Category Archives: Uncategorized

Designing your new Kansas City area screened porch

Last week we published a blog about the technical aspects of designing your new porch. At first, it may not be intuitive that technical and practical considerations are also design considerations. But, you must determine particular functional characteristics of your new space before you can jump into the design of your space.

We promised that this post would cover all the fun considerations involved in designing your new porch. First, it’s important to note that design is a collaborative process. We could not design a great new porch without working very closely with you on what you are looking for. We hope that our experience and expertise with building porches allows us to translate your needs and wants into a great design. So here goes the fun part of the porch design process.

Leawood KS screened porch

Creating kitchen access to this Leawood KS porch required removing a wall and installing a large custom sliding door.

Have you picked out furniture for your new porch? You don’t have to purchase it yet. But, it’s important to have the dimensions if possible. That way we can design the correct size to accommodate both the furniture and the traffic flow around it. For example, if your porch space will be utilized for eating, we must also take into account how the chairs will be placed. While eating, they will be pushed out a little from the table but after eating they may be pushed way out as people sit back and relax or move their chair back to give their fuller belly some breathing room. It’s important to know that you still need room to walk around the eating area even when the chairs are pushed out.

Composite floor Kansas City screened porch lrBelieve it or not, the flooring boards themselves are not the only aspect of floor design. The direction of the floorboards allows you to add even more of a custom look and to add visual appeal to your floor. The boards can be run parallel, perpendicular, or at an angle. A parting board can be utilized between where boards would otherwise abut. A picture framing technique can be created using an alternate color board for terrific aesthetic appeal.

Think about the porch posts and the width of the screened areas within the posts. Do you want very wide screened sections for particular visibility? Or perhaps there is something outside of a particular area that you don’t care to see. Let your porch designer know and they will likely have great suggestions to help you accomplish that goal.

Lenexa KS screened porch AZEK floorIt’s even important to think about color at the design stage. If you have a finished, or enclosed, ceiling, you have the flexibility to paint the ceiling. The color of the ceiling will have an affect on the overall design. There is a reason that most interior ceilings are painted white. It makes the room look larger. If you are considering an open rafter porch, you will most likely leave the wood its natural color which will be darker but will also be higher from the ground achieving that more open and spacious feel.

Getting back to the less glamorous decisions, it is important to consider your budget first. As you will see from reading all of the choices above, budget will be an element of your design. It’s extremely helpful to identify an overall budget range with the designer so that you can have a realistic discussion about which choices may fit within that budget.

Steve Folsom - Kansas City deck and porch builder

Steve Folsom – Kansas City deck and porch builder

Looking at lots of pictures will help you identify some design features you like and dislike. Take a look at our website and our Houzz site for many great pictures to help you identify some design aspects you like. Then give us a ring for a free consultation or drop us an email. (913) 851 – 3325 or kansascity@archadeck.net. We look forward to working with you to design your new porch.

Kansas City Deck Railings-Decorate and accessorize

 

If you want etched glass and illuminated with LED lighting, it’s available! http://www.de-kor.com/Steel, glass, aluminum-you can get it all. One company even has 29 different etching designs available for your glass railing panels.

The balusters on your deck are arguably the most visible part of your deck. By sheer number there are usually hundreds of individual balusters on a typical deck. It’s an opportunity for you to take your deck to a whole different level. Many people want to match their deck balusters to the balusters on the inside of their house. They come in square, round or flat varieties. Twists, collars, curves, baskets, and end caps can all be added to make a unique, one of a kind deck railing.http://www.fortressiron.com/railing/balusters/vintage_series

What color would you like? A black baluster draws your eyes to it and makes a bold statement. A bronze baluster tends to deflect your gaze and lets you see past it. Green, white, red, unpolished aluminum, and copper can also be used. Hammered, glossy, antiqued, and oil rubbed are just some of the finishes available.

A deck can also be made with a railing that matches the decking for a cohesive look. Most of the composite brands have rails and posts to match the decking.

Top 3 Questions about Sunrooms

We often run into clients with a great many misconceptions about sunrooms.  It seems there is  a lot of confusion  about the design and construction of a sunroom and what features result in the best performance of the room.  The following three questions illustrate some of the important topics.

1. Won’t floor to ceiling windows look the best and perform the best? Floor to ceiling windows usually create more problems than you think.  Since they are substantially larger than normal windows they cost more, and by their nature eliminate the “kneewall” underneath the window.  This wall serves multiple purposes, including as a space to run electrical wiring and insulation.  Any window that is closer than 18″ to the floor needs tempered glass to meet building codes, and this adds even more cost.    Generally furniture doesn’t fit well with floor to ceiling windows,  and pets may damage the window by scratching it.

