Porches are an often overlooked construction element. However, they have a huge impact on curb appeal, how you use the outdoor spaces of your home, and its value.
As of 2020, over 65% of new construction homes included a porch. Front porches are the most common, but 29% of new homes have a side or rear porch.
When it comes to choosing a porch, homeowners are spoiled for choice. Before you choose the right porch for your home, you should know about the different types of porches.
What Makes a Porch a Porch?
Before we look at different types of porches, let’s take a moment to define what a porch is. Porches typically fall into the “I know it when I see it” category. However, it is helpful to understand what makes a porch a porch.
A porch is an architectural structure. It’s main purpose is typically to provide shelter when entering or leaving the home. It also helps connect the interior of the home with the outdoors.
Technically, at least 50% of the porch’s area should be connected to the house. It should have a roof, which can be supported by columns, walls, or other supports.
Lastly, a porch should provide access from the home to the outdoors. A porch functions as a midway point between your yard and the interior of your home, offering you the best of both worlds.
The front porch is iconic. There have been songs written about it, and the effect it has on families and neighborhoods. A front porch is inviting. It can bring families and neighbors together, because it’s an outdoor extension of your living space.
Essentially, the front porch is the part of your home that you show, and even share with, the world around you.
A portico is a small front porch. It typically covers the steps that lead into your home. It offers the style and functionality of a porch on a limited budget, due to its small size.
A portico isn’t ideal for rocking chairs and glasses of iced tea. However, it does provide a welcoming space for guests, and can make the front of your home more inviting.
2. Farmer’s Porch
If you dream of a large front porch complete with columns, a farmer’s porch may be for you. It’s a common feature on farmhouse-style homes.
They typically have railings and support beams or columns. They are also large, and typically extend across the front of the home. This is what many people envision when they think of a porch.
This type of porch has a roof that provides shelter from rain and sun, effectively extending your living space outdoors. During the summer, the shade provided by the porch can make the area 10 to 15 degrees cooler than areas exposed to the sun.
The most common type of farmer’s porch is an elevated farmer’s porch. It typically has a wide staircase leading to the deck of the porch. This helps create an open, inviting feeling.
A ground level farmer’s porch typically has only one step, instead of the staircase of an elevated farmer’s porch.
Generally, farmer’s porches in the North are simpler. In the South, expect to see prominent ornate columns instead of understated supports.
3. Bungalow Porch
A bungalow home nearly always includes a front porch, known as a bungalow porch. The bungalow itself is identified by its low pitched roof and open floor plan.
In fact, the porch is such a defining feature of the porch, according to Bungalow Nation author Diane Maddex, a bungalow without a porch isn’t a bungalow at all, but a cottage.
This type of porch is typically topped with a side facing gabled roof. They can also be found underneath a dedicated front facing gable. They are typically large porches, designed to be used and enjoyed. Like the farmhouse style, they feature wide stairs.
Bungalow porches typically have tapered support columns. Cobblestones and brick are commonly used for the columns and exterior walls, creating a sturdy earthy look.
In some areas, like California, pergolas are common. In areas with cooler weather, a full roof is typical. In some areas, the bungalow porch may be small, like a portico, instead of a full-sized porch. This is common in areas with harsh winters when it’s difficult to spend time outdoors.
A back porch isn’t quite as iconic as a front porch, but they are still very popular. A back porch typically offers a bit more privacy than the front porch.
Because it’s at the back of your home, it’s also more informal. A front porch is for guests as well as residents. A back porch, on the other hand, is for family and friends. You are unlikely to invite someone you don’t know well to sit on your back porch.
Since they are more casual, grills and patio furniture are common back porch features. They typically connect your kitchen to the backyard, which makes them popular for outdoor meals.
It’s a great place to sit while you watch children play, or simply enjoy the outdoors without worrying about neighbors watching your festivities.
4. Large Porches
There are a few reasons homeowners choose a large porch. If you have a small home, you may find a large porch provides extra living and entertaining space.
If you truly enjoy being outside, a large porch offers a great way to do so. You can enjoy the outdoors while staying close to your own front door. You can sit in relative comfort with the shade provided by a roof, and even enjoy a rainstorm while staying dry.
5. Wraparound Porch
The largest, and possibly most coveted, type of porch is a wraparound porch. This porch extends all the way around your home, wrapping around the exterior.
Can’t choose between a front or back porch? A wraparound porch allows you to have both, and then some.
The best part of a wraparound porch is that you can create different areas. For example, the front of your wrap around porch may be a bit more formal, while the back can be very casual. You can even create a private sitting area on the side, for those times when you want a little alone time.
