Front Exterior & Front Yard

Covering An Existing Concrete Porch With Wood – Part 1

My brother and I only got halfway done with what I had hoped to accomplish yesterday, but we learned a lot along the way. The big picture goal here is that I’ll be covering my existing concrete front porch with wood so that I can stain it and it will look like a traditional wood front porch. But you can’t just put wood porch/deck boards directly onto concrete. First, you have to attach risers/sleepers to the concrete and then the porch boards can be screwed to the risers.

So the plan yesterday was to get all of the risers/sleepers attached to the porch. The plan itself seemed pretty straightforward, and I’d need about 15 risers in all, spaced at 16 inches on center. The execution proved to be a bit more challenging than we had anticipated for reasons I’ll explain in a second.

But first, here’s a look at my current concrete porch so you can remember exactly what we’re working with…

The ramp on the side was removed after I took that picture, and unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the whole porch without the ramp before we got started. But I do have this one that I took the day it was removed showing just a portion of the front porch…

If you look at that first picture, you’ll see the issue. Over the 70 years since the concrete porch was poured, the porch has moved and sunk a bit on the left side (towards the front door) and is no longer level. If you follow the white trim board at the bottom, it’s pretty obvious how unlevel the porch is.

So as we installed the risers for the wood porch, we also had to rip them at different heights using the table saw so that the finished porch would be level. For the risers, we used pressure treated 2 x 4’s that are rated for ground contact.

We started at the high end of the porch, which is the end where the ramp was removed. That end, from the house (back) to the yard side (front) was level…miraculously. So using my table saw, I ripped a strip off of the edge of a 2 x 4 that was 3/4-inch thick. Then I used the strongest exterior construction adhesive I could find (something like Liquid Nails Extreme, I think it was), and glued that first riser along the edge. Then I used my Ramset (i.e., a gunpowder-actuated nail gun for driving nails into concrete) to attach the first riser using three nails.

And immediately, we saw that it wasn’t going to be as simple as we had hoped. The nails weren’t going in all the way. The nail gun was leaving about an inch of the nail exposed.

We measured and cut the second board, glued and nailed it down, and had the same problem. That time it also split the wood and cracked a very top thin layer off of the concrete, meaning that the nail wasn’t actually embedded into the concrete.

This was the same Ramset that we used to nail the plywood subfloor over the newly-poured concrete in the breakfast room (you can read more about that here), and it worked perfectly for that project. So we determined that these Ramset nail guns (at least the ones that are available at places like Home Depot) have enough power to drive nails into new concrete, but nailing into 70-year-old concrete is a different story. So we decided to abandon that idea.

I had purchased Tapcon concrete screws just in case the nail gun didn’t work out, but I didn’t realize that those required a hammerdrill, which I didn’t have. So with just two risers down, and just an hour or so into our project, we had to stop working and make a trip to Home Depot. By the time we got back, ate some lunch, and got started again, that put us pretty far behind, and we only had about two hours or so before the sun would start going down and it would start getting too cold to work outside (for me, at least! 😀 ). But we did manage to get eight of the fifteen risers installed.

Once the first riser was in place, we measured and marked every 16 inches for placement of the rest of the risers. In order to measure and cut the next riser, my brother would hold the level so that one end was on the previously installed riser and the other end was hovering above where the next riser would be placed. Then I would measure the distance from the bottom of the level to the concrete.

I took that picture just for demonstration. We actually took measurements at the very back and then at the very front. Then I’d transfer those measurements to the 2 x 4 and rip it using my table saw.

This was a bit challenging because the measurements would be different at the front and back, meaning that I couldn’t just rip an even strip down the board using the guide fence on the table saw. At the front, the board might need to be 1.5 inches tall, while at the back, it might need to be 1.75 inches tall. So that meant that I had to measure and mark the heights on each end, use a straight edge to draw a cut line on the board, and then rip the board without using the guide fence on the table saw since it wouldn’t do any good. I just had to eyeball the line as I ripped the boards. It was challenging, and we certainly didn’t get any of them perfect, but they were good enough to do the job that needed to be done.

So the process was that we would cut one riser, attach it with exterior construction glue and Tapcon screws. Then using the level, we would take measurements at the back and at the front for the required height of the next riser. I would transfer those measurements to the next 2 x 4 board, use my table saw to rip it to the right height, then we’d test it to be sure it was the right height by putting it into place and checking with the level at the back, middle and front. On a couple of boards, we’d have to take it back to the table saw and trim off an eighth of an inch or so. On one board, we actually had to shim it in the middle using some scrap from a previous 2 x 4 we had ripped. But once the dry fit was level, we’d glue and screw that board down. Then it was on to the next riser.

