Longer days and warmer temperatures beckon homeowners to their porches, but if the porches aren’t up to par, adding retractable screens, TVs, dimmable lights, surround sound, fireplaces and other amenities can make a big difference.
Spending anywhere from less than $5,000 to more than $100,000 can give a greater purpose to porches that otherwise would collect dust, dirt and of course, that pesky yellow pollen.
When porches are screened and planned to protect against the elements, they can connect an indoor and outdoor space, offering more room for everyday use and entertaining.
Touches such as coffered ceilings, corbels and columns can customize a home and give it an extra dose of charm - and help you avoid mosquitoes — while enjoying the outdoors, said Rob Lord, owner of Quality Homeworks.
Four recent porch projects, for different budgets, show how builders and architects are making the porch an important part of the home.
Less than $25,000
The porch: When general contractor ESD Homes renovated an intown Atlanta home, which was built in 1960s, it also fulfilled the homeowner’s request to add a porch to the home. “Most people like to try to spend as much time as they can outdoors because of our climate,” said Liz Davies, managing director of ESD Homes, based in Atlanta. “A porch gives you a little more flexibility. If it’s raining outside, you can be under cover. The screened part of it for the summer is great, for bugs.”
The porch is located where a greenhouse used to sit, which provided a footprint. The floor is a tile that looks like hardwood but is easier to clean, Davies said. The porch, which is about 19 feet long by 12 feet, has speakers and wainscoting on the ceiling, for an extra detail.
Staying true to the home: Working with Atlanta architect Ross Piper, ESD Homes created a pattern on the porch (using cedar with a colored stain) that fits in with architectural details on the gate and fence. The corbels also mimic the design on an uncovered deck. “Whenever you’re thinking about a porch, it’s always a good idea to try to tie a porch in with the rest of the architectural details in and around the home,” Davis said. “The porch doesn’t look like an add-on; it’s a cohesive part of the home.” Also consider how your roof will tie into the home.
Big things to consider: When investing in a porch, you want to make sure it’s as easy as possible to keep clean. If the porch is oriented in direction or location that causes a lot of pollen, consider how you will be able to keep it tidy. In this project, the tile floor could be hosed off and the floor of the porch was sloped away from the home.
The porch: Since the deck of the Alpharetta home was rotting, remodeling and renovation firm Weidmann & Associates removed the wood and used a PVC decking material, which offers low maintenance and durability, said Dan Weidmann, owner of Weidmann & Associates, based in Roswell. A key feature was adding retractable screens, by Alpharetta-based ECC-CoolScreens, which can be lowered to offer protection from bad weather.
Staying true to the home: The project, which took a couple of months, changed the location of the stairs and built the porch around the stairs. The budget was less because it used the existing deck framing and didn’t change the size of the porch.
Big things to consider: Incorporating non-wood products, such as cable handrails or a composite material such as decking or trim, can be less maintenance than wood when they are exposed to the weather and other elements, Weidmann said. Those choices, as well as other wood options, such as cedar or Brazilian hardwood, can increase the cost of a porch, but they’re more durable.
The project: A new screened porch replaced an existing wooden deck on a Roswell home. “They wanted to be able to use it more than just when weather was cooperating,” Weidmann said. A sloped ceiling is a key feature of the porch, which has recessed lighting and surround sound. Fireplaces were added to the porch and patio below it, which has a tile floor. The height of the porch also required safety railings, so a black stainless steel cable system was used that wouldn’t detract as much from the views. The project took about four to five months.
Staying true to the home: Although the home was stucco, cedar woodwork was brought into the second-story screened porch to create a more rustic look that the homeowners were seeking. The size of the porch typically is driven by the size of the lot and the size of interior rooms, but could be as small as 10 by 10 and as large as 20 by 30, he said.
Big things to consider: Homeowners should not only think about the purpose of the porch, but think about how it will relate to the overall home, Weidmann said. Ask yourself (and your architect and builder): How is it going to integrate with the inside of the home as well as the flow to the backyard? How will it tie into the home’s upper and lower levels?
The project: The screened porch was part of a three-story outdoor lanai-style addition to a Virginia-Highland home, which was the largest porch project ever done by FrontPorch, an Atlanta-based residential construction firm. “Everybody is asking about porches now,” said Curtis Peart, a principal with FrontPorch. “When people think about themselves living in a house, they think about outdoor spaces much more than they used to.”
The ground floor previously had a patio with a hot tub, the second floor (from the back) was a deck, and the third floor had a small balcony that wasn’t big enough for seating. The home, built in the 1920s, now has a four-season room on the ground floor, a second-level screened porch and an expanded third-floor balcony, which has room for lounge chairs. The project took about three months.
Staying true to the home: Bi-fold doors, from Atlanta Specialty Millwork, open the basement to the new hot tub and backyard. “If you just stick a screened porch off the back of the house and there’s not a good connection to a screened porch, people tend not to use it,” Peart said. A tile floor on the porch also has a waterproof system (by the Noble Co.) to protect the bottom level.
The big things to consider: Do you want to go with traditional screens or do you desire a more versatile porch? The second level was outfitted with retractable, remote-controlled screens, from Phantom Screens, that still protect against insects, the sun’s heat and privacy. The disappearing screens are customized to the space and can be recessed in the walls.