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History
The purpose of the project was to restore the front porch railing system on the President's House of York College.
The new railing system was to utilize components from the side porch, which had been dismantled in the 70's, combined
with reproduction porch posts. The original railing system had failed. Posts had rotted and allowed water to penetrate
through the roof and cause damage to the structure. It had been decided during the 1970's that it made sense to remove
the deteriorated rail system and install a rubber roof to prevent any more damage to the structure. During the recent
renaissance towards restoring buildings to their original look it was decided by York College to restore the front porch
rail system back to its original state.


Initial Problem
All of the posts and rail systems from the front porch were completely missing. Apparently they had rotted and were
thrown away when the rail system was dismantled. The side porch had a railing system also, that was dismantled and
placed into storage in the basement. It remained in the basement for approximately 30 years.
The side porch rail system was similar to the front porch's except there were no posts and the railing lengths were
different. It was also in a state of deterioration. Our job was to use the parts that were salvaged and recreate the rest
of the rail system for the front porch.


Information About Project
Our contact person was the head of physical plant at York College. He described the circumstances leading to the
college's decision to bring back the original look of the front porch. The school wanted to restore the front porch
exactly as it was in the past. It was explained to us that an important benefactor had donated a certain amount of
money to be used for this restoration. We sat down with the administrator and he described the scope of work and
how much money they had to work with.He had researched using Fypon architectural components to recreate the
"look" of the front porch railing system. He indicated that the material quote from a local supplier alone exceeded
their budget. Also, if they used Fypon it would not look original because the available components from the catalog
just were not architecturally accurate enough to satisfy them.

York College contracted us to mill out new reproduction components that were missing and combine them with the
railing sections from the side porch, to create the front porch railing system. The finished railing system must hold up
to the damaging effects of all the elements, and be attached to the porch roof by incorporating a system that would
not allow water damage into the posts.



Creating Drawings
The only thing York College provided was a photograph of the President House taken in the 1970's showing how
the original front porch railing system looked . We then scanned the black and white photo into the computer.
It was then put into a program called Chief Architect that allows you to stretch or shrink a photo or image to
match different architectural scales. Once the scale was set we then could trace the image of the posts and make
detailed drawings with proper dimensioning of all parts of the posts.
Before actual construction of the new rail system could begin, a prototype post had to be built. Although we had
a picture and drawing of the post, we had to modify the prototype several times to look proportional with the side
porch rail system we were using. Drawings are ok, but real world models sometimes veer from the original plan.

Prep Work
Before we could begin building this railing system we had to inventory all of the railing components to make sure
we had what we needed to complete the work. It turns out that we had enough parts. The old railings parts had
many layers of paint on them. The college indicated that they wanted the entire rail system stripped of old paint.
Much of the wood on the top railing had turned punky. We debated about milling new rails (top and bottom)
then disassembling and reassembling the rail sections. That route would have been very time intensive and costly.
We decided it would be easier and within budget to stabilize the wood and epoxy any areas that had incurred
any damage, of which there were many.

Designing Porch Railing System
One of the biggest challenges was to make the new rail system hold up to the elements better than the previous
system. We decided to mill the posts using MDO (Medium Density Overlay)-a plywood with a membrane bonded
to the surface that holds up very well to adverse weather conditions. The main use of this material is for exterior
advertising signs because of its superior ability to hold up to the elements. The other component was #1 grade
Pressure Treated Yellow Pine that with we cut, shaped, routed, planed, sanded and fitted into all the components
for the posts.The post center was a 36" high, 4-sided hollow box with mitered sides. The posts were to have a raised
panel look to them and this MDO core was the recessed panel. The next step was to apply the style and rail
components over the MDO core. Each rail and style had a ¾" routed edge to provide the beveled edged facing
the panel. The base was built up using 2 layers of 5/4" x 6" skirting. The bottom skirting would be applied in the
field over the built up bases as a counter flash effect to the bases. One of the trickiest parts of the post was to
build the top cap. The cap was 4 sided with a belt trim applied in the center. This cap had to have the correct
pitch on all 4 sides to keep water from laying on top of it. The cap was made to fit over the top of the post.
It was then fastened with stainless nails through the bottom edge.



Installation
Each post was designed to sit on a double 2x6 PT pad that would rest on top of the rubber roof.
Fortunately the rubber was glued down over a ½"marine grade plywood so there was no problem
with expansion and contraction of the rubber that you have when it is glued down over Celotex.
The pad was then covered with a skin of rubber that was glued down to counter flash it from the
substrate below. The post was then set on the pad and attached with 2 stainless screws. With this
type of installation the post would never sit in water or snow and would not wick water into the
base of the post. Each post was then trimmed with a mitered 1x6 base that covered the entire pad
except for about 1" reveal above the roofline. This would keep the 1x6 base from touching any
surface water. The lower post sections would be very prone to taking in water. We decided to prime
and finish coat each component to protect it from the from any water infiltration that may occur.
We even painted the mitered cuts and applied silicone to each miter fitting upon installation.
All screws used were stainless and all nails were either stainless or galvanized. Another tricky aspect
of the job was that the porch had a sag in the right front corner and rear right corner. It was a full
day's work to run level string lines and cut each post to fit the slope of the porch so that the railing
was perfectly level when viewed from the street.


End Results
This job was very challenging in many aspects. As always it is always a challenge to keep costs
contained to a bid amount when you are dealing with old structures and any type of restoration
work. The job would have been more profitable if we could have performed it on a time and materials
basis, but we did fine and the end product was very beautiful.

York College was very impressed with our attention to detail and craftsmanship. Our consideration
to keeping the architectural details accurate, and our sensitivity to the long-term maintenance of an
exposed structure such as this, made them feel satisfied of their restoration of the President's House
front porch.

York County Builder's Association Award

2001 GRAND AWARD WINNER

(Residential Exterior Specialty and/or Detail Under $20,000):

YORK COLLEGE PORCH RAILING RESTORATION

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