Maintaining a historic porch can be relatively simple if you are willing to take a proactive approach. Adding your porch to your regular household chore list is a simple way to begin a maintenance process. A simple routine porch cleaning could look like this:
1) Sweep the porch decking. Regular sweeping will reduce debris and abrasives like sand and dirt. Sweeping is preferrable to hosing off the porch with water, as water promotes decay. If necessary, spot mop the deck with a damp mop only.
2) Keep climbing plants and other plants or trees trimmed. Do not allow climbing plants to grow beneath porches. Vines reduce air flow, which increases moisture and disintegration of the wood structure of the porch.
3) Use trivets underneath flower pots and other decor. This will keep condensation from building up underneath the pot and excelerating porch board rot. Also, be sure that your flower pots will not drain water directly on to the porch. It is also wise to rotate the locations of your potted plants to prevent wear in one place.
4) Avoid using rubber mats, rugs, or carpet on your porch floor. If these items get wet, they will trap moisture underneath and deteriorate the porch boards. If possible, provide a boot scraper and shoe brushes at the porch stairs to keep mud from being brought onto the porch.
5) Remove snow build up promptly. Use a plastic shovel or a shovel with a rubber edge. Metal shovels can scrape and damage porch boards easily. Abrasives such as sand, kitty litter, and ice melt salt can be used, but must be removed as soon as it is safe to do so. Ice melting salt made of sodium chloride should not be used as it deteriorates the nails and fasteners in the porch. Alternatively, a magnesium chloride de-icing salt is less damaging to porch boards and masonry. If any abrasive is used for de-icing, a good sweeping and damp mopping should be done in the spring.
Aside from routing cleaning, you should inspect your porch yearly. Look for chipped or cracked paint, open joints in the wood, mildew, fungus, and mold, as well as bare / exposed wood. If you do find areas like this, make sure that there are not deeper issues, such as decay, or broken or missing pieces. Gently scrape off loose paint, sand exposed areas, then, using only high quality primers and paints, touch up those exposed areas on the porch. Remember to check your porch for loose boards, and your stairs as well. Porch steps are exposed to the elements, so using a paint that is specially formulated for exterior steps and floors is necessary.
Many homeowners can make simple repairs to their historic porches. Care should be taken to ensure that all repair work is done properly and completely to prevent further damage to the porch. For porches with broken or missing balusters, rotted column plinths and bases, damaged floor boards, or damaged railings, please call a professional who specializes in repair and replacement of historic porch elements like Cedars Woodworking.