Patios and Porches
By Mac Smith, All Pro Improvements
What is the difference? Basically the Porch has a roof covering the “Patio” which could be a “deck” instead! A Patio is normally closer to the ground level and masonry type construction also.
You don’t have to be a designer, to know what you want in a patio or a porch. Instead you should know “How you plan to USE the patio or porch” and then the design will come into play!
Since 1997, we have asked customers how they plan to use their new patio or porch, and the answers were mostly, entertaining, sitting outside, large family gatherings, and watching the kids play. Some were also considering where the pets could go during bad weather, and still others wanted an outdoor space for smoking, or storm watching!
Mostly though, the answer was explaining why they wanted more living area, extended to the outdoors.
Our customers seemed somewhat shocked in our asking “How do you plan to use your Patio or Porch?” but the answer helped dramatically to design their space!
Basically a 10’X10’ area is needed for a 4-chair dinette or table, for example. Where this furniture can sit in smaller areas, as small as 8’X8’, this would cause for someone to have to get up, when another person wanted to get a drink, for example.
The “Path” is also to be considered. What’s the path? The path is the walking area from the entry to the porch from ground level to the entry door to the home! This will be the highest traffic area of the entire space, be it a patio or porch, from where entered from the home, and exited to the yard. This alone can help you to best locate your steps to the ground level!
Getting an idea of the furniture planned to go onto the porch or patio drastically helps to design the space more properly, as you can see. Other needs may be a pet door, and that location might change the furniture layout. Another consideration is the grilling space.
Once the above is discussed, and possibly more, the size is then determined, hopefully within your budget.
Now let’s discuss types, patios versus decks, and then Porches.
Patios are normally at or near to ground level. Some are raised, but most all are masonry with a combination of brick or block, with a concrete surface or floor, which may be stamped concrete, brush finished concrete, pavers, or tiled as desired. Designs such as your initial, or nautical designs may be inset within the above mentioned for custom looks also! Do you want a Gamecock at your new patio floor?
Patios normally do not require permits and can actually be placed closer to property lines. This is considered as if a “Hardscape” item of Landscaping by many permitting authorities. An improperly designed patio could be determined as a fence, due to the slope of property, and may require a permit.
Decks are normally used in the place of a patio, as these can be higher off of the ground level, for less expense. Most porches are simply a roof built upon the patio or deck, without walls. A Pergola can be used instead of a roof to complete a new porch also! All of these would require a building permit!
A porch is a roof covered patio or deck. The roof design we build is designed to match to your current home in appearance and construction. “An Addition should NOT look like an Addition!”
A plan is coming to mind already, from discussing just these 3 types of outdoor spaces, but then there is another factor that should come into play, and that could be the long term decision of how that space might become modified at a later date! (Planning ahead for other possibilities)
Some customers get porches now, planning for a future sunroom, or other type of room, allowing the use of the space today, with plans for an enclosure for later! Some get patios or decks now, again so they can use the space, until they later want the roof & walls built for a room, be it a sunroom or a bedroom for a child expected to outgrow their existing bedroom arrangement! Even if there is no plan to “enclose” this space in the future, the foundation should be built to allow that ability, just in case! Lexington County was once requiring a deck to be constructed as a buildable space, since so many people were enclosing their older decks anyway!
So, we have briefly discussed size, and various designs and the differences of those designs. Now let’s talk about the materials.
A Patio, which is normally masonry, should have a brick surround to match to the main home brick surround, if applicable. (If it is at ground level, the future of making this into a room is removed, as there needs to be at least 4” above ground level, and up to 12” below ground level to accept future walls, and to keep water from coming in under those new planned walls.)
So we now have brick as a main component of the patio. If you don’t have a brick wall base at your home, then a simple concrete, or stamped concrete look would possibly be matched to your home.
The patio surface can be almost anything, but again is normally masonry! Concrete with a brushed finish is very popular. Terracotta Tiles, broken or not, was a highly used patio and porch surface in previous years. Pavers can also be used, built on a sand base. Today however the finishes are concrete (cement) with a brushed finish, for reducing slipping. Other items are ceramic tile, stamped concrete, stained or acid washed concrete. There is one more, which is rare, and that is to have a deck floor, with the masonry foundation.
At left is a brush finished concrete patio, and a brick surround newly built screen room again with the brushed concrete floor. Walls were framed with traditional treated lumber, also using a traditionally framed new shed roof and siding, all to match to the home's original construction!
Decks and Porches are normally built of wood, with the occasional brick foundation or surround.
The surfaces of the deck for the porch can be wood or masonry.
