It’s summer and it’s hot. When evening shadows fall, most people prefer to sit outside on a deck or screen porch, rather than abiding indoors by the air conditioner.

For those homeowners who have neither a deck nor a screen porch, you would be amazed how the addition of either one of these can add to the appearance of your place. Here’s an example.

Once, I lived in a small cottage and while I had lawn chairs set out front, there was no deck. For a while, I was content with the flat rocks I used as paving stones but as inevitably happens, grass and weeds grew up. At the same time, the rocks settled in the ground and in the end, it was as if they weren’t even there.

Clearly, it was time to invest in a deck. And when it was completed, the difference in the appearance of my place had benefitted by several magnitudes.

Simple Deck

Fortunately for me, a close friend had the carpentry skills needed to figure out what components we needed to build a deck. Dan also did most of the building, which in the end proved a blessing.

After buying and assembling everything we needed to make a deck, we arranged everything on the lawn. Dan insisted on using pressure-treated lumber, a wise decision. Before going on, let me say that I once had a deck, on a previous house, that was made of native cedar. We treated the surface with Thompson’s Water Seal and re-applied the solution every so often. But even so, rain had a way of infiltrating and ultimately, the deck needed replacing. That won’t happen with pressure-treated lumber.

As per my new deck, with a plan in hand and the components all assembled, we began construction. Dan had brought a nail gun, a pneumatic device that saved countless hammer strokes. Even if you have to rent a nail gun, I would say it is a more-than worthwhile investment.

After affixing floor joists to the outside of the cottage and getting our footings in place, the work began. We built the deck frame on the lawn and then slid it into place in one, fell swoop. Then it was time for the uprights. Here again, the nail gun made it an easy job to drive the uprights for the railings in place.

In much less time than I thought it would require, my new, bright, shiny deck was completed and what a difference it made. One final thing, Dan made a permanent table for my gas grill and because of that, I began cooking outdoors more frequently. Even in winter, I found it a simple thing to shovel the snow off the deck, fire it up and grill a steak. Without the deck, that would never have happened.

Front Porch

Porches and decks differ somewhat in that it is assumed porches have a roof, and decks do not. The typical front porch, at least on older houses, has a roof, supported by columns. Newer construction often has a front deck rather than a front porch. This deck is usually quite spacious, so as to hold lawn furniture and perhaps even a picnic table. It has railings and steps leading to it.

Also, front porches and back porches differ. A front porch is usually more elaborate than a back porch. The back porch can be a simple platform with steps and its purpose is solely for ingress and egress. The front porch is for outdoor living.

Some people substitute a back deck for a back porch. This occurs where there is a spacious backyard, or where the view from the back of the house is something worthy of contemplation. Also, a back deck affords a degree of privacy not present with a front porch.

My new house came with a front porch, the old-fashioned kind with a roof held up by posts, and a screened-in back porch. The front porch has plenty of room for hanging planters, a bracket for the American flag and bird feeder. The road in front is quite busy, so my grilling and relaxing occurs on the screen porch out back, while the front porch is a good place to rest, out of the sun, after mowing the lawn.

While the screen porch in back is primarily utilitarian, the front porch lends itself to decorating, with an eye toward improving the house’s overall appearance. My work on the front porch has barely begun. The thing sags a bit in the middle and needs to be jacked up and leveled. For that I need assistance and a friend has agreed to help with this. But in the meantime, it’s fun to arrange and decorate despite the slight sag.

Porches come with a caveat. It is easy to lose sight of a porch’s true function and instead, view it as a storage area. In time, the porch becomes cluttered and in essence, has not only lost its original appeal, it has become an eyesore. So, beware of the urge to leave those boxes, broken bicycles and so on on the front porch because if you do, it may just become your new storage area.

Plants and hanging baskets can improve a front porch.

Other than that, decks and porches offer an easy way to enjoy outdoor living and also, add eye appeal and significant extra value to any home.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.

filed under: