By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
It’s spring and our thoughts turn to outdoor living. We long for the days soon to come where 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. 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 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 renting a power washer. You can rent them at most home improvement stores or equipment rental places.
Porches are a great way to take advantage of Utah’s spring and summer weather. Whether you have a small front porch with a single chair or a big back porch that spills into the back yard, now’s the time to assess its condition and get it ready.
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 updating to ensure it’s 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 of the wall and over the top course of the porch’s shingles. This will keep water from leaking into the roof structure or running down the side of the house. Make sure your roof is properly flashed and the flashing is in good condition.
Older porches were often roofed with tin sheets. 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. You shouldn’t use organic felt shingles on low slopes because they will soak up moisture and rot. Porches should also always have gutters to keep water away.
If the floor of your porch is wood, it is very vulnerable to damage from weather. If 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 edge of wood molding to help keep moisture out. If you are replacing floor boards, 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 or an engineered wood such as Trex, which resists water damage. Porch railings and steps can also be replaced if they have seen better days. Natural wood should not be in contact with the ground or concrete. Rather, you should use pressure-treated or engineered wood to significantly increase the longevity of such critical pieces of your porch.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.