Considerations for a small screen porch

Sueb20November 9, 2012

We are meeting with a contractor this weekend about the feasibility of turning our small back deck into a screened-in porch. Unless we expand the existing footprint -- and I don't think we will, and I also don't think we can because we are at our "maximum coverage" on our lot -- the whole thing will be about 8' x 11'. Basically big enough for a loveseat, chair, end table, and small coffee table. If you have a small porch like this, do you have any special considerations I should keep in mind?

One big question is the swing of the door going from the porch to the patio below. I think the door probably has to swing IN, right? That stinks because that door swing will take up a lot of potential interior space. Or maybe I'm wrong about the door swing? When you exit the porch, you will be going down 2 steps to a patio.

I do think I also want screens that can be removed and replaced w/ storm windows, as opposed to just a wall of screen, if you know what I mean. And rather than having the screen go from floor to ceiling, I want the bottom 1/4 or 1/3 to be wall, because we have (short) dogs who will probably push their heads through the screen if a bird flies by.

Need to figure out lighting, too, because I will want to read out there at night. Maybe just an overhead light plus an indoor/outdoor lamp -- I have an indoor/outdoor floor lamps on our beach cottage porch and love it.

I guess I'm mostly looking for ideas on how to maximize the small space, and/or any "don't make the mistake I made" advice!

If you have a screened-in porch, what do you have for a floor? Our current deck has Trex flooring; not sure if we can/should keep that or not.

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As much roof overhang as possible and the upholstered/pillowed furniture on an inside wall. Sitting out while it rains is lovely, but only if you're dry, of course. :)

(Our overhangs aren't deep enough when a breeze comes up, so we're waiting for the oak we planted to arch over for additional shelter. Another decade should do it.)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Sue, I was going to screen the patio in this past spring, but decided to extend the patio and landscape instead. It could happen next spring.

Sounds to me what you want is a 4 season porch(sunroom) rather than a 3 season porch~I think the windows make it a 4 season(sunroom). Many of the patios I see screened in are just that, screens only, but it depends what you'll be using the space for. Some people want an actual room, so insulate and add heat.

As for the door, i'm not sure. My front door swings in, but the backdoor swings out, although there aren't stairs at either entrance, so that could make a difference.

And you might want a ceiling fan, which is what I currently have on my outside patio. it nice to have air circulating.

Being I have the patio slab already, with an extended flagstone patio, i'm not sure of flooring. I'll either continue with the flagstone(but may not want to spend the money),or use a cement paint which will match with the flagstone.

As for maximizing the space, you first need to decide on it's purpose~extension for outdoor entertaining, additional reading/tv space, extra eating space, etc. I just want a space where my cats can go 'out' and lay. ;o)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:38PM
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Hi - We have a 12' x 14' porch. The screen door swings OUT and you step down onto a 4' x 4' wooden step. You then step onto the patio. Our floor is cedar -- love the look, hate the maintenance. We really should protect it each year and we don't...I call it patina... A friend has a blue stone floor. It's beautiful! Our screens are floor to ceiling and they are in frames, so they are removable. When the porch was built, the contractor said we could pull the replace the screens with some kind of windows for the winter to extend the time we could spend in the porch. We never did this. We have a ceiling fan which we LOVE and use alot during the summer. Our only light is on the ceiling fan. I wish we had built in some additional lighting. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 5:19PM
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I was also going to suggest a sunroom if you want windows. Not sure though about putting a wall and windows on a deck. (load bearing?)

When we built our house we built it with a screened in porch - roof and built on a concrete base off the patio. You step down two steps to the patio. We had a short wall then screen material. The more we used the room the more I knew I wanted it year round with real furniture. It's become more like a den to us and we use it every. single. day. Best decision we made in this house. So, we had a floor, framing and roof. We had the room sheet-rocked in and long windows (don't come all the way to the floor though) installed. The windows are all sliders - so they open completely. I have a wicker loveseat and chair with slipcovered cushions, a leather stressless chair and ottoman, a hoosier cabinet, a drop-leaf table, a small side table and a small coffee table in the room. The drop-leaf can be opened out and used for extra dining. We usually have our large Christmas tree out there. I'm not sure of the dimensions. I have a fan/overhead light and lamps out there.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 5:55PM
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I have a screened porch almost exactly the size you mention. I enjoy it so much. The floor is concrete. Unfortunately it was painted at some point and now the paint just peels and peels. I have it covered with an out door rug which also feels good under my feet. Will you be able to see the porch from indoors? Mine is off the living room and is reached by a door with a window. I keep a semi sheer curtain on the door because the porch is not so attractive in the winter. I cover the furniture with a tarp.

