I was recently asked to repair the front porch of a 100-year-old house in Medford, Mass. Though handsome, with turned wood columns and nice details, the porch had seen better days. Another contractor had done some work on the deck about 20 years earlier, but because those repairs had trapped water rather than allowing it to drain, there was a lot of rot.

Fortunately, the roof structure was still completely sound. We supported it securely with double 2x10 braces, then went to work removing the handrails, columns, and pedestals and pulling up the mahogany deck boards. Most of the decking was sound enough to reuse, but the understructure was badly rotted. We also found that the footings were...

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