Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
Our Decision to Double Glaze
When we bought our house, it was already double glazed, albeit with aluminium windows, which by today’s standards are not as efficient at heat conservation than the modern uPVC units.
Nevertheless, it was double glazing, and it kept the warmth in during the winter months, so we were in no hurry to upgrade it to the more modern more energy-efficient windows. Albeit all our exterior doors were old wooden doors that let a lot of draughts through.
We replaced the back door ourselves for a modern uPVC French door when we relocated it in the kitchen, and more recently did the same thing with the living room door leading out onto our patio when I built the conservatory, but we didn’t replace the front doors because the porch kept a lot of the draughts out.
As regards the windows themselves, the big national double glazing companies overcharge so if you already have double glazing it’s not economically viable to upgrade them. However, the small local companies only charge labour costs and material, and therefore work out a lot cheaper. The question is to find a local company with a good reputation; something I wasn’t in a hurry to do.
Nevertheless, I did come across a local company that had a good reputation and I thought I would ask them for a free quote. The quote they gave was extremely reasonable; therefore we decided to hire them to replace all the windows in just the house itself (but not the porch).
They did such an excellent job, and it’s made a significance to the comfort of the home e.g. I’ve been able to turn the heating down during the winter, saving about 10% on our heating bill. In fact, we were so impressed with the service, price and quality of work, that we decided we would ask for another quote to upgrade the windows and doors in the front porch; and at the same time replace a couple of second-hand windows in the conservatory.
Again, the quote from Caddy Windows, Bristol was very reasonable, and consequently we made the decision to double glaze our porch.
Useful Tips on Design and Cost of Porches
Having decided to have our porch double glazed, although I’d recently did a makeover and some renovations in the porch there were a few ancillary jobs that would need to be done in association with the double glazing; namely:
- Vent between the house and the porch.
- Recessing the ceiling light to give clearance for the new interior porch door.
- Striping the paint from the interior door sub sill and wood staining it to blend in with the new doors.
- Rewiring the doorbells.
- Touching up as necessary following the installation of the new windows and doors.
- Reinstating the house number on the outside.
I tackled each of these tasks as follows.
How Important Is Double Glazing to Your Porch
Finding the Right Air Vent Solution
The interior door being replaced was draughty (summer and winter) so ventilation wasn’t an issue. However, with the new door being a snug draught free fit I wanted some way to get air flow between the porch and house during the summer to help keep the house cooler e.g. in the UK we don’t have air cooling systems in our homes. The nearest we have to air conditioning in British homes is opening windows when it gets hot.
The first and easiest option would have been an air vent above the inner porch door; which is quite a common option when installing new exterior doors in the home. However, as the porch ceiling is quite low and we decided to have the inner door open outwards into the porch rather than into the house there wouldn’t be enough clearance for a vent above the door.
The old door being replaced opened inwards into the house and blocked access to the dining room and kitchen. Therefore, by having the new door open into the porch it would mean we would have access to the dining room and kitchen from the porch and living room when the door was open; so that in future we’d be able to take shopping straight from the car straight into the kitchen without having to first dump it into the living room and then carry it from there into the kitchen once the porch door was closed.
However, there was an old pipe going through the wall from the porch to the house that used to be for the gas supply. Prior to having our gas central heating modernised the gas board re-routed the gas supply to underneath the floorboards from the outside; making this access point redundant. At the time I plastered over it, but now I’m looking for a way to vent between the house and porch, this blocked hole would be ideal.
Having decided to use the old gas inlet through the wall as a means for an air vent from the porch, the next decision was how to put this into effect; the main considerations being:
- The old gas inlet is inside a cupboard in the porch.
- Any solutions would need to be aesthetically pleasing.
After sitting down with a good cup of coffee and contemplating this for a while, I decided to:
- Unblock the old gas inlet pipe through the wall.
- Block off the end of the cupboard space adjacent to the house wall.
- Add additional insulation inside the blocked-off area.
- Add a vent cover on the outside to the porch.
- Fit a decorative vent cover over the hole in the house.
The existing cupboard is part of a built in shoe rack, after unblocking the old gas inlet pipe, to complete the next step was to:
- Remove the slats for the shoes.
- Carefully measure the height and depth of the cupboard to cut and fit a dividing panel.
- Add insulation in the bottom.
Being an old porch it’s not as well insulated as it could be, so every bit of additional insulation helps. In this respect I decided to add several layers of expanding foam to the floor of the newly enclosed space; below the access point of the old gas inlet. I considered this to be a cheap and quite effective solution in that the floor is uninsulated and the back wall of the cupboard space is north facing and only has a minimum of insulation.
