DWELLINGS: Non-traditional approach to a porch

FREMONT After sharing my kitchen remodel last year as part of the Dwellings' Paper Products feature,
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



After sharing my kitchen remodel last year as part of the Dwellings' Paper Products feature, I thought it would be fun to share my latest home improvement project — my front porch.


My house is a low-slung 1950s ranch with only a very small crawl-space. That means there is about a five-inch-high step up from the ground onto my front porch and thus the rest of my house. And my front porch was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because its recessed under the main roof and connects the car port, which is a godsend when unloading groceries in the rain. A curse because until recently it was a concrete pad that was painted a pale red probably fifty years ago.

Deciding to re-do the porch left me with a few options. I could: scrub it down with wire brushes and paint it again, pay somebody to do an overlay of stamped concrete, or something else completely different. Re-painting just wasn't going to happen, I can't imaging painting it every few years. Stamped concrete sounded good, but hey, I'm on a budget! So I decided to go with something completely different.

Seeing that my porch is recessed under the main roof, sort of cut in under the house, I had a few options that may not be available to everyone. My porch gets virtually no rain or snow. It also gets no sun since my house faces north. So I decided to cover directly over the concrete. With wood. And concrete blocks. Which sounds kind of odd, I know.

The level of protection my porch has afforded me the option of using rather non-traditional materials to resurface concrete. Treating the lumber on all sides also meant that any moisture that may get between the wood and concrete would not be a problem.

The Plan

First I went out to the local lumber yard to see what the standard measurements were for lumber. I also had to keep in mind that lumber is smaller than what the advertised measurement is and that using treated lumber also meant it would be shrinking some after I brought it home. I measured not only the length and width of the boards, but also exactly how high they are when lying flat.

I knew I didn't want the entire porch to be wood and was hoping to have a wood grid with inset tile or stones. My next step was finding the right kind of paver or patio stone. Eventually I found one that was advertised as being suitable for lying on top of concrete and also met my criteria for both dimensions and aesthetics.

Not wanting to make thousands of cuts, I tried to plan a design that would use standard lumber sizes as well as the size of the patio stone. This was definitely the hardest part so if you try a project like this, don't give up!

After plenty of measuring and calculating, I had my final design and I could finally go get the materials.

The Work

I bought the materials and then waited. No, really. Lumber is often damp when you purchase it from a lumber yard, especially when it has been sitting inside. I took it home and put it under my covered patio for a few days to dry out and shrink. You could also move it out onto a sunny driveway during the day and in the garage at night.

I measured (twice) and cut it to size, sort of doing a dry fit along the porch to ensure I had cut correctly. With all of the pieces cut to fit, it was time to weatherproof. I sanded all sides of each piece to ensure comfort in bare feet and used a waterproofing stain with a tint to give the lumber a warm, reddish brown tone.

After two coats of weatherproofing and the outside frame of the lumber set into place, my next step was to lay in the patio pavers. To ensure they wouldn't wobble, I used a generous amount of outdoor latex caulk under each corner of the pavers and then set them in. I used two foot by two foot pavers which are fairly heavy so be careful!

After that was completed, I continued with fitting the inside frame of lumber to make a grid around each paver as well as the outside part of the frame that wraps around built in planter boxes.

Once everything is laid down, it was time to fasten it to the porch. The patio pavers obviously weren't going anywhere so I left those alone, but to keep the lumber from sliding I had to use concrete screws to anchor them properly. First I pre-drilled holes through the lumber in all corners and in the middle of longer boards. Then I used a masonry drill bit to go through each of those holes and down into the concrete. After that, it was time to use a countersink bit to ensure that the heads of the concrete screws would be recessed into the wood. Finally, I could screw the boards down using two and three-quarter inch long concrete screws.

Time & Money

This project cost me just under two hundred dollars. I used treated lumber for durability and affordability and found a great deal on the patio pavers. Treated lumber can look great with some sanding and a color stain or tinted weatherproofing. Most people that come over now ask what kind of wood I used for the project because they have never anything like it before. A little stain goes a long way and I some left over from a previous project.

If you have to drill into concrete consider buying at least two masonry drill bits, chances are you'll break one and they wear down quickly. This project has more than seventy screws in the lumber and that means drilling into concrete more than seventy times.

Not counting the planning and shopping time, this project took two weekends. The first weekend was sanding and staining the lumber after it had dried and the second was cutting and fitting everything into place.

The final project is a solid, weatherproof, unique and affordable update to what was otherwise an ugly entry and I'm very happy with it.

Find more home improvement stories in our online Dwellings section.