How porch enclosures can expand your living space
Porch enclosures are one way to expand your living space, or “internal area” in your home, using your existing porch, patio, or an external area as a starting point for the structure. However, while for some cases, it can be as simple as putting glass or screen panels around a patio or porch with proper flooring, porch enclosures can also come in many different variants.
The Origins of the Porch Enclosure
Porch enclosures most likely started as a traditional way to expand a house. It would make sense that the original house design would have large patios and porches. Later, when there would be more money, these spaces could then be enclosed. It’s possible that the enclosure could be planned ahead of time, or, it could be taking advantage of an existing porch area.
What’s the difference between a patio enclosure and a porch enclosure?
In many aspects, patio and porch enclosures are practically the same in construction – you can use glass, screen, or solid material panels to create the enclosing walls. However, porch enclosures do not necessarily have to worry about roofing structures, since porches, by definition, have a ceiling and roofing structure over them. On the other hand, a patio is more of an open space, and you would have to build a proper roof structure along with the walls, if you want the patio to be enclosed properly.
As for balconies, they are more similar to porches than patios would be, except that you may have to take into account certain support and weight issues when you do enclose a balcony. This is because it usually is high off the ground.
What’s the difference between a three-season porch enclosure, and a four-season porch enclosure?
One of the terms that you hear if you’re looking to have your porch area enclosed is if you will have a three-season or four-season porch enclosure built. The logic behind this question is simple: if you will be using the enclosed porch area as a true living space, then you will have to consider how weatherproof and insulated the construction will be. This is particularly important if your local area does experience a winter season.
Construction-wise, this will mean that the type of glass and walls that you will use should be able to retain heat in cold weather to within the specifications required by local building codes. Alternatively, this also means that in other climate types, your enclosure should also be able to withstand the external environment, such as exposure to sunlight, heat, and rain.
As it is, your intent on making the enclosed porch a true living space, and the cost of it will determine if you will use building materials and codes that will qualify it as a year-round usable living area.
Types of porch enclosures
Porch enclosures don’t have specific types or styles, as they are more of modular, sometimes prefabricated structures that are built to adapt to practically any kind of porch size or design.
Segmented window frames and wall panels – in many cases, segmented window frames and wall panels are available, if your porch has standard or near-standard measurements, these panels or frames usually use aluminum, uPVC, and treated wood for the basic frames, while walls can be made of thin sheet metal, flexible plastic pieces, or compressed wood particleboards. Do note that these kinds of porch enclosure segments are for lighter weather, and can be used such that they can be taken down, if you want to revert your porch area to an open one. The window frames, in this case, can either have simple metal screens (to keep away insects), or you can use window-grade glass panes.
Door frames with glass, screen, or flat-panel doors are also available, though the door locks and other security concerns make it necessary that you still keep your actual porch door for security purposes.
Permanent structures – If you’re looking to expend your true internal living space, then you shouldn’t go for light-weather prefabricated materials, and instead go for true construction upgrades to your existing porch.
1) Windows – The easiest way to upgrade and enclose your porch would be to install window frames. You can choose to use code-specific glass panes, or have a combination of glass and screen window elements, so you can open the porch area to more circulation in milder weather, and still protect against insects. If security is a concern, then you should include window grill designs into your window frames.
2) Walls and doorways – When creating a porch enclosure, it’s traditional that the enclosure walls won’t be as many as the windows, nor would they be, in effect, extensions of the house’s walls. If that were the case, then it wouldn’t be strictly a porch enclosure anymore, but an actual room. The idea is that a porch enclosure will still give as much of the view and open feeling of the porch as possible, just that it now encloses the area against the environment and insects.
As you can guess, the cost of a porch enclosure depends greatly on the materials and the way that it will be built. For example, do-it-yourself screen enclosures to keep out insect may only cost a few hundred dollars, but four-season enclosures can cost in the thousands of dollars.
This cost factor is also multiplied by how large the porch area is. For example, a screen enclosure for a small porch that can house only a small table and the doorway to the house may cost less than two hundred dollars – or even less than a hundred, particularly if there are prefabricated frames that fit the dimensions of the porch area.
What to keep in mind
When thinking of a porch enclosure upgrade for your house, you should think of the following:
2) How will it affect the value of your house if you plan to sell it? You have to take into account the aesthetics of the enclosure, how it will have an impact on how the house looks.
3) Do think about the maintenance and installation costs involved. What may have started out as a weekend project may become a summer renovation.
In all, a porch enclosure is one of the best ways to make your house seem “bigger,” without having to build an addition to the main house.