Porch provides lesson to never quit

August 20, 2018
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Courtesy of Karin Fuller Fuller's porch before her DIY renovation.

While sifting through pictures on my laptop, I ran across shots of the porch at my old house in South Charleston. I so loved my porch. Almost with the same affection, I had felt for the house.

If I was ever to win a lottery, one of the first things I’d do is buy the same house all over again. And it would take winning a lottery for me to be able to afford all the improvements I dreamed about for it. It was a quirky old Cape Cod, built around 1940, with a pie-shaped yard and giant trees that liked to drop giant limbs on my roof. And occasionally, they fell inside the roof as well.

While the house looked tiny from the outside, it was weirdly spacious. Not so much as square footage-wise, as it had its nooks and crannies and storage under stairs. The rooms themselves were strangely shaped and small. One of the larger spaces, however, happened to be the home’s covered back porch. It spanned the width of the house and extended perhaps 18 feet.

From the moment I bought that old house, I began dreaming about screening in the back porch. Simultaneous;y I dreaded how much work it would be.

I wanted to do more than just screen in the area. I wanted to cover the cinder block with wainscoting and replace the green synthetic AstroTurf-like carpeting with something clever and artistic. Preferably, also cheap and waterproof. I wanted ceiling fans and billowy curtains and someone serving me juleps as I lounged on my chaise.

But for every dreamy positive I could envision for the porch, there was an equal and opposite potential pitfall. Most of which involved cash. Or hard labor. Or not having a clue where to start. I sketched out a plan, made a materials list, and then examined my budget.

Half a shoestring. Turns out you can get a good bit on partial shoestrings if you hit ReStore at just the right time and are willing to use mismatched wainscoting and leftover bits of treated lumber. The random discarded building materials scavenged curb-side on trash day also helped create my renovation project.

I jumped in with both feet. The first section had to be the worst. I had no clue what I was doing and had never drilled into concrete before. At one point I realized it was so bad, I completely disassembled it, cursed it, sprinkled it with cash, and then rebuilt it. This operation took time.

Somewhere along the way, something miraculous happened. My project began to click. I was cutting and assembling sections so professionally I wished for witnesses. So encouraged I happened to be with my successes that I even built, from scratch, my porch door. It turned out perfect on the very first try. Side note, I didn’t say it was attractive but it functioned and worked.

Once everything was finished and painted, my daughter helped me drag our old leather sofa and some other random furniture out there, and we christened our new porch by sleeping outside. Many times.

It became our favorite place in the house. It would also place that hurt my heart most to leave when we moved a few years later. I knew every spot where I’d pounded bent nails deep into the wood since I couldn’t pry them back out. I knew where the crooked cuts were and how I’d disguised them. I’m glad I didn’t know when to quit, because I wanted to quit and probably would have quit. But didn’t.

A professional could’ve done a much better job, and done it far faster. But I doubt I’d have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t done it myself.

Karin Fuller can be reached via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.

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