Balusters (Spindles)
Beadboard & V-Groove
Blocks, Corner/Base/Etc
Caps, Door & Window
Casings, Door & Window
Ceiling Medallions
Corner Guards (Beads)
Crown Mouldings
Deck Boards, Etc
Entry & Window Systems
Finials & Drops
Gable Decorations
Gallery Rails
Lamp Posts
Medallions, Fretwork
Newel Posts
Niches, Wall
Polyurethane Products
Porches - START HERE!
Porch Flooring
Porch Posts
Roof Spires
Running Trim
Screen/Storm Doors
Shingle Siding
Small Parts
Spindles (and Balusters)
Stair Parts, Interior
Sunburst Fans
Trim Boards
Vents, Louvered
Wainscot Beadboard
YellaWood® Pressure Treated
The Bargain Room!
More . . .

Product Options
Ordering Info
Shipping & Returns
How To Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Gift Certificates
Our Company

Home > Existing Porch Assessment & Corrections

< Previous Page

Existing Porch Assessment & Corrections


*** Ed. note - The following will replace all text at the current Existing Porch Assessment page of the OPG. The current text at this page will be repurposed as a new Remodeling an Existing Porch section to be located right after the current Existing Porch Assessment page.

For this discussion we will assume your existing porch has wood Porch Posts supporting an overhead beam, and wood Newel Posts, Railings, Balusters, and decorative trim at the top of the Porch Posts.

The longevity of any porch is contingent on three basic issues:
1. How the porch is constructed.
2. How the Posts, balustrade, and other items are installed.
3. How the porch is maintained.

Basic Construction Problems can include:
1. Weak foundation.
2. Structure below porch floor built with untreated wood.
3. Leaking roof, which may be due to lack of sufficient slope.
4. Lack of proper forward slope to the porch floor.

Also, adequate roof overhang will help protect the trim at the top of your Porch Posts and adequate ventilation under the porch will help protect the substructure and wood decking.

Fortunately, the basic construction of most porches is adequate. However, failure to correct any of the first three construction problems will hasten the demise of your porch. Floor slope is only a problem if standing water is adversely effecting a wooden porch floor (which it will) or if you mind stepping in puddles after a blowing rain.

Because on site factors must be taken into account, it is not possible for us to give instructions for correcting porch construction problems. However, you can become more knowledgeable by reading the Structural Porch Components section of this Guide. Please seek advise from a qualified contractor or experienced carpenter before correcting construction problems.

Installation Problems
Unfortunately, many (perhaps most!) Porch Posts and other items are installed incorrectly. However, even though installation problems are more common than construction problems, they are also easier to correct. A prime example of an installation problem, and one that we see far too often, is the use of flat-topped Bottom Rail with wood Balusters. This almost ensures deterioration due to "soggy bottom rot," as we explain at our Sloped-Top Bottom Railing page.

Installation mistakes include:
1. Installation of any items, but particularly Posts, Balusters, or Railings, without completely painting all surfaces first, particular all ends.

2. Flat-topped Bottom Rails, as discussed just above.

3. Installation of Porch Posts directly on the porch floor rather than with hardware that elevates them slightly (please see Porch Post Installation Accessories.

4. Installation of Newel Posts directly on the floor without the use of caulk as a "glue" to completely cover their bottoms, as described at Newel Post Installation.

5. Using nails rather than screws during installation of porch parts, as this makes future maintenance more difficult.

The first four installation mistakes are fairly common and WILL cause premature failure of wood components at some point. End rot is only a matter of time. If either of the first two construction problems exist, and if your porch is more than 3 years old, end rot may have already started. It may presently be concealed since it tends to start in the bottom center of items and work outward.

Take heart! There are some fairly straightforward steps you can take to arrest any existing problems and mitigate future damage.

Also, please be aware that in the Triage section below we discuss prioritizing and work flow so you can do any necessary remediation work in stages to fit the budget and time available.

