Rejuvenating an Old Porch
PVC rails and fiberglass columns keep the look classic and the maintenance minimal.
Synopsis: A carpenter explains why and how he used modern, maintenance-free PVC railings and fiberglass columns in combination with traditional wood framing and flooring to repair an old porch.
When my long time friends Vito and Stella called to tell me their daughter Lena was getting married, I knew they wanted more than my RSVP. They were looking at their house, and before the wedding celebration could begin, they would have to rebuild their 75-year-old front porch. It was a prime gathering spot; but the old posts were rotting, the 3⁄4-in. decking was lifting, and the railing was teetering. The architrave, the finished horizontal beam that spans from column to column resting directly on their capitals, and roof were sound, but everything else had to go.
Raising the roof before the party started
I needed to disassemble the old porch but leave the architrave and roof in place. So I positioned three pipe jacks between 2×8 plates on the decking and architrave to distribute the weight, and I lifted the roof with ease. I then supported the architrave with four 4×4 posts. These posts were snugged into place with a small sledge and affixed so that they would not shift. Where possible, I braced the posts against stationary items like the wrought-iron railing. Now I could remove the old columns and the pipe jacks safely, and dismantle the rest of the porch.
The existing architrave determined the construction of the new porch. The capitals, columns and bases that I would install needed to align with the front and side architrave. So I drew a full-scale sketch showing the measurements of the base, framing, trim, face and deck overhang in relation to this centerline to determine the layout.
All the framing was done with CCA-treated lumber. The ledger was attached to the house…