Thursday, September 12, 2013

Outside In

Continuing the (prolonged) tour of our home renovations I thought it appropriate this time of year to move from the outside in. So next let's talk about our porch. As I mentioned in my post from when we bought our house, some of the 'before' pictures were just too scary to look at without 'after' pictures alongside to buffer them. And while I won't say that the 'after' pictures in this post are final - there is still much to do before we declare the porch 'finished' - Will has certainly accomplished major improvements. Here is the three-season porch that sits off the side of the dining room as it looked on closing day:

The most egregious aspect of the porch was the vinyl asbestos floor tiling. None of it was friable, so the danger of exposure to asbestos was low; but Will felt the extreme heat and cold of Minnesota seasons could eventually loosen and crack the tiles. We certainly didn't want kids or animals spending time out there until the floor was replaced. And, of course, the floor was hideous. So it had to go. After taking down the once-upon-a-time-white curtains - which were probably original to this 1950s house and looked as if they harbored dirt from all six of the past decades - Will set to work.

The kids enjoyed their front row view of Dada's labor...

...until he sealed up the doorway with a large plastic sheet to keep any dust from entering our house.

After researching proper procedures for safe removal, Will donned his hazmat suit and respirator and set to the dirty work of removing the old tiles and glue from the floor. Once things were properly cleaned up, he primed the walls and ceiling of the porch to seal in any dust he might have missed when wiping the area clean. Then it was time to lay down the radiant floor warming mats that we hope will extend the use time of our porch, making the tile more comfy on bare feet as the weather cools. We used these. We haven't had a chance to test them out during the summer months, but will let you know how they work once fall is upon us.

We chose slate tile for the new flooring. Will had laid down ceramic tile in a small bathroom years ago, so figured he knew what was in store for him. He did not anticipate how much more challenging slate would be. For one thing, the slate tiles are all slightly different, both in terms of shape and thickness. They are also very irregular, sometimes being quite thick on one end and thin on the other. Then, of course, they are all naturally different colors. This all adds to the character of the finished floor, but turns laying down the tile into much more of an 'art'.

Laying down the tiles took several weekends of during-naptime work, but we were so excited with how the floor looked when they were all finally down.

Once all the tiles were laid Will used a pre-sealer which was supposed to make the grout easier to lift off the tiles. In hindsight, Will is so glad he did this as the grout was much more difficult to get off the slate than he remembered it to be with the ceramic tile.

Don't let his smile fool you, the grouting was HARD work. At some point Will enlisted my help in wiping the grout off the tile once his hands were beginning to give out. He may or may not have then proceeded to criticize my method of wiping the tiles *ahem*, but we'll pass that one off as fatigue and let it slide. After days, yes literally days, of scrubbing the tiles and then using some grout remover to help the process along, we were satisfied with how it all looked. Will applied the final sealant to the whole floor and we waited impatiently until it dried the next morning.

The kiddos were ecstatic to finally get out and dance around on the porch. To fully appreciate how excited they were about this, you must understand that they had been staring through the window of the dining room door out onto this porch for weeks and weeks calling, "Dada!" repeatedly while he worked on it. The porch had been pretty much off-limits since we'd moved in, so it was like a very special treat to finally set foot out there. And the new floor looked and felt so beautiful! In this moment, the first time we were all able to run around out there together, the weeks of hard work and missing Dada felt so worth it.

Even Lola had to check it out. 

Then we all set to work building furniture. At this point I was well versed in the art of Ikea assembly, as I had put together all our Ikea kitchen cabinetry (but that's a story for another post). Ava and Eli loved this process and actually helped screw the bolts in. Well, Ava helped screw them in; Eli mostly went around trying to stick bolts into any hole he could find (apparently the urge starts very early in life). Once the furniture was built Will replaced all the glass panes with the screens that are also original to the house. Happily, unlike most of the rest of the house, the screens are in excellent condition as they probably haven't been installed in the last 40 years. 

And now we have a porch we can use:

There is still more work to be done in the future - painting, new curtains, new pillows, base moulding, ceiling fan, etc. But at this point in our home renovations we are so so happy to achieve 'usable'. 


  1. amazing! amazing! i am applauding! i am totally blown away by your (collective) skill, dedication, patience, elbow grease, etc! what a job replacing that asbestos tile...can't believe will smiled for a picture. and assembling ikea furniture is no cakewalk--i still fail 100% of the time. it looks FANTASTIC. i love the photo of the kids prancing on it. can't wait to see more! xoxo

  2. Love the transition the floor has really made on the look and feel of the room! Great work guys!

  3. That looks great! congrats on making progress with the house!