The presence of Sloped-top Bottom Rail and proper Porch Post bottom hardware only requires a visual inspection. Whether all surfaces of your porch items (and particularly the bottom ends) were completely painted with multiple coats of a good oil-based paint PRIOR to installation is obviously more difficult, since the ends are now concealed.

If you did the installation yourself, or if you observed the installation, perhaps you remember the answer to this very important question. If not, it is certainly well worth the effort to find out by removing and dissembling a balustrade (railing) section. This is not the major surgery you might expect.

If you don't know if your Porch Post bottoms were painted prior to installation, removal and inspection of a Porch Post is not as difficult as it sounds. However, if Porch Posts were installed with adequate bottom mounting hardware, you might elect to check the condition of their bottoms without removal, using the probe technique described at the Paint Inspection page. Just be sure to recheck every couple of years to confirm all is well.

Also, even if you know all ends (Porch Posts, Newels, Rails) were painted prior to installation, periodical probes (see link just above) are good insurance against future surprises.

Of course, if your Porch Posts are not installed with proper bottom hardware, then we advise redoing their installation as soon as possible.

Likewise, if you don't know if your Newel bottoms were painted AND completely covered with caulk prior to installation, one should be removed for inspection. This will require removing any attached Railing, so this inspection should be done at the same time as the balustrade removal and disassembly. Here again, you could elect to probe for problems without removing a Newel, but that is not as definative.

If your porch has none of the above installation problems, you may skip this section. Otherwise, let's explore the remedies available to you.

Condition 1: Visible or concealed rotting of any components.
> Solution: Repair or replace rotting components. See Repair of Porch Components.

Condition 2: Bottom Rails not sloped-top.
> Solution: We strongly suggest replacing them with our Sloped-Top Bottom Railing.

Condition 3: Inspection determined Rail ends and/or Baluster bottoms were not painted prior to installation or that paint on their ends is failing.
> Solution: Remove and dissemble all balustrade sections, treat with epoxy, paint all ends, and reinstall properly.

Condition 4: Porch Posts not installed on proper mounting hardware and/or Newel Posts in need of bottom treatment.
> Solution: Reinstall Posts correctly using our Installation Accessories. Since that will require the removal of balustrade sections, you can delay inspection for proper end painting of those components until they are removed for Post reinstallation.

Prioritizing Your Efforts
This section assumes you will correct all installation mistakes to ensure a long and healthy life for your porch. However, budget and time constraints sometimes necessitate performing remediation work in stages. If that's your situation, here are our suggestions, in order of urgency:

1. If visible rot is present, it's safe to assume there's also a lot of concealed rot. Concentrate first on saving as many components as possible. This means arresting the rot's progress, replacing components that are too far gone, and ensuring the rot doesn't return.

2. If you detect concealed rot, the clock is ticking. We recommend acting as fast as possible to save as many components as possible.

3. If you cannot detect any rot, including concealed rot, but any of the other Conditions above are present, then prioritize your efforts in the order most likely to avoid future rotting:
   A. Replace flat-topped Bottom Rails with Sloped-top Rails.
   B. Paint ends of Balusters, including epoxy treatment if you want maximum protection.
   C. Paint all other ends, including additional end treatment if you want maximum protection.
   D. Reinstall Porch Posts on proper mounting hardware (with proper bottom treatment) and/or reinstall Newel Posts in need of bottom treatment.

Of course, if two or more of the above Conditions are present, you should schedule your work so that repeated disassembly and reinstallation is avoided. For example, if your Porch Posts were installed without proper mounting accessories AND you have flat-topped Bottom Rails, then adjoining balustrade sections should be reworked as the Posts are removed.

Work flow
Even if lots of remediation work is required, it's entirely feasible to progress from one end of your porch to the other, with never more than one Porch Post removed at the same time. Or, you can elect to disassemble everything first, repaint everything as necessary, and then reinstall everything.

Newsletter Signup

Browse Archives

Porches - START HERE!
Porches - START HERE!
Gable Decorations
Gable Decorations
Screen/Storm Doors
Screen/Storm Doors
AZEK®  Brand PVC