Is there anything more relaxing than sitting out on your porch on a Sunday morning with a warm cup of coffee as the sun rises or basking in the sun during a lazy afternoon in summer?
To get the most out of your outdoor living spaces, you should really take a second look at your porch or deck. Do your exterior hang-out areas get the care and attention they require? Do you enjoy spending time in these areas or are you living in annoying conditions that make you embarrassed or frustrated with a poor design? Are you putting off major maintenance or worse; are you thinking “Why should I make repairs when I really don’t even like my deck/porch? Now is the best time to start learning what you can do to remodel or upgrade your porch. The work you put into the exterior of your property in Philadelphia will pay solid dividends, not only by adding long-term curb-side value and resale dollars to your home but also by improving the immediate quality of life for your family.
Whether you’re designing a new porch or remodeling an existing one, the cost will be based on several factors. Similar to the cost for decks, your existing type and size of porch, its current condition, and any unique or historic porch elements you want to include. If you’ve recently moved into an older home in Philadelphia that hasn’t been maintained, your porch may need extra attention to get it back in shape.
Historic porches are often more expensive because of the need to preserve the traditional appearance of the architectural elements. This process usually requires the help of a custom millwork specialist if the porch has been long neglected. Not surprisingly, traditional front porches were fancier than side and rear porches. Italianate and Victorian homes were often designed with ornate architectural turnings and scrollwork to impress high society visitors. In contrast, many of the original rear porches were intended for the delivery of ice and fresh food for the hired staff. Meal preparation happened on rear porches because the smokey, messy kitchen area was at the rear of the home in 19th-century designs. This restoration of a rear porch in Chestnut Hill is a good example of a working kitchen porch layout.
There are a few main types of porches but generally, a thoughtful porch is architecturally integrated with a home as compared to decks and will more likely have a roof covering of some kind. Porches can be a simple open shed supported by columns and can be as small as an awning porch cover with just bracket supports providing cover for a single entrance. More elaborate structures may include ornate railings, wrap-around porches, screened porches, enclosed porches, and multi-level designs. Porches often serve a utilitarian purpose by doubling as a sort of mudroom or drop-zone, helping to keep dirt, boots, and clutter from entering your interior. Many older homes in Philadelphia and the surrounding area included some type of front or rear porch, although vestibules were a handy runner-up if there wasn’t space for a full porch or mud-room.
If you want to substantially change the structure of your porch (including a complete redesign or expansion), you can expect your project to cost significantly more than if you are merely replacing the decking, railing, or roof structure.
Depending on how much design work will be required, the contractor you work with should be able to provide you with the most reliable price for remodeling your Philadelphia porch. If you have more design work to do, the contractor may need to see your plans first. You can calculate your own rough estimate by studying the average costs for some of these common porch renovations.
Enclosing a porch will require design work and will also require a zoning permit. In Philadelphia and nearby towns, you are unlikely to be allowed to easily create indoor living space from an existing outdoor porch. It may be more easily done at the rear of the house, but check with the zoning board before you dream too far and be prepared for a high cost with a full foundation and no real benefits earned from your existing porch or deck structure. You should assume $300 -$500 per square foot which would calculate to $50,000 for a 10x10 porch ‘conversion’ (otherwise known as an addition). This investment would assume all typical interior finishes.
If you want to substantially replace or rebuild your porch, you should assume a cost between $10,000 to $30,000 for a porch using stock components; about $20,000 to $40,000 for more custom components, and $30,000 to $50,000 for a historic porch - including custom fabricated architectural millwork. You should also look into a unique porch design contract for your Philadelphia home.
A quality installation cost for replacing the walking surface (porch deck) on a typical 8x16 porch, including paint or stain, tends to cost between $3,500 and $6,000 based on the type of decking selected, the related work. Do the railings or columns need to be removed and reinstalled? Is the joist structure beneath the porch deck in good, level condition?
Porch decks traditionally had old-growth fir or yellow pine which were chosen for reliable rot resistance. Most modern tree farms favor faster-growing methods and species which tend to be softer, less durable, and less rot resistant. Modern fir is still an option and the price is reasonable but will need frequent recoating and it may be too soft for heavy use areas. Yellow Pine is a good price point and is relatively durable and naturally rot-resistant, but mahogany is a much better performer if you can afford the additional expense (about 3 times the cost of yellow pine).
If you want to go rogue and use decking material for your porch, you wouldn’t be the first. Typical decking applied to a traditional porch will negatively impact the classic feel of a historic wood deck so you may lose some curbside value (resale value could be impacted too). Depending on your porch flooring conditions you can explore these deck material options, but be sure to have samples and consult an installation specialist (not just a handyman).
Spring in Philadelphia means it’s finally time to be outside. Temperate weather and extra daylight make it the perfect season to tackle a porch remodel. Starting now will also ensure you have plenty of time later this spring and into the summer to savor sitting outside with your family and friends on your beautiful porch.
Here are a few ways—large and small—to enhance your porch in Philadelphia this spring:
Restaining or repainting your porch (or deck) is a fairly simple and DIY option to refresh and protect your outdoor space. You can also transform appearances by choosing a new color or shade. Be sure that you either take the time to prep the material first or else plan to hire someone to do it for you.
Adding a touch of greenery and floral color to your porch is a great way to celebrate the season and make your space more inviting. You can find large flower pots and planter structures in a variety of colors and styles, from stacked and vertical pieces to elevated stands and short, sturdy boxes. Pick a selection of plants, herbs, and flowers that you can easily maintain and that complement the surrounding environment.
Most covered porches include columns in the design. If you have deteriorated or ugly porch columns you may want to replace your existing columns with a new style that better complements the façade of your home. This is not a typical DIY project but still may not be expensive.
If you want more privacy or sun protection and you are not permitted to install a permanent screen or walls, you can install shades to create shade and even some color. Elegant and durable shades can create a private dining area during summer evenings.
Speaking of seating, even small porches should include comfortable furniture or built-in benches. A hanging porch swing can be a nice addition, especially for a historic Philadelphia rowhome.
A good transformation should start from the ground up. One way to freshen up your Philadelphia porch is to either replace the porch deck or just try purchasing a waterproof floor mat. The placement of a rug beneath a table and chairs is a classic design approach to creating attractive hang-out spaces.
If you want to make better use of your porch, consider installing a ceiling fan or more lighting for evening use. Perhaps just a better light fixture would help. Sometimes a floor lamp is good enough for reading or homework after dark.
Your porch has the potential to be a seamless extension of your living space, providing an attractive addition to your home’s exterior and a functional area that you can use regularly for outdoor dining and entertaining. No matter your goal, our team at Bellweather Design-Build can help your porch achieve a higher potential. We are dedicated to creating stylish, efficient, and long-lasting living spaces in Philadelphia. Collaborate with us on your exterior home remodel in Philadelphia, we can assist you in elevating the appearance and function of your property.
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