By Steven Engelhart
Greetings everyone, Oscar the Grotesque here, joining you for another week to look more closely at Adirondack architecture, historic buildings, and preservation opportunities.
This is a great time of year to be doing exterior house projects. We are full of the energy and optimism of Spring, the temperature is just right, and anything seems possible.
This week we’re going to look at a common maintenance project for almost anyone who owns an historic home with a porch. Porches are one of the great attributes of historic homes, as they are often highly ornamented and always add beauty and character to a house and, more importantly, provide a place to relax, play, visit with family and friends, view the landscape or streetscape, and simply watch the world go by.
But porches are one of the most exposed elements of a house and they require a fair amount of work to maintain but by keeping the roof sound and the wooden elements painted, a porch should last a long time. The porch parts which are the most damaged to weather are those closest to the ground and least protected – the steps, the piers, and the latticework.
Replacing or Repairing Your Latticework
Today I want to talk about lattice work. Like many repairs to an old house, there’s range of approaches that are appropriate and some clearly that are not. I’ll show you some not so good approaches but first I want to show you how my friend, AARCH director Steven Engelhart, recently redid some lattice work on a good friend’s house. Tell us all about it, Steven.
When it came time to replace the very deteriorated lattice work on this house, I realized that everything needed to be replaced – the latticework itself and the frames that surround the latticework. I have never liked the pressure-treated, diagonally-oriented latticework that you can buy in sheets from most building supply stores, so I decided to make everything myself. I followed these steps:
- Step 1 – Measure your Frame Openings. I had to create frames to mount the lattice work onto. These four frames sit between the piers of the porch and go from the porch floor trim to the ground. By measuring the opening that the frames sit it, these can be made on sawhorses, then mounted in place. Be sure to size the frames so that the lower rail DOES NOT touch the ground but, instead is about 3 or 4 inches above the ground.
- Step 2 – Making the Frames. Because the lower rail of the frames is close to the ground and sometimes gets splashed by rain, I used cedar ¾” (rot resistant) cedar for the lower rails and used regular ¾” pine for the other three sides of the frame. The width of the frame pieces should be sized appropriately to the proportions of the porch – larger porches with larger openings will have wider frames and smaller porches with smaller openings will have narrower frames. On my house project, I used 4: wide stock. The best way to join the frame pieces together is with a ship joint or biscuit joiner. My situation was such that I was able to do neither, so used a plywood gusset in each corner.
- Step 3 – Paint the Frames. Once the frames are assembled, check to make sure they fit in their intended openings. Adjust if needed. The prime and paint (two coats) all sides of the frames.
- Step 4 – Making the Lattice. Because I wanted really traditional looking lattice, in a vertical-horizontal pattern, I decided to make it myself. To do this, I bought good quality spruce 2”x8”s and ran them through my table saw to create long 1 ½” x ½” strips as my lattice components. After lightly sanding these, I primed and painted them.
- Step 5 – Installing the Lattice. With the frames and the lattice painted (these are typically different colors) I could them install the lattice to the backside of the frames, using larger galvanized nails where they were fastened to the frame and smaller galvanized brads where the lattice work intersected with itself. I used a piece of lattice as a spacer between the rows so that the width of the lattice and width of the opening was the same.
- Step 6 – Mounting the Frames. Once the completed panels were assembled, I could then install them in their openings by fastening them to blocks mounted in the right spot at the right depth. If you want to use the space under your porch for storage or maintain access, you can make one of the panels easily removable.
That’s me with the finished product!
In looking around the neighborhood, I could see all kinds of ways that other people did this, some with greater aesthetic success than others.
This you see a lot, where the store-bought, widely-spaced, diagonally-oriented lattice is just applied to the outside of the porch. Ugh! But in their defense, there isn’t enough room here to make the kind of traditional panel I did.
Thanks Oscar for indulging me in this detour into the world of porches and lattice. For a great article on the subject, see Porch Skirting.