Screened Porch off great room dilemma... opinions please!

JSpannJanuary 30, 2014

Our proposed houseplan (this is the rough draft) has a covered, screened porch off the Great Room.
The question is: will it make the house too dark? Are there viable options to negate this? Is the enjoyment of the porch worth the trade offs?

We want the porch because:
1) for extra entertaining space, an extension of the living areas. For this reason, we'd like to keep it centrally located.
2) we like where it is to have the access door from the master bedroom. eventually we may have a jacuzzi out there...
3) we want it screened because we're in Tennessee... which means a lot of bugs, and mosquitoes like to use me as a buffet. :)

The Great room will be a flat ceiling because I prefer that to vaults. Mostly likely will be coffered or something similar... something decorative.

Are sun tunnels/skylights or something of the sort a good option? In the great room? In the porch to help light flow to the great room?

I am including a picture of the location of the house and our plan. As you can see from the spot, its on a nice, open sunny hill (it'll have a walkout basement)- and the back of the house will face mostly East (slightly south-east).

Please help me decide what we should do!

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Here is the plan -

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Skylights in the Great Room?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 1:41PM
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We live in AL and our layout is very similar to yours. We are finishing up our new construction in the next couple of weeks and they are putting our screen porch in this week. It will be off the back of the living room and will have access from the master bedroom. We also plan on putting a hot tub in it. I worried about it blocking the light from my 2 large windows also, but I think the benefit of having a screen porch (especially in the south) will outweigh that. As soon as it is done this week I can post a pic.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 1:59PM
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It's going to be dark in that great room ... consider skylights in it or in the porch roof.

But in Tennessee, the bugs mean a screened porch.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 2:58PM
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Skylights on the porch, and do sola tubes in the great room. You can add diimming capabilities and light bulbs to the sola tubes for better light control.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 3:14PM
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Holcombe3, I will love to see a picture! And congrats on your house!

We have discussed just screening the area under the deck (where the walk out basement is)... but when are we going to trek downstairs just to go sit on the screened porch? Not happenin. And I do agree that we may not use it much if we put it off to the right side of the house...
but my worries about light and blocking the view are still meddling with my final conclusion. Wish this were easier!

lazygardens, do you think skylights in the porch roof would make a significant difference?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 3:14PM
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Looks like I need to do some research about the tubes! Sounds pretty awesome. Thanks, bpathome !

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 3:23PM
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our plan also has a 12 ft deep wrap porch on the south and west
the entire greatroom porch wall is either 6 ft windows or glass doors and i'm still thinking that it will still be somewhat dark
since we are in the gulf coast area of texas, i'm just going to deal with whatever it is
my main concern is will i be able to see outdoors through the windows and screened porches around the porch furniture-i'm a birdwatcher......

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 3:29PM
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If your great room has some height to it, or if you step down to your porch, you could put clerestory windows up high where they would sit above where the porch roof intersects the house. That way you could get light directly to the room.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 4:27PM
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Some indication of the lot orientation and the orientation of the home is in order.

A screened porch in the South on the South side is a good thing in the summer to shade the house, as long as it's not glassed, trapping heat. Unfortunately, that means it's pretty unusable from late April through early October because of the heat.

If you want this to be well used except for the hottest summer months, the north side of the house is the best for the most seasonal enjoyment. If you have glass panels made to enclose it in the winter, it's even usable for all but the coldest days then.

Even an Easterly direction is pretty usable for most months, if it's shaded from the western sun by a tall enough house.

What's completely useless is a western facing outdoor room. Unless you enjoy 110ð al fresco experiences.

Just looking at the plan without any clue as to direction, I would think that the best location for usability for the porch would be behind the garage, connecting to the kitchen.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Our last house had a large covered deck off the great room facing north in Alberta and the room was plenty bright all year. I think window size helps, ours were approximately 9 ft tall by 15 ft wide. I also prefer a covered deck or screened porch over direct sunlight in the great room, helps to prevent furniture fading...

Not a great pic, realtor took it and it had our old furniture. But it shows how light the room was. The light above the fireplace was on, it doesn't give off much light and the pot lights... were off.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 8:30PM
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We have a similar layout and we're doing 2 solatubes over the island and 3 pendants. The porch will have skylights. Don't forget a fan:).

