When I first moved into my home over twenty years ago, it did not have a front porch. It looked very much like all the other homes in this neighborhood. In the early 80’s when the homes in my neighborhood were all being built, porches were not a feature for which homeowners were clamoring.
Over the years as I welcomed friends and family into my home, I began to think more and more about adding on a front porch. Driving around and seeing other homes with porches had long ago convinced me of their curb appeal but I had practical reasons for wanting a porch, as well.
A porch would provide a safe place for package delivery instead of leaving them outside in the rain all day while I worked away from home. It would give visiting friends and family a place to stand out of the weather on rainy days until I could get to the door to let them in. And yes, I loved the curb appeal it would give, improving on the plain, nondescript appearance of my home.
Back in the day when I used to subscribe to a lot of magazines, one of my favorites was Southern Homes. Unfortunately, it has gone the way of so many magazines and is no longer in publication. One day while flipping through Southern Homes, I came across this photograph of a historic home on Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. The minute I saw it, I knew I had found my porch!
You know how some folks can go into a furniture store, choose a sofa frame, select a fabric, then order the sofa with full confidence they’re going to love it when it arrives? Yeah, well, I’m not one of those folks. Before I embark on a project of any significance, i.e., one that’s going to cost $ and I’ll be living with a long time, I have to actually see something–anything–that will give me a really good idea how it’s going to look when finished. I won’t even buy a sofa unless I can at least see a chair covered in the same fabric.
This photo of the home at Gainesway Farm was just the inspiration I needed. I gently tore the page from the magazine and filed it away in my dream folder. No Pinterest back in those days. 🙂
Photo above and below are by Pieter Estersohn
Over the years I would occasionally refer back to the picture and each time my reaction was immediate and the same, I loved this porch! It really helped that I could see it on a home with a similar facade as my own. Though my home isn’t near as large or grand as this one at historic Gainesway Farm, the front of the home was similar enough I could envision how the porch would look on my home.
That day finally arrived in October 2007 when construction began on the porch. The push I needed to get going came from a large hole that had developed in the top left corner of the pediment over the front door. I called a carpenter out to repair it when it was about half the size it was in the photo below. He told me it couldn’t be repaired and advised replacing it with a new pediment. I had always loved that pediment so I decided if it couldn’t be saved, I’d rather build the porch I had been dreaming of for so long.
I posted about this porch addition back in 2008, just a few months after I first began blogging. Over the years I’ve continued to receive emails and questions about the porch. Readers have asked for more information about the dimensions, how the porch was constructed and the costs to build it. It’s taken me a while but here’s the post you’ve been asking for…finally! Sorry it’s taken me so long to put it together. I hope this post will prove helpful for anyone who is contemplating adding a similar porch to their home.
Removing & Building a New Foundation/Stoop
I wish I had thought to take a “Before” picture before the brick mason removed the old brick stoop. I wasn’t blogging back then and truthfully I’m amazed I thought to take any photos at all. Please forgive the blurriness you’ll see in a couple of the photos in this post. My photography skills were sorely lacking back in 2007. Though a couple of the photos are blurry, I’ve used them in the post because they show details that may prove helpful if you would like to add a similar porch to your home.
It was obvious from the start that a new porch stoop or base would need to be built. The one I had was way too small for the porch I envisioned. My contractor brought in a really great brick mason and he got to work. He tore out the existing porch stoop and went to work building a new foundation.
Though I didn’t think to take a photo of the old stoop, you can see its shadow in the photo below. It was attractive with an 80’s tile design that I actually kind of liked but it had to go to make way for the larger porch. You’ll notice the wood on the bottom of the decorative “columns” on either side of the door were showing signs of rot. The last time the house was painted, those were replaced. Whatever wood they used had rotted again. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day around here! A porch overhead would be a permanent solution to this issue, too.
This is how the brick mason built the porch foundation. You can see he created a cement slab on which he lay cement blocks.
He was shocked at how little support had been underneath my previous porch when he removed it. This one was going to be solid and a much better built porch. It’s been seven years but I can still remember how he explained the importance of building the porch with a gentle slope away from the house, ensuring any water that found its way onto the porch during a heavy, blowing rain would not be left standing where it could flow back and pool against the house.
Here’s how the porch stoop/base looked upon completion. It measures exactly 10 feet wide (side to side) and 7 feet, 3 inches deep (front to back).
Initially when my contractor and I began discussing the size of the porch, we talked about making it 4′ 6″ deep by 10 foot wide. That wasn’t as big as what I envisioned so he increased the size to 6 ft x 10 ft. I was still worried that wouldn’t be large enough so we bumped it up one more time, finally settling on the size it is today which 7′ 3 ” deep (front to back) and 10 foot wide. Those extra inches/feet only added $375 to the beginning estimate for the porch.