When building a deck type of structure, knowing in advance what is necessary to meet the future dreams and demands, be it from entertaining, sitting, sunbathing, etc., can make the difference on construction methods used. A hot tub for example would require additional supports of course, but also knowing how many people may be coming for entertaining purposes can also cause the construction to be “upgraded”.
We don’t know why other companies would build a deck type structure, without building it as strong as it possibly can be, as long as it is feasible, but they do. A deck designed to hold 20 people could fail if 30 people were to be entertaining there!
Our company has installed many porches to existing decks, and most of the pre-existing decks required modifications to allow for the planned activities, as well as the planned roof structure and/or wall weight being added!
These modifications could have been done in the original design for a little more money and effort!
This deck was built to go around the tree that this homeowner wanted to keep. Special framing needs were required of this, to allow for the expansion of the tree, and roots, over the years, as well as to support the decking boards there. Also the design of this deck has the decking boards running diagonally, requiring the framing of the deck to be substantially different, with the joists below at 12” instead of the normal 16”. The hand rails were required at the far end of this deck, as the floor surface of the deck was above 30” off the ground level. This yard slopes, as most do, and the end closer to the camera did not require handrails, but the homeowner wanted the “finished” look of the rails at the entire deck. (See our Gallery for more photos of this porch and deck!)
If you look closely, there is a screen door to her new porch also. So this customer got a new screened porch and a new deck, and now there is plenty of room for her and her grandchildren when they come to visit. She can sit inside the screened room, while the grandchild plays on the deck, or in the back yard! Just what SHE wanted!
She can also entertain in the main home, with a door to the porch, then another door out onto the deck! She is now ready for a lot of people visiting, or for just her and her grandchildren!
A porch can be at the front or the rear of the home. This new Front Porch makes for a grand entrance, compared to the original steps and landing that was there! Two rockers and a table is all that this homeowner wanted at her front porch.
The brick surround foundation was not used here, because she wanted to save the money, but also because of the steps planned, water from the roof and yard could have become “backed up” there near the front steps, and possibly gone into under the home!
Drainage aspects are a concern when designing your porch or patio also!
This same customer had us to build her a smaller porch at her driveway entrance to match to the new front porch. We sometimes refer to this as a “Stoop Cover” instead of a porch, but it is built like
a porch, has the same construction, handrails, matching rooflines, ceiling, beams, and matching vinyl siding! So regardless of size, “An Addition should NOT look like an Addition!”
You really don’t want to attach anything to your home, that “looks manufactured", do you? There are many different “KIT” type constructed porch covers that just don’t match to the home, and could take away from the value of a home or neighborhood, when considering curb appeal.
This porch is difficult to tell if it came with the home, or not! Only the change in the roof slope can tell you what is new, and what was not. Columns helped to make this porch cover more attractive. See the brick surround, concrete patio surface, matching roof lines, and notice also the large seating area! (They should have opted for the ceiling fan though!)
Move your mouse over to see just WHAT IS NEW on this home!
So Patios and Porches come in so many different looks, and types, that only YOUR imagination can make the difference, as well as how you plan to use your new outdoor area! A patio with a large fireplace would be very nice also! Outdoor kitchens, located on the new patio or deck, or a simple fire pit can take an otherwise dark cool evening, and turn it into a magical night outdoors!
This front porch makes a statement! The stacked stone bases to the new columns support the upper redesigned gable with a
cedar shake look!
The wrought iron handrails combined makes a huge difference in the entrance to this home!
(See “Before” by moving your mouse over the photo above and at right!)
So whether you want an outdoor seating area, and area for entertaining, or even being prepared for larger family functions, you just need to call All Pro Improvements (803-798-4496), to set a time for your Free Estimate and start making notes/drawings on your new space, and how you would like it to be, and remember,
Decide now just how you plan to USE your new space!
“An Addition should NOT look like an Addition!”
Because one day you may want your porch to become a new room!
You want more home value!
You want to be proud of your home, for years to come!
The homeowner above had her rear screen porch enclosed to
become a Sunroom, shown in the below photos. This is no longer
a porch, as it is instead now counted as heated space in the overall
home square footage! We match the new stacked stone to her existing fireplace in the family room!
Stacked stone knee walls, Sliding windows with Transoms above, with a separate heatpump. See the new Pergola also, which offers partial shade.
This is known as an “Enclosure” of an existing space, which was the former screen room below! This room and porch dramatically improves the home, it's appearance and value, while also allowing the homeowner's to get all that they wanted for their home!
For more on Outdoor Spaces, see Decks and Patios!
Written 2/2012 by Licensed SC Residential Builder – #23265
McQueen “Mac” Smith
All Pro Improvements, Inc.