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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Welcome spring with porch remodeling

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer


It's spring and our thoughts turn to outdoor living.

We long for the days soon to come when we can sit on our back porch and relax outside, and our mouths are already watering for the first barbecue of the season.

With the spring weather come opportunities to focus on the exterior of our homes and begin to prepare them for summer.

Whether your porch needs just a good cleaning or complete remodeling, now is the time to spruce it up for the summer.

If you have a porch, you can start planning today to get it ready for another season of outdoor living.

At the very least, every front porch needs a good cleaning each spring.

An old-fashioned bucket of suds and a sturdy brush may do the trick. If your porch needs more than elbow grease, consider using a power washer. You can rent them at most home-improvement stores or equipment-rental outlets.

Because porches sit outside in the elements, they are subject to damage from the constant exposure to wind, water and sunshine. In addition to getting a good bath, your porch may also need some repairs or remodeling(See Pictures of Front Porch Designs) to ensure it is in prime condition.

First check the roof. Correctly built, a porch roof is flashed to the wall of the house. This means a piece of bent metal — usually copper or galvanized steel — is placed to run up under the siding on the wall and under the top course of the porch's shingles.

This will keep water from leaking at the joint into the roof structure or into the house.

If you have a leaky porch roof, or to prevent it from leaking in the future make sure your roof is properly flashed and the flashing is in good condition.

Older front porches were often designed with tin sheet roofs. Soldered together, the seams eventually separate and leak. If you need to replace the roof, new plywood sheathing can be covered with a bituthene membrane (such as Ice and Water Shield) and topped with half-lap mineral-surfaced roll roofing.

You can also use fiberglass-asphalt shingles for a more finished look. You shouldn't use organic felt shingles on low slopes, because they will soak up moisture and rot.

Porches should always have gutters and downspouts to direct runoff water away from your home's foundation.

If the floor of your front porch is wood, it is vulnerable to damage from weather. When the end grain (the end of wood slats) is exposed, the wood will soak up water and begin to mold and rot. End grains should be protected with a finished trim piece of wood on the edge to help keep moisture out.

If you are replacing floorboards, you should paint all sides and ends with oil-based porch-and-deck enamel paint that will help keep the wood dry.

Moisture in the flooring can also impact the framing beneath the porch and the bottoms of columns and stair railings that rest on the flooring.

Any rotted framing should be replaced with pressure-treated lumber that resists water damage; natural wood should not be in contact with the ground or concrete.

Porch railings and steps can also be replaced if they have seen better days.

Today you have several porch materials from which to choose. Douglas fir is the least expensive option if you wish to use real wood. It is also the least durable and will require the most maintenance. Redwood or cedar are better choices for exterior applications.

In the Rocky Mountain climate, these types of wood benefit from regular applications of some type of oil to combat dryness. These species will turn a silver-gray color unless a tinted stain or paint is applied.

As an alternate to natural wood, there are manufactured products meant for exterior use on porches or decks.

These products are made from approximately 50 percent reclaimed plastic and 50 percent reclaimed wood, making them an environmentally friendly choice.

Though they will fade slightly, they require no maintenance, and you won't have to worry about splinters in bare feet. Coordinating railing and fence options are also available.

And one final tip: Make sure the snow shovel and bag of ice melt are safely tucked away in the garage.

In their place, a pot of flowers will go a long way to welcoming another summer season. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2009 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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