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Great Tips on Creating the Best Outdoor Living Space for Your Home

Porches vs. Patios vs. Decks: Which Space is Right for You?

 

Spring is the time put away all those bulky winter coats and start to think about spending time outdoors. For many homeowners, that means enjoying time outside on a cozy and inviting patio, porch, or deck.

Color, furniture, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, and more all go into creating a relaxing space for you and your family to enjoy. But which space is best for you? Or maybe you can incorporate all three.

Rustic front porch with rocking chairs

Outdoor living spaces are all about enjoying the beauty of the outdoors while maintaining the comforts of home. From porches and patios to decks, each style is its own unique benefits (courtesy Virginia State Parks).

 

Read on to learn about the most important factors you should consider when designing your ultimate outdoor living oasis.

 

 

 

Location, Location, Location

Before you head out to your local hardware store and start picking up pavers, think about the specific characteristics and preferences in your region. The U.S. Census actually surveys this question by region, as it has major resale implications for property values, so you’ll want to keep it as a serious consideration.

Think of it this way: if you live in an area where most of the homes have small yards with simple front porches, a lavish front courtyard or patio with elaborate stone tiling would stick out and might actually lower the resale value. Even though you’re going to be the one enjoying the space, not your neighbors or future owners, it’s a smart move to keep curb appeal in mind when you plan your porch or patio project.

Full-width front porch on House Plan #123-1039

This lovely Ranch style house with integrated full-width porch is ideal for a country or semi-rural setting but may seem out of place in a more suburban development or densely populated area (House Plan #123-1039).  

 

 

 

Stick with Your Home's Architectural Style

Nothing will put a damper on your ability to enjoy your outdoor living space like disjointed architectural styles. This can manifest in terms of building materials used, the overall color scheme or simply the general look and feel of the addition compared with the original home. It might not seem like a big deal, but living in a harmonious space that flows visually from inside to outside is seriously important when it comes to feeling good in your home. 

Country style porch with swing and seating

Make sure you choose a porch, patio. or deck and furnishings that complement your home’s existing style. This porch with a swing seat would look out of place on a modern home, but it fits right in with this country style home setting (courtesy Nannette Turner).

 

If you live in a country style home, front or side porches can become a natural extension and provide the perfect space for relaxing at the end of the day. The same is true for Spanish style homes and patios, especially when they’re made with brick or stone. The key here is to focus on the building materials as well as the overall style to create the best match possible.
 

 

 

Keep Your Site in Your Sights

After you’ve accounted for the weather and the type of house plan you have, it’s time to really think about the natural features of your lot. For example, if you have an amazing view to the north, but the front of your home faces the south, then a front porch wouldn’t be a smart choice. However, a rear deck with space for an outdoor kitchen could be just the right fit for cooking and eating in front of beautiful scenery. It’s all about giving yourself an outdoor living area that let’s you truly enjoy the best features of area in which you live.

Sun deck with beautiful view

Really pay attention to the natural features of your lot to choose the right outdoor living space. Finding the spot with the best views is usually a good place to start (courtesy Hooked on Houses).

 

Other site dependant factors to consider go beyond views to include the presence of any trees on the property, the sloping of the lot (if any), or your proximity to neighbors and even power lines. Sloping and uneven ground is especially important to factor in, as it could make building even a small deck a safety hazard. Decks, and even some patios, require extensive work on the ground itself, so you always want it to be as sturdy as possible.

 

 

 

Plan to Weather the Weather

The weather and climate in your area is also going to play a major role in determining whether a porch, patio, or deck is right for your outdoor living space. All weather conditions are going to affect building materials in different ways, but there are some smart choices you can make to curtail any damage and give your new outdoor kitchen the best chance possible. You can always cover the area with tarps and the like during the harsh seasons, but it won’t stop all the possible damage from taking place.

Deck is winter with snow on it

Caring for decks and patios can be a real headache if you live in regions with snowy winters. Keep these conditions in mind (and store your furniture under cover!) as you plan to avoid costly repairs due to weather damage (courtesy Vermont Modular Homes).

 

If you live in snowy regions or areas that receive a lot of rainfall each year, an exposed deck might not be a smart choice due to the potential for weather damage. On the other hand, sunny and dry areas might be perfect for a covered patio because the extra shade will keep you cool during the hot summer months. Also think about whether or not you need to install a screen or similar covering in the space, to protect from insects and other pests that might put a damper on your fun.

Covered patio for alfresco dining in House Plan #180-1020

Whether you live in a snowy region or a hot, sunny one, a covered outdoor area like this alfresco dining patio in a 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath Craftsman style luxury home plan would suit you well (House Plan #180-1020). Protection from sun, rain, and snow is almost always a plus in an outdoor living area.  

 

 

 

Consider Construction Cost and Maintenance

As with any home improvement project, the amount of time and money you’re will to put into the project is going to dictate the final outcome more than almost any other factor. This isn’t just in terms of raw materials and overall labor, but has to do with the existing features of the home as well. 

Ground-level deck

Building a deck can be a costly process because you have to raise it up from the ground. However, it doesn’t always require making changes to the home itself, so it can be a more affordable option in some situations (courtesy Coltor).

 

Extending a front porch around the side of a house might be a better financial move than building an entire new deck, while renovating and expanding a gravel patio into a flagstone grilling area could mean major savings all around.

Flagstone patio

Choose materials that both fit within your budget and that you will be able to maintain for years to come. This homeowner used a combination of stone and wood chips to strike a balance between cost and appearance (courtesy Andrew Malone).

 

You’ll also want to think about the long-term maintenance of the space, since owning a home is really all about anticipating potential costs further down the line. Multi-level decks and patios with lots of outdoor furniture can require just as much care as hardwood BBQ porches depending on location, weather, and use, so just try to plan accordingly.

 

 

 

Activity Considerations

When it comes to home design and renovation, function is just as important as form, so you should really think about how you plan to use your new outdoor living space in order to figure out which style is best for you. Think about the other amenities near the space to give you a good idea, such as a swimming pool or a big backyard.

Outdoor kitchen on a patio

If your dream is to grill all of your dinners, then you should tailor your plans around building yourself a deck or patio that really supports an outdoor kitchen space (courtesy All Seasons Pools).

 

If you plan on doing a lot of entertaining with outdoor cooking and grilling, then a deck might be the right way to go. If you’re more interested in relaxing at the end of the day with a glass of wine and enjoying the soothing sounds of the outdoors, then a screened back porch or quiet patio could be more your style.

Covered rear porch on House Plan #109-1191

This screened and covered rear porch in a 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath Craftsman style farmhouse home plan is an ideal spot to relax in the evening or host a cozy, intimate meal for close friends (House Plan #109-1191).  

 

 

 

Personal Choice

In the end, nothing should override your own personal preferences when it comes to designing the outdoor living space of your dreams. This is your home, after all, and it’s important for you to feel comfortable and at ease when you’re in the space.

It doesn’t matter how much a patio might make sense on paper, because if you’ve had your heart set on a freestanding deck with a dedicated dining table, then you’re always going to feel a sense of regret.

 

The best advice is to consider all the factors and options available to you, and, of course, discuss them all with your family or loved ones before committing to any decisions.

 

 

Footnote:  The photograph in the lead image is of a covered patio in a 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath luxury home plan. For more information, click here.

 

Sources

Virginia State Parks, Flickr

Nannette Turner, Flickr

Hooked on Houses

Vermont Modular Homes

Coltor, Flickr

Andrew Malone, Flickr

All Seasons Pools

outdoor living house plans

outdoor kitchens

BBQ porches

grilling areas

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