To hold the expanding foam in place while it was setting I temporarily fixed a piece of scrap wood to the base of the opening.
While the expanding foam was setting I then:
- Measured the opening to cut and fit the front panel; fixing it in place with battens.
- Cut a hole in the front panel to fit the air vent.
As I was fitting the air vent sideways, to keep it open during the summer months I found a nylon bolt, amongst my store of bits and pieces in my workshop, which conveniently slips into one of the vent holes. During the winter months (when the vent isn’t needed) I just take the bolt out of the vent and push it into a hole I drilled into the front panel; for safe keeping until the summer.
For the air vent in the house I sourced a vent cover on Amazon (designed for larders) that was just the right size to conveniently fit over the old gas inlet pipe; glued into place with a bead of silicone around the edges. Then we can make good around the air vent when we redecorate the hall and stairs.
Once all this was done, all that remained was to shorten the slats for the shoe rack, refit them; and then cut the sliding door down to size and refit that.
Recessing Porch Ceiling Light
To Give Clearance for the New Door
Our decision for the new door open outwards, into the porch, rather than inwards into the house, meant that because of the low porch ceiling that prior to the start of works I would need to replace the existing light fitting with a recessed light.
Not being green by nature I would have been happy with a recessed 60w halogen light. However, as I’d recently insulated the roof space halogen lighting wasn’t an option because of the heat it generates e.g. fire risk. Therefore I opted for a 4w LED spotlight, which for the porch gives more than sufficient lighting, and with not generating the heat was a perfectly safe solution; plus the big bonus is that it does save on the electricity bill.
Fitting the new light was easy enough; it was just a case of removing the old fitting, drilling a circular hole in the ceiling to fit the new recessed light and wiring it up. The only slight irritation being that under UK law, although you can do rewiring yourself it has to be checked by a fully qualified electrician before its reconnected to the mains; but then ‘safety first’ is in my view of paramount importance so I’m not complaining.
Inner Door Sub Sill
If it’s Not Broke Don’t Fix It
Although I asked for the exterior door sub sill to be replaced, I specifically made it clear in my brief to the double glazing company that I wanted to retain the existing sub sill for the inner door.
My reasoning being that it was good quality mahogany, and in perfect condition; albeit it was painted white by the previous owner.
Even the best laid plans can go wrong. Although most of the project went to plan, and ran smoothly with few issues, this door sub sill had a couple of hiccups; partly my fault, but not entirely.
Firstly, the wood was painted with white gloss, and ideally I prefer the look of natural wood; therefore if I thought about it I could have stripped the paint before the new door was installed. Albeit it’s not often I overlook something as simple as this during the planning stage of Project Management.
Secondly, although my written brief to the double glazing was perfectly clear that I was retaining this sub sill, the message didn’t filter down to the young chap that was tasked in replacing this door.
Rectifying Errors and Making Good
However, all was not lost. While I was in the living room enjoying a cup of coffee I heard someone sawing wood, and it didn’t sound like the door frame, it sounded like the sub sill e.g. a deeper, more bassy sound. Therefore I rushed out to the porch and stopped the young lad before he got too far. He was very apologetic, but I reassured him that no real harm had been done and that with a bit of wood filler would make it as good as new.
Once all the work had been finished and it was just touching up with a bit of paint and wood stain here and there it dawned on me that the sub sill would be better with the paint removed and wood stained.
Therefore, using a combination of the sander attachment on my SoniCrafter and the Dremel to get into the corners and edges, I stripped all the old paint off. I was intending to wood stain the sub sill, but once it was cleaned up, being mahogany, it was obvious that rubbing a bit of teak oil into the wood and giving it a good polish with a bit of bees wax would make it look really grand.
Rewiring a Doorbell
Replacing Like With Like
Being a porch, we don’t hear when people knock on the door, so a doorbell is essential. When we bought the house there was a battery operated doorbell on the outer door, with a basic chime in the hall, but I also wanted a bell on the inner door which people could use during the summer months if we decided to keep the outer porch door open. I also wanted to replace the battery operated chime with one wired into the mains, so there would be no risk of us not hearing people because the battery was dead. Therefore one of the first things I did after moving was to buy a new chimes to work from the mains, which plays 25 tunes (rather than the usual boring chimes) and to wire up a second doorbell in in parallel.
