Technically, open porches never went away.
But, we do typically build quite a few more screened porches in a given year. I will talk about how practicality is a substantial determining factor in this decision but I also sense that the changing times have had an effect on our sense of having a more open environment at our homes. I personally have a large open front porch reminiscent of the open porches of yesteryear. It used to be that families would stroll down the street at night and stop to talk to neighbors hanging out on their open porches. Or, the neighbors would be having a cookout and invite you and your family over for dinner because they saw you outside. Many would say we’ve gotten away from that. With our busy lives, we have become accustomed to living very much in the privacy of our own homes. But perhaps because of the political environment or just a migration back to good old fashioned values, many of us are spending time outside and enjoying opportunities to see our neighbors or invite them to talk or spend time together.
There are really 5 considerations to make when considering what you want for your porch and whether you wanted a screened porch or an open porch.
- Aesthetics and Ambiance
- Structure and Style
You have likely seen many screened porches that have a very plain cookie cutter design. Perhaps the physical shape of these is a perfect square. Perhaps the roof of the screened porch is a gable roof but it does not match the roof style of the home. Perhaps the porch even looks like it came out of a kit. You have probably also seen custom screened porches that look like they are original to the home because the materials and architectural details down to the roofline fit the home. Custom designs often fit nicely on the back of the home vs. looking awkwardly placed or looking “added on”. One of the first things you will need to consider is whether you want a custom design or more of a “stock” design.
Shelter. Shelter from the storms. Shelter from the neighbors. Shelter from bugs. It’s also important to be very practical in this decision by considering your preferences and sensitivities to these issues.
Shelter from the storms. Do you want to spend a tremendous amount of time outdoors and not want your outdoor enjoyment time to be thwarted by rain storms or even strong wind? Screens reflect a certain amount of the rain because the rain will bounce off. Roof design, overhang and soffits, along with amount of wind, will influence the rain.
Visual shelter from the neighbors. As nice as it may be to open ourselves up to neighbors when we’re spending time out on our screened porch, for some of us, we want this room to be our oasis. Screens introduce a measure of privacy. Many of us don’t immediately think privacy when they think of screens. The screens we use quite commonly make it difficult for the neighbors to see in from a couple hundred feet away. Today there are also screens that have additional benefits such as UV protection
Bugs. How much do the bugs bother you and your family. Do bugs often keep you or your family members from spending time outdoors? If so, screens might be a good option for you.
Aesthetics and Ambiance –
Screens tend to make it feel more like an enclosed room. A screened room is still outdoors and has a tremendous amount of light and air but screens feel a little more like a wall and therefore more like an enclosed room.
An open porch, on the other hand, still has an enclosed feeling but by subtracting the screen, there’s much more of a connection to the outside. The view is opened up even more so. The feel is really slightly more connected to the outdoors. It’s going to be brighter because the screens block 10-20% of the light.
Structure and Style –
You can generally put columns further apart if you don’t have screens. You can do different types of columns because there are no screens interfering. There are also some design details that are open to you when you have open columns with no screens interfering.
Ah, this guy always rears his head in any decision – especially in building an important addition to your home. Budget is really one of the first considerations you need to make. Without understanding your budget, your builder really can’t help you explore the options that are right for you.