Saturday, October 6, 2012

Getting a handle on things

With a signed CoA ("Certificate of Appropriateness") in hand, the husband and I just couldn't wait to get started on re-building our porch, replacing the rusted wrought iron railing from the 80s with something a lot more historically appropriate made from solid wood.

Time was up for the rusted ugliness!
Over the time for sharp-edged brackets!
No more wibbly wobbly flimsy metal!
Aside from talking to our contractor and getting inspiration from books and driving through the 'hood, I'd found two places with information on porch railings for a vintage/historic house I thought especially helpful

"The porch railing and other features of a porch" by This Old House Guy
"Dover Projects: How to build a porch railing" by Peter from Dover Projects

Since the Ugly Duckling is a vernacular house from the Bungalow/Arts & Crafts period and exhibits some of those characteristics, we didn't have to worry about a fancy curly-cue railing. Plain and simple was our motto.

First, we drove over to the blue box to buy a whole Jeep-load of supplies. Alright, so all we bought were pressure-treated pine, exterior screws and small exterior brackets (to attach the railing to the house on two sides of the porch).  I may or may not have pulled the "poo' lil' female embarking on a DIY project" card at the blue box to have them cut my 2x2s to a multitude of spindles just shy of 23" ... heh.
This shopping spree came in at just under $100 with materials for all three railing parts (two sides and one front).
Not bad at all (and much less than the husband expected).

Then came the "Big Measuring." We cut the top and bottom rail to size for our first opening (the one right next to our current entry door) and then played with the distance between our spindles until it looked right while making sure to meet building codes by making sure a 4.5" sphere would not be able to pass through.
I favored a slightly narrower gap between spindles than the husband but in the end it all worked out okay because there was a slight mistake in our measuring math and the spindles ended up distanced just the way I wanted them in the first place. Much to the husband's amusement, really.

Here are our spindles (2x2s), pre-drilled and lines up, and our bottom rail (2x6) with screws in place. We have never build a railing before but here's the technique we came up with:
  1. Measure center distances between spindles
  2. Drill through bottom rail and screw in exterior screw
  3. Pre-drill spindle
  4. Line up with screw in rail
  5. Tighten
  6. Rinse and repeat
  7. Turn over and repeat for top rail

Since this was little Man's idea of a good ol' "man work," we roped him in to helping and he especially enjoyed screwing in the spindles with the husband while I sat nearby marking the center of the remaining bundle of spindles for the other sides.

Then came that glorious moment when we removed the rusted wrought iron railing and sent it back all the way to the 80s! The bolts were rusted tight, painted over, or crumbling and breaking in the oddest places and thus a real pain to remove, but we did it and, man, did it feel GOOD!
Our only regret: they don't burn or else there would have been a merry bonfire burning in our back yard that night, with dancing and drinks! As it stands, we'll be driving the pieces over to the junk metal place and see how much somebody is willing to pay us for them. Muhahaha makes me feel positively evil and giddy at the same time.

Not too impressive without the top rail in place yet but at least the metal railing is gone - gone - gone! I'll have to snap a better picture but if you look at the column on the right you can see two black spots on its left side, one right beneath the grey base stone for the smaller top. These two black spots are bolts that held the old railing in place but even more important they are right in the center of cut-outs in the ashlar bricks (cast concrete bricks to look like rock) that indicate where the original railing would have slotted in. That's how we got our measurements for our replacement railing and that's how the railing is secured on that side. It slides right in and fits like a glove.

Speaking of fitting like a glove, ...  Tada! Our new railing, part 1, in place! The only thing missing is the 2x8 that will top off the 2x6 top rail. It will have beveled edges for a better hand feel and so that water can run off more easily and won't create any moisture issues.

We are madly in love with our new railing! It's rock solid and looks just -right- in its place adding much needed weight to the visual appearance of our Ugly Duckling. Husband always laughed when I started talking about our house needing "the strong porch railing because it is lacking horizontal lines" but now, now he knows what I meant.

Unfortunately we got rained out the rest of the weekend and so we had to postpone finishing our porch railing until the next so stay tuned! There will be more railing coming going up soon!

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