A little over three years ago I was faced with a big decision. I had a badly deteriorating deck and I knew if I didn’t replace it then, I would surely have to replace it before I ever listed my house to sell one day. How often do we do that…wait until it’s time to move before we fix things or make improvements we’ve dreamed of for years? Then it’s the next homeowner who gets to enjoy our hard work. If you’ve been putting off a little home renovation dream, don’t wait until it’s time to move. Do it for you and enjoy it now.
My deck had lots of issues. Boards were popping up and splintering and the previous homeowners had added an addition that was a drop off from the original deck. It was really a hazard and was just an example of poor planning and design.
Also, the steps stuck out into the center of the yard and took up a lot of space in addition to just being unattractive. It was clear the best course of action would be to tear off the old deck and start from scratch.
As I began the process of getting estimates for the porch, I immersed myself in all things “porch” by reading books about porches and searching online for pictures and ideas.
In the end it was clear, I wanted a traditional porch with an old fashioned porch feel…the kind of porch where you could spend lazy afternoons sipping sweet iced tea with friends or alone, reading, napping and enjoying the breezes.
Now, I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on everything you need to know about adding on a screened-in porch, but since it’s springtime and porch time, I thought I’d share what I have learned and have come to value in a porch in hopes it will prove helpful for you.
As I always say, please take what you can use from this post–what suits your needs, then just discard the rest. The porch of your dreams may look very different from the one I added, but hopefully you’ll glean a few new ideas from my experience.
As with any renovation or addition, the most important place to start is by sitting down and making a list of how you want your new space to function once you’re done. How do you plan to use the space? What activities will take place there? What needs do you want this space to meet?
When I began planning the addition of my porch, my list included:
1. Lots of seating
2. Roomy enough for friends and family
2. A place to dine
3. No mosquitoes or bugs getting in
4. Soft lighting for evening time
5. Ceiling fans
Looking at my list, you’ll see my plans for this space were pretty basic…nothing too out of the ordinary. While I was in my research phase, I saw porches with wide screen TVs and Jacuzzis. Though, those weren’t features I wanted for my porch, they may be features you would like. Dream big when you’re making your list. You can always scale back your plans later if needed.
It’s important to read and research a lot in the planning stage because you don’t want to spend money adding a screened-in porch to realize later you left out something you really wanted. As you read and research, jot down ideas and questions so you’ll have a list once you start getting estimates for your addition.
I’ve been asked before why I didn’t add on a sun room. That’s a little like asking a person why they bought a convertible car when they could have had a hardtop. I really wanted a porch, not another cooled and heated space. I do love sun rooms, but that just wasn’t what I wanted. Now that I’ve had a screened-in porch, I’m totally ruined; I never want to be without one again. That’s what a porch will do to you!
I could write volumes about all the things I learned in the process of adding on a screened-in porch, but today I thought I’d share 9 of my most loved features for a porch.
Size is pretty important when designing a screened-in porch. My deck was 18 feet long and only 12 feet deep, which seemed deep enough. The contractor I used encouraged me to build my porch 2 feet deeper making it 14 feet deep. I’m so glad he did. He told me he had never had anyone call him back and say they wished their porch was smaller, but that folks always regretted if they had gone too small in their design.
There are a number of options for porch flooring. I avoided regular decking because there are always gaps between the boards which means you’ll need to screen under the flooring to keep all the bugs out. Yep, folks do screen under the flooring; I’ve seen it under screened porches while on house tours.
I wanted my porch to feel more like an extension of the house, like a room that just happened to be outdoors, so I went with tongue and groove KDAT wood. KDAT stands for Kiln Dried After Treatment. Just “Google” KDAT flooring and you can read all about it.
My contractor originally tried to convince me to use tile. A tiled floor was not at all in keeping with the feel I had envisioned for the porch. I wanted an old fashioned looking porch floor. He did talk me out of painting the flooring and staining it, instead. I still love the look of a painted porch floor, too. I even like it when they start to show some wear and look a little worn.
Staining the flooring created a really nice transition from the inside of my home to the porch. My contractor had my flooring professionally installed by a flooring company and they glued and nailed it down to ensure it didn’t warp in the humidity we have during the summer months. He also used a really heavy-duty subflooring underneath it for extra stability. If you use KDAT wood for a porch floor, just follow their recommendations for installation.