However, in having the new modern doors installed all the wiring and doorbells had to be ripped out; and replacing them was beyond the remit of the double glazing company. Therefore, once all the insulation work was complete, and before I touched up the décor, I completely rewired from scratch.
Previously, all the old wiring cable was visible, and looked rather unsightly. So on rewiring I decided all the cabling would be hidden. I also decided that I would do all the new wiring without drilling through the new doorframes, as to do so would invalidate the 10 year warranty.
Often these days’ doorbells are fixed to the exterior brick wall next to the door rather than through the doorframes, as they used to be. Obviously, being a porch there wasn’t an exterior wall next to the outer door however, because the window on the left side of the front door is angled at 45 degrees there was a natural gap between that window and door. To fill the gap the installers first packed it with expanding foam and then stuck uPVC stripping over the top. When they were doing this I had the foresight to ask them not to fit the stripping on the inside but to leave it for me to fit once I’d wired up the bell; so that I could hide the wiring inside. They were more than happy to do this, and they gave me a tube of brown coloured silicone (to match the rosewood colour of the doors and doorframe) for me to use for fitting the UPC strip when I was ready.
Making the Outer Doorbell Prominent
People approaching the porch from the road approached it from the left. Therefore when I did the initial renovation and replaced the door I hung it to open from the left. However, the old location for the doorbell was on the right. Consequently, people in a hurry, such as parcel deliveries tended not to see the bell; and often we missed the deliveries.
Therefore, when I wired to new doorbells, I rewired it on the left-hand side (to make it more prominent), and to emphasise the doorbell, the new ones I bought have the word ‘Press’ clearly printed on the bell push.
The materials I required to rewire the two doorbells were:
- Two doorbells (Georgian style with marble push button, with the word ‘Press’ printed on them).
- Existing door chime.
- 10 metres of bell wire (0.6mm).
- 5 amp terminal block.
- Remove the pine tongue and grove panelling next to the inner door to gain access to the wall behind. As the built-in cupboards were installed after the panelling, I used my SoniCrafter saw to neatly and quickly cut the bottom of the panel, where it met the window shelf above the cupboard. I was then able to ease the panels off one at a time to reveal the wall behind.
- Chase out channels in the plaster and brickwork in the hall along the route of the bell wire from the fuse box to the chimes, and then down to the wall by the door frame.
- Afterwards, plaster over to make good and to conceal the cabling.
- Drill a hole through the wall from the hall to the porch, to come out behind where the panelling will be, once it’s fixed back into place.
- Feed the bell wire through ducting from the fuse box to the chime and likewise from the chime down to the wall; and push the cable through the wall.
- Wire the bell wire to the terminal block and take two feeds off it; one for the exterior doorbell and a shorter one for the inner doorbell.
- Drill a hole the same size as the bell push in the wall panel where the bell is to be fitted and, from the other side, wire it up to the two bell wire cables (out and return wire).
- Drill a small hole in the top right hand corner of the last pine panel; and feed the required length of bell wire through (leaving ample excess).
- Replace all the wood panelling.
- Cut the required number of ducting to size, to fit around the top of the porch; just below the ceiling. I used self-adhesive D-Line Mini Trunking 16mm x 8 mm, which is ideal for audio, telecommunications cables and bell wire.
- Feed the bell wire through the ducting and stick the ducting in place.
- Finally, run the cable down next to the door frame to a suitable height, drill a small 4mm hole through the expanding foam and the uPVC strip on the outside, and push the cables through.
Having got this far it was just a case of drilling a suitable size hole in the UPC strip next to the door frame, wiring the outer doorbell and screwing it in place.
Before proceeding I did a practice run on a small bit of spare uPVC strip that was left over from when the new double glazed windows and doors were installed. Although I was confident in what I was doing, I only had one shot at this because unlike wood, UPC isn’t a material that can so easily be made good if it gets damaged. Having satisfied myself there would be no issues, I proceeded as planned and wired in the new doorbell with self-tapping screws.
When screwing into UPC you can’t just use ordinary screws; from the research I did self-tapping is the best type of screw to use, preferably screwing through the UPC into the aluminium frame beneath. However, as there was no aluminium frame to screw into I also used a little silicone in the screw holes and around the edge of the doorbell as extra adhesion.
Once all the wiring was done, it was just a case of making the final connection with the fuse box, which (under British law) should be done by a professionally qualified election; and then testing.
New House Number Plaque
Brass House Numbers
Included in the price for the front door were the brass house numbers. We had brass numbers on our old door, but as new ones they were included in the price of the door I wasn’t complaining.