6. Veranda Porch
A veranda porch typically extends across the front and sides of the home. It is an open air porch with a roof. They are usually level with the ground and the home itself. A veranda will typically have railings, but not always.
It’s very similar in size and function to a wrap around porch. In fact, the two are often used interchangeably. However, a veranda doesn’t extend around the back of the home, making it a bit different from a true wrap around.
Enclosed porches have become very popular in recent years. They allow you to enjoy nature without the downsides, like fluctuating temperatures or pesky mosquitos.
7. Screened in Porch
A screened in porch is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a porch that has been covered in screening material. It typically has a roof. Some screened in porches also have railings.
This structure is then covered with screening material, similar to the mesh found in screen doors. This allows air to flow freely, and doesn’t obstruct the view of the yard.
At the same time, it keeps insects and other creepy crawlies out of your hair, both literally and figuratively.
It’s possible to screen in a front porch, but a screened back porch is much more common. A screen door typically allows access between the porch and the yard.
8. Arizona Room or Sunroom
Arizona rooms originated in Arizona. They were initially simply screened in covered porches. When temperatures rose during the hot Arizona summers, the inhabitants would sleep in the Arizona room, which was cooler than the enclosed home.
Today, an Arizona room is typically more like a sunroom, being enclosed completely with windows.
The difference between an Arizona room and a sun room is that the Arizona room’s windows can be put up, allowing for an open air feel.
These types of rooms have become very popular in recent years. Many people today love climate-controlled living spaces, but still want to experience the outdoors. An Arizona room allows you to be in a climate-controlled environment, with a beautiful view of your surroundings.
Other Types of Porches
In addition to the main types of porches listed above, there are some others you should know about. Some aren’t technically porches, but are closely related to them.
9. Rain Porch
A rain porch, as the name suggests, is a porch designed to keep you dry. The roof of this type of porch extends 3-6 feet past the porch itself. This provides more protection from wind and rain than a standard porch.
It’s also known as a Carolina porch, because it originated in the Carolinas. It’s most popular in the Southeast, where hard rains can occur during the summer months.
If you want something more elegant than a typical porch, a loggia may be what you are looking for. It’s similar to a porch, but it has dramatic columns and arches on the open side.
It’s common in Mediterranean architecture, but it’s also popular in American home construction. It’s most common in the South and West, where warm weather allows residents to spend a significant amount of time outside.
The loggia typically extends across the front side of the home. It’s designed to be narrow and long, creating a corridor.
Lanais originated in Hawaii, but are now popular in other locations, like Florida and California as well. A lanai is similar to a standard porch. It’s typically placed near a kitchen or living room area, so it’s easy to access from the interior of the home.
It’s designed to function as an indoor outdoor living space. It has several open walls. However, it can be screened or have glass panels that are removable. These options make it easier to enjoy the lanai all year long.
12. Detached Porch
A detached porch is a porch that isn’t attached to the main structure of the home. A gazebo can also be considered a detached porch. These are often connected to the home via a walkway.
They make a great outdoor gathering place. If you have an attractive area in your yard, like a pool or a garden, you might consider a detached porch nearby.
This allows you to enjoy your yard features, while still getting some cover from the weather. It also provides a focal point where seating and eating areas can easily be created.
A patio is similar to a porch, with some key differences. The biggest difference is that a porch will have some type fo roof, while a patio doesn’t have a roof.
Patios are at ground level, and typically beside the home. They are commonly placed in the back or side of the home. They can be created with a poured concrete slab, pavers, or pea gravel.
A patio is a detached structure. Even if the patio is against the side of the home, it’s not anchored to it in any way. A porch, on the other hand, is typically attached to the home itself.
A deck is another not quite porch option. A deck is typically built on the back of the house, but some homes have a deck in the front, instead of a porch. Like a patio, a deck lacks a roof. However, it can be attached to the home itself.
Decks are made from wood, and often have wooden railings as well as a wood floor. They can range in size from small to large, simple to elaborate.
If you want a place to enjoy the outdoors, a deck is a great way to do so. Most homes have an entrance from the kitchen or dining room to the deck. It’s ideal for barbecuing and casual entertaining. It can also be an ideal gathering place for families.
A balcony is essentially a small porch that is not on the ground level. They are popular in multi-story homes, hotels, and apartment buildings. Balconies are typically smaller than porches.
They sometimes have a roof, but many are open. They have railings or a low wall for safety purposes, as well as aesthetics. Balconies typically only have one entry and exit point. The entry point can be a bedroom, kitchen, or living room, depending on the design of the home and the purpose of the balcony.