Before air conditioning became widespread, the screened porch was considered a necessity in many areas as a respite from intense heat, especially as a safe, cool place to rest at night. Then, as different notions of “outdoor rooms” for all sorts of uses caught on, its popularity waned.
Now the screened porch is re-emerging with gusto on different styles of homes, in a wide range of prices, and all over the country, from warm climates to cold. In northern Minnesota, just below the Canadian border, builder Matt Balmer’s Lands End Development company builds mostly vacation homes. “We’re finding that consumers want them in their new houses without exception, [and] are also adding them on to existing homes,” he says. In much warmer San Antonio, many of Lake Flato Architects’ projects, mostly new homes, include at least one and sometimes two screened porches. “We love how they expand clients’ living space to enjoy morning coffee or watch a sunset with a cocktail,” says Rebecca Bruce, an architect and associate with the firm.
This time around, heat is not the only impetus. It’s joined by bugs and the serious health issues they bring. Mosquitoes represent the number one pest concern for home owners because of the Zika virus, says Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the Pest Management Association in Fairfax, Va., which represents 7,000 pest management companies.
Second on their list of health concerns are ticks. Lyme disease is no longer just along the East Coast, where it flourished in the past. The ticks that carry it have been found in the Midwest due to the recent mild winters, which allowed them to live through the season and thrive, Mannes says.
Enter the screened porch — a functional, attractive alternative. “You feel like you’re outdoors, but you’re safely indoors,” says architect Lou Balodemas, a principal in his eponymous architecture firm in Washington, D.C., a city that can be both hot and bug-filled. Similarly, the developers of Heritage Harbor Ottawa, a 142-acre marina community in the southwest Chicago area, find their location on the banks of the Illinois River translate to a desire for insect abatement strategies. And that’s why 80 percent of the condos and town homes they’ve built so far have a screened porch. “We’re by the water so it helps keep insects away, but the porches also add a nostalgic touch since so many associate them with their parents’ and grandparents’ homes,” says Tammy Barry, the firm’s director of marketing.
Whether your clients are searching for a new place with a screened space or they’re looking to market their listing with a nod to the outdoors, buyers and sellers alike need your expertise. Talk over these considerations with your clients, as well as the importance of hiring a professional skilled in screened-porch construction.
Screened porches provide their greatest enjoyment when they take advantage of nature, light, and views. But it can be tricky to do that with existing homes, and it’s often easier to incorporate a screened porch in a new house instead, says Chicago architect Julie Hacker of Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker Architects. The porches tend to be used most if located adjacent to or near a kitchen since they serve a casual eating—and living—function.
However, they also should be oriented so they won’t block views and light from adjacent, interior rooms. Skylights in a ceiling may compensate, Balodemus says; so may windows in the side walls of adjacent rooms, when possible. In warm San Antonio, the pros at Lake Flato Architects try to place porches where they may catch a breeze. And though it may not be technically deemed a screened porch, a detached building with screens is another option for those who have the land and don’t want to sacrifice light.
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