4 Types of Porches
From backyard to screened-in porches, learn about all the different choices you have to work with.
While all porches offer a space that bridges the gap between the inside of your home and the world outside, not all porches are created equal. Some are designed for greeting guests, while others are all about relaxation and enjoying the outdoors in a covered area.
The most traditional kind of porch, the front porch is popular with homeowners who want to keep up with the neighborhood or create a welcoming entry for guests. Front porches are hot in both new construction and remodels, as homeowners long for a better sense of community.
Even a modest-sized front porch gives you the chance to enhance the sense of entry into your house. A simple portico porch can protect guests while they wait at the front door and provide dimension to a flat-faced house.
"But plan enough depth so you avoid your front porch looking like a "decal" on your home," says Dan Morales, an architect with the design firm Gilday Renovations. "Aim for six feet as a minimum, but a porch depth of eight feet or greater gives you more options."
Usually more informal than a front porch, a back porch offers more flexibility. A back porch can be a great way to connect your kitchen to the garden outside, a place to enjoy water or nature views, or a protected spot to watch the kids play in the yard. "I think, generally, back porches tend to be bigger and more functional," says Sandra Mahoney, a senior project designer for Crisp Architects and co-author of On the Porch. "You really want to think about how your back porch connects to the main house."
Adding a cooking area or mudroom to your back porch keeps rooms inside clean and organized. If you love to garden, a potting shed, planters or window boxes are nice extras. Some back porches can be combined with a deck above so you have more than one way to enjoy the outdoors.
A wraparound porch can extend the living space of a casual family room, or it can give guests a spot to enjoy the garden when connected to a more formal living or dining room. "A wraparound porch will make a house feel more expansive if you open it up to rooms inside," explains Dan. "But a wraparound porch will also shade the inside of your house, so be aware of where the sun moves on your property."
You can create different "zones" on a wraparound porch, with a seating area for guests and a lounge area with a chaise for reading and relaxing. You can even include a gazebo that creates a destination spot and adds architectural interest. In a country setting, a wraparound porch can also establish a stronger connection between your home and the surrounding landscape.
If you enjoy breezes and the fragrances from your garden but don't want to worry about the bugs or harsh sunlight, a screened porch is definitely the way to go. Screens allow you to use your porch more often and make it better suited for more activities.
Many porch screens are made from fiberglass mesh (easy to work with but can tear easily) or aluminum mesh (resists corrosion but can discolor over time). There are also tightly woven sun-blocking screens that offer significant shading, pet-proof screens for homeowners with high-energy animals or children, and security screens made from heavy mesh steel mounted in tough frames for those concerned about keeping out intruders.
"There are motorized screen systems that have really improved over the years," adds Clemens Jellema, president of Fine Decks, Inc. of Calvert County, Maryland. "With a remote control, you can open up the screens and really change and improve how you enjoy the outdoors. We definitely see people having more interest in screened porches, and they're willing to spend money for serious outdoor living."
Make sure your screens are installed with good-quality support posts built or milled to accept screens. Planning ahead is key: You can save money and time and have a more attractive porch if you make design decisions for screens and storm windows at the start of the project.