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Consider space needs, lighting, outlets in porch design

The Baltimore Sun

The next project at my home is a screened porch. I have looked at many plans, but none of them really excite me. I have some good ideas about what I want in my design. What should I take into consideration in this planning phase so that I end up with the perfect screened-in porch?

Good screened porch designs are often hard to find. Most of the ones I have seen seem to be mutations of decks that are just thrown onto the rear or side of a home.

The first thing you need to consider is the size. One really effective way to create the floor plan is to buy the furniture you intend to use on the porch before you build the structure. Set the furniture up in your yard, spacing it exactly as you intend to place it on the finished porch. Be sure you have the spacing correct, so people can walk freely around the chairs, tables and decorative items.

Use string to create the outline of the porch so you can see the shape and get fairly accurate measurements. My guess is that, to seat at least eight or more people comfortably, you will discover that you need a screened porch that measures at least 15 feet by 15 feet.

The outside design should match the style and character of your home. This means you should copy the roof pitch as well as the exterior trim details.

Be very aware of interior hallways or pathways within the floor plan of the porch if you plan to have a door leading from the porch to your yard. A doorway will often consume 15 or 20 square feet of floor space inside the screened porch, especially if it is placed in a corner.

I urge you to consider a vaulted ceiling inside the screened porch. This design detail is magical, as it creates a feeling of immense spaciousness. A vaulted ceiling also helps keep the porch slightly cooler, as hot air can easily rise up to the highest point of the roof.

Your outdoor screened-in porch design should include soft indirect lighting that bounces off the ceiling as well as task lighting over a table.

Be sure to plan for adequate electric outlets in key locations where you might place a television, sound system or any other appliance than needs electricity. You must avoid extension cords.

Be sure the walls of the screened porch are tall enough so that views are not blocked by the roof overhang, any beams that are supporting the roof and the actual finished framing around the screens.

Expert home builder and remodeling contractor Tim Carter has 20 years of hands-on experience in the home industry. If you have a question, go to and click on "Ask Tim."

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