The Porch Jacking: Chad’s Crooked House

I’m happy to welcome Chad of Chad’s Crooked House to the blog today for the third installment in the “My Favourite Tool” series. If you’re just joining us, this series came about when I was thinking about what I should put on my tool wishlist. To help me make up my mind, I reached out to a few bloggers and asked them to share their favourite tools.

I’ve been following Chad’s adventures in restoring and updating his Philadelphia row house for awhile now. It seems like he might be finally heading into the homestretch on his reno (or at least, Phase 1). I’m glad he could take some time away from painting, lighting, closets, kitchen cabinets (!) and other work to share a project from the past here today.

Julia asked me to write about my favorite tool. Usually picking favorites is the hardest thing in the world for me, but this time I have one with a perfect combination of weirdness and a good back story. We’re going back about 8 years to when I was in college for this project.

My parents have a screen porch on the side of their house. It was always a favorite spot even though it was kind of in sorry shape. The columns were wrapped in finished wood that was visibly rotting away and the screen frames were patched up with corner braces that were rusted all over. It was time to give it a face lift. My dad called me to get my approval to use aluminum capping. He’s not dumb, so he had to have known he would never get it. Especially for a spot where people would be sitting 2 feet away and really see the fakeness. I told him that capping over rotting would be flirting with disaster (see how practical I am?), and that we should re-wrap the columns with new wood. And then I took my final.

Fast forward a week or two, and I was home to investigate. The screens were down, and I started hammering a crowbar into the most rotten column, at one of the corners. The first thing I saw was bad – like 6 million bugs scurrying out and tunnels all through the wood. But the second was even worse – nothing inside! I was ripping apart a column that was holding up the porch roof!

I called my dad in a panic. He said no big deal, we’ll just put in new pressure treated 6×6 posts. I was half crying. “What about the temporary bracing? It’ll be so much work!”

He replied in a high pitched mocking tone pretending he thought I was crazy. Not that he actually thought this, but he likes to mess with us.

“What? We’ll just use the railroad jack!”

“The what?”

“Come on, Chad. You know we have a 30 ton jack in the garage.”

I never did know that, but it sure was good news. Here it is. I always thought this giant bar was for heavy digging in the garden, but actually it’s the lever for the jack. The whole thing is cast iron and weighs 67 pounds.

30 ton railroad jack

So he found a 4×6 in his hoard, cut it down to fit on the jack, and set it up next to the first column. Up went the porch roof and out came the column. We cut the new 6×6 to match the height of the old column, stuck it in place, let the porch down and moved on to the next one. All 7 new columns were in place in a day! Here it is 7 years later.

Screened porch

Good job, Chad (and Chad’s Dad). That porch looks like a beautiful spot to spend time in the nice weather. Thanks so much for sharing your favourite tool, Chad. If you’re interested in reading more about Chad’s adventures in Philadelphia, check him out at Chad’s Crooked House.

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9 thoughts on “The Porch Jacking: Chad’s Crooked House

  1. Your dad sounds like a character! And I think a 30 ton jack would be an incredibly useful thing to have – one of those things where you might not need it too often, but if you did need it, it would pretty much be worth its weight in gold.

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