September 11, 2014

Builiding a Portico

At the beginning of this summer, our Cabin Up North sported a pretty understated, sad looking door.

Then we knocked a hole in the side of the house to create a new door, so that we could make room to build a third bedroom. While this placement was beautifully symmetrical, and already a big improvement, it was on the side on the house, which makes for a slightly strange entrance.


Our new wrap around deck, (which is becoming a Lord of the Rings style saga in length and adventure- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) has steps leading up from the front side of the house, which was our first step to making this door placement look intentional.  The next step was to create a portico or awning.  A little roof over our new door would not only add the function of lighting and a cover from the weather, it would also pop out visually from the side of the house, visible from the front so that you could tell there was an entrance there. 

First I headed to the internet for a little inspiration.  I found that I really like the ones with an angled peak that matched the pitch of the house.  I also loved the idea of covering the inside, and enclosing wiring for a light within the portico.  Big, chunky brackets to help support the weight were calling to me.


But I soon found that loving a look, and being able to build it were two very different things.  I didn't find any build plans online for this type of roof structure.  After searching the interwebs I finally found this image of a roof awning that's sold in England.  It would have cost me a small fortune to purchase and ship over these trusses and supports, and they wouldn't fit my pitch exactly, but it gave me good idea on what the skeleton of my awning was supposed to look like. 

And so began my summer long quest.  My Everest so to speak.  All summer long, after the kiddos went to bed at night, I'd try to find time to head out to the garage and build our portico. I had to start by finding the exact pitch of our cabin roof line.  Pitch can be derived by the measuring how far an angle drops every 12 inches.  In our case, for every 12", our roof goes down 5", or a 5/12 pitch.

After a quick Google search I found that the angle of the cut on a 5/12 pitch is 22.5".  So I set the angle on my miter saw to 22.5", cut two 2x4s, and put them together.  Look at that- my roof angle!

I didn't start taking photos until I had already successfully built my first truss, so the one on top is complete for reference.
 Once I had my angles cut and placed together roughly,  I used sidewalk chalk to sketch out my door size and trim on the garage floor.  It looked about right that the bottom width of the truss was 6 feet wide, which allowed it to sit over the 36" door, with 18" on either side.  So I trimmed my 2x4's accordingly, making them each 42" long.  I attached them together with pocket screws.

Next, I knew I would need a horizontal line across the top of my truss to make a flat ceiling to which I could attach my light.  I wanted this to be as high up as possible, so that there was still a nice rise in the ceiling, but still leave a little bit of room to run through the wire.  I laid my scrap of 2x4 behind the truss, and drew a line for my cut marks.

It was an awkward cut that had to be made with my circular saw since it was too long of a cut for my miter saw.  I clamped the board to a workbench and hoped for the best. 

Then I used my Kreg Jig to create pocket holes.

And attached the ceiling beam to the roof boards.

I wanted the awing to go out about 3 feet from the side of the house.  From what I could find online, that was shallow enough that it wouldn't need additional supports on the outside edges to hold it up, but deep enough that you could stand under it as you opened the 36" door.  Ultimately I built my awing at 33.5", which would accommodate 3 trusses on standard 16" centers.  (Which is fancy builder talk that means the center of each of your trusses is 16" from the center of the one next to it.  It requires a 14.5" space between each, since the actual width of a 2x4 is 1.5".)  

Sorry if I just got boring there, math and geometry are totally my jam.  I'm not kidding, it's part of the reason I love to build- a practical application to play with geometry and fractions.   Anyway, once I made my 3 trusses, meticulously the same mirror image of each other, I got to the business of putting them together.  I attached my first two together with 14.5" 2x4s at the top and sides.

You can see that I used boards as guides to keep them square with each other.  When I was sure that I had it correct and perfect, I attached my third truss, again using scrap boards as a guide.

And viola- we have a roof!

Actually, we still had a long way to go.  My plan was to create as many pieces for this portico as I could at my home, so that install up at the cabin could occur quickly over one weekend.  (Foreshadowing...)  The next step was to cut the roof boards out of 5/8" sheathing.  I used my T Square to measure out the perfect size.

  Then I roughly attached with just a couple of screws to make sure I had it correct.

Same thing on the other side:

 At this point I had the function of a roof, but it was really rough looking.  But it took a whole other set of weeks to trim this baby out and make it look pretty, so we'll tackle that one next.  For now let's just celebrate the fact that I build my very own (albeit little) rafters, and lived to tell the tale!

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  1. Just had a heck of a time following along with the math until I figured out that the phone calculator works in radians, not degrees. I thought Android was supposed to be intuitive! (and no inverse tan fn either! Don't they know people are going to want to calculate geometry on their mobile?)
    It's neat when it all comes together though, isn't it?

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I had the same problem finding plans as you did. This will help me get the job done. I think I'll document my progress as well and share it too.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I had the same problem finding plans as you did. This will help me get the job done. I think I'll document my progress as well and share it too.


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