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HOUSE & DOCK
Screened Porches

Think about quiet and relaxing summer evenings at the lake, and the chances are that you will also be thinking about the screened porches you experienced them in. Screened porches can be found anywhere, however, the abundance of bugs in lakeside areas usually mandates them on the homes there. If you don't have a screened porch on your lake home, you have probably considered adding one. Proper planning can ensure that you create a great screened in porch which is used frequently for years to come.

Why Do We Love Screened Porches So Much?
The answer is simple. Screened porches allow for the flow of the breeze and the sounds of nature, giving us all the natural feel of an outdoor setting while protecting their occupants from insects, rain and hot sun. A screened porch can be a separate, free-standing structure or it can be attached to your house. It can be a custom-built addition to the house, or an enclosure that is purchased as a kit.

Designing a Screened Porch
Creating the porch of your dreams requires thorough understanding of all the elements involved, including usage, construction type and climate. Take time to think about what the purpose of the screened area is before you do anything. This will help you prioritize and make choices. Are you simply screening in an existing patio or deck, or do you need to create the space from scratch? In either case, a good rule of thumb is that it should take at least as long to plan the project as it does to build it.

Planning Guidelines
One way to get some great ideas is to visit other screened porches and note what details you like and don't like. Then start asking yourself a lot of questions. Think about how many people will join you there to enjoy breezy mornings and evenings. Are you going to have a table and chairs for outdoor dining, or will it be more of an outdoor living room with a coffee table and comfortable lounging chairs? Do you need both? Will it be more of an entertaining area, or more of a quiet napping corner?

Whatever you decide, you can use your existing living room or dining room as a guideline for sizing this new living space. To get a quick idea of the space you will need, set out existing furniture that would fit your needs where the structure will be. Make sure you have room to move things around, and room to maneuver around the furniture. Decide where the doorways are going to be needed. Next, get out a sheet of paper, measure, and sketch your ideas to see if they make sense with the design of the house.

Make sure you obtain the proper permits from your local planning authority, and any necessary permission from a homeowner's or property owner's association, before it is time to build.

Construction Types
There are a few types of construction for screened porches to consider, wooden, vinyl and aluminum. A wooden screened porch enables you to match the architectural details of older homes. Wood, however, comes with a the requirement for sustained, periodic maintenance. Vinyl or aluminum screened enclosures can be added very quickly, and offer low maintenance along with numerous design possibilities. However, aluminum structures typically require professional installation services, rather than being a do-it-yourself project. If you are adding a roof for your porch, you can use a simple gable or hip roof, and leave the rafters and plywood visible from the inside of the porch.

Next, you need to determine what the composition of the sides will be like. If you have only screens and supports from roof to floor you will get a very open, outdoor feel. If you want a wall at the bottom, think about how high you want it to go. If you keep the height of the wall under 18", you can see out easily even when lounging. A very low wall won't close in the space and make it feel like a room.

Flooring choices include decking, cement, tile and stone. Whatever you do, try to go for the lowest maintenance choice which can withstand the outdoor use. A porch should be for relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, and not create yet another floor that has to be cleaned.

Alternatives to Consider
If you want to extend the seasons of use for your porch, think about adding glass sliders or windows, which turn it into a sunroom. These glass sliders can stay open from spring through fall, and then they can be closed for the winter to create a year round living space. If your home is smaller and you live in a more northern climate, you might get a lot more use out of a sunroom since it can be used for more of the year.

Other considerations when planning include; ceiling fans for the hot summer nights, lighting, and a heating source for chilly nights. There are many kinds of heat sources that can be used in an outdoor covered area, such as propane heaters. How about music? If solitude and quietly listening to the crickets chirp are your goal, then you won't need speakers, but for entertaining it is a nice addition.

Shades or awnings are also options you may need to consider for your screened porch. Being able to provide shade from the sun may be necessary, depending on the exposures your porch will have. You may only need them on one or two sides. This need will become apparent as soon as you begin using your porch, if you don't know beforehand. Bamboo shades are a nice inexpensive alternative, and are usually fairly easy to install. Awnings can provide more protection, but are quite a bit more expensive and are more difficult to install as well.

Whatever choices you make for your screened porch, think through these questions and options before you build. This will ensure that you will end up with the porch of your dreams, and enjoy it with friends and family for many years.

 


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