A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

First You Build a Bench

When I came to live out here full time four and a half years ago, I had time finally to do some projects and try my hand at building things. I started with a simple bench for the garden, a place we could rest when we were working out there and it was 100+ degrees. We had bought a bench for the porch and I thought I could do one like that and save a lot of money. So I did.

That led to more benches, a closet on the back porch, and then the outdoor kitchen. An outside play table for Bixby, and as I learned more, such as using a pocket hole jig, a nicer play table for inside his house. During this time Rick and I worked on the bunkhouse together, as we had the cabin. But he was the one wielding the nail gun and he did most of the cutting. I did the insulation, flooring, and painting.

I never dreamed I would go from these simple tasks to what I did on the addition. At the end of the project I had cut and installed over 3800 running feet of tongue-and-groove planks on the walls and ceiling. I had framed and closed in a drop ceiling over the bathtub. I had done wall, window, and door trim, sometimes having to create nontraditional ways to finish out the look. I researched and planned how to make the corrugated metal skirting and made and installed it, with some help from my son John, grandson Zac, and grandnephews Caleb and Cameron. I installed air vents in the skirting and made some repairs to the masonry where I had knocked it down for contractor access. I cut and installed the plywood subfloor, the flooring, and the wall and ceiling insulation. I caulked and painted the walls and trim and clear coated the ceiling.

I installed an additional screen door on the back porch for access to the deck off the addition and replaced all the screen and trim on the porch. I built a small deck on the front of the addition where the new joined the old. I installed shelving in the laundry area of the bathroom. I put together a closet and bookcase, moved the bed and nightstands into the room, and painted a bench for the end of the bed.

I unloaded the bathtub, toilet, sink, and vanity by myself. I lost track of how many trips for lumber and supplies I made to Kerrville, finally getting the largest amount of lumber from a local source who delivered. When I was short after using that I made two more trips for lumber, keeping each trip manageable so I could unload it when I got home. I purchased light fixtures, hooks, shelving, and picked out tile. I bought boxes of nails and cans of paint.

I bought some new cordless tools and taught myself how to use them. I figured out how to fix mistakes so they weren't too noticeable. When lumber from one source didn't fit lumber from another, I removed the back part of one groove with wood chisels to make them work. Using a utility knife I removed some of the tongue on pieces that didn't fit right. I hung my nail gun from a belt on the ladder so I didn't have to carry it up and down, and cut the lumber into manageable lengths that I could handle alone. Using gap foam I plugged holes where plumbing and electrical came in. Even though the room was dried in from the outside, I stuffed steel wool in cracks where my cuts on the gable end walls weren't perfect before covering it with trim.

When the plumber left and the shower leaked I fixed it, as I had fixed the slight wobble in the tub using shims and gap foam. I built a wall at the end of the tub where there was a space of 9" between the tub and the outer wall. I replaced some of the electrical outlet covers with oversize ones because I had cut the holes a little big and didn't like how it looked. I installed the backsplash on the vanity top.

I climbed up and down the ladders, one of them tall enough to get to the 12' ceilings, more times than I could count. When my knees gave out, my elbow developed tendinitis making it hard to grip anything, and my back hurt so I was almost in tears, I bought some braces and took some Advil and kept working. Some nights I could barely move and some mornings I could barely get out of bed. Still I kept on. Throughout it all hay and feed had to be bought and unloaded and the boys fed. Water had to be drained when it was freezing and plants watered when it was hot.

Sometimes I cried while I worked because Rickie wasn't there working with me. Sometimes I only kept going because he was with me in spirit, telling me I could do it. I kept a picture of Elizabeth Taylor with a quote on the fridge - her telling me "You just do it. You force yourself to put one foot in front of the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That's how I've done it. There's no other way."

And that's how you get it done.

Friday the plumbers came back and set the fixtures and hooked up the drain line to the septic tank. The addition is pretty much finished. I'm working on a sliding barn door for the bathroom and I have one span of skirting to put up on the back. It's cold outside and I don't like to work in the cold so I'm slowly getting these things done.

What will I do now that this is winding down? Well, I'm moving on to the garden to get it in shape. The fencing contractor came out and he's going to replace the garden fence that has seen better days. The pumphouse is going to need some roof repairs and I want to get another load of decomposed granite to move wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load to make the addition seem grounded to the original cabin. There are acres of prickly pear to dig up and the usual chores. Life goes on and we go on with it. It's just what we do.



  1. Well Done,my friend well done.

  2. You are an inspiration. One day I hope to use you as a reference when we start building our little house.

    1. Thank you, Judith. I can't wait to see your project come to life!