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Porches and Decks

[soliloquy id=”4023″]Expand your living space by creating an outdoor retreat, while adding value to your home

Learn how these do-it-yourselfers added small and large porches and decks, with expert tips from homeowners and professional builders.

Remember when a deck was a 10×10 square of wood slats that looked like every other deck in the neighborhood? Or when a porch was a plain-Jane concrete slab with room for two chairs and a potted plant? More afterthought than thoughtfully conceived design, both were serviceable but not terribly stylish, ubiquitous but hardly customized to harmonize with house and landscape.

These days, as outdoor living continues to be more and more popular, many homeowners are thinking outside the footings to create lavish outdoor rooms with sophisticated designs that incorporate outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, gazebos, hot tubs, ponds, and landscaping—and screen in the good times while keeping out insects, rain, and full-on sun.

Here are a few readers who got into DIY mode and drafted their own blueprints for porches and decks designed to suit their needs.

Tim and Wendy Meador, members of Warren RECC, built their home on their family farm in Franklin. With no intention of ever moving, the couple knew that, whatever type of deck they built, they would have to be happy with it for a long time.

Several months and lots of hard work later, the Meadors have completed the first two phases of a four-phase project that includes a multitiered deck with gazebo and wood burning fireplace.

“I knew I wanted something with different levels for entertaining areas,” says Wendy Meador, who is the Customer Service representative at Warren RECC’s Franklin office.

The fireplace anchors the deck’s main level. One step up is the gazebo dining/conversation area. Phase three, planned for summer, calls for a level two steps up on the opposite side of the gazebo for a hot tub area. For the final phase, the Meadors plan to screen in an existing patio. An arbor planted with honeysuckle—a Mother’s Day gift from Tim to Wendy Meador last year—acts as a focal and entrance point to the deck from the yard.

The bulk of the work was completed by Tim Meador. “While he isn’t a carpenter by trade, he has spent time in the past working on different aspects of carpentry,” says Wendy Meador. “There isn’t much around our house that he hasn’t had his hand in. He laid the foundation of our house all by himself.”

The Meadors estimate it’s cost them about $2,000 to date, including the landscaping, for their deck project. The most important consideration for the couple was to create a retreat where the family could wind down and enjoy nature, and have plenty of room for entertaining. Once completed, their outdoor living space will have quadrupled in size, putting relaxation always within a few steps.
When the Ladd family was building a new home in Cadiz, Karen Ladd, member and employee of Pennyrile Electric cooperative, decided to scrap the original back porch design, which she felt was too cramped, and come up with her own blueprint.

“I wanted something that was large enough for a sitting area as well as an area for eating and grilling,” she says. “We also positioned our home on the lot so that, from the porch, our view is of a wooded area.”

Ladd wanted her outdoor living space to be open, inviting, and relaxing. At an estimated cost of $8,500 to $10,000, she feels she achieved her goal. The porch, trimmed in white railing, is 12 feet wide by 30 feet long and provides plenty of elbow room and entertainment area. With its plump cushions, ceiling fans, and clustered plants, it checks the boxes for charm and comfort, too.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed the seating arrangement for reading, listening to music, and talking,” she says, noting the family also loves grilling “under roof.”

Julie Bessinger, member of Warren RECC, of Leitchfield screened in her home’s back porch, added a roof over a stamped concrete patio as well as new landscaping, and redesigned a fish pond. It was a project she and her late husband always wanted to tackle. With input from family and help from contractor John Carter of Carter Construction, she saw her design, completed in two stages to transform the outdoor living space into a relaxing family retreat.

“I like to have my family, friends, and the Sunday school class over,” says Bessinger. “The space just needed to be finished so we could enjoy it no matter what the weather was like.”

With ceiling fans installed on the porch and under the patio roof, and flowers planted and mulched, the project is at last finished.

“Everything is finished,” she says. “The best thing is we now have an area to sit that’s shaded from the sun, and there are no mosquitoes or flies.

“I’m really looking forward to being out there this year.”

Mueller’s DIY tips:
• Keep the project size in proportion to the overall size of the house.
• Keep your project within the scope of your knowledge.
• Take into account the position of the house as to morning and evening sun.
• When planting, keep the lowest plants next to the home and slowly increase height as you move away from it.
• Always have in mind how changes impact your weekly mowing.

For $500 and elbow grease, Arnold Mueller, a Salt River Electric Co-op member, expanded the existing porch on his Fisherville home—basically a 35-square-foot walk-up with just enough room for an accent chair and a potted plant—to create a charming, functional outdoor space. Before and after photos by Arnold Mueller.

“My son and I built the deck part of the porch and a local craftsman at Taylorsville Machine Company built the steel rail to finish the look,” says Mueller, who moved to Kentucky from Wisconsin two years ago. The retiree and history buff currently serves as president of the Spencer County Historic and Genealogical Society.

decks 5Now measuring 60 square feet, the porch has a comfy seating area and multiple potted plants, all set off with a black rail. Mueller installed plants along the front and side of the porch and house—which previously had no landscaping—and steppingstones that encircle the porch and lead to the back yard. As a final touch, he painted his front door a warm and welcoming rust color.

“Being in the front of our home, we see many of our neighbors walking dogs and enjoy short visits with them,” he says. “The porch is a very nice late-afternoon and evening place to sit and relax, read a book, or just vegetate.”

To read more go to the Web Exclusive: Kentucky deck designers share their secrets

Kathy Witt from May 2015 Issue

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