What Is a Porch?

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated February 23, 2022
 Front porch of home
Photo: David Papazian / Getty Images

A porch is a covered area attached to a house or building, usually through a front or back door

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Porches can be open-air or enclosed with screens or glass. With a roof overhead, a porch utilizes outdoor space while still protecting people from the elements. And there’s no denying it: porches make outdoor living in the summer magnificent. They’re great spots to host a family dinner, lounge with a good book, or take an afternoon catnap.

Types of Porches

“Porch” is actually an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of specific porch styles. Each style is similar in function, but each features a unique look.

Portico

A portico is a type of front porch that leads to the entrance of a building. Essentially, it’s a roof over a walkway, often with support from columns. 

Porticos were common in ancient Greece. So, if you’re still wondering what exactly a portico looks like, just picture the buildings featured in the movie Hercules.

One thing is for sure—a portico makes for a grand entrance. You’ll often find them on historic, classically inspired buildings and homes.

Sunroom

Sometimes called solariums, garden rooms, three-season rooms, sun porches, or patio rooms, sunrooms are popular home additions that make a bright and versatile space for entertaining guests or lounging the day away. Sunrooms are essentially enclosed porches. They’re an extension of your house, but instead of being outdoors, they’re covered with glass or plastic panels. It’s sort of like a greenhouse where you grow plants. Because the room is protected from the elements while still allowing the sun to shine through in all its glory, it’s a cozy, light-filled space that you can spend time in all year long, weather depending. If you plan to use it primarily as a relaxation space, add some comfy couches and decorate with cozy rugs and throw blankets.

Wraparound Porch

 White chairs on the front porch of a house
Photo: David Papazian / Getty Images

Wraparound porches are classic home features you’ll often see on old farmhouses. As its name suggests, a wraparound porch wraps around an entire house (or at least the whole front and one side of it). 

It’s a narrow covered area, typically the same level as the house, that can have multiple entrances—one from the front door, one from the living room, bedrooms, etc.

Because wraparound porches are relatively large, they offer lots of space for decorations (hello, porch swing) and unbeatable scenic views. If your home overlooks the ocean, a wraparound porch is a must. You may not ever come inside.

Veranda

The word “veranda” is Portuguese for porch. Verandas are open-air, roofed spaces attached to and level with a home, often partly enclosed by a railing. Like wraparound porches, verandas commonly extend from the front of a house to the side of it. Technically, wraparound porches are verandas.

In the United States, verandas are popular home additions in New Orleans and southern states. They’re also common in warm areas where residents need a breezy escape from the sweltering sun, like in Australia and India.

Back Porch

A back porch is a relatively informal porch variety, at least compared to porticos and verandas. Essentially, a back porch is an extension of a house’s floor into the outdoors. They’re great for connecting your kitchen to your outdoor garden or backyard. And they’re great places for parents to sit and relax while keeping an eye on the kids playing in the backyard.

Back porches are relatively protected and private, so they double as a storage space for water guns, footballs, and all your lawn games. It’s also a great place to sit back and enjoy the view from your property—but try not to think about needing to mow the lawn.

How to Build a Porch

If you’re looking to build a porch onto your existing house, let your house’s architecture guide you. For example, if you live in a historic home, look up photos of other historic houses to help you determine which style will look best.

DIYers with solid carpentry skills can build a front porch on their own. But if you don’t feel comfortable, hire a contractor to work with you.

First, you’ll need to build a foundation by pouring concrete to form slabs over compact gravel. Then, you can embed your porch’s beams into it and add your flooring on top. Cement flooring is a good budget-friendly option. Opt for wood if you want a more refined look.

Once the floor and beams are set, you can start to build a porch roof. Porch builders often use long wooden boards for rafters to help hold up a metal roof. Metal can stand up to the elements, so it works well for roofs. Depending on the porch style you choose, you can add columns, cement stairs, or intricate handrails. Add a rocking chair, grab a glass of iced tea, and take a seat in the shade to reap the rewards of your hard work.

Porch vs. Patio

A patio is a paved outdoor area attached to a house. Typically, a patio is a cement slab in the backyard placed right up against a house or building. 

Patios are usually smaller than porches, and they’re usually on the ground level. Unlike porches, patios are simple and don’t come with any bells and whistles. Their primary purpose is to provide some even ground where you can walk barefoot so that you won’t have to put on shoes every time you quickly step outside.

Porch vs. Deck

Porches and decks are similar, but there’s one key difference—a roof. Porches are covered, whereas decks aren’t.

Decks are completely open and exposed to the elements, so you’ll need to waterproof and maintain it frequently with new paint or stain. You’ll also need to give your deck a good scrub or pressure wash at least once a year.

Porch vs. Lanai

Porches and lanais are not all that different. A lanai is a type of porch, like a veranda, that’s quite popular in Hawaii because they provide nice shady spots to relax.

Lanais usually have screens or windows, which is a welcome feature when the mosquitoes come out. Lanais provide homeowners with a breezy indoor/outdoor living space where they can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors with a little more protection and privacy than what they would experience on a deck.

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