When it rains, the rain always seems to come from the same direction, so I do not keep furniture with cushions at that end. I have a set of Lloyd Flanders wicker -- an 85" sofa, a rocker and a regular chair. I also have a wicker coffee table. That is less than ideal because the wicker leaves ridges on the back of your legs when you prop them up on the table.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 6:16PM
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We have a four seasons room and it has two regular windows on one wall and four on another, one wall is attached to the house and the fourth one has a set of french doors leading to our family room. I find the more windows the better. There is no exit from the room except in to our den. I'm here alone often and don't like an access there. From the den you can go outdoors. I used single chairs rather than a couch and one ergonomic chaise. I love it there with a cuppa in the a.m. and my puter to read the news. We have wood floors with a sisal rug. I kept it simple so it would have a very very relaxed feel. You're going to love yours, it's like being on a little vaca when you're out there.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 6:17PM
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Just a suggestion, but,if you do not have lighting outside the screen, your eye will stop and you will get that black hole effect!
Hope I did not step on anyone's toes but lighting beyond the screen opens up the whole area!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:52AM
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Thanks for all the advice! Very curious to hear what the builder says tomorrow....

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:17AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Hahaha, I've heard this tale so often....

You have a deck to sit like it a lot and want to use it more so you enclose it to be a like it more so then you add windows to make it 3 season....then you like it so much you winterize it. Then you realize you don't have a deck to sit outside, so you add a deck.....


    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:03AM
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My screened porch is my favorite thing about our house. We considered a 3-season porch, but I wanted an outdoor porch like the one I grew up with, so we stuck with all screens. We are out there all the time 4 months of the year and eat all our meals there. I always tell anyone considering a porch to DO IT!

Our outside door opens out to 3 steps to the deck. We have two ceiling fans which make the porch bearable even on the hottest days. Our porch faces west and we get the evening sun just as we sit down to eat. The fans are necessary.

sueb, you mentioned Trex. Our porch floor isn't the Trex brand, but it is a composite. We also have it on the deck and I like it better there. On the porch, every little bit of food dropped makes a stain, and if you wipe it, it leaves a spot that you can't get rid of unless you wash down the entire floor to make it match. On the outside deck, the rain and tree debris helps to make it all look uniform. There are threads somewhere on the board with descriptions of problems people have had with Trex. I really dislike our floor.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:55PM
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I'll be interested in watching this project develop. I am considering turning my carport into a 4 season room-- much like you are considering. I'd want wall on the bottom (not just for dogs-- but also to protect from the occasional high snows) and windows/screens around the perimeter. Yes, it will take away the covered parking but the gain in square footage would be a huge improvement in my small home.

Let us know how your meeting went!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 4:24PM
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So, the guy who came over today said the project is not feasible (for him, anyway) mainly because of our roof pitch. It's hard to explain but we have an addition on the back of our house with an almost but not quite flat roof, but then there is another part of the house where the roof is more pitched...and these parts meet where the porch (and its roof) would be...I can't explain it well so I won't even try. DH and I think it can be done, but it won't be a quick and easy sort of project. We were hoping to avoid this, but we might check in with the architect who we have used on a couple of projects to see what his take is. Problem there is that we usually head down a long and expensive road when we start talking to him!

Anyway, it was a bit disappointing but at least the guy was honest and didn't say he could do something that he didn't feel comfortable doing. I think the next step is to see if it can be done according to our architect, and then decide how far we want to go with it if it turns out to be a really big project.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Oh, Sue.. sorry to hear it. Hope you get better info from the architect!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 7:54PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Yeah, anything can be done if you throw enough $$ at it...ain't that always the way!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 9:09PM
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Just an update -- we met with our architect the other night and yes, it can be done! And it won't be all that difficult. We just needed someone with some creativity and insight. He will be back in another week or two with drawings and we will meet with our builder (who has done lots of work for us in the past) at the same time. I will be sure to post before and after pics when it's done! I am begging them to get it finished by May...

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 4:34PM
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