For those of us in northeastern Indiana who want to enjoy the great outdoors as much as possible, there are several improvement choices. Key factors are the backyard environment, our budget , and how and when we want to use our outdoor space.
Decks are an extremely versatile way to get outside and either enjoy the solitude or host a party. Decks can be a simple horizontal surface, or equipped with railing, gates, lighting, have multi-levels, stairs, and many more amenities (as terrain and budget would allow, or dictate). There are also many different materials (various types of wood as well as synthetic decking such as TimberTech, AZEK, Trex, and the like) that can be used to increase aesthetics and reduce maintenance, again as budget will allow. Decks can also be constructed as a basis for future additions and improvements, such as a spa or porch enclosure, but it requires forward thinking and planning.
Perhaps your space has a southern or western exposure, a shade structure might make the space enjoyable all day. A shade structure can be designed to reduce the amount of direct sunlight, or it can be designed to totally eliminate it. It is often attached to the existing house but it can also be free-standing.
- A pergola (a.k.a. trellis or arbor) is a structure that is intended to provide partial protection and is supported by posts with an overhead system usually constructed from open rafters and purlins. The amount of shade provided is dictated by the density of the rafters and the purlins. This type of structure is typically made from metal reinforced vinyl or from a variety of woods that are suitable. Pergolas come in many design styles.
- An open porch is a structure that intended to provide complete overhead protection, but it typically has no walls. It might also be called a gazebo, portico or veranda. Again, the structure might be attached to the house or free-standing. The exterior of the roof usually matches and compliments the home’s roof and style. The underside of the roof can be cathedral or flat, can be constructed from or covered with a variety of materials and, can have amenities such as ceiling fans, speakers and lighting. This type of structure is usually more expensive than a pergola. With proper planning an open porch can be the foundation for a future enclosed porch, as needs change, or budget allows.
Porches and the like:
There are many names for this type of structure. Porches, 2-season rooms, screen rooms, 3-season rooms, 4-season rooms, sunrooms, patio covers, or a conservatory or a solarium. It is a space outside the main structure of the house that has a roof, a floor system and walls. The primary difference in what the porch is called is defined by how the components of the porch are constructed and finished.
For this discussion we will focus on the structural components and how they impact the use and cost of the porch:
- Roof: can be the traditional type that matches the house, or it can let light into the space either through the use of skylights or even a fully translucent or transparent glazed roof (conservatory or solarium). A structure with a roof that has a hexagonal or octagonal shape could be called a gazebo. If the roof is insulated then it could be part of a 4-season room or sunroom. There are many construction details that must be attended to when constructing a roof, especially when attaching to an existing residence such as proper loading, flashing, and sub-roof ventilation. Only someone who understands the proper construction techniques should be attaching a roof to your residence.
- Floor system: most porch floor systems are either grade level concrete, or deck structure and construction, if above grade. As one of the primary reasons for putting up walls around our outdoor space is to keep bugs from ruining our fun, screen under the decking to prevent mosquitoes from getting through the gaps in the deck boards is a must. As the floor surface will enjoy some protection from the elements because of roof or walls, floor finishes may be more than the traditional decking or masonry. There are some deck-like composite materials (TimberTech “Floorizon” or AZEK “Porch Plank“) that are tongue and groove, giving the feel of a traditional outdoor floor without the gaps of traditional decking, but under deck ventilation is a must. If the space is going to be part of a 4-season room or sunroom, it will need thermal breaks and adequate insulation. A floor that will be subject to the elements will need to slope away from the house to prevent water infiltration. If the flooring is going to be protected by well sealed windows then more traditional residential flooring is an option.
- Walls: For a screened porch or 2-season room, the walls will most probably be made of screen. These can either be screen panels or just screening stretched over the wall structure, with battens. 3-season porches will have some sort of window by definition. Windows in these types of projects are usually not insulated, but rather their purpose is to keep bugs, dust, and rain out, and maximize screened areas for catching the breeze in the summer, when opened. Sliding windows and telescoping vertical windows are the usual choice. There are many manufacturers who specialize in these, with EZ-Breeze being the one we most often recommend. 4-season rooms, sunrooms, conservatories and solariums will have some sort of heat source in Indiana, and maybe air conditioning. Windows in these sort of projects will be insulated and can come in many styles, the choice generally being those that match or compliment the residence. Custom builders can offer porch walls that make it look like the porch was an original part of the house, rather than an add on aluminum kit and many times, that can be done with little, or no additional cost.
Consider how you and your family would get the most enjoyment from your outdoor living space. Decide what your budget is and let us help you design the kind of structure to fit your outdoor lifestyle as well as your budget. We can guide you through the myriad of choices of materials and amenities to build the outdoor living structure that will enhance and prolong your enjoyment of the Indiana outdoors, as well as enhance the value of your house.