Get it done / The porch at Big Pink
A welcome addition
Photos courtesy of author
It was obvious that our house on Lancaster Avenue once had a front porch: a raised flower bed demarcated with loose slate stabs and populated with scraggly evergreens was situated where something had been before, and the concrete and brick front stoop, with its cast iron railings, was pretty plainly not original. Even so, it was far from obvious that a front porch was something that was needed, until we built one.
One of the great things about Buffalo is its diversity. Of course, this is true about its people, but walk down any street sometime and notice that even the buildings that appear to have been built around the same time started out looking different from each other. Over time, they mutate further. Over the course of its century and a half of existence, our house had undergone a lot of changes, and, although some were by design, some were pretty plainly compromises made as the place slumped into the last half of the twentieth century. Now, with daughters out of college, and bricks missing from the front steps, it became clear that something had to be done, and it was clear to my wife that my offer to repair the stoop was insufficient.
“You don’t know how to do brickwork,” she said.
“I’ll know how once I’m done,” I replied, knowing I’d already lost the discussion.
With self-help out of the picture, we turned to experts. Jill Nowicki at Clinton Brown Company Architecture, PC quickly grasped what Andrea had in mind. Although there are resources for determining the original appearance of many Buffalo houses, ours had apparently evaded documentation, so Jill was cast on her own devices to come up with a plan that would qualify for historic tax credits.
Once completed, I realized what it was that had been lacking in my life: the ability to sit more or less unobserved watching people walking their dogs while I enjoyed a glass of wine. Andrea has been saying something about updating the kitchen, but I’ll be out here, reading the paper.
Useful Info: Finding a contractor
There are times when finding a contractor can feel like bad dating. You meet for coffee, only to hear that the builder is booking work into the following year, or reckons the job is worth twice the budget, doesn’t return calls, or just isn’t that into you and your project.
By all means, if you see a similar project you like, inquire who did the work. “Every time Andrea saw a porch she liked, she asked who did the work, then endured torrents of stories about missed deadlines, shoddy work, shoddy materials, and other mishaps,” Altreuter laments. But they kept asking.
Because, in the end, word of mouth is the best referral, and that’s Altreuter ultimately found Jim Reddin, who was hands on, genial, and good as his word when he told said they’d be entertaining guests on our porch by midsummer. “A contractor is close to being a houseguest for the duration of the project,” says Altreuter, “so we were happy to find one who cleaned up after the day’s work and was dependably on time.”—DONNA HOKE