Large front porches used to be a pretty standard feature of American houses. Up until World War II, most houses had them. After that, though, they began to decline in favor of other features. But if you’re looking for a project to increase the value of your home, adding on a porch is still a good way to do it. Also, it’s a great way to enhance your enjoyment of a home where you’re planning to stay. In this article, we’re going to look at some different kinds of large front porches. We’ll talk about planning and budgeting a porch build. And we’ll talk about what kinds of designs would be best for your home.

​The Rise and Decline of Large Front Porches

According to the Montana Heritage Project, large front porches were very common in the United States, up until the end of World War II. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, nature had a greater influence over the way people lived. Without air conditioning inside, it was often more comfortable outside the home, especially in summer. Porches became a comfortable outdoor living space. New technologies made building materials cheaper, and it was easier to add on. In addition, a porch was a social place. People could visit with their neighbors, and watch life go by.

​Image CC0 by Pexels, via Pixabay.

After the second world war, several things happened. First, automobiles became much more widespread. The noise and pollution of passing traffic made the idea of sitting on one’s front porch less appealing. In addition, The Montana Heritage Project speculates, with people traveling past in cars, rather than on foot, the porch was no longer a place to visit. People didn’t like feeling “on stage.” Instead of large front porches, people began to opt for a deck in the backyard. Finally, technological developments like television and air conditioning made being indoors more appealing than being outside.

​Time for a Comeback?

Now, in the twenty-first century, technology isolates people like never before. And a lot of people are looking for ways to reconnect. What’s more, people are looking for reasons to be outside more. Is it time for large front porches to make a comeback? It just might be.

Adding a porch isn’t cheap. The average cost is about $21,000. But the estimated return on investment is around 84%. That is, if you spent $21,000 to add on a porch, you could expect to get $18,181 more when you go to sell your house. Of course, if you’re not planning on selling your home, you could get that much enjoyment out of your new porch, and more. Especially if you live in a climate that has pleasant weather throughout much of the year.

​Front Porch Designs and Porch Ideas

​Lanai

​Image CC BY 2.0, by apasciuto, via Flickr.

A lanai is a covered porch with open sides. It’s similar to a veranda. The lanai is typically a feature of tropical architecture. It might have a railing running around it. Also, it may or may not be enclosed by screens. People often furnish their lanai as if it were a room in the house. A lanai is a good choice for areas where the climate is mild for most of the year.

​Veranda

​Image CC BY 2.0 by Joe Sent, via Flickr.

​A veranda is similar to a lanai, in that it has a roof and open sides. However, a veranda might also wrap around the house or run alongside it. Some people also use their veranda as a room for entertaining. The veranda is a prevalent feature of New Orleans architecture. The Spanish Colonial and Mission styles that became popular in the Western United States in the early twentieth century also make full use of the veranda.

​Enclosed Porch Ideas

Enclosed porches have some of the same appeal as open porches. An enclosed porch offers an additional living space, with access to fresh air and nature. At the same time, an enclosed porch offers a bit of privacy, as well as protection from insects. Enclosed porches are a good choice for humid climates, where mosquitoes and other pests can ruin the pleasure of being outdoors.

​Sunroom

​Image CC by SA 2.0 by Information New Orleans, via Wikimedia Commons.

A sunroom is an enclosed or semi-enclosed outdoor room, sometimes in the back of the house. Screens are the choice for enclosing the space. They keep out insects and animals and provide additional protection from the sun. In some places, like Great Britain, people enjoy a glass enclosed sunroom. This kind of sunroom is called a conservatory. People in hot climates prefer sunrooms enclosed by screens, which allow the flow of air through the room. These are sometimes called Arizona Rooms or Florida Rooms. People generally use these rooms as additional living spaces, and furnish them accordingly.

Enclosed porch systems can be simple or surprisingly advanced in design.

“There are motorized screen systems that have really improved over the years,” Clemens Jellema, president of Fine Decks, Inc. told HGTV. “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.”

​Planning and Budgeting Your Porch Ideas

When you’re planning your porch, it’s important to think about why you want it. Are you planning to sell the house soon, and looking for a way to increase your asking price? Or perhaps you’re planning to stay in your house, and want to add living space for your family to enjoy. The function of your new porch should be your primary concern when undertaking this particular add-on.

Another consideration is appearance. Certain front porch designs will look better on your house than others. If you have a historic home, and want to stay true to it, your design choices may be limited. Also, some kinds of porches are more appropriate for different types of climates.

Finally, there are your personal requirements and limitations as a builder. Budget is one limitation, of course. HGTV estimates that a porch add-on could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, or even more. A basic concrete slab is the easiest and cheapest option, with customized large front porches are at the other end of the spectrum. If you have building experience, or the willingness to work hard and learn fast, you can do it yourself. A second — and mid-priced — option is to buy a prefabricated porch kit. The kit itself will run you between $10,000 and $15,000, according to HGTV. That doubles if you want to hire a contractor to install it for you. Alternately, you could pull out all the stops, hire an architect and a team of contractors, and build the porch of your dreams.

​Image CC BY 2.0 by John Coley, via Flickr.

​A Sample Budget

Fixr.com gives a sample budget breakdown for a simple 16 foot by 20 foot covered front porch build. Some of the costs include:

  • ​Pouring concrete footings 
  • ​Building a floor joist system
  • ​Building roof trusses and a support beam system
  • ​Installing box columns
  • ​Install the ceiling.
  • ​Providing electrical wiring and lighting
  • ​And more.

​The cost comes out to $21,670. Materials and labor prices may vary in different parts of the country, so Fixr has a tool that allows you to factor in your location as well.

Large front porches are an attractive and useful feature. They add value to your home. More importantly, they offer a new way to enjoy your home, while connecting with the outside world. If you’re looking for a project to improve your home value and your quality of life, large front porches may be the ticket for you.


Featured Image CC by 0, by Glynn424, via Pixabay.

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