One of my favorite features on my porch is a dining area. Meals just taste better out on the porch. I recommend allowing room for a table that will seat at least 4, preferably 6 or even 8. Just imagine all the breakfasts, cookouts and dinner parties you can have with friends and family out on the porch. (This tablescape can be viewed here: Summer Dining, Alfresco)
If you’ve allowed room for a dining space, put a piece of furniture out on the porch for storing the china you’ll be using every day. It will make it really easy to dine outside whenever you’re in the mood.
You may need to take things out each spring and give them a quick wash for the season, but it really comes in handy having a cabinet close at hand for storage.
This piece was only $95 at a local antique store and I painted it with an exterior grade paint like the paint store recommended. It’s still holding up well and it has been through some bitter winters and super hot and humid summers. You’ll find that tutorial here: Painting Furniture: A China Hutch Transformation.
You gotta have ceiling fans. Not only do they caress you with cool breezes, they add so much ambiance and romance to the porch. Even when it’s not that hot outside, I’ll turn on the fans at their lowest setting just to enjoy their slow movement as they gently circle overhead. One fan is good, two is even better if it’s a good size porch.
Be sure to buy “exterior” grade fans. You can get away with interior grade fans…for about a year. But before long, the heat and humidity will cause the blades to droop. It’s not a pretty sight when that happens. Also, the housing and inner parts of the fan may rust and cease to work. Exterior grade fans don’t cost that much more and are the smarter way to go. They come in a gazillion styles. I found these Hunter fan online at Lowe’s with a wicker look to go with my wicker furniture. (I think the name of this fan is Bayview.)
Lighting is so important in any space, be it indoors or out. I’m not a big fan of overhead lighting, but I love lamp light. When I designed the porch, I ask my contractor to include a lot of outlets and I told him I didn’t want any overhead lighting. I think he thought I was crazy.
It added some additional expense to the cost of the porch, but it was so worth it. I have four outlets on the porch itself. One outlet was already on the wall behind the hutch, the other three were added. That’s how I get the soft lamp lighting in the evening. If you’re wondering about rain and having outlets on the porch, just check my FAQ at the top of the sidebar.
Out on the decks, the outlets have special covers over them and they work great.
That’s how I was able to create this tablescape on the deck. This outlet is located under the window. (Tablescape can be viewed here: Romantic Table for Two.)
I also use it for a froggy fountain I put out occasionally. There are two more outlets on this deck. One is for the gas grill because it has a light inside and the other was for lighting I had strung around under the handrail. They also come in handy for plugging in electric blowers when you need to blow off the deck.
The only thing better than decompressing under swirling fans on a screened-in porch is doing it to the sound of James Taylor or Michael Bublé singing your favorite songs. This is your chance. You’re adding on a porch, pre-wire that baby right up front for some great outdoor speakers.
I had the porch pre-wired and a speaker placed over each door leading out to the decks. You can also hear and enjoy the music while on the decks. Again, make sure you use speakers designed for the outdoors; regular speakers won’t hold up.
I’ve never been much of a swing person, or, at least I thought I wasn’t. I like to be stationary when I’m sitting–not real crazy about swaying to-and-fro. But the porch had a spot that was the perfect size for a swing due to the fireplace box that juts out into the porch.
I knew I wanted a seating group in that area. A swing seemed like a great way to finish out the seating instead of just having another settee or more chairs.
Now about this swing thing, be forewarned: swings are people magnets. Your guests will totally gravitate to it. It’s always the first place they head. When I have friends over for a cookout or party, someone always goes for the swing and stakes it out before anyone else gets a chance. You may not be a big swing person, but your guests will be. You can count on it. A swings adds something special to a porch. It’s hard to describe. You need a swing.
I saved this for last because it’s not always something you can design into a porch, but I recommend it if you can. If you have the room and your house will allow, go “up” in your design. Raise the ceiling. It will make a smaller porch feel much bigger, plus it really helps the porch feel even cooler. Height will add to that airy, summer-breeze feeling you are seeking out on a porch.
If you’re thinking about adding a porch, go for it. It may just become your favorite “room” in your home.
If you have any questions about the porch, please check the FAQ at the top of the sidebar. If you would like a breakdown on how much it cost to add this screened porch to my home, you’ll find that in this follow-up post: Screened-in Porches: How Much Do They Cost To Build
Also, you’ll find a post I created answering some of those most frequently receive questions here: Springtime Means Porchtime: Answers to Your Most FAQ.
If you don’t find the information you need, feel free to e-mail me at betweennapsontheporchatgmaildotcom. It may take me a few days to get back, but I’ll do my best to respond.
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