Monday, November 14, 2011

Porch Framing

"Your porch is very sexy. It's a sexy design. I think that's the way to describe it. From the plans I thought it was just a porch, but the way you did it, the tapering - it's beautiful, it's sexy...  Elegant, I think that's the word, elegant."

That was my framer, after seeing half of the porch joists installed. "Your porch is very sexy" just might be my new favorite compliment.

What my framer liked is probably due in part to the tapering of the joists, as he suggested. Instead of sloping the members themselves, I cut the slope into the tops of the joists and the let them sit flat on the beams. So from below you see a perfectly level run of joists and on top you see a slight slope cut the same into all of them.

Also contributing to elegance, I think, is the careful organization of all the members. 4x6 beams span from column to column to trace the perfect square of the courtyard. And the joists, like those of the rest of the house, are centered around each column and spaced at equal intervals. I wasn't going for "sexy," just orderly. But since order, harmony and proportion are key ingredients of beauty, "sexy" can be a natural result.

I'm very glad I chose to spend a little extra money to get cypress for this framing, instead of pressure treated pine. Cypress is naturally durable and needs no chemical treatment, stain or paint. It will weather to silver over the years. I'm impressed with the grain in this wood; the curls and rings are so subtle and tight that it looks as if the wood were poured into place as a liquid.

The joist ends from the interior space are seen in the above photo too. The porch joists don't line up with them directly here; they're about 4 inches off - on purpose. There's a shifting that happens, a syncopation. In an earlier post I explained that one of my concepts of the "domestic" area (kitchen, bedrooms, baths) was of something growing, maturing, becoming. By contrast the Great Room is arrival, perfection, being. The discord in the rhythms between porch and domestic area is a cue that this part is in process, still being fixed into order, slowly coming into focus. It looks like the order is about to be locked into place - but not yet. Conversely, the porch joists against the Great Room wall line up perfectly with the studs and joists inside.

I had to get some shots of these joists from the roof, all the while telling myself not to get used to seeing them from this angle. A corrugated metal roof will cover them soon. But they will remain visible from below.

Somewhat miraculously, each joist at the brick wall fit perfectly into the notches I had the mason leave for them:

And whatever you do, DO NOT get used to seeing sunlight stream through the joists. Like this:

(That note was mostly for me.)

I'll end with the most comprehensive shot of the house I've gotten so far. The porch framing, domestic wing, Great Room, and stone wall are all here. To get more of the house in the shot I'd have to climb a tree. Hm...

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