The Particulars of Porch Design
Learn how to nail the details to build a beautiful and functional covered porch; 3 case studies and a checklist of essential questions will help you get the job done right.
Synopsis: Using three case studies, two architects explain how to design a porch that will fit with the layout and design of a particular home. The article includes a checklist of questions to answer when considering porch design, as well as details on siting, proportions, style, roofs, foundations, posts, and railings. Section drawings give guidance for the connections between the roof and sill and the columns and beams, and the decking surface and drainage.
It’s been said that there is no architectural element more nostalgic than the American porch. We agree. There’s a soft spot in our hearts for porches—so much so that we co-authored a book on the subject, On the Porch: Creating Your Place to Watch the World Go By (The Taunton Press, 2007). Porches play a unique role as a transitional space between the outdoors and private interiors. Our firm has projects in upstate New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, which means we are surrounded by rural settings and historic homes, many of which include porches. They provide a deep well of inspiration. There are very few homes that we have designed in the last 20 years that don’t include a porch. No matter the region, house style (or lack thereof), or budget, we believe there’s a porch to fit. Whether modest or grand in scale or function, a porch is sure to enhance your home—experientially and monetarily. Of course, the success of any porch lies in good design and proper detailing.
Case Study No. 1: Budget friendly
These homeowners were looking for a simple, cost-effective porch that would be in keeping with their modest farmhouse. It would serve as the main entry as well as a sitting area from which to enjoy the view of farm fields and an adjacent barn. To keep construction costs in check, we started with a very basic pier foundation hidden by latticework. For the decking, we used painted tongue-and-groove mahogany, our favorite option.
The posts are chamfered 6x6s with simple moldings at the cap and the base, and we went with off-the-shelf railings. Wrapped framing material was used for the beams; the rafters are painted 2x10s; and the sheathing is V-grooved painted pine. While the decisions we made were budget-driven, this porch provides an elegant simplicity that complements the main house.
Define the Function
People use porches in a number of ways. Some porches are simply a place to sit, breathe some fresh air, and enjoy conversation. Others are meant for entertaining, cooking, or sleeping. The key is to be extremely clear about how you intend to use your porch. We have found it is helpful to have clients answer a series of questions to inform the design.
From Fine Homebuilding #282
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