorway to the basement had been in the kitchen where my large cabinet now is. When the back porch was created, I am assuming that someone bashed through what had been a window, which would have lit the stairs, to create the door opening. A small kitchen with 5 doorways would have been a challenge, so blocking in the basement doorway was sensible. The basement opening was relocated to the porch.

To move the washer and dryer elsewhere was an expensive hassle, which would involve extensive plumbing and electrical modifications, plus plaster repair. The cost vs benefit ratio seemed small, as there wasn’t really a better place for them to go. The basement area is about 1/3 the size of the main floor, unfinished with low ceilings, so moving them downstairs didn’t seem like a good idea.

The room was actually the biggest in the house – 10 x 18′ – so fixing it to be useful seemed like the best plan.

I thought that the 2nd year in the house would be when this would happen. Instead all that was done was swapping the bad 1940’s door for a Kijiji french door. The next fall, numerous headaches and hassles ensued. Work sort of began around the time that I had to euthanize Rumpy, so I had already been feeling intensely sad and stressed for a couple of months.

Every single step was just a battle with adversity. It was like the house didn’t want this awful room to get fixed.

The exterior had the vinyl siding stripped off at the end of October. This exposed the mysterious construction. It appeared that recycled boards, probably from the former garage, had been used. This had been a squirrel condominium with several areas where the sheathing had been chewed though. Thankfully these were older occupancies that had been remedied so I didn’t have to fight the squirrels at least.

I had always thought that 1940’s grandpa built this structure on the weekends, without a plan or permit. Frugally. Things weren’t crazy, but just a little off code, like the rafter spacing.

The interior was just as confusing. The awful wood paneling had been applied to antique tongue and groove boards. These were reclaimed from somewhere. Some were varnished and alligatored, others were bare. Much to my relief the walls and ceiling were completely covered with these boards, so I wouldn’t have drywall the entire room. The ghost where older, larger windows had been were revealed. There was an opening for a door that was never finished, which was filled in with two antique doors, in rotten condition, back to back. Gaps were filled in with slabs of styrofoam that had previously been used for bolts of cloth, as the labels were still on the end. A newspaper from Dec. 1979 had been stuffed behind the panelling. I guess that was when they either started or finished with the ugly panelling.

The room had always been freezing. It had one heat vent which did very little. With the ugly panelling removed, the gaps between the walls and ceiling were revealed. There was a particularly large gap between the exterior wall and ceiling, with clumps of filthy insulation that stuck out.

To remedy this gap, someone climbed into the attic area and LAID BRICKS on this gap ! This was why this section of the ceiling was sagging. There was no ledger strip so this area was unsupported. When a piece of wood, described as looking like a “stick” was removed in the attic area, this section of the ceiling fell about 5″. It was frankly terrifying.

Since the ledger strip was absent, one was made on the room side to support the ceiling. First it was pushed back into place with jacks, then a long and thick board was attached to the bricks with long anchors. Several 2 x 4’s ran from the cement slab floor to the bottom of the board to support it.

To remedy the gaps between the walls and ceiling, tacky MDF crown molding was used. Once it was painted it would blend in, and it was the only thing wide enough to span the widest gaps. There was also a gap between the last tongue and groove board and the floor. I chanced upon some wide antique baseboards at the ReStore for very cheap. Baseboards wouldn’t typically get used with tongue and groove walls, and certainly not in a utility room. Here they would serve a practical purpose. The longest wall also had a slight bow, so shoe molding was used to fill in that gap. Same with the corners :

The recycled tongue and groove boards had a million nail holes to patch before they were primed and painted. The bare boards were primed with an oil primer to stop the tannin from bleeding through, the varnished boards got adhesion primer. A roller was useless so it all had to get brushed on.

The last of the antique rosettes and door casings were used around the window and door.

I scored a large antique cabinet, probably from a church or school, judging from the paper numbers stuck on it. It had the original faux grain finish in good condition. I couldn’t believe my good luck when I spotted it for $ 150.00 ! It was attached to the wall using basic angle brackets, so it couldn’t tip over accidentally.

I used Benjamin Morre Advance enamel paint on the walls and trim. I planned to use the porch as a utility room, so things like ladders would be stored here, that would get knocked around a little. I just didn’t feel right about using latex wall paint on the wood.

Finally this disaster was just a room. With the gaps blocked in as much as possible, the temperature went from about 4C inside to more like 12C on a cold day. It was still chilly, but it was much improved. Weatherstripping around the door also really helped.

But. There’s always a but…..

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