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Popular Question from the Market: Screened Porches

It’s not surprising given the weather lately that I’ve been getting questions about screened porches. Ones that can be built on top of decks, and in place of decks, and as an alternative to decks. Now my experience with screened porches is limited mostly to the cabin on Squam Lake that my uncle owned. So this is a great opportunity for some research. And a chance to browse a collection of screened porch photos at Houzz.

So let’s look at the different ways to build a screened porch. The first way, on top of an existing deck, has the advantage of using the existing framing and foundation. But before you start, make sure that the deck structure will support the additional weight of the roof and wall framing. You may need to add additional framing or even posts. An insect barrier will need to be installed below the deck boards since they are spaced for drainage. Then you basically remove the existing posts and railing, and replace them with larger (typically 6×6) posts and bracing. The tricky part is building the roof and connecting it to the house. Whoever is building it must carefully flash the connection or else the potential for water damage is high. A good example of the process was in Handy magazine.

Building a new porch attached to the house is much like building a deck, but with the added challenge of the walls and roof. Before you start though, consider whether you will be want to convert it at some point to a sunroom/three-season/four-season room. If you think you will, you will need to provide a continuous foundation wall and footings instead of just piers for the posts. Here is an example of building a typical porch from Family Handyman.

The last option is a free-standing structure, typically built on the ground. Again, you can build it like a ground-level deck with a slab on grade and piers for the posts. Or you can explore the innumerable options for pre-fabricated gazebos and cabanas (traditional and modern) and free-standing enclosures.

In all cases, you ‘ll want to carefully consider how much space you will need. You really need to treat it like any other room, and look at how the traffic will move through and where you will put furniture. It would be very disappointing to build a porch that ends up being too small to use well. And you’ll want to look carefully at your house for design cues that you can incorporate into the new porch so that it will look appropriate.