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The Farmhouse Front Porch Reno Process (Reveal Coming Tomorrow!)

When we were first dreaming, designing, and rendering this house I thought very little about the front porch – not because I didn’t care about it, but because it was not my biggest fish to fry. I had so many fish, like an ocean of fish waiting to get fried and trust me, it was reeking over here. The front porch is not where the bulk of people will go in and out of (except for brand-new guests) so its function is more for curb appeal (which is very important but easy to put on the back burner). Luckily, Anne (ARCIFORM) and her team thought about it. So while I was too busy playing with cut-up paper for the tiled sunroom floor – for months – a front and back porch came to life in the drawings. And boy am I glad it did. The above is our lovely before, where it was more of a patio with a sitting area (and tomorrow you’ll see the after). So today we’ll walk through the process of turning this front door and patio area into our now dreamy front porch.

There is nothing about the original front patio that bummed me out, really. It had a lot of potential and a sweet big front door (that we kept). It had a side cement patio that led to the backyard and seemed like it could be a nice sitting area. But the problem was that I dreamed of a sunroom, and the side area was the perfect spot for that space.

A Few Months Later…

It always gets worse before it gets better, and this stage was really the bottom. Comically so. This was what the house looked like in February when Brian and I came up to check on the house before we lived in Portland. We invited my parents and friends to come over and see the progress and there were a lot of sympathetic and confused expressions. It’s SO HARD to see the potential (even for us) at times, and we got a lot of “Are you sure this was the right decision?” vibes, but no one actually asked.

I don’t think I’ve talked much about the original or new siding, but here’s the situation: When we bought the house (in 2020) there was a layer of either aluminum or vinyl siding overtop the OG siding, painted white. So we did some exploratory work and saw that indeed there was OG wood siding underneath. We took off the newer (but very beat up) siding and got quotes to see if we could just restore the original. As you can see, the paint (riddled with lead) was chipping off very badly so it was a huge no-go. Of course, we looked at the different profiles we could install – if we were starting from scratch we would’ve had other options but ultimately decided to install new wood siding with the same profile as the original because it was classic and we liked it. So we had to rip off not only the aluminum/vinyl siding but also the lead-filled OG siding. Also if you are thinking of going into a non-A.I. stealable lucrative career I’d maybe consider demolition work. So much respect for those folks as it’s a highly laborious and dangerous job with a lot of things like lead and Asbestos that most of us don’t want to deal with, but my goodness it ain’t cheap! 🙂

The Porch Foundation AKA The Concrete Pad

Originally, we wanted to put the sunroom on this concrete pad where the OG patio was (where I’m standing above) and honestly, I don’t remember why we ultimately didn’t. I think it either wasn’t big enough or we were going to add more to it to link to the back porch or it wasn’t in good enough condition to put a room on top of. Or maybe we also needed crawl space for mechanicals? Funny how this was probably such a thing that we all decided on, but over two years later I do not remember why we demo’d out this concrete pad to put in a new concrete foundation that was bigger.

The New Sunroom/Porch Foundation

So we poured a new foundation and started building the sunroom. The reason this is all relevant is that it really helped give us “a room” to create a more intimate porch. Less “entry” and more “let’s sit and gab”.

Framed Pp + New Roofline

Obviously, due to Portland weather, we wanted the front porch to be covered and the sunroom roofline made it easy to extend and create a covered front porch. And in case you didn’t notice I’d love to call out that we added a fourth window on the second floor because the house started with only three. I think we stole that window from the guest room but I don’t totally remember.

A Change/Twist

At first, the brick wall you see above was supposed to be a sliding door from the sunroom. At the last minute, I decided to nix it because we realized that having a solid wall in the sunroom was necessary for storage. Basically, having this wall be a door really meant that we had no way to even store wallpaper samples. As you know we got pretty greedy with natural light in our house (possibly too much) and this was one of the places where we decided to slow our roll. Does the sunroom need to access the front porch? NOPE. We had a front door right there, and the sunroom still has French doors to the back porch. I also realized that this would be the best outdoor “sitting room” with the potential of having a sofa or sectional. But if there is a sliding door it would’ve limited our options for furniture out there. So we closed up the opening and prepped it for brick. Very glad we did.