The Tapcon screws didn’t work perfectly either, though. Even though I was using a hammerdrill, and I pre-drilled the holes with the drill bit that came with the Tapcon screws, some of those screws just didn’t want to go in all the way. I might just have to replace those with shorter screws. Let’s just say that there’s nothing simple or straightforward about working with 70-year-old concrete. 🙂

But the eight risers that we got installed look pretty darn good. I placed a 2 x 4 on top along the back so that I could see how it looks. That looks pretty level to me! Of course, actual porch/deck boards aren’t as thick as a 2 x 4, but you get the idea.

So we have about seven more risers to install, which should go much faster now that we have the right tool and we know the process. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating, so I have no idea when we’ll be able to get the rest of them finished.

Once those are done, I will still need to install spacers on the front and right side of the concrete to attach the white trim board to. (Skirting board? Fascia board? I have no idea what it’s called.) Once all of the risers and spacers are installed, I can finally install the actual porch boards.

I am wondering if I might need to paint the concrete and risers black before I install the porch boards, though. The porch boards will have tiny little spaces between them, and I really don’t want concrete and unfinished riser boards to show through. So I might need to add that step also.

And if all of this is clear as mud, hopefully it’ll become much clearer as this project progresses. 🙂

UPDATE:

The new wood porch floor is finished! Click the links below to see the rest of the posts in this project.



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51 Comments

  • Reply
    Guerrina
    February 13, 2018 at 10:08 am

    I used a Ramsey when building my house. Fortunately, I was used to shooting rifles/shotguns!

    It looks great so far and I do vote for painting (sealing?) the concrete black.

  • Reply
    Theresa P
    February 13, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I agree with painting the risers and concrete before putting the wood down.

    So glad you are spending some time on the outside of the house. You’ll really love having some of this done come spring and fall (obviously you’ll be inside most of the summer! lol!).

  • Reply
    Valeria C McDonald
    February 13, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I just want to say you have a wonderful brother. It’s great how he helps/works with you from time-to-time. Give a hug from your readers.

    • Reply
      janpartist
      February 13, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Agree!

    • Reply
      Thelma
      February 13, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      That was exactly what I was thinking. I have a sister that will help me and her daughter also. Your brother is so good to come help.

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      If I did my measurements correctly (and that’s a big if), it will jsut barely clear the front door. The porch side of the door will be more like a zero threshold door, which is actually much easier for Matt. I wish all of our exterior doors were zero threshold doors.

  • Reply
    Laurie Taylor
    February 13, 2018 at 10:40 am

    How will the raised floor work with the front door? Curious.

  • Reply
    Hannah
    February 13, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Looks good! I am curious as to how this will affect the front door. Will there be a step down from the porch into the house?

  • Reply
    Linda
    February 13, 2018 at 10:46 am

    I agree… brothers re the best!

  • Reply
    CL Hays
    February 13, 2018 at 10:57 am

    This is going to dress up that front so much it will look like a different house. I love your choice on the new columns. I also vote to sealing that concrete with a water barrier if possible. I don’ t know if you have a sweating problem . What type of floor boards will you be using? Will it be a weather treated lumber? I know waiting months before staining it can’t be a pain. Sorry if you answered this question before.

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      I’ve never noticed this concrete sweating. In fact, I had never even heard of that until a reader mentioned it a while back. I wonder if that’s something that happens only in certain climates.

      I haven’t decided about the porch boards yet. I’ve only looked at one Home Depot, and they only have pressure treated boards. I was hoping to use boards that aren’t pressure treated so that I can go ahead and stain and seal them, but I have found any yet. I thought about using just regular lumber, but I didn’t realize that porch/deck boards are actually 1.25 inches thick, where regular lumber is only 3/4″ thick. And if I use 2″ lumber (like 2 x 6s), that will make it too high at the doorway. So as of now, it looks like I’m stuck with pressure treated and waiting until summer to stain. That’s disappointing, but I haven’t given up my search just yet.

      • Reply
        Adele
        February 13, 2018 at 2:01 pm

        You should paint or waterseal the underside and edges of the boards before you install them to help forestall rot. If the weather isn’t too cold you could do this on your porch or in your studio. It will make them last much longer.

      • Reply
        Kathleen
        February 14, 2018 at 4:27 pm

        What about cedar? Also, so glad you mentioned painting the concrete so it will disappear. I was wondering if it would show through. I’m also wondering if paint will peel? Maybe stain?

  • Reply
    Sue2
    February 13, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Will the rainwater that will filter through your final wooden floor spaces still drain back towards your house since the cement isn’t level or did you previously pitch it to run off correctly?

    • Reply
      Cate
      February 13, 2018 at 11:53 am

      I was worried about the same thing! I don’t know if you would want to level the cement between the risers away from the house before putting the top layer on? I don’t know much about that stuff. But I love it so far!!! Good work!!!

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      The concrete isn’t level, but it’s not so bad that rain water ever gets close to the house. And after four years here, we’ve had at least a few really heavy rains, and only once did it get close, but it still didn’t reach the house.

  • Reply
    janpartist
    February 13, 2018 at 11:04 am

    How are you planning for the water to run off and out from under?

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      That’s why I’m putting spacers on the front and side of the porch before I put the pretty skirt/fascia board and skirting on. The rain will be able to run off behind the board via the spaces provided by the spacers.

      • Reply
        Marianne in Mo.
        February 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm

        Shouldn’t the skirting go on AFTER the deck is done? That’s how I’ve always seen it.

        • Reply
          Kristi
          February 13, 2018 at 8:51 pm

          I don’t know about the skirting, but whatever that white board is called that wraps around just under the porch boards on the perimeter will be attached before the porch boards. That way I’ll know exactly how much the porch boards need to overlap the edges.

  • Reply
    Jules
    February 13, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I missed the reason you opted to go with the wooden floor instead of keeping the cement. I currently have a wood floor on my porch and wish it was either cement or brick.

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 12:35 pm

      Haha! I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. Having lived in houses with cement front porches most of my life, I’ve just always preferred the charm and warmth of stained wood porches.

  • Reply
    chiflipper
    February 13, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Many years ago I was told that concrete takes 100 years to “fully cure”. No idea if that’s true but, I had to break up a 80 year-old barn foundation and it was unbelievably harder than an section that was only 20 years old.

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      My brother actually said something similar yesterday. He said that concrete just continues getting harder and harder as it gets older, which is why the old stuff is so much harder to deal with than the new stuff. Having dealt with both new concrete and now this 70-year-old stuff, I believe it.

      • Reply
        Lisa E
        February 14, 2018 at 11:19 am

        Interesting! I never knew that!

  • Reply
    Sue
    February 13, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Looks like a huge process. I would definitely paint the cement with a sealer of some sort. Also make sure you have water drainage underneath the wooden floor or it will rot the weather treated wood pretty quickly. Looks good and you and your brother make a fierce team.

  • Reply
    Sheri
    February 13, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I currently have pressure treated boards on my front porch. I can’t wait to replace them with tongue and groove. Leaves are always getting stuck in the cracks I can never get it completely clean.

  • Reply
    Molly
    February 13, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Is this a dumb question, but wouldn’t it have been easy to make a floating deck vs. building on top of what you have? Or is there not enough room to have done that?

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      There’s not enough room. Anything higher than what I’m doing wouldn’t clear the front doorway. As it is, it’ll be very close. On the porch side, it’ll be more like a zero threshold doorway, but it can’t be any higher.

  • Reply
    Sewducky
    February 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Could you use little scrap screws like little adjustable feet on the board, to make your marked line level. So you could use the fence vs freehand? Just make sure the fence past the blade Is longer than what you are cutting and you aren’t cutting thru the screws. Also there’s a fancy wood working jig you could make up to have an adjustable angle can’t remember it’s name right now. It looks a giant compass you look into your angle.

  • Reply
    Christine Czarnecki
    February 13, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    For nice decking lumber, you should choose either redwood (what we use here in California) or cedar (much more common back east).

    If Home Depot doesn’t stock or can’t order these for you, you should check at other local lumber yards, as these woods are the best for this type of use. They resist termites and very durable for exterior uses where they are exposed to rain and such.

    • Reply
      Leah
      February 14, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      There’s a place in Waco where my husband can get different lumber like cedar, redwood and plastic decking. It’s called Redwoods, address is: 623 Esther.

