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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 We look forward to working with you to design your new porch.

If you’re going to build a custom screened porch, you want do it right

Leawood KS screened porch

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

Typically when we visit homeowners to talk about building a screened porch, they look to us for advice about where it should be on their house. We enjoy working with them to identify the best place to put a screened porch based on their house configuration, how they want to access the porch, and how they want to use their porch. This is such a common question that we will be writing one of our upcoming posts about where to put your screened porch.

This Leawood family knew exactly where they wanted their porch and why. They knew they wanted their new porch off their kitchen and there were no shortage of challenges in making that happen. The exterior kitchen wall was a windowed wall. They wanted top open up the wall completely which required removing those windows, removing part screen porch builder Leawood KSof the wall and special ordering a very large sliding door for access to the porch.

The gable roof porch we designed has a tongue and groove cedar ceiling with cedar trimmed beams. It also includes a stunning outdoor fireplace. The porch fireplace has a stone facade and a cedar mantle. Atop the mantle we mounted their flat screen TV. The porch flooring is AZEK Morado which is a beautiful warm brown color. AZEK is a low-maintenance synthetic decking material. The slender black aluminum railing spindles provide great visibility into the back yard. Narrow profile darkly colored spindles are very popular because of the visibility they allow. The dark color draws your eye through to what lies beyond.

Outdoor fireplaces continue to grow in popularity here in the Kansas City market. Not only do they provide tremendous ambiance but they also provide some warmth to allow you to use your room for a longer amount of time throughout the year.

Steve Folsom - Kansas City deck and porch builder

Steve Folsom – Kansas City deck and porch builder

If you’re considering the addition of an outdoor fireplace – or a deck, porch, patio or other outdoor living structure – to your Kansas City area home, give us a call at (913) 851-3325 for a free consultation or email us at We look forward to your call.


Ipe-The best decking material?




Sealed Lenexa Ipe deck


Un-sealed Lee’s Summit Ipe deck


Ipe, also known as ironwood and Brazilian walnut, is the most dense and durable hardwood available for building decks and porches. It has a harder surface and is more dense that Teak and Mahogany. Usually harvested in Brazil, it is also farm grown in Costa Rica and other tropical South-Central American countries. It has a beautiful reddish-brown color when installed. Ipe will turn a silver gray if not sealed looking similar in appearance to Teak. Here in Kansas City with our strong amount of sun it should be sealed yearly to maintain its natural color.      

It has a Class A fire rating which is the same as concrete and steel. Because of its very dense nature it is much more resistant to rot and insect damage than the other popular decking choices in this area of cedar, pine, or redwood. Although it can develop some cracks and checks, it is much more unlikely to do so than the other species mentioned, as well as less splintering.      

Too put the difference in perspective, a cubic foot of Ipe weighs 73 pounds while a cubic foot of Western red cedar weighs 23 pounds. Red oak is 43 pounds and Southern Yellow Pine is 36 pounds. A typical deck made from Ipe will last 25-50 years while a cedar deck may last 12. The sidewalk in front of the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is even made from Ipe. It gets excessive wear and tear and is exposed to harsh weather conditions and holds up very well.      

Many people like Ipe because it is a natural forest product as opposed to the composites made from plastics. It has a beautiful finished look. Ipe is attached with stainless steel screws or with hidden fasteners for a more polished finished appearance. As you can see from these pictures, if you want the best, choose Ipe.  

Kansas City Deck Railings-Decorate and accessorize


If you want etched glass and illuminated with LED lighting, it’s available!, 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.

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.


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.