Deep porches and dark interior concerns

tkfinn97January 29, 2012

I had been planning a 8 foot porch that runs the entire south side of our house. My husband has decided to make it 10' deep, which I agree will add some much needed room as we plan to spend a lot of time out there. We are close to the border of Canada, and now I am beginning to worry that the winter sun will be unable to reach the interior of our house (great room is on the south side of the house as well) and that the rooms will be very dark and gloomy. Do any of you have thoughts on this? Would it make sense to add some skylights to the porch? Or would the skylights make it too hot during the summer months? It is a 2 story house with living space above the great room. Opinions are welcomed!

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We also have porches on our house on both the north & south sides. The front porch faces south and is 8' deep, the back porch faces due north and is 10' deep along the kitchen wall and 16' deep along the family room wall. I was also worried about the natural light issue especially in the family room with such a deep porch and the north direction. When I solicited feedback from GW, most posters said the rooms would be gloomy. In the end, though, my worries (and the gloomy predictions) were unfounded. While I do not have direct sunlight streaming in, I have plenty of natural light that I can work and read by without help of ambient/overhead lighting even in winter. Really the only time we turn on the lights in there is at night. The room feels open & airy--keeping the wall & floor color on the light side & having lots of windows also helps. Our furniture is dark, but the floor is natural stained oak and the walls are a medium beige color (SW Simply Beige).

DS1's bedroom is on the front of the house on the south side with his bedroom window under the porch. During the winter, he complains of the sun waking him up too early as the sun is still low enough in the southern sky to shine in under the porch right through his window. Another 2' in porch depth might have helped that.

Since you say your family room is also on the south side think about what happens when sun shines directly into a room--there typically is a glare on the TV or it shines directly in someone's eyes and you have to pull the curtains or close the blinds. With the porch in place you won't have to worry about any of that. You should get plenty of natural light without the glare.

Your DH is right in thinking that an extra 2' would help with usability of the porch. My parents' front porch is 10' deep and they are easily able to use it for parties and such. With my 8' deep porch on the front of the house it would be more difficult as it's just not deep enough to accomodate a table, chairs, etc. (Well I guess it could accomodate them, but it would be very tough to get around the table to get to all the chairs to have a seat-LOL!)

The question then is: which is more important to you--streaming sunlight in a room vs. a roomier & more versatile porch for relaxing/entertaining? At our house the answer was the porch, hands down.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 9:41AM
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With either an 8' or 10' covered porch, your windows won't get much if any DIRECT sunlight. In either case, if you want to ensure that the great room won't be dark and dismal, skylights or solartubes on the porch would be a good idea.

While skylights CAN make it a bit warmer on the porch, the heat build up shouldn't be as problematic as having skylights in an enclosed room inside the house would be. Remember that your porch should have plenty of air circulation so heat won't build up the same way it would inside. Plus you can add vents to the porch roof to allow rising warm air to escape in the summertime.

The other thing you'll want to do with a deep porch is make sure the porch flooring and porch ceiling are light colors with high reflectivity values. This will allow light to "bounce around" on the porch more so you get more reflected light entering your great room.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 9:57AM
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mydreamhome and bevangel - thank you so much for your feedback! You have made me feel much better about our planned porch and the sunlight issue. I can move forward with the porch without the agony of indecision of the last 24 hours. Just when you think you are done with the planning stage, concerns like this pop up and make you think your dream is ruined :) It's great that we have this forum so we can think of ways to solve potential problems before the build!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:30AM
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Glad I came across this! We have covered porch on the front and back side of our house (north and south). I thought of the light issue during our planning stage, but having the covered area outside was more important. Also, the home we just sold was facing west, so we really didn't get any direct sunlight except for a very short time in the morning in the kitchen/dining and not until about 3pm in the livingroom. Between that time, there was plenty of natural light. I'm hoping the same will be true for the new house. Tkfinn97...I'm interested to see how it works out for you. We are about 2-3 hours south of the Canadian border (MN), so maybe our lighting conditions will be similar...our build SHOULD be done in about 6 weeks.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 11:36PM
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I really appreciated the advice from the posters above, and hope it works out for you nikkidan! I also called my sister yesterday to ask for her thoughts, and she mentioned that most of her south facing windows usually have the shades down during the day since the direct light was uncomfortable depending on where you are sitting. Our current house is facing west too, and since you mentioned it, I usually close the shades around 2 or 3 p.m. since the sun is streaming right into my eyes. I am feeling better and better about this :)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 8:45AM
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We have a wrap around porch...8 ft wide. I reside in Canada and so I understand about the winter light. Anyhow our porches were designed with clear lexon material sections built over the windows areas so that the light comes through. Just a thought!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 5:31PM
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We have two skylights in our covered terrace (it faces east, though, not south.). It is 13" deep, and I was very concerned about light, especially since we rented an older ranch home with a deep porch while we were building and it was SUPER dark! Anyway, we have found that the fact that the ceilings are 10", both inside and on the porch, our exterior is white painted brick, so reflects light, and the fact that I had the porch ceiling (v-groove boards) painted light blue like the sky keeps it very light! It never feels dark in our home, even on a rainy day! The skylights and blue ceiling really make it seem "sunny." :)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 5:47PM
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I think it depends on how high the porch ceilings are, whether you have trees to reduce the amount you have to work with to begin with, how big your windows are under the porch, and how much natural light you are hoping to have in your home. If you have high porch ceilings and many really big windows and your property is naturally pretty sunny, then I don't think it's a problem. But, if your porch height is only 8 ft. and your windows are smaller and higher up (so closer to the roofline) and your property is pretty shady, then yes, I think a deep porch would cause a problem in getting natural light into your home.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 6:13PM
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nikkidan, what part of MN are you in? We are in Duluth and hope to be building soon after we sell our house.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 7:54PM
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Great points gobruno, probably the most important variables. For others in the design stage thinking of porches facing South, consider elimanating covered porches on the South altogether. Passive Solar Design can provide 40-90% of your heat needs for free with little concern for summer overheating.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cost Effective Passive Solar Design

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 10:42PM
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Does anyone have a picture of their porch skylights to share? I have seen a few, but would love to see more. I live in Florida where the majority of homes are built with roof trusses - that seems to complicate things in this matter.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 1:33PM
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Our S-SE facing porch is 10'wide by 60' long with some wrapping the east and west sides. We love it! It's big enough for parties, tables, chairs etc. We have large windows on the south side, living room and kitchen, letting in plenty of natural light. As previous posters said, keep your wall colors light. You will never regret a porch, and in our area, the porch actually reduces cooling costs significantly. It blocks that hot summer sun. In the evenings in the summer the sun is in the NW, so our SE porch is always shady and much cooler than if we had a deck on the back of the house.
Good luck, enjoy that porch!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 2:53PM
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frozenelves8...we are about 4 hours west of Duluth.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:23PM
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