Porch renovation continues: Finishing the trim

We’ve made a lot of progress on the front of the house in the last few months, though we haven’t done much for the last 2 weeks. We’ve been a bit preoccupied watching every U.S. match during the Women’s World Cup, celebrating our 7th anniversary last weekend in Western Maryland and catching up on Harry Potter books and movies before watching the final installment tomorrow afternoon at a matinee in Chinatown.

But back to the house; where are we? Here’s the original checklist from the start of the front of house project:

  1. Rip out chain link fence, ivy, and all weeds and existing plants (save for the hosta we didn’t know we had, the tree, and the hydrangea.
  2. Turn over soil, remove bricks and rocks (and shell casings,) replant front yard with all new plants.
  3. Repair and repaint the lattice underneath the porch, strip and repaint front porch joist
  4. Install a new pipe and spigot to replace broken/leaky pipe coming from house. (Stuck with the professionals on this one.)
  5. Strip concrete steps and pedestals of all 87 layers of peeling blue-grey paint.
  6. Repair broken and cracked concrete, repaint or stain concrete steps
  7. Paint all beige trim white, repaint porch ceiling lighter color.
  8. Tear out old front porch railing, rebuild and replace with comparable period railing to match.
  9. Decide what to do about porch flooring. Replace a few boards, replace all of them, repaint?

I’ve already documented the concrete stripping in exhaustive detail, which is entirely complete other than a few last stubborn spots, concrete repair and then a final decision about paint, stain or nothing. For now, we like the naked concrete look so we’re keeping that on the steps at least. We’ll probably paint the pedestals and column caps fairly soon, though.

Up next was the trim on the porch. As you can see in the before pictures, our upstairs windows were replaced with white vinyl windows before we bought the house, and they’re not the kind that can be repainted easily. That, combined with the fact that we didn’t like the beige anyway, led us to choose a white (same shade as our interior trim) for all of the beige trim.

I thought about trying to strip down all the layers of beige paint (and the turquoise paint on the ceiling), but decided it would just be too much work. (Sometimes, in these moments, I ask myself what my favorite DC house renovator/blogger would do, and then I realize Alex and Wendy have much higher standards than I do. They would probably spend 3 weeks stripping all the paint off. Me? I’m way too impatient to start another project where I won’t see progress for weeks. There, I said it.)

I settled for scraping off all the loose and peeling paint with the wire brush and sanding it down as best as I could with the orbital sander and some 80-150 grit paper.

So once I finished with the concrete stripping, I started painting the beige trim white. Luckily my arms are freakishly long. (I have a reach usually 1-2 inches longer than fellas sometimes an inch or two taller than me. Weird.) I was able to paint the entire front fascia by standing on the columns and stretching out.


Up next was the underneath ceiling of the porch. I really, really, really wanted to strip this down bare, and either stain it or just put on a clear coat of poly. I absolutely love how this looks on porches I’ve seen around the city. But it would just be a bear. I figure that stripping a ceiling is just as involved and complicated as stripping a wall, times 10 for the more difficult location. Using a product like Peel Away was going to be difficult since it was entirely on a ceiling, and using the heat gun would take days (and dental tools with all of the grooves in the ceiling boards that are much like wainscoting). We settled for just changing the color to a much lighter shade of blue.

But first, why are porch ceilings blue in the first place? I had always heard that dirt daubers won’t build their nests on things that look like the sky, and other people mentioned that it keeps all sorts of bugs away, which I hadn’t heard. (Certainly doesn’t work on mosquitos, that’s for damn sure.) And then my Momma told me about the Southern tradition of “Haint Blue,” which was a fairly specific shade used to ward away evil spirits (“haints.”)

Rachel picked out a color that was close to a Carolina blue. Lightened everything right up, I’d say.


That’s where we currently stand. I think the next project will be the handrail, though I’m still at a loss for making/buying the spindles on the railing. I have no way to rip wood here at the house without a good table saw, and it’s a weird rectangular shape that I won’t be able to buy off the shelf anywhere. But that’s the last thing holding me back from that project.

Here’s a total before/after on the front of the house. The before was taken after we took down the fence and started on the yard, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see anything behind it at all.


Enough about the house. Let’s talk World Cup. Rachel doesn’t usually watch football with me, but she’s really latched onto the US Women’s team this summer in the World Cup. She’s watched every match thus far, watching the Colombia match on delay and taking 2 hours out of our anniversary weekend last Sunday to watch that EPIC match vs. Brazil at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Hagerstown, Maryland — a day and a game we’ll always remember. And then avoiding the result Wednesday vs. France to be able to watch that match on delay after work.

Along those lines, I leave you with these 2 great videos from Nike’s terrific ad campaign for the US women. The first is a little non-tv spot that features one of our favorite players — heck, one of everyone’s favorite players at this point — and the second is just goose-bumps-inducing good.

So only a few things will get done this weekend between enjoying the nice weather outside tonight, Harry Potter tomorrow afternoon, a backyard concert at some friends’ house after, and the World Cup Final on Sunday afternoon. Let’s go USA!

Megan Rapinoe: Pressure Makes Us

The U.S. Women’s Team: Pressure Makes US

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