The building inspector insisted that we use large plastic Bigfoot footing forms under the porch. Beneath the pergola, we used smaller cardboard Sonatubes. I spent a week waking up at four in the morning to get shoulder-deep in dirt and dig out the 3-foot-wide holes for the Bigfoots. But I was grateful we used such beefy footings when we got 4 feet of snow that winter.
Even more fortunately, my wife insisted that her contractor brother-in-law, Bruce Dinwiddie, come to help. In five days, he worked more than 80 hours. Then he drove from Cape Cod on the weekends to oversee my plans, tweak the design to meet building code, and supply the right tools. He's kind of an animal when it comes to his work. Together, we put up the framing, grappling with the fiberglass columns in order to slide them over 16-foot-tall 4x4 posts. We bolted notched 4x4s onto the joists before the roof deck was laid to serve as the posts for the deck's balusters and railings; to keep rain from pooling up there, we ripped a 3-inch pitch into the header beams with a circular saw. While the home's walls were exposed, I wired in about a dozen new outdoor and indoor light fixtures. For extra bug control, I crawled under the porch framing to tack on screening under the newly laid mahogany floor.