Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Building a Back Porch Addition on a Historic Home


See how we added an impressive back porch addition—complete with massive fireplace, durable ipê wood flooring, and detailed columns and molding—to match the rest of this historic home. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Building a Back Porch Addition on a Historic Home

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The 17’ x 24’ back porch addition we added to this historic home included:

  • Precast masonry fireplace with brick covering.
  • Detailed porch columns and molding trim to match the existing house.
  • Durable ipê wood flooring.
  • Adjoining concrete walkway and patio with brick trim.

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re creating a beautiful back porch paradise, for this historic home. They say, the devil is in the details. But so is the history. And we’re hoping to find one without the other.

Danny Lipford: Boy, this is a great neighborhood, here in Mobile, Alabama. It’s one I’ve done a lot of work on over the years. And most of these houses were built about 85 or 90 years ago. Now, when you’re building an addition onto a house like this, you have to be very selective on all of the materials that you use, and that’s whether you’re building an addition or building a very nice outdoor entertainment area, like we’re doing on the back of this house that’s owned by the Slatons. Several years ago, we did a major renovation, on this place for them, just before they moved in. So we know this house pretty well. And recently, I talked with Bailey Slaton about this back porch project, how it developed and what he hoped it would accomplish.

Bailey Slaton: This time it’s a little bit different because we had to deal with the historic nature of the project. With this neighborhood being a historic district in Mobile.

Danny Lipford: So, you have to kind of go through that review board to make sure that they . . .

Bailey Slaton: A little bit of bureaucracy that we got to play with this time. One of the things we did is, we tried to think about that on the front end. And with some of the plans, we took into some of the considerations. We knew some of the things we could do, some of the things we couldn’t do on the front end. So what we really tried to do for the most part is, a lot of the stuff that we did on the front porch, we really just wanted that to be pretty much similar, if not exactly like what we did with this.

Danny Lipford: I mean, it’s a great look and the beadboard on the ceiling, that’ll look good out here. But, man, the floor you’ve got out there, the ipê, I mean, wow!

Bailey Slaton: Yeah, that’s exciting. It’s one of the things that we did. Initially, we added that about a year and a half, two years ago. I’ve got a lot of positive comments.

Danny Lipford: Oh, I bet so, I bet so. And it’s a warm look to it as well, because y’all are going to spend a lot of time out here on the porch, now let’s see, we’re going about 17 by around 24, I guess.

Bailey Slaton: Right, about 17×24, basically going to be from this side of the—the right hand side of the door— to the corner of the house, coming straight out. And big massive fireplace out here.

Danny Lipford: Nice massive fireplace. That’s interesting.

Bailey Slaton: Of course, in Mobile, I don’t know how much the fireplace comes in handy. In my family, at least, any time the temperature drops below about 60, they want to light a fire.

Danny Lipford: Why, why not? That sounds good.

Bailey Slaton: That’s something we’re looking forward to.

Danny Lipford: And then you’re going to have a step down over here. I understand, you’re going to have a little formal patio over here.

Bailey Slaton: Right. We have the rocks here now. And we just thought it would be a little bit better to have a little something, a little more sturdy here. A little more long lasting.

Danny Lipford: And the architect, Nick Holmes did a fantastic job in really, what you said a minute ago, in adapting to the existing house with the hip-style roof line. It matches well and then all of the finishes and even the columns, I know they will be a little smaller, than what you had out front. It’s still the same style.

Bailey Slaton: That is correct. The exact same. We want the look to be pretty much exactly like what we did out front. The columns on the front of the house, obviously, that’s a much wider porch, the columns out there are a lot bigger. Something I noticed as soon as I saw the plans, I don’t see a grill anywhere.

Bailey Slaton: We have a space for a grill. And maybe down the road, we might do a built-in grill, but one of the things, and believe it or not, it was my wife’s doing. She wanted to have a TV out here, because we got football season and so . . .

Danny Lipford: Yeah, that’s right.

Bailey Slaton: I plan on spending a good bit time out here.

Danny Lipford: All right, we’ll get it ready for football season.

Bailey Slaton: We’re ready.

Danny Lipford: Okay. The first step is layout of the new structure, so that we can see what has to be removed to make way for the footings we have to pour next. You know, almost any project we do, starts with a good foundation. And that’s what we’re doing with all of the concrete here, is having to move it, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, up to the porch area. Now, you know, even though we’re only talking about a porch and a roof, we still have to have a very good foundation, particularly on an outside entertainment area like this.