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 10:08PM
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I don't want to hijack this thread, but I have a related question for those who currently have screened porches with a similar layout to JSpann. Our 3 yr old house has a similar layout, and we are adding a screened porch. Initially I was worried about the great room being dark, and we planned on putting skylights in the porch ceiling. Our great room is vaulted, and the entire wall is windows. The porch will also be vaulted, and it's a full story off the ground. My concern is that those skylights will be a real PITA to keep clean. I hate dirty windows! We live in the woods, and the birds do a number on my windows, so I imagine that they will also make a mess on the skylights.

Anxious to hear your comments! I would also love to see pics of others porch fans. Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 10:29AM
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They make 40' extension ladders to be able to climb onto the roof to clean those skylights. If that's not your idea of fun, find out from a home service company what they'd charge to do it. And sit down while you are getting the estimate.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 10:51AM
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Too funny live_wire. That definitely is not my idea of fun!! Especially for an old lady like me!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 11:34AM
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Hey! We have a covered terrace off of our family room. It faces east. I was petrified of the room being dark, so our builder suggested skylights even though he thought it would be fine without them. We had them installed, and I do think they make the porch more "sunshiny." :) However, I think several other factors contribute to our kitchen, breakfast room, great room being light-filled much moreso than the skylights. First, even though our ceiling in the kitchen/great room is a standard 10' ceiling (no vault) the foyer which leads into the family is 2 story. It has a large window at the top, and our double front doors are 3/4 glass. Sunlight pours into the great room in the afternoon from them. Also, the study and formal dining room have cased openings that open into the back of the house. Finally, we have large windows in the breakfast room, kitchen, and my little office. These are south facing windows (and west, my office has windows on 2 walls.) plus, 3 glass doors to terrace.

I think, looking at your plan, you'd be ok. Personally, I'd move that fireplace out of that corner and onto that left wall, then put in another set of doors or windows, but that is just a balance thing for me, probably not necessary for light. If you do get skylights, we haven't had any problem with them. The window cleaning company we use just charges them as another window. We could also easily access them ourselves from upstairs windows onto the porch roof. They really weren't that expensive, maybe $600 each? (or total, I can't remember, we have 2.) here are some pics:
Back of house, showing terrace and roof

Here is one skylight. Oh, and we painted the tongue and groove ceiling blue, which helps, too.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:37PM
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We used a translucent roof on our screen porch. We get plenty of light through it (except when it's covered in snow).

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:48PM
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Awesome help, everyone!

Okokok, one thing you might look into is the type of screen ��" I have heard of/seen something I think was called âÂÂsuper screenâ ��" that allows HUGE areas of unobstructed screen (versus regular screen that needs supports every x amt of feet). I think it will help with ours ��" and I bet itâÂÂd help with yours too!

xc60, thank you so much for that picture! That is really encouraging. By the way, I think those floors are beautiful (well, the whole room is) ��" what kind of floors are they?

Houseofsticks ��" I think the solatube in the kitchen is a fantastic idea. I am writing that onto my âÂÂmust doâ list :)

nini804, thank you too for the picture! I am so visual. I love the light blue ceiling too! I am definitely planning to move that fireplace to the left wall. I donâÂÂt want to try to place furniture around the corner!

I am feeling pretty good about this at this point. The back of the house will be a very sunny, east-facing and we will put floor to ceiling windows in definitely. It seems like the solatubes and skylights can be added after the fact if we discover theyâÂÂre really necessary, no?

I do think the benefit of having that screen porch here in middle TN will outweigh any possible drawbacks (most of which we can remedy in some way.... I think :) )

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 1:41PM
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Our Great Room, Bedroom, Kitchen area placement is very similar to yours but has the fireplace against what is your WIC/bathroom wall. Our plan called for a sliding door but we just went with 3 extra tall windows and also bumped out the breakfast nook 4' and our Great Room is plenty light and wouldn't change a thing.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 5:32PM
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BTW...our home back porch faces North which is exactly what I wanted

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 5:37PM
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Beth Parsons

Our floor plan is very similar to yours as well. We have a 14' deep porch on the back of our great room with 9' ceilings and while it isn't the brightest room in the house, it's not some dark dungeon, either. The back of the house faces west so the overhang is very welcome, especially in the hot Tennessee summers (we're in Mboro. :) We originally planned on screening this in but once we moved in, hubby decided he preferred it open. The bugs are only a big issue when we sit out there in the evening since the light draws them in.

This pic was taken with my cell and it makes the room darker than it is IRL.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:14PM
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Thank you so much JSpann, the floors are Kentwood Originals Maple Pioneer. They look much more red in photos then in real life and also have a handscraped appearance which we love and it hides any dents and scratches really well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kentwood Flooring Link to Floors

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 9:17PM
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