Dwelling on #DesignersBuilding – A DIY Blog Series

This blog series is an account of what happens when an architect, me, pushes past design and single handedly tackles some renovation; from design through demolition and to construction. I look forward to sharing with you my discoveries, the challenges, and the solutions. Please share your stories of renovation and remodeling in the comments, DIY or not.


High Work

We have had more weather delays since our last post in the Homework Series.  Another reason for the delay is that I’ve been waiting to get on the schedule of a hired professional. That’s right; this DIY project has now turned into a self contracted project.  It is STILL DIY because I was working as the “cut man” with my contractor friends the whole time. It was nice to be part of a crew again.


I made the decision, or faced the realization, that I would need some professional help while standing at the top of a 30’ extension ladder, trying to cut the last bit of the existing T1-11 siding out of the way where I needed to install the top bits of the Screen Tight system on the east side of the porch. As my wife was spotting me from the ground, I ran the saw along the cut line and the blade started kicking back. The saw acted like a bucking horse and jumped out of the cut.  That jerky motion tried to take me AND THE LADDER with it, sliding us all a couple of feet to one side. NOT fun while standing on a 30’ extension ladder. Really, It’s not fun while 30’ up on anything without a safe enclosure.


When this project began to be getting in above my head.

Getting safely back to the ground, I started to really think hard about the process of installing the Screen Tight. That would mean running between making cuts on the ground and up my one ladder, up-down-repeat, moving it for each of the seven remaining sections to be screened. It was painfully obvious, that was going to take a buttload of time and effort, not to mention the risk of working up high. Enter John and Jonny with Hembree Painting. They have the right tools and some related construction skills that come into play on this homework.


John and Jonny with Hembree Painting using my ladder along with all their professional tools

John and Jonny with Hembree Painting using my ladder along with all their professional tools.

Professional Trades – Professional Tools

In past posts, I’ve written about the right tools for the job at hand.  Most of the stuff I’ve used to build this screened in porch is basic power and hand tools that any homeowner would find useful from time to time. Some of the tools are in the homeowner upgraded to DIY weekend warrior tool collection category. As we move up that tool spectrum, there are professional tools. These are defined as tools and equipment that only one in the business would invest in because being in the building business is the only way this investment will show a return.  That’s where this DIY project meets hired professionals, because I would never buy three more 30’ ladders, ladder jacks, and walk boards.  But the professionals I hired have this stuff and use it on all their projects.


The high ladders with the walk boards work with the low ladders to minimize climbing around.

The high ladders with the walk boards work with the low ladders to minimize climbing around.

Screen Tight

After a few weeks of rain and waiting list delay, we were back in action.  I strapped on the tool belt and got back to work.  The Screen Tight system installation on that pesky East side of the porch was the first piece of work I attacked with my newly hired partners. Once they were there, in case there was a need to scoop me up and take me to the emergency room, I took another shot at that stubborn T1-11 piece. This time I was lying prone on the stable roof right above the piece, rather than on the ladder.  That gave me a good angle to chop it off without any saw bucking while Jonny was right there to catch it when it cut free.  After that was out of the way, I went back to the saw horses on the ground and began cutting pieces of the screen track and cap for them to install.


Cleaning the joists in preparation for the corrugated soffit

Cleaning the joists in preparation for the corrugated soffit.

Installing thje corrugated soffit

Installing the corrugated soffit.

Solid Soffit

The next day we had a steady rain.  That was the perfect opportunity to start on the soffit under the screened in porch.  We are stepping up a bit from screening under the porch to keep bugs out by installing galvanized corrugated roofing with a 2×4 trim that will be stained to match the cedar red of the framing and rails above. We cut the soffit to length with my Rockwell Versacut saw (great Christmas present idea for the handy people on your list) and screwed it into place with #10 1 1/2″ self taping 1/4″ hex head sheet metal screws with an integral compression gasket/washer that yields a  water tight seal.



Finishing Touches

Next week is Thanksgiving so it is going to be great to get this project done, or at least substantially complete, by then.  All the screen will be installed, The soffit will be finished and sealed, the tools will be moved back to their home in the garage, and the porch and patio furniture will be set up and ready for our guests to relax in while the feast in being prepared. Once the holiday passes, I will go back to working solo, on my one ladder. I have some spot touch up to do on the stain. I also want to install some straps between the rail posts, columns and columns under the screened in porch and stain those as well.  Another finishing touch will be installing an overhang around the porch to protect the sides from getting to wet in the rain.


Until next time, when we take a look at these finishing touches coming together, live nicely and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Other posts in the Homework Series:

Homework – Demolition

Homework – Demo to Framing

Homework – Framing Finished

Homework – Sealant, Stain, and Rails Up

Homework – Rain Delay Rails


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  • Matthew Stanfield

    I have really enjoyed following along with this series. Looking forward to seeing the final product.

    • I appreciate your support, Matthew. The time it has taken is one of the trade off’s for doing (most of) a project DIY, but worth the joy in doing the work and the appreciation of the final product after, IMO.

      • Matthew Stanfield

        I am considering taking on an addition to my house this spring / summer. The time it will take scares me a bit, but i agree with the sentiment that there will be a greater appreciation from DIY as well as a better understanding of how buildings go together. Knowing on paper how to put a building together and understanding it in reality can be two very different things. Besides it gives us some cred with contractors if we actually build things.