2.  Should I insulate the ceiling to help keep the heat in? Unless insulation is installed in the full room including floor, ceiling, and walls the value of the insulation is drastically reduced.  If the room is used at all in cold weather months it needs 100% insulation, properly installed.

3.  I have seen  removable windows so I can turn the room into a screen room in the summer?  How do these work? Although removable windows  are available they have some serious disadvantages.   The first disadvantage is size and storage problems.  The windows are large and hard to store,  and usually there is no suitable place to store them in the room.   The second disadvantage is  winter air leakage, since no removable window offers the sealing ability of a double pane insulated window.  In almost every case the removable windows make the room colder in the winter, and create more problems than they solve.   Lastly the single pane removable windows usually cost as much or in many cases more than normal double pane insulated windows with screens.

Steve Folsom

Kansas City decks

The choice of decking materials is large. There are many types of natural products and composite or man made products. Different colors or grain patterns can make a distinctive looking deck. What can make your deck even more unique and eye popping is your choice of railing. The number of options available is truly amazing.

If using a wood deck, do you want the railing to match? Do you want it made of wood but do you want to paint or stain it a contrasting color? Do you want a unique spindle arrangement or pattern? Do you want a traditional 6 x 6 post, an 8 x 8 post, a 4 x 4 post? Do you want a metal spindle instead of wood? Do you want decorative post caps or lights?

Steel, aluminum, vinyl, composite, and wrought iron railings are all options also. Anyone who has ever stained or painted a deck railing with all those spindles and railing components knows how time consuming it can be and these railings can solve that problem as low maintenance alternatives. Many people have told me that they dislike their railing because it’s at their eye level when they sit down. In most cases these other railings have a smaller profile and really open up your view.  Color choice, profiles, longevity are just a few other benefits.

As with everything else; quality, style, and material choice comes with a price. Vinyl railings are usually the least expensive. At the high end would be a custom wrought iron rail. Consider aesthetics, functionality, maintenance, and price and you can have the best rail for your situation.

Dan

Sunrooms and Room Additions

In many peoples minds the idea of a sunroom or room addition on their house meshes with how they can use the room.  Will it be used only in mild weather, or will it be most valuable to them if it will be used in all seasons and all temperatures?  At some point the idea of a sunroom may cross over into a full room addition with multiple functionality.    If  a homeowner wants all season/all-weather use of the new room addition, then energy efficiency in design and in construction come into the equation very quickly.   Wall thickness, insulation type, window type  & design, roof overhangs, floor insulation, and remote heating and cooling all interact to impact comfort levels and energy usage.  Even if the consumer is not focused on energy efficiency, wide temperature swings impact comfort levels and can make a room less comfortable.   In many cases it is difficult and expensive to extend the houses existing hvac ducts to the new room.  Even in the case where there is ready access to the existing heating system there is a potential issue if the existing system is adequate to heat and cool the new room.   In many cases a remote mounted dedicated hvac unit is the best alternative.   Fortunately great improvements have been made in the design of these units in the last decade.  Everyone is familiar with the wall mounted  air conditioner that is so loud it interrupts your sleep in a hotel or motel.  Today similar units combine heating and cooling, are very quiet, and use  digital thermostats to allow dedicated temperature control of a room addition or sunroom.   This dedicated unit can offer many advantages, not the least of which  is the ability to regulate the room temperature independent of the existing home.   In addition when the room is not in use it is possible to conserve energy by setting the thermostat to the best temperature for energy efficiency.   In many cases the installation cost of such a dedicated unit will be less than extending the existing duct work, and it will work better.  If energy efficiency is taken in to account in designing the room,  it is possible for the new room to be more energy efficient and comfortable than the rest of the house.

Kansas City Decks

I addressed setbacks in my last post and I wanted to address utility easements also. This is one more thing to consider when building your Kansas City deck. I’ve been involved in designing several Kansas City decks where my deck plans were affected by utility easements. In two cases there were sewer line easements that ran right up to the corner of customers homes. In one case the city would not consider a variance at all. Their position was that if there was a sewer line break they would want to repair it as swiftly and with as few obstacles as possible.

In the second case the city would allow a variance but at the owners own risk. If there was an emergency the city would destroy the deck if it impeded their repairs. If the deck needed to be rebuilt it was the homeowners expense. The city would not take any responsibility. These projects were both in exclusive areas on prime lots without the ability to build a nice deck or screen room to compliment the homes.

Plot plans are usually provided at the closing of your home but are usually available either on line in many cities or at the city offices in others. The best thing to do is to check these before purchasing a home in order to fully understand the property description and any rights of way or easements that other entities or persons may have on your property.

