Making your screened porch stand out

Screened porches get plenty of action in the fall, from serving as spots for a morning coffee or an evening cocktail to football watching. The spaces have an element of nostalgia as well.

“My grandparents’ house had a huge screened porch. I remember spending my summers out there playing cards and having dinner. It’s something about childhood. It’s a connection to family,” said Meg Veith, who recently bought a home with a screened porch in Woodstock.

When adding a screened porch to your home or turning an existing porch or deck into one, builders are using design elements to fit with the existing architecture or create an unexpected gathering spot.

Creating an entertaining haven

Demand for screened porches is growing, said Rod Sudbeck, design consultant with Atlanta Decking and Fence, based in Cumming. Many of his clients are expressing a common desire: In the fall, they want to turn on the fireplace — with a TV mounted above it — and watch football games. Typically, Sudbeck installs a ventless gas fireplace with a manufactured stone veneer, which does not require a chimney.

The crackle and pop of a wood-burning fireplace can add ambience, but it also adds to the cost of a screened porch project because the structure has to accommodate the additional weight of a chimney, Sudbeck said. The time to complete the project can increase as well. Sudbeck estimates it typically takes two to three weeks to transform an existing deck or patio, or four to six weeks for a new porch, with a fireplace.

The size of a screened porch affects the ability to entertain the way homeowners envision. “A lot of times, it’s all built around the table,” said Clark Harris, owner of Roswell-based Innovative Construction.

For one client, Sudbeck expanded the screened porch from the standard 16 by 16 feet to a 12-by-28-foot structure, which created a TV-watching area and a separate spot with a dining table and chairs.

Splurge features include ipe wood (also known as Brazilian hardwood) floors, custom doors, exposed rafters and enclosures that offer air flow while protecting against bad weather (products include Eze-Breeze).

Location, location, location

Disappointment can set in when you look at your roof line and realize the screened porch design you imagined doesn’t fit with your home’s architecture. Many homeowners like the gable roof, which is looks like an inverted V, versus the shed style, which is at an angle with a single slope, Sudbeck said. In the area you want your porch, look up and check for second-floor windows. That often will eliminate one option, the gable roof.

“Some houses I go to and say, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do that roof line up there.’ There are so many pitches and gables and nooks and crannies,” Sudbeck said.

Once the roof style is determined, there’s a range of options for the ceilings, from simple beadboard to elaborate finishes such as coffered ceilings. A rustic lodge look is accomplished with details like cedar beams and exposed rafters. Other touches, such as cedar shake siding, can enhance the porch’s design.

“If the porch is up against the back wall of your house, sometimes we’ll change the siding,” Harris said. “That gives a neat accent.”

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