The Wood Floor + Stain

Ok, this could be a whole post in and of itself. We wanted a stained wood deck but we didn’t want to use Ipe wood because of how it’s sourced nor did we want Douglas fir (mostly because it’s not my favorite wood tone). So we found this company called Robi that claims to have sustainably sourced highly durable wood – like Ipe, but better. It wasn’t cheap (similar to Ipe) but we thought the wood grain was beautiful. In the photo above you’ll see half of it in its original form, the other half being stained. Now when it first was installed we were IN LOVE with the natural wood and we were under the impression that it would be sealed and perhaps evened out a bit but that we’d retain the pretty tone. So when we came upon one of our painters staining the wood (above) we were concerned. Did we stil llike it? Sure, but it wasn’t what we were picturing. But it was half done and stripping it off would be a real thing. And if I’m being honest we were so close to moving in, desperate to not have one more hold up, so I let this one go. But then…

It Got Even Darker

Here you can see the first few are stained, but they look darker. I was confused but honestly, I was also overwhelmed and likely had SAD and I HATED being that person who picked everything apart. It just looked so much darker and after talking to everyone on site and probably coming off a little unhinged, we ended up just finishing it. if I could go back in time I’d I guess have them strip or sand it off and start fresh. But I didn’t…

I do not know what happened between the first and the second coat of stain! Or maybe they ran out and bought a darker stain on accident? We thought we had ordered the clear sealant, but y’all this was NOT CLEAR. Everyone was like, “This is what you wanted” and “Just wait til it dries” and I just remember being so frustrated with everyone, including myself, but it was too late. We were really hoping for a light to medium Scandinavian-look decking. lt turned out much darker and dare I say more purple.

I came back after the second coat had dried (I should not have said yes to the second coat) and I was super bummed. This is a shitty position for everyone to be in – no one means to bum out the client. So much hard work went into these decks. I hate being the person that isn’t happy with the work. So I did what I always do and asked the questions that I always ask: What are my options and how much do they cost? Essentially I had two options – 1. Strip, sand, and re-seal with hopes of a lighter finish. This would take days and even then the dark stain within the groove would be very hard to get rid of. As far as cost, I don’t know – a few guys for a few days can’t be less than $2k. I also just really really hate having people redo stuff – I feel like it’s bad for team morale and puts everyone in a bad mood, and I hate that energy when people are working so hard to make my home so pretty and up to my high standards. So the other option was to wait and see how much it fades over time and if it still bugs me this year or next year then decide to sand or paint then. Now that it’s been a year I don’t really notice it anymore and I can say objectively that it is really pretty – just not what I wanted. I feel like I could have gotten this look with Douglas Fir which would have been much, much cheaper. I want to be clear that this wasn’t ARCIFORM’s fault – I’m not sure if Robi sent the wrong color or if I ordered the wrong color. Who knows and I don’t even like to go back through my emails and find out who is to blame because it does nothing to solve the problem. Jamie and his team executed a beautiful deck and the painters stained it perfectly – it just was the wrong color. WHOOPS. Also if you are looking for this we ordered the Sassafras Robi wood as you can see here.

So here is the last photo I have of the wood pre-stain, which haunts me a bit (but I’m actually totally over it now).

photo by kaitlin green | from: our front door reveal – on choosing the right color + what it did to my psyche and our curb appeal

Ya win some and ya lose some!