Although it’s the installation company’s standard practice fit the numbers for the customer, I requested that they just gave me the numbers so that we could choice whether to actually fit them on the door or put them on a wall plague next to the porch.
After some deliberation my wife and I decided we would fix the numbers to a wooden plague on the house wall, rather than on the door itself.
Making and Fitting Wooden Plague
Initially we searched around the local garden centres and on the web for a suitable sawn log, as an ideal ‘rustic’ house number plate; but we didn’t find anything suitable. Therefore I decided to make my own.
Looking for suitable materials to use for the plague, I opted for a piece of decking because it’s pressure treated and therefore is going last for many years; and once its cut to shape and sanded would look, if not rustic then certainly quite cool.
Having decided on using decking, to make the plague I:
- Placed the numbers on the wood as a guide for size.
- Squared it off with a square.
- Rounded the corners with a 1L paint tin as a template.
- Cut it to shape and size with a jig saw.
- Smoothed the corners and surface with a belt sander.
- Slightly bevelled the edges with a router bit.
- Gave it a final sanding with an ordinary sander.
I then drilled two 4mm holes through the wood for the screws to fix it to the wall; and then drilled a countersink so the screw heads would be below the surface of the wood. Drilling the screw holes behind where the numbers would be fitted so the fixing screws would be hidden.
Then once the plaque had been screwed to the brickwork it was just a case of screwing the numbers on the plague.
Salvaging the Old Doors
When I gave my initial brief to the double glazing company I requested to retain the old doors so that I could recycle the wood. This they were more than happy to do as it saves them the expense and time to dispose of the old doors.
The exterior door (which is only softwood) I’ve stored in the back of my workshop for future use when I’m looking for timber to recycle in other DIY projects.
The inner porch door (which has a glass panel in it) is actually a good quality mahogany door, so I’ve already recycled it to replace a simple plywood door on my garden tool shed; which needed replacing.
One thing I didn’t ask for, and wasn’t quoted for, was the Fascia Boards. It’s not that I really needed them because the existing wooden ones were in good condition; and would have lasted for many years to come.
However, when I received the Invoice, at the very bottom next to the word ‘Free’ was uPVC Fascia Boards. So it was a real pleasant addition, which really finishes off the exterior of the porch nicely.
Free Bottle of Wine
A few days after Caddy Windows had completed the double glazing insulation of the porch they very nicely personally delivered a free bottle of wine; which my wife and I thought was a really nice touch.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 24, 2017:
Thanks Jo. Yes, Britain isn’t renowned for hot summers. Traditionally, at best we might expect a couple of hot weeks in July or August; albeit, since the 1980s (due to climate change) we are increasingly getting hotter summers (and milder winters).
Being a DIY addict I watch a lot of American DIY programmes on TV with my wife, and we’re always amazed at all the huge air ducts that seem to be threaded throughout the house; none of which we have in UK homes.
All we have in British homes these days is a small boiler (combi boiler) connected directly to the water mains (so there’s no separate water tank). The combi boiler is about 30 inches high, 18 inches wide and 12 inches in depth (so it doesn’t take up much space). The boiler has no pilot light so wastes no gas when not in use, but as soon as someone turns on a hot water tap, or the central heating comes on, the gas is electronically ignited and you have instant hot water e.g. the water is heated up to temperature as it flows through the pipes; albeit it can take a minute for the hot water to reach the tap or radiators.
During the winter months, when we have the central heating system on timer and thermostat, the boiler pumps the hot water to radiators in each room (through 15mm, 5 eighths of an inch, copper pipe); so the whole house can be kept at a comfortable ambient temperature using the minimal amount of gas possible, which gives the modern comb-boilers a high ‘A’ rated green credential on energy efficiency.
However, when it does get hot during the summer months, as we don’t have air conditioning our only real option is to open the windows to help keep the house cool; which I like as it’s nice to get fresh air flowing through the house during the summer. Although if it does get really hot we do also have a couple of electric fans that we can get down from the loft for a few weeks.
Combi Boilers Explained: https://youtu.be/TAhMCVjK3dk
Jo Miller from Tennessee on April 24, 2017:
I didn't realize UK homes didn't have air conditioning. I've stayed in a number of B & B's there, but always spring and fall, not hot summer time. Most Americans are addicted to air conditioning. I personally like open windows and can go without air conditioning until the hottest of the summer months. They can be brutal here in the south.
Enjoyed reading about your project as usual. Lovely porch.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on April 18, 2017: