Adding a front porch

Adding a front porch to your house gives these advantages:

1. It serves as a barrier against bad weather.

2. It prevents dirt and debris from being carried into the front hall or lobby of the house: on a rainy day wet coats and muddy shoes can be shaken, scraped, discarded under shelter before you enter the house.

3. It will help to discourage intending burglars.

4. It can add definition and style to a house elevation that is flat and perhaps dull-looking.

In its simplest form, a porch may consist of no more than a canopy, possibly roofed in acrylic plastic and with the sole purpose of affording shelter outside the front entrance of the house. At the other extreme, a porch can be extended well beyond the front door to become virtually a conservatory. Even a small enclosed porch can be a useful extension to the home, providing a place for outdoor coats, umbrellas, shopping baskets, perhaps a pram or bicycle.

Design and planning

In proportions and materials the porch should integrate with the house. To ensure that the porch is in keeping with the existing elevation of the house you can make a simple sketch of the elevation, with the front door, windows and any other prominent features roughly to scale. Next draw alternative porch structures on tracing paper. Place each tracing in turn over the sketch to get an idea of which porch design relates best to the house elevation. You do not need to be an artist to carry out this exercise, which could well prevent a costly mistake.

Planning permission for construction of the porch must normally be sought and you should also make sure that there is no covenant restricting you from adding the structure. Drawings may be needed for local planning permission but normally they need not be drawn to professional architectural standards. A clear visual statement of intent should suffice. Prior consultation with the planning authority is advisable.

Components

A porch frame usually consists of timber. However, the lower section may be brick, timbered, clad with plastic or glazed.

A low maintenance, rot-proof timber is from a long-term point of view a better choice than whitewood, though more expensive. High-grade timber, such as sapele or mahogany, may be used but cheaper wood, such as deal or red cedar, will be perfectly satisfactory. Whitewood is more vulnerable to damage and deterioration from the weather. But, provided it is kept well maintained, it need not be ruled out for porch use.

Door. An all-glass toughened door can simplify some of the carpentry involved in constructing the porch and may look more pleasing than a conventional timber-framed glazed door. A solid door can, of course, be fitted but it may keep out light, particularly if the entrance hall of the house is short of natural light.

Joinery. Ready-made standard joinery may be incorporated in the porch: for example, an opening window, the door, ready-made sills and the framework uprights. This could save you a substantial amount of basic carpentry.

Choosing the style

Adding a porch to a house with the help of a kit or ready-made units may not be too difficult from the D-I-Y point of view, but there are some complex design considerations to be taken into account. If you have a Georgian or Victorian style house—be it terraced or detached—it is essential to have the porch ‘made to measure’ in traditional building materials or you may ruin the look of your property.

There are many ready-made porches available for the DIY enthusiast and you may be lucky enough to find one that suits your home. Selection is very important as some kits tend to look rather flimsy when constructed. However, standard logia frames or french window frames, in the nearest style to fit your house, can sometimes prove more successful. If you are putting together a porch in this way remember that the door fittings, the letter box, the handles, the house identification, the bell etc can make or mar the appearance of the porch.

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