Sunrooms Kansas City and Overland Park

One of the most important issues that impacts the overall usability of a sunroom or room addition is defining the way a family wants to use the room.   Many people don’t spend enough time thinking about this issue.  For example, do you need additional year round living space?  Or alternatively,  is the best use of your new sunroom a 7-9 month use?  The answers to these simple questions are frequently not so simple, since each family may have a unique plan for the new space.  In a professionally designed room the answer to the above question reflects in a series of changes to the design, materials, and optional features.  Energy efficiency,  solar heat gain, aesthetics, architectural features,  temperature stability,  sound isolation, maintenance and upkeep,  and  overall satisfaction with the sunroom will all  be issues that can and should be addressed in the design and construction.  Some companies simply pack as much glass as possible into every sunroom, and this strategy inevitably results in a large number of unhappy users, since a sunroom with 95% glass will in many cases either be the coldest room in the house or the hottest room.  The solar orientation of the room and amount of summer tree cover can have a major impact  on the summer comfort of the room, and should be a feature of the design.  Multiple design alternatives and window choices can improve the comfort level of the room in both summer and winter.

Steve Folsom

Sunrooms and Sun porches Kansas City

We frequently get a call from a prospective client asking us about adding windowed room for their back yard.  In many cases the client is interested in a sunroom that will expand their living space and be usable for 8-12 months out of the year.  There are, of course many ways to expand living space on a home, but a sunroom is one of the most popular.  Frequently the homeowner would like to put this on an existing deck area.  Unfortunately, this strategy can lead to all kinds of future problems.  Very few decks have been built strongly enough to support a full room and roof weight.  We have seen rooms built on existing decks that created innumerable problems with the existing house and the new room.  These problems can include sagging, settling of flooring, roof leaks,  and jammed doors and windows.   In some cases the existing deck can be braced or supported to carry the extra weight of the new room, but in other cases the cost of the bracing, and the difficulty of installing it can exceed the cost of building a new support structure from scratch, especially if the old deck has any rot or structural problems.  Since  a properly designed and built sunroom enhances a homes value and usability, as well as expanding living space, it is always a good long-term investment to get an expert involved in the structural design, even if you are building it yourself.   If you are planning on building it yourself or with a friend, you may want to enlist the help of an architect or licensed engineer to design the structural support.  Different types of structural design and support may apply based on conditions such as height, size and shape of room, roof type, and type of house.   All of these situations and more need to be taken into account in the load calculations for the room.    If you are dealing with a design professional or a licensed and accredited builder, the structural design and support are some of the things you should ask specifically about.  If your builder has the proper experience, background, and training in room design he/she should be able to assist you with a permanent,  usable solution that will enhance the value and features of your home.

 Steve Folsom

Porches Kansas City

Kansas City Porches

I was at a customer’s home this week and they wanted to build a new porch on the back of their Kansas City home. Their house was on a pie shaped lot that became narrower as it went back and came to a point in the very back. When I measured the distance from the corner of the new porch to the rear property line it was only 12 feet from that point. I checked with the city the project was in and they indicated that it was too close and could not be built.

This reminded me of several other projects that were complicated by setbacks and utility easements. A setback is the distance that a completed project must be from your property line. Side setbacks can be anywhere from zero feet in some older sections of town to as much as 15 feet in others. Rear setbacks can be even more diverse. Some cities do not require setbacks for low level decks but can be as much as 30 feet for porches or sunrooms in other cases. In addition, some cities require a percentage of the total lot length not to exceed a certain amount of feet.

These setbacks can also vary within the same city. Some subdivisions require greater setbacks than others.  Villas and town homes generally have different setback requirements than single family homes. In most cases the city planner is the person to check with on regulations regarding your property. There may be a variance process in place where you can get permission to build your porch if the setback is an issue. In most cases a recent survey will be required.

Lee’s Summit Decks

Lee’s Summit decks

Deck used to be a somewhat generic term, similar to a commodity like sugar or salt. Gone are the days of a 12’ x 12’ square deck made of cedar or treated lumber as your only choices. Today’s decks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. Choices seem to be limitless and new materials are always being introduced. New choices include tropical hardwoods that hadn’t been well known, thermally treated lumber, composites, and PVC’s. Railing, spindle, and lighting options add to the ability to customize a deck that is all yours.

All of these options can be confusing. It is wise to seek the help of a deck building professional to help sort through the maze of products and the prices associated with these products. Are you concerned with durability and maintenance? What about a natural wood deck or a composite deck? Is price of the material used an object or is the aesthic appeal more important. Do you want hidden fasteners? How long are you going to remain in your current home and how much do you want to invest in a deck? What will my deck add to the value of my home this year? What about five or ten years down the road? Will my deck add to the salability of my home in five or ten years? These are just a few of the decisions that need to be made. Every product has advantages and disadvantages and it is our job to point these out and help you make an informed decision on a very important addition to your home.