Painting The Door Red

Painting the door red was the last of my misguided decisions, but one that taught me that A. this color, Poinsettia by Sherwin-Williams, is a fantastic bright red, and B. red against white is too flashy (for me and this setting). But look how pretty she looked when she was styled out!

photo by kaitlin green | from: our front door reveal – on choosing the right color + what it did to my psyche and our curb appeal

So tomorrow you’ll see the front porch reveal, finished, styled out and hopefully like me, you’ll barely even notice the darker stain. Funny how that works (and thank goodness). Let this be a lesson to all of us – that YES we should obsess passionately over details to get us closer to what we really want in our home when we are investing in a remodel, but with the right styling and decoration, you can also stop noticing some of the things that you previously saw as a huge mistake. Nothing a porch swing and a 7′ wooden bird can’t fix!! 🙂

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9 months ago

I used ipe for our decking material, making sure it was sourced from a reputable company with certificate of origin. I love that we can forego sealer completely, as I had issues with uniform staining/maintenance in prior porch floors. In the 3 years since installed, the ipe has transformed into a beautiful light gray and feels smooth and cool underfoot.

9 months ago

fwiw, I like the darker color more. It’s more substantial and timeless looking. (Does it hide mud and dirt better too?)

9 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I’ve had both dark decking and light decking. The light hides mud, dirt and scratching (like from rock bits stuck in shoes, sliding furniture or planters) way better than the dark.

9 months ago

Emily, it’s beautiful and I can’t wait to see the full reveal! I entirely relate to your not wanting to be the bad guy when things go wrong, as I’ve been there more times than I can’t count during my almost three-year (and counting!) renovation “journey.” I’ve also repeatedly wondered if it’s a learned female response in our culture to feel guilty for wanting things to be done right and noticing when they’re not. Do men react this way? Genuinely curious, but I doubt it. I wish I had your zen ability to not go poring over past emails to identify who was at fault. I can’t help myself, and it seems necessary to determine who will cover the cost of the fix. How do you get around this? Do you just automatically pay for everyone’s mistakes? Please clarify. Thanks!!

9 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

I feel all of this too. It’s a bummer for everyone, and feels like, once it goes wrong, it’s lose-lose and there’s nothing that can fix it… Nobody wants me to be disappointed but I *am*… My first reaction is almost always the same as Emily’s… to say “it’s okay” (often excessively) because I hate so much how uncomfortable it all feels. But then I kick myself so hard because that makes a moment of discomfort go away, but not the issue itself. So admire Emily’s ability to process it all as healthily as possible, and for her willingness to share that with all of us. It makes me feel less regret about all of my “let them keep staining the deck differently than I want, even though I specifically paid extra to get what I really want” moments — to know that it happens to everyone. (One of mine was accepting a low offer on our home, which I loved and was already broken up about having to sell, and knew we could have gotten more from… hard for it not to haunt me every day!!!) … But, when I think of it in relation to someone else, I… Read more »

9 months ago
Reply to  Summer

I am not as generous of spirit, I’m afraid. If something isn’t right, I expect it to be corrected whenever reasonably possible. I always try to be nice about it, and yet I still feel guilty. And this bothers me about myself. Why should I feel bad because someone messed up? I’m sorry for them because they’re likely embarrassed and frustrated, and that’s just being a human, but why should I feel guilty for wanting what was agreed upon and paid for? Let them feel bad and improve because of it. Why do we as women tend to take on the extra feeling of guilt and responsibility. It’s bonkers. Can you imagine if the man overseeing the building of the Brooklyn Bridge (or any great structure) had accepted shoddy work because he didn’t want his underlings to feel bad. I think we as women need to collectively snap out of it.

9 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

Not the point of your post of course, but supervision of the Brooklyn Bridge was for a mayor part in hands of a woman: Emily Warren Roebling (she took over after her husband developed decompression disease). I learned about her because of reading “The engineer’s wife” by Tracey Emerson Wood (not the best book, but nevertheless an interesting read).

9 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

The thing is, you don’t “get around” it. You have to professionally and constructively confront it if it matters to you. Determine where the wires got crossed and went wrong, then professionally work with the contractor for a solution, e.g. total do-over, remediation, whatever, and who will cover the additional cost. If I as the homeowner wasn’t clear in communicating or made an ordering mistake, I’m paying for the fix if I can’t live with it.

