This month, after last month’s basement detour, continues an answer to a question from a reader in North Carolina who asked about use of composite materials on her home in a historic district (after, of course, praising my writing, opinions, and cooking…) In particular, she was interested in materials for a double porch floor, porch ceilings, and the enclosure of a small back porch into a rear mudroom/entrance. In January I talked about using substitute materials for porch ceilings (not necessary since tongue and groove beaded board is easily available and will last well since it’s protected), trim (if you can find or create appropriate profiles, go for composite materials that are likely to last…), and porch decks (Tough. An application that wants nothing so much as to rot but the substitutes are not quite entirely there…)
Here I’ll finish up with substitute siding for the porch enclosure and the enclosure itself.
Walls: While most of our Capitol Hill houses are brick, many had frame porches and additions and we have a few wood-sided frame houses. Sometimes, the original siding remains intact under asphalt bricks, Perma-stone, or aluminum siding. And sometimes the original old growth siding is in miraculously excellent condition. If that’s the case, rejoice, clean up the old siding as necessary, patch with the best wood (sometimes re-milled old growth, sometimes really tough cypress from swamps) you can find and swing a loan for, milled in profiles to match the original, and recoat.
German siding visible on left is very common on 19th century houses throughout the United States. This original siding was intact under subsequent layers of inappropriate substitute materials. When revealed, the owner was delighted to restore the old-growth siding. The front of the house, right in the photo, was not as fortunate. Only fragments of original siding remained so the owner had new siding in the original profile milled from sustainably grown mahogany. (This picture is from a Capitol Hill house).
When historic siding is not present or is toast, you have two choices. The first is to recreate the original profiles in newly milled wood, (again, with the best wood you can find and finance, and with certification it was grown sustainably).
If the siding is a typical tapered siding you can probably use a substitute material, manufactured siding like Hardi plank, a composite material with a cement component that seems to be pretty much indestructible. For sure, stay away from the cheap wood-like substitutes, hardboard or Masonite siding. I would still advise against vinyl or aluminum siding as neither looks like the wood it pretends to be. Installed Hardi plank is indistinguishable from wood siding.
This Hardi plank siding, located at the back of a house, looks fine.
Porch Enclosure: If your neighborhood is like ours, you can probably find examples of former open porches that were enclosed long ago. Looking carefully at those examples should give you ideas about how to proceed with your project.
Here’s a picture of a little, historic enclosed porch in my neighborhood.
Note its simple directness. The very narrow wood siding, metal roof, wood 6/6 windows with wide wood decorative frames are all historic and traditional materials. (The 6/6 windows are used because at the time the porch was built they were cheaper than the elegant 2/2 windows on the front of the house. Depending on your house style (this porch would look pretty silly on a grandly over-the-top Queen Anne beauty) and where it is (this is a backside porch) you may find a similarly restrained approach appropriate.
I advise enclosing your porch as if it had been enclosed around the time the house was built using windows like those on the house, in proportions like those on the house. Vinyl horizontal sliders are out. As are jalousie windows.
Another, less solid approach than that illustrated, is to think of the porch as remaining porch-like with the enclosure accomplished with ganged windows.
Whatever you decide about using substitute materials: AVOID WOOD-GRAINED VERSIONS THAT SCREAM FAKE, FAKE, FAKE.
Good luck and keep me posted.