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Repairs/Renovations to traditional 1940's home  RSS feed

 
Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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I have a traditional wood framed 1940's home in need of new siding and a new front porch. I live in SW Virginia, zone 7b. The front of the house faces south and is on a slope. The front porch is elevated 5' from the ground. It has a block wall on the front side, (hidden by boxwood shrubs) concrete steps and slab, and is open on one end. The suspended concrete slab has cracked all the way through the thickness and the width, and the steps have settled & deteriorated significantly. I'd like to rebuild the porch, extending it fully across the front of the house and enclosing it to be a greenhouse porch - for seed starting, extended growing and for passive solar, especially in the winter. My question is, would an elevated floor function well for a greenhouse and what materials would be best to use for the elevated floor?

Since changing the roof line of the porch would affect the siding, both would need to be done close to the same time. (I'll certainly have to save up for this project!) Currently, the house has the original clapboard siding covered with aluminum siding. I'm getting water infiltration into some walls, evidenced by interior plaster damage. I have 12 years of conventional construction experience but I'm looking for natural building options, that would work on an existing home, for both the porch and siding replacement.

Here are some photos. Due to the necessary porch rebuild, I have delayed planting things in the front yard so they don't get damaged during construction. I need to plant some deciduous trees for summer shade! Any advise is greatly welcomed!
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Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Trish, I think I would create an insulated cement or block box. Fill it with river rocks. Build in some air flow channels, so that air could be circulated through the mass. Then build the greenhouse on top of that. Be sure to have windows that can be openned to let excess heat out.
You may also be able to punch ventilation shafts through the foundation into your basement or crawlspace to give you more options as far as heating the house.
 
Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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Hello Miles, I did want to leave the demoed concrete on site, so it could be used as fill for the new foundation. Concrete is probably going to be the way to go to have good thermal mass. But I think it may be way out of my financial means to build it all the way across with concrete & fill. If there were a way to do it with wood it would be much more affordable, I just don't know that it could be insulated well enough.
 
Andrew Millison
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon
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Trish,
The initial response, as Miles stated, is to do the whole porch out of some mass material like concrete or mortared stone for maximum solar gain and temperature moderation through thermal mass. But it sounds like you have budget consideration, so I'd love to brainstorm about the possibility of doing a wood porch.

What if you did your elevated wooden porch; you could used salvaged material if you can find it. Then you extended the greenhouse membrane all the way to the ground, enclosing the area under the porch as well. In this sub-porch area, you could use dark colored 55-gallon drums that collected water from the roof of the greenhouse, so you still get your thermal mass, but inexpensively. Then in summer time when you don't need the mass, you can use that stored water to irrigate your southern slope garden.

Regarding the siding material, that's a tricky question. I'm faced with a similar circumstance at my house here in Oregon. I've got old cedar siding that is deteriorating and can't be repainted. Like your home, I have no substantial overhangs to keep the rain off the walls. All of the siding people have recommended hardi-plank siding, a conventional material that is very durable. There doesn't seem to be some glowingly ecological material that the conventional siding folks will install. The one example of a natural building project that really addresses the same issues we have is the Planet Repair Institute in Portland, OR. They have spent years completing a remodel where they resided their building with a light straw clay mix and earthen plaster, while also constructing overhangs to protect the coating from driving rains.

Here it is in process:


and here it is after:


That is amazing, and also very labor intensive. There's also siding with corrugated sheet metal, which could possibly lend itself to recycling or reuse:


Maybe some others out there have some other ideas?

Take care,

Andrew

 
Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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Thank you Andrew. The lack of overhang has been difficult for many reasons, as I'm sure you know. I love Planet Repair's project! I've been researching the possibility of using a natural stucco finish. It could easily be installed without requiring huge renovations to the wall structures and is supposed to have good durability and life span. I've spoken with a contractor friend of mine who does plaster, drywall, stucco and dryvit. The costs for the stucco wouldn't be significantly more than vinyl siding (which I definitely don't want to use). Stucco could give me the option of doing some decorative work, so the aesthetics of stucco appeal more to me. There are some high quality siding materials out there. The cement board siding, made to look like wood siding, are nice but pretty expensive. I believe it's called Hardiboard. We used it on a residential construction development I worked on a few years ago. I think it needs to be painted so there would be that maintenance factor.

