Somehow this seems appropriate: the discovery of rot on a dreary day. After five years of use, our front porch stairs are in bad shape.
As I reported in this blog post, I am taking a break from anything related to furniture making so I can complete some tasks on my wife's growing to-do list. She has been very supportive of my woodworking over the past several years, but I have put off some of these projects much too long. Case in point is our front porch.
We used to have a brick front porch. Our house is about 30 years old and over time, this porch slowly settled and sank away from the house. When it became an eyesore, we had it demolished and the same contractor replaced it with a deck style wood porch as well as replaced part of our sidewalk.
We noticed about a year ago, the first newel post had started leaning outward and it easily moved as someone would grab it on their way up to our front door. The problem was the skirt board which the post attached to had rotted. As you can see from the photo above, as I dug into the problem, more rot was present. A rebuild of the steps was necessary.
Decades of watching This Old House pays off. Here, instead of toe-nailing the new stringers in place, I use hangers which I think is a better choice.
The goal this time is to keep the wood structure off the ground. Here I install a little foot which is supported by a rigid plastic base designed for posts. I do this at each stair stringer.
The stairs are complete, but the railing is next.
One issue to deal with is the cupped 2 x 12 skirt board. The newel post has to be plumb, so I basically have to form the notch to match the warp. I have to do this for the post at the top of the stairs as well.
With the posts in place, the stair railing is next. I create the lower rail from recycled stair treads. The newel posts twist a little, so compound miters have to be perfectly cut to avoid a gap. I use pocket screw joinery to attach the lower railing. Later, I'll plug these pocket screw holes with plugs which should make the joinery pretty seamless.
Nice. The current state of the project.
Some thoughts on this project
This project has been a fun one. This is quite a statement since I have worked through some heat warnings and the thick humidity that comes with Alabama summer months. Maybe it is because this is a totally different kind of project than what I am used to; different construction issues to work through.
Also fun: the project has necessitated the use of hand tools. I have used my contractor style hand saw, chisels and even my new Lie-Nielsen smoothing plane. Rebuilding my stairs has been a good project to advance my hand tool skills with.
This has become a considerable project. Rebuilding the stairs and adding an additional step means relocating two newel posts. This in turn means rebuilding the railing all the way around. I'll also have to replace the lattice, so there is still a lot to do.
The fact that I am rebuilding these stairs with a higher standard of fit and finish than your average deck builder has made this project a little time consuming. Also a factor: rain. As much of the USA deals with serious drought conditions, it has rained a lot in Alabama over the past month; and rain means delays, but I am not complaining.
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