— Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, which offers consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.
What area of the home offers the best of inside and outside living, with no downside except for the need for occasional cleaning and maintenance?
The answer: a screened-in porch. No matter how small it may be, a porch lets you live large. Few home experiences approach paradise quite like an afternoon curled up in a wicker rocker, reading a good book, or an evening of al fresco entertaining with your favorite folks.
But if you think of a screened-in porch as just a home add-on, you might not be thinking big enough. Top-rated contractors who provide outdoor living solutions say porches increasingly are becoming a focal point in many homes.
They tell our consumer services research team that porches are trending larger and more luxurious, with high-end features like well-appointed outdoor kitchens and massive stone fireplaces.
Other trends include eye-catching ceilings and floors. Flooring options range from tile to tongue-in-groove hardwood. Ceilings may be finished in an open-rafter style or with wood planking.
If you’re porchless but crave the experience of listening to the patter of a summer shower from the cozy comfort of an Adirondack chair, be aware that adding a porch will cost from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size and style.
Meanwhile, if you have a porch but haven’t yet prepared it for the season, you may need to expend a little sweat to be sure it remains a no-swat zone. Take time to inspect the structure and screens. Consider hiring a well-reviewed handyman to re-stain the wood or repair screening. Our team found that a handyman is likely to charge $50 to $100 to replace damaged screens.
Meanwhile, here are a few ideas for decorating a porch:
• Hire a reputable electrician to add a ceiling fan and lighting, so you can use it at night and during the hotter times of year.
• Furnish it with comfortable seating and a place to dine. You can spend as much or as little as you like, with options ranging from matched outdoor furniture sets to paint-your-own garage sale finds.
• Add plants and flowers that complement your furnishings and house color.
• Consider a plug-in water fountain, wind chimes and other features that add to a porch’s sensory delights.