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Country Porch Designs for the Whole Family

by Marcus Pickett

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A country porch is a place where life moves at a relaxed pace. A place for families, friends, and fun, this porch is less of an extension of the stairs, and more of a summertime living room. Of course, this tilt toward ambiance makes defining this type of porch notoriously difficult. On the other hand, because there is no defining characteristic, you have an incredible amount of latitude with your porch building design. You can opt for real wood or wood composite for lower maintenance demands, open-wall or screened-in porches, simple, box porches or elegant wraparound porches. Almost everything is on the table, so long as it caters to relaxation and extensive use. Above all else, the country porch isn't just there to look pretty. It wants to be used.

The Standard Country Porch
Though hard to define, the standard country porch is supposed to feel like a mini vacation every time you use it. This requires at least three things: shade, space, and seating. Some of the best country porches are large enough for a medium group of people and a card table. The optimal seating is of the rocking or swinging variety, with some folding chairs kept handy for extra company. Shade is the last and most important factor. It's hard to relax if the sun's beating down on you. A porch design with lots of shade (and maybe some breeze) is a refuge from the stress the sun can put on a body.

Porch Design
Those looking to add a porch to their home should consider a few factors. How important is privacy? Spending a lot of time on a front porch will naturally lead to interactions with passersby. Those who desire a more intimate setting might be better off with a back porch. Which way does the house face? The light on an east or west facing porch will vary greatly depending on the time of day. A north or south facing porch will have more consistent light, but no sunrises or sunsets. If there is enough room on the property and the means are available, you can have the best of both worlds with a wrap around porch. You also think about intended use and seasonal limitations. Can you turn your porch into a three- or even four-season porch with removable plastic and stand alone patio heaters? Do you need a miniature, outdoor misting system to take the edge off hot, summer afternoons?

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Professional Porch Building
Porch building is tempting for plucky do-it-yourselfers, particularly for homeowners who don't just want a country porch but live out in the country where porch building contractors can be scarce. Indeed, you might be able to build some type of porch on your own, but it's likely to be little more than a semi-attached deck that lacks both the durability and the aesthetic unity of a professionally designed and built porch. Certainly, building a standard porch is out of the question for the typical homeowner. But even professional porch building requires an active role on the part of the homeowner.

Existing Porches
A country porch is a comfy porch. If your existing porch needs an increase in comfort, there are multiple options. For some, the shadier a porch is the better option. To increase shade you can extend the overhang on the porch roof. If you're in it for the long haul, planting a tree now will provide shade and charm (maybe even food) in the future. Installing screen around a porch won't make too much difference in direct sun, but will keep bugs from becoming a bother in the evenings.

A rocking chair is a tried and true concept in porch design. A porch swing, hammock, or outdoor couch could also be a welcome addition. Whatever you choose, make it comfortable and plentiful. While "lived in" is comfortable by definition, upkeep walks a very fine line. Finally, if your porch is peeling, a bit of time spent sanding and painting will not only improve appearances and increase property value, it will also preserve the wood, and in turn the porch.

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Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.