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How to add a porch to a house

Front porch view
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Porches have long been a positive feature of homes. Comfortable, adaptable areas for relaxing, socializing and even working, they’re a wonderful way to bridge the gap between the indoors and out. And these scenic seating spaces are growing increasingly popular, the 2021 Houzz & Home Study found, with 12 percent of homeowners opting to build one or upgrade their current one.

From hallway-like corridors to squarish rooms, porches vary tremendously in size, shape and cost: The national average is $4,600 to $22,000, according to HomeAdvisor data, but fancier porches can exceed $50,000.

Let’s look at what it takes to add a porch to an existing house.

Different types of porches

Before diving into how to build porches, let’s review the basic different types.

Technically, a porch is a covered area that is attached to the exterior of a building. Typically, it is also somewhat elevated, requiring stairs or a ramp to access it from the outside. It’s these three things — the attachment, the covering and the elevation — that distinguish porches from decks and patios (though admittedly, the lines get blurry at times).

Open porch

Open Porch
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Most commonly, porches are open, meaning that they have open air on the sides where otherwise there might be walls, windows or screens. “Open porch” can be a generic term for any type of porch.

Front porch/back porch

Back porch
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Named for their location, these porches tend to be square, rectangular, or even circular attachments that jut out from a section of the house. Back porches tend to be bigger but more informal; since front porches are more visible — part of the face of the home — they’re designed with more aesthetics in mind, making them cost a little more.

Wraparound porch

Wraparound porch
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A familiar feature of Victorian mansions, these porches extend all or partly around the house, providing a great deal of space. Because its footprint is so large, this type of porch tends to cost more than others.

Farmer’s porch

Farmers porch
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Characteristic of rural New England, these are long, wide porches that often run the gamut of the front of the house, although they wrap around the sides as well. They tend to be wider than regular wraparounds, but their main identifying features are tall supportive beams or columns and scenic railings. Rocking chairs are optional.

Screened-in porch

Screened-in porch
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Porches can be enclosed in several ways, but the most common is simply to install screens on the sides, offering some protection from bugs, critters and rain. This approach can make it safe to leave food on the porch or have electronics installed out there.

Admittedly, there’s some overlap in these categories. It’s also possible to combine elements from different types of porches. For instance, you could screen a wraparound porch.

What does it cost to add a porch?

The type of porch you want will be one of the biggest determiners of the final cost. Here’s a breakdown:

Porch type Average cost
Source: HomeAdvisor
Average open porch $4,600 – $22,000
Front porch $1,900 – $8,800
Farmer’s porch $7,900 – $52,000
Back porch $1,900 – $5,300
Wraparound porch $9,350 – $39,900
Screened porch Additional $5 – $7 per square foot

Elements to consider when adding a porch

There are many things to consider before adding a porch to a house. If you hire a contractor, they should know these details, but it always helps to have an idea of them yourself. Remember that what you decide on for these elements can play a significant role in your final costs. Depending on these decisions, you may also be able to build porch upgrades and add-ons later.

Location on house

This decision is one of those rare project choices that doesn’t necessarily influence the cost (though front porches can be pricier than back porches). Where you have your porch built generally has more to do with your preferences and what looks reasonable, though of course one area being easier to build upon than another can factor in. If your chosen location means adding another exterior door to your home, you’ll need to add that cost to your project.

Size of porch

The size of your porch plays a pivotal role in the cost, the time it takes to build and how much yard space you’ll be sacrificing. The size doesn’t just impact these factors, though; it also helps determine what you can do with your porch. For instance, if you want it to be a place where you can socialize with others, you’ll need to consider how many people you want to fit on the porch comfortably.

Foundations: Slab over gravel vs. pier-and-beam support

As the porch will be attached to your home, it will need to meet specific local building code requirements. It’s common for building codes to allow either slab or pier-and-beam style foundations. Slabs over gravel are cheaper, but they have a few disadvantages being closer to the ground. A pier-and beam-foundation will raise the porch off the ground, protecting it and providing access underneath for maintenance, storage, plumbing or wiring needs.

Design elements: Roof, columns/posts, steps, beams

Design elements can play a significant role in a porch’s price, as each detail will cost you — from the number of steps to a fan for the ceiling. If you have a particular aesthetic in mind, it’s wise to get a good sense of these design elements before beginning the project to see what you can and can’t live without. How you furnish and decorate your porch can also play a noticeable role in price. For example, will you need phone jacks or electrical outlets to plug in computers, lights, routers or TVs?

Enclosing

Porches are traditionally for the warm weather. But increasing in popularity are enclosed porches, aka sunrooms, which have actual walls or floor-to-ceiling windows, making them useable at more times of the year. However, enclosures can easily double or triple the price of the porch, depending on whether you go with three-season porches (non-insulated walls and windows) or four-season (insulation and full-bore HVAC systems).

Material used in building porches

Porches can be made from various materials, each with benefits and downsides. Not least among the differences is cost. Wood, for instance, will need to be protected differently, and more regularly than most composite materials. Aesthetics and maintenance are also factors to consider when determining which materials to use.

Concrete

Concrete is durable, strongly weather-resistant and among the least expensive materials you can choose. Its cons are that it is often less aesthetically pleasing, harder on the body to walk on and difficult to modify or change after it has set.

Composite material

Composite materials are generally made from a combination of plastic and an underlying structural matrix traditionally made from polymers, metals, ceramics or carbon, though newer types are beginning to utilize plant fibers instead. Composite materials offer a similar aesthetic to wood, but with some of the perks of concrete — like its weather-resistance and relatively low price.

Wood

Wood is one of the more sought-after materials for porches, providing an authenticity that is difficult to imitate. Wood is more expensive than concrete. The lower grades start at similar prices as composite materials; however, depending on the type, they can become much more costly.

Building a porch

The entire process of building a porch can be lengthy and involved. There are many factors to keep track of, from foundation choices to local permit requirements.  A simplified rundown of the construction process:

  1. Determine the build location, style and materials.
  2. Obtain the correct permits.
  3. Pour slab or footers, depending on your foundation choice.
  4. If you are using pier-and-beam support, anchor your posts to the footers. Ignore this step if you are using a slab foundation.
  5. Connect the porch ledger board to the house.
  6. Build the porch framework.
  7. Set and connect the joists.
  8. Lay and attach the flooring.
  9. Build the roof.

DIY or professional job?

As you’ve likely noticed, a lot goes into building a porch. Now, some folks may be equipped with the tools and skills needed to DIY their porch, but most will benefit from hiring contractors (you may need two: one for the the porch itself and another for the roof).

In construction, labor prices generally take up between 20-40 percent of the project’s final cost. The average labor costs to build a porch range from $60 to $70 a square foot, or between $20 and $40 an hour, according to Fixr.com. But it’s a complicated job, and you might benefit from hiring a general contractor, especially if the project is also going to require carpenters, electricians and other specialists.

The bottom line on adding a porch to your home

What you want from your porch can help inform your choices about which materials and styles to use. If it’s an investment in your home, consider that porches, per se, don’t necessarily add value. However, adding living space to a home usually does, and in many ways a porch is an additional room. What matters is that you choose the porch that will meet your needs and make you happy while fitting your budget.

Written by
Joshua Cox-Steib
Insurance Contributor
Joshua Cox-Steib has two years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, Coverage.com, The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, and more. His work has also been featured on such sites as MSN and BBB (Better Business Bureau). His insurance writing career has spanned across multiple product lines, with a primary focus on auto insurance, life insurance, and home insurance.
Edited by
Senior homeownership editor