I like your suggestion of using black barrels under the porch to gain thermal mass - and the multiple uses it would have. It certainly would be a big cost savings. I could possibly build some removeable panels for the lower part so in the summer I could have airflow under the porch. By making the porch run the full width of the house, the roof would shade the existing windows in summer. A benefit I don't currently have. I have two windows on the West side of the house and think Bahama shutters would be the way to go there. I have some young trees that will eventually provide good shade on that side.

Thanks again!!
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6693
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Hi Trish. Whenever you have water leaking into a home, that issue must trump others that you'd like to spend money on. Inadequate overhang, leaky gutters, inadequate window flashing, and lack or drip edge where the roof meets the gutters are all possible causes. Get a professional handyman who has experience with this to assist in repair. I wouldn't spend a nickel on any other issue until water infiltration is stopped.
 
Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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Thanks Dale. The water has come in on the West side of the house near a window. The window in the photo with the AC in it. That's why I'm looking for new siding. We've had a lot of torrential rain this year, but it's clear from the inside plaster that there are longer term issues. I have a new (5 years ago) roof, gutters, fascia boards and drip edge. One piece of the aluminum siding to the left of the window has come slightly loose and the coil stock window trim isn't installed well. The front porch is ready to collapse. If it does, the roof coming down is going to do more damage to the house. I need to build a new front porch and replace the siding. Who knows what the aluminum siding is hiding. The back addition of the house had to be completely demolished and rebuilt about 8 years ago due to hidden mold in the walls. Studs had rotted thru completely. Once we opened up the walls and saw the problem, a simple interior renovation became a big project. And the exposure to all of that mold has given me severe emphysema. Luckily, I worked for a restoration company who specialized in mold remediation at the time and they helped me get the work done. The addition originally had a flat roof that I had raised to match the rest of the roof line to avoid future problems. The entire roof was replaced at that time. This work was all done prior to me discovering permaculture or I would have done it different.
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Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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oops, it didn't post the after photo.
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John Elliott
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Trish Wright wrote: There are some high quality siding materials out there. The cement board siding, made to look like wood siding, are nice but pretty expensive. I believe it's called Hardiboard. We used it on a residential construction development I worked on a few years ago. I think it needs to be painted so there would be that maintenance factor.


I was going to mention Hardiboard when you first posted, but it's not that green a building material, so I kept quiet. I had a lot of rotten siding when I bought my place and I replaced it all with Hardiboard. It's not that expensive, and you know you are never, ever going to have a problem with it rotting. As far as maintenance, it does need to be painted, but you do that as part of the installation and you aren't going to have to repaint it for years. I painted mine four years ago and it still looks practically new. What it lacks in being green as far as using cement and fiberglass, it makes up for in longevity. It is very durable.
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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John is correct on the Hardiboard. The least green siding material is wood that receives the wrong kind of paint. It either rots in short order or requires painting every three years. Hardiboard holds paint extremely well. I've never seen it blister. Since you're probably not going to deal with the overhangs, This board with vertical lath battens to hold it 1/4 inch away from the sheeting, would be a good choice. The space allows condensation to drip away. Real thick old fashioned tar paper works. Tyvek destroys houses. Re flash all windows and doors. Termites don't like Hardiboard.
 
Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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Hi John, Hardiboard does look very nice and is a durable siding. I'm sure I'm not the only person with a conventionally built home trying to transition as much as possible. Practically rebuilding a home isn't going to be possible for a whole lot of people. Trying to make the best decision within the limitations and options. The other consideration that I didn't mention is dirt. As I showed in the last photos, when I rebuilt the back of the house, prior to discovering permaculture, I had vinyl siding installed. Since then new tenants have moved into the rental property on the west (prevailing winds for me) side of me. They have destroyed the lawn in their entire backyard. It's a big yard and now only compacted dirt. On windy dry days it's like living in the dust bowl and it has coated the vinyl siding horribly. The siding has a slight texture and is difficult to clean. I'm stuck with it for now, but I know I don't want the rest of the house sided with it. I can't move and I can't afford to completely rebuild. As it is, I can only afford to do one side at a time. I'm still unsure what the best choice will be. I'll get some pricing for Hardiboard too. The really uncertain part is what will be discovered when the current materials are removed. lol. Renovations are always exciting and frightening at the same time.

As a side note, I have contacted the adjoining property owner and asked him to repair his back yard but he's done nothing. I even contacted the city about the excessive dust and water coming onto my property causing some minor erosion, in an effort to get that soil covered, but they won't do anything either. So, I plan on building a hugel-berm to catch and better distribute the extra water and get some shrubs and trees growing to filter the dust.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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How is it that
Trish Wright wrote:They have destroyed the lawn in their entire backyard. It's a big yard and now only compacted dirt. On windy dry days it's like living in the dust bowl and it has coated the vinyl siding horribly.


