Primer and Porches (1980s Restoration Part 3)

In November 1982, two very important things happened : Michael Jackson released “Thriller,” and the Murray Bryant House was restored enough to be primed under the care of the Beidler Family. (Did you read Parts One and Two?)

(In regards to “Thriller,” I distinctly remember getting the album for Christmas that year, and being the odd duck for thinking that “The Girl is Mine,” and “PYT” were the best songs on the album.)

Chris Hext did much of the priming (Mike said he was much neater than he!). Clearly, they had much fun!

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To ease the priming, they first prepped the house by covering all the windows with newspaper. Which was an awesome idea in theory, until it rained before all the priming was done, and they had to start over. Total bummer! They also got a late start priming, because their airless sprayer rental wouldn’t work. But, eventually they made it happen.

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Karen was the artistic vision for the home – she’s not in many of the photographs, because she hated getting her picture taken. When talking with Mike about Karen, it was very clear how similar they were to Doug and I. Mike and Doug are planners, and can make anything happen. And Karen and I had the vision and creativity to see the end product and see beauty out of rubble. I wish I could have met her – I think we would have been great friends.

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While Chris was priming the other sides of the house, Mike was still stripping paint on the back of the house.

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You know what I love about the above picture? That door and sconce would have been the future wall of the breakfast “nook.” And that sconce would have been the reason for the “loneliest sconce in the world” that baffled us when we moved in. SO MANY ANSWERS.


Spraying primer. I love this picture.

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Primer going on! Note that the window on the jerkinhead has muntins on it, while currently it is just a plain glass panel.

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It was a pretty warm November – the last coat went on with 66 degree weather on November 30th. Below, Randy and Mike are working on a roof leak on December 2, with a record high of 74 degrees. So, at least for the most part, Mother Nature helped them out!

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Ta Da! A fully primed house! So much better. They used Sherwin Williams Oil-Based tinted primer. After this, Mike vowed to never strip another house. While I don’t blame him, he certainly did an amazing job of it.

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TIME FOR A PORCH! YAY! The house just looked sad and forlorn without one. Sadly, this porch would be mostly rotted when we bought the home 30 years later. But much of the structural work remained strong – which goes to show you that if you do a job RIGHT, it will last. Unless it’s made of wood, and then water will eventually destroy it. I will be thrilled if our porch makes it to 2044 – but I bet you anything the foundation will still be holding steady.

Mike dug the footers for the porch by hand over the winter. He said : “They got wider and wide because they kept caving in. Although I dug to the depth of what I thought was local building code, I was not happy when the concrete truck driver looked in the holes and asked – Why did you dig them so deep?”

Randy for scale. He’s 6.

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While this picture is awesome for the concrete, I also love seeing the neighbors’ houses in completely different colors than they are right now.

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Mike learned masonry as he went. The straight sections were concrete block, faced with brick. The brick was the original porch foundation brick that had been used as fill under the concrete steps!

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The curved sections were made from two courses of brick. The brick was solid, but soft. And to make it work, Mike had to custom mix mortar with lime, portland cement, and sand. Each brick also had to be thoroughly soaked in water before the mortar would work. Quite the process, but I’m thrilled that the original brick from 1902 is what is holding up the porch today!

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The porch floor was framed with guidance from David Woodrum, using material salvaged from a Indianapolis warehouse that was being demolished. It wasn’t pretty lumber, but it was really solid and strong, and cost less than new. This is also where Mike left an opening for what we call the “sneaky stairs,” to allow access to the back of the house and the driveway. Which is one of my FAVORITE things about the porch design.

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The “Sneaky Stairs” today.


The porch floor was finished with a process found in “Old House Journal.”

  1. Soak individual boards in a paint thinner / paraffin bath.
  2. Let dry.
  3. Prime all sides with oil-based primer
  4. Paint all sides with oil-based paint
  5. Assemble (nail down)
  6. Paint Oil Based Topcoat.

That’s quite a process, and really, it mostly held up for 30 years, which is remarkable. The edges of the porch were certainly rotted 30 years lated, but the rest was in decent shape! Here’s the porch in 1983 –

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And here it is in 2013. It’s really not that bad for 30 years of being exposed to weather!



David was in charge of the porch build. Karen is holding Larson, who is just a few months old.

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The structure begins to take shape.

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The front extension “gazebo” was built with severely kerfed 2×8’s that were wood epoxied and bolted together, using the floor as a template. This is the same method used for the west end of the porch as well.

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DIY Vocabulary Lesson!

Kerfa cut or incision made by a saw or the like in a piece of wood.

Kerfing wood allows you to make curves in the wood.

Check out the process here.

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The ceiling joists went up, with graduated cuts for the boxed gutters.

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Here’s the view from above, looking down through the top of the porch.

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And here’s Randy, as Mike said, “Always in perpetual danger.” He owned it.

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It’s looking like a porch!

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Here’s the underside of the roof decking. Still solid and strong to this day.

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The witch’s hat goes up! This was built twice. Ray Turner did the drawings of the porch (which I would love to find some day), and Mike built the first hat from those drawings, but he said it looked like a gum drop – and was very short when viewed from the street. So he built a second, taller one on top.

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It was made with a waterproof coating, which kept it safe until a year later, when Mike made the standing seam copper cover, and the slate roof went on the porch.

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Also pictured is the terne metal (tinplated sheet metal) that he pieced, formed, nailed with copper nails, and soldered together.

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The witch’s hat 30 years later – still amazing.


I’m so glad that so much of this porch design is still strong today. And I love seeing how it came to be.



If you’re just joining us, and haven’t seen the porch in its current state, check it out here!


  1. Lovely work! I’m amazed at how great the brick part of the porch looks – it definitely adds a whole lot to the house I think! Thanks for sharing!

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