My advice: Don’t skimp on the size of your porch. You’re going to live with it for many years, maybe forever. So be sure to get the size you really want, even if it means spending a few more dollars in the end. You’ll thank yourself later!
I knew there would be no way we could exactly match the brick on my then 24-year-old home so I choose a herringbone pattern for the porch hoping to make it less obvious the bricks were not the same.
Now that the stoop was in place, it was time to build the porch overhead. Sorry this photo is so blurry, I wanted to include it in this post since it shows details of the construction of the roof of the porch before it was closed in on the sides. You’ll see a photo of the underside in just a second. I’ve never shared these photos on the blog before so hopefully they will prove helpful.
One of the features I had most loved about the porch at Gainesway Farm was the multi-level look just below the roof. I loved its “stepped-down” structure. I’ve never known what to call that part of the porch but it may be called the “Frieze of entablature” based on a drawing I found here. The narrow area you see just above the columns and below the narrow decorative molding that’s extends around the porch appears to be called the “Architrave of entablature.” No wonder I had no idea what to call it! HA!
Anyway, EXTENSIVE discussion took place about the area I kept referring to as the “stepped-down” part of the roof. I drove my contractor nuts explaining how important it was that it look exactly like the Gainesway porch. Out of all the features of this porch, that particular design was THE reason I loved this porch so much. The columns were nice, other features were nice but what made this porch so beautiful to me was the intricate layers surrounding the roof, the way it cascaded downward, rich in molding and layers like the beautiful crown molding we all love inside historic homes.
Having no plans from which to build the porch, my contractor had to figure it out on his own. He studied the picture from the magazine and did his best to build what he saw. I was out of town the day this part of the porch was being built, so he emailed me this photo for approval. It was hard to tell what it would look like once painted but it looked pretty darn close to the image in the magazine so I approved it and construction moved forward.
In case it’s helpful, here’s a picture of the underside of the roof before it was finished. Sorry again for the blurriness and my poor photography back then. Since I knew I wanted a hanging lantern as seen in the inspiration photo, my builder gave the porch a 9 ft ceiling so there would be space for the lantern to hang down.
I wanted a beadboard ceiling for the porch. My contractor used a type of material that came in sheets for the ceiling. It had a wide beadboard look on one side and a skinny beadboard look on the other side. He left it up to me to choose which side to use.
I went with the wider look for the screened in porch that was also being added on to the back of my home at the same time. (Read about building a screened-in porch here: Cost To Add On A Screened-in Porch ) I went with the skinnier beadboard look for the front porch. I’m not a designer but in my mind that seemed to be the right scale for the porches.
Let’s talk columns, I decided to go with a simple design, nothing too ornate. I think the style I chose is commonly referred to as a “Tuscan” column. My contractor purchased them from Lowes and if I’m remembering correctly, they are fiberglass. He and I went around and around about the size/diameter I needed for the porch. He tried his best to convince me to go with an 8 inch column. After looking at them in the store, I felt they were way too skinny. He insisted I would love them and promised if I wasn’t happy, he would return them.
He brought them out and I knew immediately they were too skinny and definitely not want I wanted. I wanted the porch to feel and look substantial and skinny columns just weren’t going to accomplish that goal. He cheerfully returned them and purchased the next size up which were perfect, just what I had envisioned for the porch. Those are the columns you see on the porch today.
Regarding size, the columns are 97 inches tall, including the capital and the base. They appear to be 10 inches in width. I have no idea exactly where you measure a column for width but measuring at the bottom of the column, these appear to be 10 inches in width/diameter.
Using a measuring tape, I measured the full circumference and they are 30 1/2 inches around at the bottom of the column and have a 26 inches circumference at the top. So if you’re building this porch, that’s the size these columns measure in circumference, which I think is probably a 10 inch diameter column.
Lighting! Oh my, do I get just a little excited when it comes to lighting! I could write an entire blog post about choosing porch lighting. Since this post is already growing rapidly, I’ll go with the Reader’s Digest version.
I love brass, polished or antique, but I was ready for a change on the front porch. It wasn’t the brass finish that bothered me, it was the fact that it kept tarnishing and pitting. I had replaced the original small, builder-grade brass lanterns years before with the ones you see here, but unfortunately they tarnished and pitted just like the builder-grade lanterns had. Large “Baldwin Brass Lifetime Finish” lanterns were just not in the budget.
The whole house was scheduled to be repainted after the porches were complete and I knew I would be going with black shutters for the exterior. I decided to go with black lanterns to compliment the shutters and in hopes I’d never have to change them due to wear or pitting again. The ordeal of changing out lanterns every few years was getting to be a major pain, not to mention expensive!
The porch renovation started in October and here’s where we were just after Thanksgiving. The reason things were progressing a bit slowly is this wasn’t the only project underway.
As previously mentioned, a screened porch was being built on the back of my home and the once finished-in basement was being completely redone in a professional manner. The previous owners had used hung ceilings and 70’s looking paneling and it had to go. So, the men were being pulled in several directions at once with three major projects going on.
Here’s another view of the different type molding(s) my contractor used to get that stepped-down (what was it called?) frieze that I wanted. Hope this view is helpful if you wish to recreate this same look for your front porch. It’s true you know, they really “don’t build ’em like they used to.” But YOU still can. You just need a good inspiration picture and a builder who is willing to bring your dream to reality.
When it came to choosing the roofing material, I requested a metal roof. I just didn’t like the look of the asphalt-shingle roofs I was seeing on so many porches. The metal really appealed to me, though it did increase the cost. My builder gave me a brochure showing the roof could be designed in several colors. I went with a color that sounded like the roof would be black. I’ve forgotten now what the color was called…but it looked black and had black in the name.
When it was installed it looked like a dark brown, not what I had envisioned. My builder told me it was supposed to look like aged copper, mimicking the color copper turns to after a few years. He asked me to live with it a while and told me he would have it replaced if I really hated it. I decided in the end that it was fine and probably looked better than having a jet black roof.
The other thing that initially worried me about the roof was the depth of the ribs, they seemed taller/deeper than those I saw on metal porch roofs in some of the subdivisions I drove through. My contractor told me it was because he had gone with a better grade metal, an “industrial” grade that’s often used on businesses. He chose it because he felt it would hold up better to the hail we sometimes get here when a tornado passes through. I’ve been through many hail storms in my time and they are horrible so I decided the deeper ribs were a good thing if they meant a much better, hail-resistant roof. So far there are no dents so it has held up to our storms and occasional hail.
So, ready to see the finished porch and get that $ total?
Here she is! A labor of love! Aren’t all our home renovations that…labors of love.
I’m so glad I pushed for a bigger porch and bigger columns. Can you envision this porch with columns two inches skinnier in diameter than the ones you see here? Wouldn’t be the same, would it?
Here’s a view from the road, I think the size of the porch worked out well for the size of the house. It’s hard to remember now how it looked without it.
Let’s compare it to the inspiration photo…the porch at Gainesway Farm.
Pretty close, I think. Please excuse the smudges and dirt you see on the porch in the pic below. These were taken right before I pressure washed the porch in THIS post and since then, the whole house has been pressure washed. I need to take some new photos, don’t I?
One of the best parts about adding a porch to your home is it gives you a whole new “room” to decorate for the seasons and the holidays! 🙂 (Halloween porch can be viewed here: The Witch Is In!)
The porch this past Christmas…porch can be viewed here: Decorating the Front Porch For Christmas
The cost to add this porch to my home in October 2007 was $7,999.76. $1,975 of that was the cost to remove and rebuild the old brick stoop. If you’re adding a porch and can use your old stoop, you can avoid that cost. That figure also included an allowance of $250 for lighting and a metal roof allowance of $800.
I paid for my own lighting and purchased Quoizel French Quarter Lanterns (Style FQ8312MK). The wall lanterns were 190.08 each and the hanging lantern was 129.60 so I went well over my lighting budget. The additional wiring that was needed to add a hanging lantern to the porch was included in the figure I gave above.
So, once again, the total cost to add this porch to my home, including removing the old brick stoop and building a porch from the ground up, including the lighting and additional wiring needed for the center hanging lantern was: $7,999.76. The contract also stated that the pricing was contingent on the other work my contractor was doing as well (screened porch addition and basement redo.) So if the front porch had been the only project he was building, it probably would have been a bit higher to add on just the front porch.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! It may not be a kitchen or a bath which are the two areas experts say you can expect to recoup virtually all your renovation costs, but I think a porch adds so much curb appeal, drawing buyers to take a look at your home when the time does come to sell. A porch also adds so much more function to the front of a home. I enjoy mine every day and I know my guests enjoy the shelter it provides when they stop by.
Is adding a porch onto your home a dream you hold in your heart? Don’t give up because that which you focus on, will eventually come to pass. That I do believe. Hold onto to those porch dreams! When you add that porch to your home, send me some pictures. I would love to see it!
Update: Just made a few updates to the porch and the front landscape, see those here: A Front Yard Makeover with Boxwood Shrubs, Benches & Copper-Roof Dovecote