Sounds to me like it's time for some guerrilla gardening -- surreptitiously seed the yard for them. I can get you plenty of Phyllanthus urinaria seed, which has no problem making a thick stand and spreading all over. Only problem is that it is a summer weed, and will be gone after the first frost.
 
Trish Wright
Posts: 16
Location: Roanoke, VA
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LOL, John, If I hadn't witnessed how they managed to destroy all of their lawn, I wouldn't believe it. They destroyed their yard with too many vehicles coming and going too frequently (literally as much as 20 times a day) and children on ATV's doing doughnuts repeatedly for days on end. They did try to re-seed part of it, but they couldn't get a garden rake to cut the surface (even with having one of their children standing on the rake head, lol). I bought my home 17 years ago and none of the other tenants that have lived next door have ever destroyed the yard. I'm hoping they will move soon.

I considered seed bombs, but it's so compacted and continuing to be that they'd never have a chance to grow.

 
Dale Hodgins
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20 vehicles a day is the sort of traffic you'd expect from a drug house. Check for other clues. They would include cigarette smoke, domestic disputes and very short visits by many of the cars. There are web sites that show how to identify them. Then, make a few calls and let the war on drugs do it's magic.
 
John Elliott
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Dale Hodgins wrote:20 vehicles a day is the sort of traffic you'd expect from a drug house. Check for other clues. They would include cigarette smoke, domestic disputes and very short visits by many of the cars. There are web sites that show how to identify them. Then, make a few calls and let the war on drugs do it's magic.


Unattended children doing donuts in the yard on ATVs is a clue to me. Druggies don't supervise their children very well.
 
Trish Wright
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Location: Roanoke, VA
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Righty right, Dale & John. I wasn't going to get too far off topic with that, but indeed that is what I, and the police, believe is happening. They just haven't been able to nail them yet. Domestic fights, loud, cursing, aggressive, 6 to 12 year olds. . . . . I've had to put up a fence to keep some peace between us because their children were constantly trampling thru my growing areas and their pit bulls kept coming over here. I have cats and chickens who stay in my yard and fear for their safety. Anyway, hopefully they will move soon. The fence at least has ended some of our heated discussions. The good thing is it inspired me to start a "Neighborhood Watch" and it is slowly creating a sense of community that has been lacking in the neighborhood. As a group, we are also working toward creating a children's learning garden at the neighborhood church and developing a community barter program. I'm hoping it can grow into much more. I love when something "bad" can spark something good.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Trish

In my experience it's extremely helpful if you can positively identify the source of a water problem. I assume that you have a history with this house and this particular problem is "new"? Detective work can take some time and thought but by pin pointing the immediate need accurately it might save you considerable money or at least greatly extend the window in which you can implement all your plans (after fixing the leak). Unfortunately you really cannot just assume that because your roof was installed 5 years ago that it's not a roof problem; until you actually _find_ the source of the problem you don't know. When you're contemplating beaucoup buck$ it may be worth poking a few 3" to 4" holes in the inside wall or ceiling around the problem areas and getting in there with a small flashlight and an inspection mirror to try to spot the source of the problem; patching plaster or drywall is pretty cheap in the big scheme of things. If it's lathe and plaster you can poke clean holes by cutting through the plaster with a small cold chisel held at an angle (slow tapping) or using a grinder (very dusty, that), popping off the plaster and clearing it from between the lathe, and then using a dremel tool or a Zip tool to cut the lathe around the edges of the hole; this avoids destroying the plaster keys to the lathe on an otherwise solid plaster wall which using a saw to cut the lathe usually causes.

I assume you're seeing blisters and peeling paint inside. The leak is probably at or above the highest paint problem. If the highest bad paint is up 6", say, above the top of the window than there is a fair chance that it's not the window that's leaking; if the highest paint problem is at or below the top of the window then a window leak is quite likely although you can't rule out it's originating from higher up (the top of the wall). Although no siding is designed to be totally water proof, most lapped materials won't leak much in the "field", the area of siding away from edges or penetrations. I believe you said that the aluminum was installed over clap boards so that makes two layers of water resistant siding - meaning that your problem almost certainly comes from a particular edge or penetration not the siding in general. Fixing that particular problem could obviate the need to replace all your siding right now.

Another compelling reason to try really hard to positively locate your leak is the chance the it's NOT related to the siding. It's _so_ disappointing to do major repairs and work and then find you still have the same issues! If you can't get a look-see from the inside the wall you can still take a best guess (like the siding around the window and the window flashing/caps) and apply a full and careful fix to that point. Then give the wall a week of sun to dry (from the last rain) and patch/paint the peeling on the inside wall (you don't have to make it pretty right now - you can do that later). If the fresh paint you apply looks good a 6 weeks from now after a couple rains or a good nightly hosing down then you fixed the leak; if you see bad spots again you failed but you've only spent a few buck$ and you know you need to look some more.

Your porch seem to be held up by two posts. If you secure those posts in such a way that they don't care if the porch slab remains intact or add external bracing poles, then you have again bought yourself lots of time for (relatively) little expense.

If your aluminum is pre-70's than it's very hard to find a better product in terms of durability and holding it's original appearance. They installed a heavier gauge aluminum back then and it's just really good at it's job. My sister has grey aluminum from 1965 on her house and it looks pretty much like it did the day they finished (ugly but shipshape); all her problems come from window flashing and caps and there have only been 2 or 3 of those - look also at the sills if they have been "capped". The aluminum siding is not air tight and any water that gets blown behind drys quickly and doesn't have much of a chance of getting through the old cedar siding under it.

After researching siding the past month: Hardi-Siding comes prefinished (painted) with a long warrantee. Must be installed fully according to factory specs (to get warrantee) including "touchup" of all cut edges and nail holes; really best to use the factory touchup kit to have a chance of actually matching the finish. I've read reports of the factory finish looking almost new after 10 years. The down side is that the lower edges of the boards are brittle and subject to cracking off when a careless ladder is flopped or slid up against them. There is a more recent flakeboard product called LP Smartside (a different product from the siding LP sold before about 2001) which comes pre-primed on one side and impregnated with preservative (against mold and bugs); it can be had prefinished from factory certified 3rd party finishers, some with 50 year warrantees. Contractor reports have been as positive as varied backgrounds and skill levels would allow on a realtively new product. People have left both these products sit in water for a year with no great change in their structure or paint adherence. HOWEVER: The Hardie product must not be allowed to get wet on it's trip from the factory to installation on your wall. The wetting (say from the pile sitting in your yard uncovered in the rain) won't destroy the product or affect it's finish BUT it _will_ change it's size slightly; after installing with proper end gaps it can then dry and shrink back a little bit and those gaps will open noticeably and mess the look of the installation.

Rufus
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Back to the druggies. Badly behaved and threatening pitbulls, rotten kids, Mc Donalds food and packaging in cars and on the driveway, windows fixed with tape, and even clothing that is ill fitting can all be seen as indicators. But sometimes those things happen anyway when drugs aren't involved.

Quite generally, if it appears that the person has no regard for the health and safety of themselves or their children, no regard for their neighbors, no regard for the property where they live and no concept of when bedtime arrives, You just might live next to a crack house.

I had the job of cleaning up a horrible mess in a rental where the yard was filled with dog shit, every toilet was plugged, rotten food was on the stove and in the fridge and cigarette waste permeated every crevice. My young helper asked "What's that smell". To which I replied --- "That Grasshopper, is the smell of deeply entrenched, multi generational failure".
 
Trish Wright
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Location: Roanoke, VA
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Thank you Rufus, the water damage is below the window and slightly to the side. I'm 98.5% sure is the poor window trim that the guy did when I had the new windows installed 9 years ago. Some of it could be because of the AC in the window and the horrible driving rains we had this year too - at least the most recent signs of damage. I'm looking for siding options because it will be necessary to replace when I rebuild the front porch. Delaying repairing the porch is delaying my ability to begin planting shade trees to save on energy use. Plus, the house isn't well insulated. I will probably have to get the porch roof propped and take a closer look at the window when I pull the AC out - which will be very soon. Without pulling the exterior window trim off and having it redone ( I KNOW it isn't installed properly ) I won't be able to see exactly where the water is coming from. My plan is to have that done within the next month. Eventually I will need new siding so I'm just doing research to be prepared. The first side to be done will be the front when the porch is also done.

Dale, sadly I think you are correct. It's been frustrating living next to such disruptive people. This has always been a calm and peaceful neighborhood until they moved in. sigh. I've decided to look at it as a lesson in dealing with difficult people.
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