Because, I know, when we finish this thing, the Slatons are going to have so many people over, dropping by. We want to make sure it supports everything. Now, you may wonder why we have the concrete truck way out there, and we’re pouring things here. Well, this dirt is a little soft. The yard is, and the Slatons have worked hard to, you know, create a nice backyard. We don’t want to destroy it with a big heavy concrete truck. And even if we tried to cover it up with plywood here and there, it just wouldn’t support it.

Now, you may have seen some of the concrete pumps that we’ve used before, and they work fairly well. But, we’re only talking about five or six yards of concrete here, it’s really not worth the cost of bringing it out and setting it up. We’ve got four guys out on the job here. It won’t take them just an hour or so to push all the wheelbarrows up.

Now, here’s what we have. We have a series of nine pier holes here, and you can see the rebar coming up from it. We also have rebar down in the holes themselves, to really provide a lot of support there. But this is the big foundation, that’s going to support the heavy masonry fireplace. And masonry fireplaces weigh thousands of pounds. This will take care of any weight concern that anybody may have there.

Now, what they’re doing is they’re, of course, about to finish everything up. And then smoothing everything out. So that we’ll have it nice and level for our block masons, that’ll be the next step in the project. And, Joe, I know you fought a lot of the weather this week and everything, but, looks like you got a break in the weather here.

Joe Denson: We do. You can see what’s left of the tent we had to put up, to get the holes dug. Now the concrete’s finally going in.

Danny Lipford: There you go, a little bit more work here and I know it’s tough work on everybody there, but they’re close to being finished, we’ll let it dry, the block masons will come in, and we can move along on this project.

Hey, let’s check in with Joe Truini for this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: No outdoor living space is complete without a barbeque grill. The challenge though is, how do you keep them clean? Doesn’t take too long before they look like this. Now, you may have heard of this trick, where you take a big wad of aluminum foil, crumple it up, and use it to scrub the grill clean.

And that works pretty well, but to enhance that trick, here you go with some vinegar. Just get some white vinegar, put it in a spray bottle, and saturate the cooking grate. The vinegar is actually a pretty powerful acid, and you’d be surprised how it can cut through caked on food. Now, it’s best to let that sit for a few minutes, but I’ll show you how, after just spraying it on, scrub it with some foil. Look at that, comes right out.

Now it’s okay if the grill is warm, but you don’t want it to be hot. Now, you don’t have to do this after very single cookout. But, if you do this four to six times in the course of the summer, by the end of the cooking season, your grill will be as good as new.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re adding a back porch to this historic home for Bailey Slaton and his family. The plans call for us to match the details already present on the home’s front porch. We already have our footings poured. And now the block masons are putting together the piers that will support the deck and the massive foundation for the outdoor fireplace.

Danny Lipford: Well, I think everybody’s surprised at the size of the foundation, for the brick fireplace. You know, we had the big slab underneath with all the steel rebar. Then we had all the blocks that were laid. This is an old fashioned, brick fireplace. So, it is very extensive. And you have to think about all the weight, so a lot of concrete going in it, and our patio slab will be poured at the same time.

Now, we’re also a little bit surprised at how intricate all of the forms are here, but the reason for it, all of these little troughs that you see here will be where we have bricks that we’ll put in to match the existing bricks on the house. This should end up being an awesome looking patio, adjacent to the porch and we’re also pouring a sidewalk over there. And then the guys are tying this sidewalk in, that’ll tie directly in to the original one. To make this sidewalk curve over to the existing walkway, the guys are using pieces of flexible hardboard siding for the forms.

This time, when the concrete arrives, there’ll also be a pumper truck to move the concrete. That’s necessary now, because there’s much more work involved in finishing these surfaces, than there was in the footings. Now, for example, the patio is really two different levels. The center higher level and the lower level around the perimeter that will support the brick border. When all the surfaces are done, the rest of the concrete goes into the cinder block cells and the fireplace foundation. After the patio dries overnight, we add a decorative detail to the surface, by scoring it with a diagonal pattern. Finally, the carpentry can begin, with a network of floor joists, bridging the spaces between the cinder block piers. Even though this framing is pressure treated, it’s separated from the masonry piers by metal flashing, to create a barrier for termites.

On the outer edges, the posts that will support the roof, are leveled and tacked in place. Later, they will get considerably more support. The tops of the posts are notched on one side to support the beams that will connect them. These beams are joined together with ceiling joists across the width of the porch, before the guys start assembling the roof system. The bottom or the tails of these rafters will be exposed, just like those on the house, with the same detailed scroll cuts, so everything matches. All those cuts and the modified hip design of this roof add up to a lot of work. But the effort will be worthwhile, if we could mimic the existing construction the way we hoped to.