9 months ago
Reply to  Lynsy

Agree Lynsey. I was literally asking Emily how she moves forward without figuring out who was to blame and if she regularly just covers the cost herself. Glad to hear that’s not the norm though.

9 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

I’ve found that the contractors/electrician/plumbers/trades who I want to work with again are the ones who want me to be happy with the end result.

9 months ago

Why weren’t samples made of different stains? This is usual procedure where the client looks at the samples and makes their selection based on the samples.

9 months ago
Reply to  Magda

Your comment reminds me of Emily’s grout selection post from last year. So much time and attention (and sampling) before the final choices were made. That said, I think the decking looks great as is, so maybe will turn out to be a happy accident.

9 months ago

Emily, you say, “The front porch is not where the bulk of people will go in and out of …” What is the main entry area? The kitchen door in the back? Or maybe that’s not the back as you refer to the area on the side of the house as the back yard?

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

Isn’t it the mudroom and/or kitchen door?

Roberta Davis
9 months ago

So much going on to keep track of! I’m sure everyone has unexpected outcomes. Looking forward to the reveal!

9 months ago

Thank you for sharing the process! Everything looks lovely and I’m sure the dark stain will lighten over time with age and sun.

I’m just curious why you didn’t have the painters do a sample area to confirm the correct color before proceeding with the entire deck? I believe this is customary (at least in my experience with stain and paint colors), which can help identify any errors in the final batch of stain/paint vs the agreed upon sample.

9 months ago
Reply to  Marie

Yes! I can’t imagine leaving this more or less to chance, given how much decking there was to stain?

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

I really like the colour of the wood decking with one coat of stain.
Mind you, wood always looks good to my eyeballs 😍 so the darker colour is easy to like, too.

My floorboards (old houses in Australia only have floorboards. No subfloor). The boards are very thick snd very long. My nearly 100 year old house has Jarrah boards, a native wood that will no longer be logged from the end of this year – Yaaay!! 🌳
It’s a naturally darkish-brown-red timber. I generally prefer golden woods, but lurve my floors for their history and the timber that is now rare.

Cannot wait for tomorrow’s reveal!⏳🕰⏰

9 months ago

I like the stain. It’s really pretty. You are probably the only person out there who knows what it should have been. No one else will see that and everyone will think it’s great. I have a lot of moments like that. Some were caught, but for others it was too late. For example my deck is 12’6″ wide, but it should have been 13′. Being detail oriented, I knew exactly where the end of deck and the railing should be in relation of the large sliding doors. The company I hired put that size in the contract when they knew the boards are only 12′ long and they were not going to order longer boards. The trim does buy some length but it’s still 3″ short on both sides. It looks okay anyway, I don’t notice it or look at it on a daily basis but that detail has not been executed properly and as you know, quality and design are in the details. Another one, I couldn’t fix were thick grout lines in the bathroom. This one I was really annoyed about especially because I went with lighter grout color because I couldn’t match it exactly. If I… Read more »

Lindsay Kolderup
9 months ago

it makes me feel good that even professionals with awesome design instincts rethink their decisions! But it is a caution to double your expected budget! Anticipate that there will be repainting/returns/reorders.
sobering, but definitely grounding and good to know!

Nicole Gerber
9 months ago

Ok, so if something isn’t as you imagined, you go straight to how much does it cost to change? But do you ever stop and ask yourself, how could I pivot in my design choices to make this work? This is always my first question because firstly it’s obviously going to be the least expensive solution. Secondly, I tend to find that creative solutions to « problems »push me to make more interesting choices. Thirdly, often what I see as a mistake was a logical choice for the builder, something I had overlooked and when I look into it more, I find that the reasoning makes sense to me as well. Then if I am still uncomfortable with the choices, and only then, do I consider spending money to alter the situation. A little tension is good design or you risk creating something that is too flat. I feel like this house is a bit too predictable. An old house SHOULD have moments of quirkiness, unexpected corners, unusual colors IMO. Perfection is the less interesting option- whether it be stain colors, front door colors, etc