So you have decided to invest in your home and add a porch to make an outdoor living room. Whether this is on a deck or a patio there are some things to consider before the first nail is driven into wood that can make a huge difference in how you enjoy your soon to be new favorite room. Consider these 8 things when you plan your porch and you'll have a room you and enjoy year round.
1. Gable or shed roof
There are essentially two types of roofs that are most popular on porches (shed and gable). A shed roof has one flat section that usually pitches away from the house and is ideal when there are low windows on the existing house that make it hard to get height inside the porch. A gable roof is usually the preferred option as it looks like an A frame and allows for more dramatic and higher ceiling heights. Keep in mind a gable roof is more expensive to build than a simple shed.
2. Open or screens
Only you as the homeowner can answer this correctly as it depends on your needs and wants here, but consider that a screen porch is best if you are near standing water or in an area where bugs are problem. Usually the support posts are spaced closer together with a screen porch and some maintenance is involved to keep them tight and looking good over the years. An open porch, while it doesn't protect you from the bugs, can give you a more open view of your back yard which is especially nice if you have pool or nice view from the porch.
We always install some type of electrical items in a porch to make is feel more like a room, but a few to consider are can lights, wall sconces, TV's, speakers, flood lights and electrical outlets. Each of these can give you a few of the creature comforts your are used to on the rooms on inside.
4. Fans or heat
In many parts of the country a porch can be used almost 12 months of the year. To make it more of a guarantee you can use ceiling fans to help cool in the summer months and heaters in the winter time. If you spend a little extra money and get an fan that is made for outdoors it will have a steeper blade angle and help push more air. Sometimes a simple table top heater is all you need, but you can also get permanent heaters that can heat the entire room. Remember that additional electrical requirements will be needed with a fixed heat unit.
Some people will say you can never go too big on a porch, but you certainly can go to small. Our recommendation is to keep the square footage of your porch at least 200 sf or more. An ideal size for a porch is between 350-500 sf as there is usually enough room for a variety of furniture options. Try to keep the depth of the porch at least 12' from the house so there is a natural traffic flow around the room.
Many of the custom things that are done to a porch are with the finishing touches. Things like decorative posts, crown moulding, fireplaces, and TV units all add a decorative touch to the room. When deciding how to finish your porch take a look at the space around it and try and match as many elements as you can on the house so that the new room looks like it was built with the house. Don't make the porch overly ornate if your existing house isn't the same so that the new outdoor room will make the finishes on the house.
7. Railings vs. Solid knee wall
There are two ways to make the walls on a porch and still meet code requirements. If you are over 30" in most areas you will need a railing or wall of some kind to prevent people from falling. Railings are a nice way to tie in an attached deck and keep the look consistent. A knee wall is a nice way to add privacy to the porch and also gives the space more of a room feeling with a 36" wall.
8. Paint vs. stain
We have seen that the trend recently has been to incorporate more paint than stain on your porch to allow it to flow better with your house. If you have a cabin or wooded lot you should consider using more wood and stain to keep the outdoor feel. If you are in a residential neighborhood, more of painted look is a better option and using stain on the floor or ceiling is a good way to tie in the outdoors.
Now that you have considered a few key elements of building a porch its time to make some decisions on exactly how you want your porch to look. If you haven't already check out the various deck galleries on contractors sites or look at websites like www.pintrest.com and www.houzz.com for more inspirational ideas. Click here to view our gallery of porches for more ideas.
If you are working with a contractor to build your porch, make sure and communicate your thoughts and ideas to see how it impacts the build schedule, price and get feedback from him or her on how to best incorporate into your plans.
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