Q&A / 

Outdoor Porch

DEAR TIM: I saw what’s being called an outdoor porch at a model home. It looked to me like a room without walls and was for the most part open to the elements. I’m puzzled by this concept as it doesn’t seem practical to have so many possessions sitting outdoors unprotected. Can you install outdoor porch swings in a room like this? I’m also stuck on what might be the best outdoor porch lights to illuminate these spaces once it’s dark. Gwen P., Wrightwood, CA

DEAR GWEN: You’re not the only one to be perplexed by this newer outdoor-porch trend. I have a traditional wrap-around outdoor porch on my home that provides shade and shelter during rain showers, but it’s not like the porches I ‘m seeing on new homes. While I don’t have an outdoor porch swing at my home now, it would take less than an hour to install the hangers for one.

This outdoor porch is more traditional. While not as big as a room, you can still sit on it most of the year in comfort. PHOTO CREDIT:  Tim Carter

This outdoor porch is more traditional. While not as big as a room, you can still sit on it most of the year in comfort. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

I agree with you about practicality with respect to these odd rooms. The outdoor porches I’ve seen in magazines, articles and at home shows would never survive the weather and interlopers I know to exist in many areas I’m familiar with. Driving rains, dust, birds, animals and thieves would ruin or rip off many of the things found in these spaces when you’re not around to watch or protect them. Large roof overhangs might protect the contents from most rainstorms, but blowing dust or snow surely could get to many of the furnishings I’ve seen in many of these rooms.

Outdoor porch lighting is something you really need to plan for no matter what size your porch may be. Recently I replaced the glaring traditional light bulbs on my outdoor patio with red light bulbs. The red light casts an eerie glow on the patio, but it allows me to see everything and not ruin my night vision whatsoever. White light, even when turned down with a rheostat, causes the pupils in your eyes to contract ruining your night vision.

You may want to test a single red bulb in one outdoor porch light to see how it works. Don’t make your final decision until you’ve spent several nights relaxing on the porch. You may be surprised as to how effective the red light is in illuminating the space while allowing you to look out at things beyond your porch. The red light on my patio allows me to gaze out upon the lake at my home seeing anything that’s on the water.

If red light is too radical for you, then you need to use very soft lighting that’s either indirect or is pointed down towards the ground. The softer lighting will be easy on your eyes and not cause strain at night. Indirect lighting that bounces off the ceiling can help create a very cozy mood.

The outdoor porch lights that you choose should match the overall feel of the room and the architecture of your home if at all possible. Be aware that inexpensive lights may have a finish that can pit or tarnish quickly. Pay attention to the warranty if you live in an area that has lots of pollution or salt mist that might corrode cheaper coated metal finishes.

Outdoor porch swings can be exceedingly comfortable, especially when they are designed properly. But they can come crashing to the porch floor if not hung properly. I don’t feel the use of a eyelet lag bolt is proper. This is a hardware item that simply screws into an overhead ceiling joist on your porch. They are prone to failure because of the weight of the swings and occupants.

I feel the better method is to use an eyelet through bolt. This is a longer bolt that passes through the entire ceiling joist or adjacent solid blocking and is held in place with washers and a nut. This hardware will only fail if the threads strip on the metal shaft or the nut pulls through the drilled hole. Both events are highly unlikely. To install an eyelet bolt such as this, you need to have access to the outdoor-porch framing. This can be a challenge if you’re trying to install the bolts on an already existing porch.

If you do decide to have an outdoor porch that’s like the one you saw at the home show, consider installing motion detectors that operate outdoor spotlights and an alarm. The spotlights could come on at night when an uninvited trespasser sneaks up and tries to take any of the items from the porch. If he’s so bold as to ignore the glare of the lights, then perhaps an alarm that activates as he walks into the space will cause him to run away.

The weather and other things that Mother Nature provides will probably be your bigger threat. Bird droppings, small mammals that move in and dust and pollen in the spring will surely become bothersome after you find yourself constantly dealing with these things. But if you furnish the room with things that can survive the direct blast from a garden hose, maybe it won’t be so bad!

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