Porches come in all sizes, shapes, and styles, but well-built porches that offer maximum function and charm have similar elements in common. If you're hoping to redo an existing space or build a new porch, try these helpful tips.
- Consider your site. The same porch on two identical homes functions differently. Why? Because every home is different in siting, which affects sunlight and shadow as well as air flow. For example, a home with a backyard that faces west may also have a back porch that gets intense sunlight during summertime peak hours. So, while shade may be a necessary element in that home's porch design, the need for sun shelter will be less so in a home with a backyard that faces east. In addition, some sites may have slopes or other natural elements such as trees that you'll want to design around when building a porch.
- Make a list of your family's needs and wants. The size of porch depends on your intended uses: Some families want an oversize porch that can accommodate regular cookouts and gatherings. Others require more intimate areas that lend themselves well to quiet outdoor time. Figuring out those needs and wants, and what they mean for your space's size is one of the most useful tips for building porches that work well.As a rule of thumb, a porch that's 6 feet deep provides enough square feet for comfortable seating spots. Eight to 10 feet will allow for a small dining table and chairs.
- Connect inside with outside. The most successful porches are those that naturally flow from inside the home to outside. That means the rooms you most often use are good locations for entrances onto porches. If your porch's primary function will be entertaining, kitchen access may be more important. For those that are used mostly for relaxing, a connection to living spaces will maximize use.
- Include practicalities. Ceiling fans help to circulate air. Electric radiant heat can warm a screened porch during fall and seasonable winter days. Screens help repel bugs but let in cooling breezes. Lights increase useful porch hours, and window coverings help to block sunlight. If you live in a climate that's less temperate year-round, you may want to plan for insulation and removable windows. All those amenities increase both comfort and serviceability, and are useful tips for building porches.
- Think about the view. When building a porch, many people spend lots of time walking around outside and thinking how the structure will look and function. But it's also important to consider the view from inside your home. Will a porch block a pretty view? Or will it offer shade for west-facing windows? Those inside-outside considerations are important tips to planning a well-used porch.
- Use your home as your guide. When planning your porch, make sure to follow this tip: Look to your home's architecture as a basis for design. Elements and details that mimic those that already exist will help your home's exterior to blend well with the porch. That includes siding or brick, roofing material, if used, and screens that mimic the shape and size of your existing windows.