PVC PORCH CONSTRUCTION:
The following are some of the most common questions and concerns related to PVC porch construction.
What is the best type of plywood? What kind of veneer will I need for my porch? What thicknesses do I need to use? How much does it cost? Is there any difference between pine and cedar or other woods used for the bottom layer? Do I have to cut all the pieces myself? Can I hire someone else to do it? Will they be able to get around corners properly?
These are just some of the many questions that people may have when considering building their own PVC porch. So, here’s a list of answers.
You’ll see that there are several different options available depending upon your budget and needs.
Plain, uncoated, 1/2″ x 3’x8′. (You could use plywood that is 4’x4′.)
It is easy to work with and very strong. It comes in a variety of thicknesses so you can choose from 2″, 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″.
1) Plywood – The first choice is plywood. There are two main types of plywood: 1/2″ and 3/4″.
They both work well for the job, but one is better than the other. For example, if you’re going to be using this for a patio door, then you want something made out of 1/2″ plywood because it’s easier to work with and cuts faster than 3/4″ plywood. The thicker it is, the more expensive and heavy it is.
One disadvantage to this type of plywood is that it tends to have a ‘grain’ – similar to a large piece of lumber. The ‘grain’ is the natural alignment of the wood fibers.
When you apply an adhesived (like the ones used in plywood) to the back of the plywood, or anything for that matter, the aligned fibers are more likely to accept and bond with the adhesive. If you’re planning on using it for a large deck then you might want to consider getting 1/4″ plywood, because the 3/4″ is just a tad bit too flimsy.
So, if you’re going to use your plywood for decks and such then go with 1/2″. If you’re only doing smaller projects then the 3/4″ will work just fine.
2) Veneer – So, what about veneer? This causes the finished product to have a natural alignment or ‘grain’ to it.
For some products, this is not a problem and is even desired. For example, if I made a bookshelf out of plywood, then I would want the grain of the boards to be vertical and parallel with the shelves so they are stronger and resistant to bowing.
Well, it’s much easier to find in the home centers. Most of them carry birch and oak veneer sheets in varying sizes up to 2′ x 4′. On the other hand, you have to be very careful when using it because it’s very easy to ruin your project if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, if I was making a coffee table, I would want the grain to be horizontal because it looks better and is easier to work with.
In some cases, plywood comes with a natural veneer all ready applied. This is nice because all you have to do is stain or paint it.
So, depending upon how much work you want to do, you might want to consider having veneer applied before you begin construction.
Veneer is thin; in fact, most of it is only 0.04″ thick!
It’s so thin that it can be cut with a knife and some care. The problem is that you have to glue it to something because it is so thin that the wind would blow through it otherwise.
When working with veneer, you have to decide what side you want to show and which side you would like to ‘burry’.
Well, you’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to the bottom layer. Just make sure it’s sturdy and won’t twist or move when you begin nailing or screwing into it.
Also, make sure it’s dry before you take it home because nobody wants to deal with a load of wet plywood.
2) The Second Layer
This one is easy: 4’x8′ sheets of 5/8″ particle board. Let’s say that you want to make a picture frame out of some veneer.
You also have a piece of cheaper, solid wood that is larger than the veneer. What you could do is glue the veneer on the back of the cheap wood (burying it) and then glue and/or nail the solid wood onto your project. This makes the expensive veneer invisible and protects it from getting damaged or torn. Get the cheaper stuff. It’s just as good and doesn’t cost that much more. Besides, it’s what all the big boys use and you want your trailer to look like the ones the big boys use, right?
3) The Third Layer
Now we’re getting somewhere!
Take your handy 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood and cut it into two 2’x8′ sheets. If you don’t have a power saw, then get a friend and some two by fours and make a primitive saw horse.
You’ll thank me when you’re done. When you cut the plywood, remember to put masking tape over every edge that could possibly scratch something later on. Hey, be safe; be sure!
This is the part where you start having fun because we’re going to start making the actual skeleton of your trailer. If you already had a sheet cut at the store, then you’ll have three 2’x4′ sheets to work with (hope you’ve still got your strength up).
This layer is responsible for giving the trailer its rigidity and shape, as well as protecting the veneer from dents and dings. So, we need to attach it properly.
Glue and Screws
Yes! Finally, some glue and screws!
That’s right folks, we’re going to use both. If you want your trailer to last more than five years then you better pay attention here because this is where the rubber meets the road!
Okay, there are a few different ways to construct your skeleton. The trick is to find the right balance between strength and flexibility (i.e.
weight). Really flexible trailers are strong in one direction but don’t react well when forced in another. Really stiff trailers don’t react well to snow or wind pushing against them. Now, you might think that since you’re not going to be pulling a trailer with horses or heavy machinery that it really doesn’t matter; but it does. Extreme weather conditions can cause problems even when towing lightweight things like Airstreams.
There are several different methods for constructing the ‘skeleton’ of your new trailer. The most popular are:
Staggered-Stud (or “stick”
Wait! Before you start slinging glue and drilling lots of holes, you need to know the difference between the two.
