Answers from Glen: questions about basement leaks and new porches

This is the first article in the new Ask Glen! column, where readers can submit questions to local Petworth contractor Glen Sperling of Harmony Remodeling and get answers.

Today we look at a leaky basement and a new porch. 

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Gentle reminder: Glen is offering advice, but always hire a qualified professional. This column isn't an opportunity to hire Glen. He's really busy, because he's really awesome. But he does have time to answer your questions...


Leaky Basement 
David wrote to ask about a leak in his basement that appears when it rains.

A leaky basement (photo: mrwynd)

"I have a leak from rain into my basement. What are the key questions I should ask as I consider contractors for a fix?"

Glen Says...

Well, assuming it is a row house, then the first things to look at are always gutters, downspouts and exterior drains.

Most water enters due to one or all of these three failing! If it is a detached house, then in addition, I would look at landscaping as a source of problems. Most companies want to waterproof from the inside by installing French drains and a sump pump as their first choice at solving the problem. While many times this is a solid solution, I think first you need to look at where the water is coming from and start looking at solving the problem from that perspective before going to the expense of internal drainage solutions.


Time to Fix the Porch
Leilah writes to ask about putting a porch back on an old row house.

When it's time to build a new porch...

We recently moved into a duplex/twin-style brick row house and it seems the porch roof/overhang was removed in an earlier renovation. We can still see the lines in the brick where it used to be. My guess is that it was in bad shape and the owners decided to pull it down rather than fix it. We love the classic covered porches of DC rowhouses and would love to one day put a roof back on the porch to restore the house to its original glory. How does one go about this?! What type of professionals do we need to hire - general contractor, roofer, mason, something else? And what is the cost range for a project like this?  

Glen Says... 

A good GC should be able to handle all the aspects involved. If you are not in a historic district, then it is pretty straightforward. Get a design and a set of plans (yeah, you'll need an architect) and a building permit from DCRA.  

As you have no doubt noticed, there are a pretty wide variety of front porches. Some with brick columns, some with wood columns, some with concrete porch decks and some with wood. You'll also see mixed with some porches having metal railings and some with wood (although originally, they almost all had wood railings).  

For an entirely new front porch, expect a cost of $20,000-30,000 depending on the type of columns and railings and porch top (and yeah, you need to add the cost of plans/permit to that).

I always suggest staying in a style that fits your block/neighborhood. That makes you a good neighbor and won’t make your house stand out in a negative way. I can tell you whenever we have done a new front porch, we always get lots of ohhhs and ahhhs, because it makes for great “curb appeal” and adds value to your home! Not to mention, it makes for a great place to hang out ;-)

Have a question about home renovation or fix-it projects? Ask Glen! >