As soon as our guys get the roof decking on this porch, the roofers show up and start covering it with shingles to keep it all dry. Well, you know, I always feel sorry for the roofing crew, when the weather is this hot. But, they know what they’re doing. They’re out here early in the morning, to try to get this roofing completely finished, before it really gets hot, in the middle of the day. Hey, at this point of the job, the guys are ready to start getting into a lot of the details. And one of those details involve all of the columns. And there’s over 100 pieces of wood that have to go together in order to make these columns look very close to the original columns on the front porch. So, they’ll start tackling that in just a few days.

Another thing that’s about to happen, our brick mason will be here soon, to start bricking in around all of our piers. And basically, the bricks, just kind of a cosmetic finishing touch on the outside. But, we were able to find a brick that matches perfectly to the original. They’ll be starting very soon.

However, the masons who are doing that work are also responsible for constructing our fireplace. And they need to start it first, so that they can add brick veneer to it and the piers at the same time. This fireplace is assembled from pre-cast pieces, so that the fire box and chimney are exactly the right shape and dimensions. Hey, that’s real important, because it will affect how well smoke is drawn up the chimney and how well heat is projected out the front.

At the roofline, the chimney will taper in, but the masons have to pause here a little bit, to wait for a special cast piece to make that turn. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew begins trimming the beams and applying primer to finish surfaces. The columns have been wrapped in plywood to prepare for the trim work ahead.

While the guys lay out the details of that design, let’s head to The Home Depot to check out this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: Now, whether you’re creating a new outdoor living space, or you already have an existing one, outdoor lighting is perfect to add to the overall atmosphere that you’re trying to create. Now, you know, of course, during the day, you’re going to get a flood of light. But at night, you want it to be more subtle, and just kind of create a better atmosphere that you can enjoy it, without it being so overpowering.

Now, you can see, you’ve got all different choices when it comes to outdoor lighting. So, when you’re thinking about things around your patio, you might want to consider this, especially if you’re doing it yourself. This is a solar operated rope light by Hampton Bay. Now, this is nice, because it stretches out to 16 feet long. It is solar operated, so it’s very easy to install and operate.

Now, this is a great feature that you can put around railings, you can also use it in your gazebo or your umbrella. You can also line it along walkways or stairs, if you want to illuminate those. So, you might want to just pick up a couple of these, because it will be perfect for your outdoor living space.

Danny Lipford: Our back porch project for this historic home is moving along beautifully, and the crew is right in the middle of matching the trim for this project, to the home’s existing front porch. That includes columns that are full of details. First, the faces are covered with pre-primed trim boards. Then a cap is wrapped around the top, before the edges are wrapped with one-by-fours, to create a great recess panel look. Finally, the crown molding to cap it all off.

The next job for these guys, is installing the beadboard that will form the ceiling of the porch. And while they’re doing that, the masons make it back to the job to wrap the cinder block piers with brick veneer, and lay the inset brick border for the patio. Those same bricks wrap the fireplace, as well. And finally, the last few pieces of pre-cast chimney flue are being stacked in place, before they, too, are wrapped in brick.

While there’s a break in the action for the carpenters, Michael, our painter, begins prepping the new columns for the coatings that will follow in the next few days. The next big step will be the addition of the ipê decking. And just after it’s all stocked up on the patio, Allen drops by to check on the progress.

Allen Lyle: Well, you can see we’ve got a lot of progress going on. The guys are working on the deck here. If you look right up top, we’ve got one of the brick guys here, washing down the new chimney. I’m excited about this, that we got the deck boards getting ready to go on. This is a beautiful tropical hardwood. It’s called ipê. Very dense, very heavy. It is moisture resistant, fungus resistant. Resistant to insects and there’s no chemical treatment whatsoever. It’s just a beautiful wood. And you can see, it’s going to be a great expanse of it, so it’s going to look great.

Hey, Joe, quick question for you. Why’re you not running the deck boards all the way out? Instead of the border?

Joe Denson: Well, strictly an architectural thing. The architect put it on the plans like this. It’s the design that the home owner wanted, to match to the front porch. So we decided to go with the border. We’re going to run a border on the interior. And then we’re going to fill everything in. Giving it a nice clean look.

Allen Lyle: How tough is it putting it in there? ‘Cause I know you can’t just pop a screw or nail into these things.

Joe Denson: Well, we do have to countersink and pre-drill everything. And it takes a lot of forethought on it to get everything lined up right. But once you start going, it’s not too bad.

Danny Lipford: The countersinking in the trim boards is done with a Forstner bit to leave a clean hole that can be plugged later. The deck boards themselves are tongue and groove planks, but they also have to be pre-drilled on the tongue side before each is secured with long stainless steel screws. About every four rows, we’re adding spacers between the boards. Even as dense as ipê is, it will expand and contract at least some, and this space will allow room for that without buckling.

These guys have it down to a science. And that’s a good thing, because there are a lot of holes to drill and a lot of screws to drive. Hey, now that all the ipê flooring is down, everybody else can get on the job, and start taking care of all the finishing details. Now, Paul is working on, the little wooden blanks that we have going in on top of the screws, here on top of the ipê. Great finishing touch.

Also, Mark and Mike are in the process of installing the new mahogany door. Great transition between the house and this great-looking porch. And Joe and Wiley are trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to work in the outdoor kitchen. Lot of painting going on here, too, and Michael is in the process of all of the preps. When you have an older house like this, where you’re using an awful lot of wood, there’s a lot of prep, caulking, puttying, sanding, all of that, before the finishing touches can go on. But, you know, when you look at this floor, it is a very unique floor. One that’s going to hold up really well.

You can see the design here with a little accent band running down the middle. But, here’s something that might throw you off. Look, what a bow we have in this floor. Well, actually, that was intentional and really a good idea. Because, we started realizing how we needed to create a little bit of crown in this floor, so that when the rain blew in, it would get off the floor as quick as possible. That’ll keep the floor from deteriorating as quickly, keep it from being a slip hazard, and just overall keep the porch looking better for a lot longer.

Speaking of looking good, there’s painting to be done. A set of cabinets to build for the outdoor refrigerator, lattice to wrap the underside of the porch. And don’t forget, about that TV above the fireplace.

Emily Asks: Every time it rains, we have standing water all around the back patio. Is there a way to stop this?

Danny Lipford: Having water pond around your house anywhere is not a good idea, even out in the yard. This can attract mosquitoes, and it’ll certainly encourage fungus and disease growth in your yard. And that means a lot of dead grass, just like we have here. Even more importantly, you don’t want the water ponding next to your house. That can affect the integrity of the ground; and sooner or later, you’re going to have some foundation settling. That’s not a good idea. Also, water next to your foundation, can force its way into your basement, creating a really wet basement.

Now, the solution is simply to spread dirt around the perimeter of your house and grade it, so that it encourages the water to move immediately away from the house. Also, make sure your landscaping is not acting as a dam to prevent that water from flowing away.

Danny Lipford: The back porch for Bailey Slaton’s historic house has been a monumental project. And I think it’s turned out great. It matches the architecture of the house in every detail possible. But with its location and layout, it should be thoroughly functional for this young family. The question is now, what does Bailey think about it? Well, Bailey, I know you guys thought about this porch for a long time, got your architect to put it all together. Is everything like you wanted it?

Bailey Slaton: This is exactly what we wanted. Everything from the floor to the beadboard to the intricate columns that everybody told us how difficult that was going to be to match.

Danny Lipford: Lot of different little pieces of wood in those columns.

Bailey Slaton: But they turned out exactly what we wanted.

Danny Lipford: Hey, the floor is great, ipê is a great way to go. I know you put it on the front porch years ago and I don’t blame you for wanting it back here.

Bailey Slaton: That’s what we did. It was mostly from a maintenance standpoint, not having to repaint and scrape and repaint. So we did it up-front, we really liked it up-front and so that’s why we did it back here, as well.

Danny Lipford: Well, this center point here with having the fireplace, integrating the flat screen up above it, I know this took a little bit of studying and figuring out, exactly the size and everything that you wanted.

Bailey Slaton: Not having a concept of what we wanted… We didn’t realize there was that much variety in a fireplace.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Bailey Slaton: And so, after some research and looking at different pictures of fireplaces, we kind of came to decision of what we wanted. And Wiley and his crew replicated exactly.

Danny Lipford: Well, you won’t have much of a chance to spend any time up here anyway. That’ll be your spot…

Bailey Slaton: I’ll be over there, back there by the grill, slaying the dragon.

Danny Lipford: And then cooking and everything…

Bailey Slaton: And cleaning up afterward, while they’re watching TV.

Danny Lipford: Well, I hope you guys, you and your family have a fantastic time out here.

Bailey Slaton: We’re looking forward to it.