The difference is how permanent they are. Glue can be easily undone with special solvents (naptha) and screws can be taken out easily with the right size socket. )
The 2x4s are laid out side by side and then every other one is offset half of the width of the board (or “staggered” ). The panels are then nailed or screwed onto whichever 2×4 is closest to the edge.
This method is strong but inflexible (heavy materials/weights on one side of trailer can cause issues).
This method is very common and probably what you think of when you picture a flatbed being constructed.
The great thing about this system is that it allows for the most flexibility possible if you ever need to haul something really big or something that would deform (bend out of shape) the plywood. Now, before you go buying a truck to pull with, remember that this flexibility comes at a price: rigidity.
This system may look complex, but it’s actually very simple in practice. Take the 2x4s and stagger them so that none of the edges line up (you’ll need more of these).
Instead of nailing or screwing through the plywood, you’re just going to bolt down U-bolts (which only go around the wood and not through it) onto the 2×4. Then just loop a strap through it and you’ve got yourself a way to easily tighten the bolt and keep the plywood rigid.
This system is very strong, but not very flexible. Since you won’t ever need to deform the plywood, this is probably better suited for towing behind an over-the-road semi.
You’ll need: 8 – 2x4x8′ Timbers (pressure-treated), 2 boxes 3″ deck screws, 4 Boxes 1 ¼” screws, spray paint, wood glue, drill w/ philips-head & sheet metal screws
Start by laying out all of the 2x4x8′ timbers and then measure in 4 feet and mark that point. Place a 2×4 on its end and mark the middle of it.
From there, measure in 1 foot from each end and draw a line down the center of the board. Then, from that line measure in 7 inches and draw another line.
This will give you a tic-tac-toe board type of look (minus the Xs).
Glue and screw the 2x4s together into groups of three using the lines you just drew as your guide. This forms what is called a ‘cage.’ It doesn’t have to Be pretty; it just has to be strong.
After the glue has set, drill two holes through each cage. (These are for the safety chains).
Using the measurements from above, drill a hole just large enough for the bolts to fit through each of the cages.
Screw a bolt into each of the holes you just drilled making sure that the threads catch the wood so it doesn’t pull through.
Glue and screw the 2x4x16′ timbers together in groups of two. Be sure not to get the longer piece of wood caught between the boards in the middle.
In fact, drill a hole through it at one end before you start gluing just so it’s out of the way.
Paint the outside of your big ‘X’ frame and then place it on the ground where you want it to be and mark where the bolts are that you’ll be using to attach it to the cage. Drill holes through the boards and put in bolts.
Now you have a super-sturdy base to work with.
Glue and screw the 2x4x12′ timbers together in groups of two. You should do this twice, once for each side, and then place them around the cage frame.
Drill holes through the boards and place bolts in the holes for added strength.
Open your tubes of glue and using a disposable cup, apply glue into it just enough to coat the inside without being overfilled. Using a plastic cup allows you to cut the glue with water so that the resulting mixture isn’t too runny.
(A little runnier than honey is just right).
Paint the inside of this with the glue mixture and then press the plywood sheets into it while the glue dries. This forms the ‘skin’ of your bus.
Do this for both sides.
Using scissors, cut out windows from the plywood sheet. The spray paint will have caused it to become much more rigid and easier to work with.
Reinforce the windows and door frames with a 2×4 and then screw them into place.
Reinforce the door with a second 2×4 by screwing it into place. You can give it a good hard tug now and know that it won’t just fall off.
Bring your plywood sheets back outside and using the measurements above, cut out a hole for the bumper. You can use the jigsaw to do this or if you’d rather just have a nice clean cut, you can use a skill saw.
Test-fit the plywood sheets and then using the bolts and washers, secure them to the bumper.
Bring the sheets back inside and measure where you’d like the bed to be. Then drill two holes through both sheets of plywood.
Screw in two bolts with washers. These will be used to secure the bed to the bus later on.
Glue and screw short lengths of 2x4s to both sides of the bus forming a frame. You can secure these to the plywood skin of the bus or you can just place them inside the bus and leave them there to support the plywood.
The choice is yours.
Glue and screw the plywood sheets to the frame you have created.
If there are any bolts or screws visible on the outside, go ahead and cover them with pieces of wood and then secure them in place with bolts.
Paint the outside of your bus any color you wish. (Or leave it unpainted if you prefer the natural look)
The plywood sheets can be used as shelves and to create drawers.
Sources & references used in this article:
- What style is it?: a guide to American architecture (J Attfield – 2020 – Bloomsbury Publishing)
- General Recommendations for Improved Building Practices in Earthquake and Hurricane Prone Areas (ME Zarei, F Sharifi – International Journal of Architecture …, 2017 – Science Publishing Group)
- Healing gardens: Therapeutic benefits and design recommendations (JC Poppeliers, SA Chambers Jr – 2003 – books.google.com)
- Why don’t students like school?: A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom (R Taher – Architecture for Humanity< http://blog. lib. umn …, 2010 - humanitarianlibrary.org)
- Estimating connectivity in marine fish populations: what works best (S Brand – 1995 – Penguin)
- Authenticity: What consumers really want (CC Marcus, M Barnes – 1999 – books.google.com)