    • Reply
      Rebecca Neustel
      February 15, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Yes, the redwood or cedar would be best and beautiful when stained.

  • Reply
    Gilmer Gal
    February 13, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Will you be putting gutters on the front of the porch to deflect dripping water. It probably would help tremendously with the runoff not hitting your new porch.

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      Yes, I will.

  • Reply
    Bk214
    February 13, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    So are you running your deck boards the length of the porch? Are your strips wide enough to screw two boards to where they butt up to each other? Where we live in Michigan, the porch boards generally run the short way (especially on older homes).

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Yes, they’ll run the length of the porch. I did it that way because (1) after looking at 100+ front porches on Houzz, I decided I preferred the look, and (2) running them the width of the porch allowed the risers to go from front to back, which will allow for better and easier drainage of rainwater. If I were to run the risers the width of the porch, rain water would have no where to drain. It would just have to evaporate.

      The strips are cut from 2x4s. Most deck joists are 2x8s. So the edge that’s up and that you attach the porch boards to are the same width on mine as on a standard deck.

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    February 13, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Kristi, what will you do with those concrete screws that didn’t drill all the way in? Will you have to saw them off? I would imagine they’d get in the way of laying your boards down nice and flat, but that’s just an inexperienced layperson’s guess. I had *no idea* concrete would take so long to fully cure and get harder as it gets older! I guess it really is a durable substance once cured!

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 13, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      If I can’t get those screws to go in any further, I’ll have to saw the off. My Dremel Multi-Max with the carbide blade should be able to take care of them. I hate having to do that, but I might not have a choice.

      • Reply
        Kimberly
        February 15, 2018 at 9:27 pm

        I’m sure you’ll be careful and wear good eye and hand protection. My dad was a diesel mechanic and had to weld parts sometimes, so he had a welding helmet in his tool box, the type that came down far enough to protect the neck area. When he’d do home improvement things around the house, he’d wear that welding helmet anytime he had to saw down metal bits like nails and screws that were sticking out of the floor or wall. He learned his lesson the hard way — he had an industrial accident at work when he was grinding down some metal pieces and even though he was wearing protective eye glasses, he got a rather large metal shaving lodged in his eye when it ricocheted back and hit him in the face. He ended up blind in that eye, even after several surgeries that tried to save his sight. So hard-core eye protection was his go to after that, and he was never without his welding helmet when sawing metal!

  • Reply
    Julie B.
    February 14, 2018 at 8:12 am

    The bid you got makes more sense now.

    • Reply
      Char
      February 14, 2018 at 11:59 am

      lol, Julie B. I was thinking the same thing

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 14, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      Still not worth $2000, though. 🙂 Not when they’ve done it before and could get it done in less than one work day.

      • Reply
        Char
        February 14, 2018 at 2:01 pm

        I agree not $2000, maybe $800. But I’ll keep watching to see what you think at the end. There are always so many surprises during DIY.

  • Reply
    Lisa E
    February 14, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Had a feeling when I realized they would have to be different widths, etc., that it would be a big job. Thank God for family! You got this!

  • Reply
    Diana Rollo
    February 14, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    There is Roman concrete that is more than 2,000 years old. Done right, it’s tough stuff.

    Our porches here in the Texas hill country are pretty much all built with a slope to the outside—the only reason I know this is from playing jacks as a child and having the ball run off the edge every time we missed.

    I’ve always been taught to always have water run away from the house.

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned.

  • Reply
    Theresa P
    February 15, 2018 at 9:22 am

    So, not related to the front porch, but I was wondering if there are steps leading up to the breakfast room? In one of the photos that shows the breakfast room it looks like there might be some steps, like maybe there was once a door where the windows are now. Or are my eyes just seeing something funny?

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 16, 2018 at 10:27 am

      Yes, those are steps. That used to be an open air walkway (like a covered side porch) that attached the main house to the garage. The wall I took down between the kitchen and the breakfast room (where the kitchen peninsula is now) used to be the exterior wall of the house. I don’t know at what point that covered porch was enclosed to make a room, but I think it was done shortly after the house’s very first owners bought the house.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Neustel
    February 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    So now you have added a hammer drill to your tool box? What brand of tools do you usually buy?

  • Reply
    stacy murphy
    February 11, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    We want to do the same thing with our front porch, so I am thrilled to read this post. Have you had any issues with water not draining off the porch?

    • Reply
      Kristi
      February 11, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      Nope! So far so good!

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