While I work on indoor projects over the winter, there is plenty of time to think about what I’m going to do when the weather breaks. Last year in the Spring of 2013 I did a lot of landscaping. This year, I decided the outside of the house was in serious need of transformation. Paint and porch were two words that would define this year’s transformation.
Neither of the two houses had been painted because my wife and I could not agree on a color. I wanted State Park dark brown and Deb wanted light to medium brown. As a compromise we went with Olympic, clear wood preservative. By now this look was pretty forlorn. In some places it looked disgusting, in my opinion.
So this time around, we ended up going with the color I preferred from the beginning–which is called slate and looks almost black. I pulled off this agreement on color by stealth mode. First I built a 5’x16’ wood shed and, without consulting Deb, I painted it slate. Then I built a 20’ x 30’ garage and painted it the same dark slate color. By this time Deb got used to the look and agreed (or gave in- I do not know for sure) that the slate color would look nice and give our “town” a cohesive, harmonious look.
The raw, rough-sawn, white pine happily soaked up the Behr Premium solid color wood stain. I used a 7” rough surface roller working it back and forth with force to get good penetration into all the knots and checks that occurred with age. I am very pleased with this product and would recommend it to anyone for use on bare wood. It obviously does not need a primer and is supposed to last 20 years. One of the reasons I promoted this color to Deb was that we should never have to repaint in our lifetime. It should look good as it ages, not peel, and maybe lighten some, which is fine by me. It also completely covered all blemishes in the wood.
One final thing about the color: a friend, seeing our newly painted place, said to me, “So, you painted your house black?” I have seen this color and similar very dark colors used many times around the country in State and Federal Parks on their buildings and in cabins or homes in the woods. The concept about the color is this- black or slate does not intrude on the natural surroundings. It does not make a statement that says “Look at me.” It celebrates the natural colors surrounding the house. Judge for yourself. I would some day like to paint the fascias, eaves and window trim a dark blue or dark green but I have too much to do now to worry about that.
After painting the small guesthouse in the spring, towards the end of May I moved on to make this year’s transformations on the main house. I didn’t start painting because, first, the house was in need of a porch as well as a second story deck roof. Scaffolding would be required to paint and also build the deck roof so the painting would wait.
To start I needed to build a foundation for the cement slab porch deck. I wanted to get the excavation done and slab poured before summer–this way I would have a clean area in which to work around the house. For the porch, a cement slab deck was the way to go. Although it was much more work- it was low maintenance, permanent and I was excited about using a green acid color stain on the cement. This project took longer than I had anticipated–over 6 weeks, including time off to make a living.
First I needed to get the old rock terrace removed, which I had built 10 years ago. Then, install drainage tile and build a foundation wall of gravel and rock to support the cement slab. This was a wrap-around porch on a slope, which complicated things. Luckily, the Max- my mason dump truck–was back in operation after being out of service since the previous fall. I had spent four days over the winter playing mechanic getting it to run good. I like excavation using a dump truck because it makes the work site more manageable. I could put rocks, boulders, and gravel where they could easily be retrieved and move the spoils where I wanted, without causing were and tear on my backhoe, and the backhoe needed a new left front king pin.
Snakes, I noticed, had always loved this ten-year-old rock terrace because of its southern exposure and landscaped cover. They could stay warm, yet hide quickly if a predator approached. I knew the backhoe would crush them if I wasn’t careful. So after lifting up the small rocks by hand or the big ones with the backhoe, I would quickly grab the hiding serpents and carry them off to a sunny rock pile on the adjoining property. These reptiles were 6” to 30” long, including common garter snakes and small black ones with a light-colored ring around the base of their head. I removed so many snakes I got kind of skeeved out by it. I didn’t realize there were so many. The ones that I didn’t manage to rescue died of course, and since I couldn’t find them, they stank for about a week.
One thing for sure is that, when it comes time to pour cement, finding someone to help is always a problem. Because of the shape this slab was going to be, I needed someone other than Deb. It was to be 6’ wide, 13’ long on one side and 12’ on the other, with a wedge in between. The college kids I hired last fall for my indoor, thin slab pour were not available. The pitch I used for getting someone to help was this- $100 cash for one hour of work, then boom- you go home. Just get here ½ hour before the cement truck is to arrive. I did this because you need to entice people and make sure they show up. Once the cement is on it’s way there is no turning back. $100 for an hour of work is worth it to many people. Last fall- of the three college kids I hired, only two of them showed up for the $100. They had sweaty smiles on their faces when they left.
Luckily, I had a load of gravel delivered a few days before the pour and I asked the driver if he knew anyone who would be interested in the deal. Quickly he said he would do it and had a friend who would help also. They both had some experience with slab pours and this was a huge relief to me. They did a great job and made the pour much less stressful than usual.
Because I was going to acid stain the concrete, I was concerned about the proper finish of the cement. On past slab pours, it hadn’t been an issue– float and broom finish or just a nice smooth float. But because it was a porch and I wanted to use an acid stain, I needed something better. The research I came up with finishing concrete for acid staining was not what they call a hard finish but just a smooth finish. I went with an aluminum float about one hour after the big float. So as not to screw up the concrete cure, you need to wait to start the finish. The problem was, I waited too long and had to work like hell with my aluminum float. One end of the slab did not come out as well as I wanted. It wasn’t perfect, but it was OK.