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The Sun Porch may end up being one of our favorite places in the house. It started out as a roughly rectangular plain boring room with a bunch of windows hidden behind drab lace curtains and heavy roll-up shades, but like everything else in the house, we decided it needed some TLC.

The first work on it began before we even moved in. We had decided long before looking at houses of any kind that we needed a place for the cats to do their business that was NOT in the house! When we finally decided on this house, I went to work planning different places for them... in the garage, basement, even an enclosed space outside, but because of the design of the house, all were impractical. The only access to the basement is through the garage, and the last thing we want is a kitty squished under a car, or dashing out into the road whenever the garage door is opened. In the end, we settled on the porch.

The original plan was to cut a hole in the office wall for a kitty dor and then build a small enclosed bench type of thing to put the litterbox in. That plan was scrapped shortly thereafter in favor of a day bed, somewhere we could lounge about on hot summer afternoons, and lay at night watching thunder storms. It was a simple plan, build a rectangular box big enough to fit a twin sized mattress on, maybe with some shelves on the wall to put books and such. Remember I said it was a simple plan... we don't do anything simple around here. The first problem was where to locate the kitty door. My original thought was to put it in the office closet; a nice out of the way spot that was partially hidden from a casual glance. Unfortunately, as I discovered later, that would put the door on exactly the wrong side of the porch wall... outside. So I instead decided to use the small space between the closet and radiator in the office, which was just barely big enough for the door. So it began... I punched a hole in the drywall to make sure I wasn't going to cut through any wires, and pulled out the insulation in the space I was going to use. Perfect! nothing but empty wall, and right between two studs. I measured out the dimensions of the kitty door, got the sawzall out and soon had a nice door-shaped hole in the wall. I should have known things were going too well. It was only after I went back out to the porch to clean up the wood scrap and fit the outer part of the door that I discovered the next problem I had made for myself.

As you can see from the picture, there is a minor height problem. The porch floor is about 17 inches below the inside floor level. Something that my brain should have registered when I walked out the kitchen door and DOWN THE STAIRS to get to the porch... Sigh, sometimes I get tired of shooting myself in the foot. Now I had to devise a way to get the cats up and down as well as in and out. Once again the plan was changed. I would need the house side of the bed to be about 10 inches above the bottom of the window. That wasn't going to work, so I revised the plan to include sort of a hollow headboard with a set of stairs inside that went just to the edge of the first window, giving the cats enough room to come through the door and turn to down the stairs. One problem solved. The litterbox was a different one altogether. We use a big tupperware bin as a litterbox, as the little ones would fill up to overflowing by the end of the day because of Muldoon's propensity to poo (Sir poop-alot). The cats would have to have enough room to jump over the edge of the giant litterbox to get in and out, so now the plan changed again... POOF! now we have a table at the end of the daybed.

The porch is insulated, but not heated so in the winter the temperature drops well below freezing. While this isn't necessarily an issue for the cats, as such, it makes cleaning the litterbox a real challenge, requiring the use of a chisel to remove the frozen cat pee. The next stage was to figure out a way to heat it and keep it warm. The keeping it warm part wasn't a problem, as I had a bunch of insulation from the other house that I used to line the sides and floor with. Then recycled some of the old livingroom paneling to cover the insulation on the floor so the cats could walk on it. The heating became a bit more tricky. In the end I used a small fan usually used for circulating the heat of a woodstove to pull warm air from the office radiator into the space under the day bed. One of the main reasons for putting the litter outside is the smell, so I later cut a hole in the opposite outside wall and installed a dryer vent, forcing the stink outside.

With the daybed completed the cats finally had a place to do their business, and we were finally rid of the litterbox! things came to a halt on the porch at this point as it was still really cold out there, and we had other things we needed to do in the main house. Now that summer has arrived and Mere has a little extra time on her hands, work has resumed. The phone call I got at work asking if we had anymore drywall joint compound signaled the beginning of the work. By the time I got home, she had pulled the paper tile ceiling down and was working on what to do with the walls. Like everywhere in the house all the walls were paneling. For the briefest of moments she toyed with the idea of covering the walls with archetectural wallpaper and painting it, but after the mess with the wallpaper in the bedrooms thought better of it. Instead, she settled on using drywall compound on the joints between the sheets of paneling, and painting over it.

Now we still had the floor and ceiling to deal with. As long as the ceiling was down, I put in wiring and boxes for 2 small overhead lights and a ceiling fan. Until now, the only light on the porch had been the old outside light that the previous owner had left installed abofe the paper tile ceiling with a piece of aluminium foil as a reflector, and the new outside lights didn't work at all. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I tapped into the garage circuit to grab power for both, putting a switch for the outside lights and a dimmer / control for the fan and lights right next to the porch door.

The next thing we tackled was the floor. When we moved in, there was cheap, low pile industrial carpet on the floor that was faded and stained, so that needed to go. The back of the rug was black rubber foam that had disintegrated into dust, making it a pain to clean up. We discussed several options for flooring from indoor - outdoor fake grass carpet to slate tile, and in the end settled on some inexpensive laminate flooring, which should hold up pretty well to traffic in and out, and look good at the same time. We chose the type with the foam backing already applied to the back of the flooring so that we wouldn't have to deal with the hassle of underlayment. Note to self: you're better off laying out the big bucks for a wood floor you can put down with screws or nails instead of buying cheap laminate floor, regardless of how easy the box says it is to do. It should have been simple... 16 courses of 5 boards. Box says 'locks together with no tools'. I figured about 2 hours would see it done without too much trouble. Four and a half hours later, and with the help of Mere and Jay, we finally had it finished. I could go into a whole diatribe here about what a pain in the butt it was, and how it didn't work at all like it was supposed to, etc. etc. but let's just suffice it to say that's the last bit of laminate floor we'll be putting in this house.

Now all we have to do is figure out the ceiling.

Copyright © 2006 Devon R. Jacobs. All Rights Reserved.