Depending on where you live or how you spend your free time, your front porch can serve as a setting for gatherings, solo time or a chance to keep up with the neighborhood around you. It may be where you sip iced tea in the afternoons and chat with neighbors. It may be an extra spot for guests to gather when you’re entertaining at home. It could also be where your kids do homework when the weather is good.
If your front porch offers views of mountains or water or overlooks the city, you'll probably find yourself out there even more. In Colorado Springs, Colorado, for example, many homes have views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains – and even the imposing Pikes Peak – and a front or back porch becomes a natural extension of living space for people to take in the sights, says Debbie Howes, a Realtor with Re/Max Performance in the Colorado Springs area.
“Even if there’s no view, even if the porch is small, people sit out there,” Howes says.
Of course, not every front porch offers the square footage or welcoming atmosphere you may desire. But there are a variety of projects – from major construction overhauls to simple decorating techniques – that can take your front porch from a blank slate to a haven for outdoor living.
Even if you’re just looking for a better spot for delivered packages to stay out of sight before you get home, a front porch upgrade can transform how people see your house from the street.
Here are eight ways you can upgrade your front porch:
- Build a new porch.
- Add a roof.
- Bring in new seating.
- Screen in the porch.
- Install a swing.
- Put in fans or heating.
- Stain or paint the existing porch.
- Add a railing.
Which Project Is Right for Your Home?
Making changes to your front porch for your own enjoyment is an excellent reason to explore a porch project, especially since it has the potential to make your home more attractive to homebuyers down the line.
If you live in an area where single-family homes are being built, those new houses you’ll have to compete with when it comes time to sell will likely have similar outdoor living space. “New homes all tend to have front porches,” Howes says.
However, Howes doesn’t recommend taking on a major porch project purely to increase your home's value and put it on the market in the near future. Instead she recommends focusing on other aspects of curb appeal, such as landscaping with well-maintained grass and colorful plants that can brighten up the front of the house.
But don’t discount the benefit you’ll get from a remodeled front porch while you live there. Homeowners and designers are focusing on helping to get people outdoors more and connect with neighbors.
“People, more than ever … are really coming to the awareness that you need to be connected to nature and you need to be connected socially for your health and well-being,” says Joe Raboine, an outdoor living and design expert with landscape design company and hardscape manufacturer Belgard.
To help make the front of your home more dynamic and bring you closer to the neighborhood, here are a few front porch project options.
Build a New Porch
If you’re looking for a brand-new porch that transforms the front of your home, be mindful that the porch follows the architectural style of the house. “The house will tell you what the porch should look like,” says Nancy Moore, founder and owner of The Porch Company in Nashville, Tennessee. If your home is modern, the porch should have a modern style as well, and the same goes for a brick cottage home, farmhouse or any other design style, Moore says.
Naturally, a new porch for outdoor living will likely have a hefty price tag. Home improvement cost comparison site Fixr estimates the cost to install a 16-foot-by-20-foot porch with a gable roof and railings will cost, on average, $21,440. The more elaborate your design, the higher the cost.
With a new porch design, Raboine says to focus on the finer details too, like lighting and heating or cooling options to keep the space comfortable throughout the year. Wiring to the right spots is far more cost effective when it’s part of a larger project, he says: “It’s fairly inexpensive to add (lighting) in a major remodel or build, but more expensive to add later on.”
Add or Upgrade the Roof
If your front porch qualifies as more of a stoop, consider covering the porch to add some curb appeal to your house’s facade. A roof over your existing porch is convenient to protect packages in rainy or snowy weather and can make finding your keys more comfortable in the midst of a downpour.
If you already have a roof over your porch, it could probably use some renovation. Moore suggests making the porch more functional by expanding the roof so there’s a bigger overhang – maybe even larger than the overhang your roof has over other parts of the house. With a bigger overhang, you can still sit on the porch and stay dry when it’s raining.
[Read: The Guide to Home Renovations]
Bring in New Seating
A quick and far more cost-friendly way to make your porch look inviting is to upgrade your outdoor seating. Plastic chairs or collapsible lawn chairs often look like they don’t belong on a front porch, so consider Adirondack chairs, wicker furniture or metal seating and tables designed for the outdoors. Outdoor cushions meant to withstand high temperatures and some rain can also add a pop of color.
Screen in the Porch
If you’re hoping to use your porch as outdoor living space you can use every day, you may want to consider screening in your existing porch to help add a bit of privacy and reduce the number of bugs in the space.
Install a Swing
A porch swing is a classic alternative to regular seating. Of course, by being attached to the roof of the porch, the swing requires more work than placing a chair or bench outside. Eye bolts that allow you to hang the swing’s chains from the roof should be solidly screwed into ceiling joists.
Put in Fans or Heating
Fixr reports a ceiling fan costs between $110 and $400, not including the cost of an electrician to wire the porch if it’s not done already. Be sure to shop for exterior fans only because the blades of fans meant for interior rooms only will droop in hot, humid conditions.
Raboine says fireplaces are gaining popularity on front porches as well. But if a fireplace is a project beyond your budget, he notes infrared heating can help make your porch more comfortable for use during colder months, with both gas and electric options to heat the space.
Stain or Paint the Existing Porch
A project guaranteed to freshen up your porch that won’t cost you too much money is a fresh coat of paint. “The thing that makes the most amount of difference is paint,” Moore says.
If your front porch is an unsightly concrete block, staining the concrete can help it to look more polished. The cost to stain concrete is between $2 and $4 per square foot for basic preparation and staining, according to ConcreteNetwork.com.
Add a Railing
Adding a railing around the porch and down the steps to your walkway is a fairly simple porch remodel. If local code requirements don’t require a specific height for your porch railing, Moore recommends lowering the railing along the porch to 30 inches, which allows you to see over the railing while you’re sitting down.
Moore also stresses that to keep the porch from looking cheaply done or flimsy, make sure the newel posts – the support and end pieces for the railing – are wider than 4 inches by 4 inches. Look for posts that measure larger, like 6 inches by 8 inches.
“That changes the look from just this average ‘Jim-Bob put up my railings,’ to something architecturally designed for the space,” Moore says.
What will your budget let you renovate?
Home prices are high and interest rates are rising, so many homeowners are opting to stay put and renovate rather than search for a new house. According to Houzz’s 2018 study of renovations in the U.S., 51 percent of Houzz users have plans to renovate in 2018, with a median budget of $10,000. But how far can your budget get you? We're breaking down the cost of some popular home renovation projects to help you figure out the best ways to spend your remodel money.Kitchen
It doesn't matter if you're a gourmet chef or a microwave connoisseur – you want a welcoming kitchen that makes the space worthy of spending time, not just prepping food. A kitchen renovation is the most common planned project for homeowners, according to the Houzz study, with 31 percent of respondents noting they plan to remodel their kitchen. But it's also a costly project. Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost vs. Value report breaks down the national average cost for kitchen remodels as such:
Midrange minor kitchen remodel: $21,198
Midrange major kitchen remodel: $63,829
Upscale major kitchen remodel: $125,721
How much you'll spend all depends on your planned makeover. Read on for a breakdown of some popular kitchen updates.Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Cabinets and countertops are two of the most visible aspects in a kitchen, not to mention that they take up the most space. You have a lot of price wiggle room when it comes to material and installation of both: The installation for countertops alone can range from $1,700 for butcher block to $14,000 for quartz, according to HomeAdvisor. For a kitchen with 30 square feet of counter space and 40 linear feet of cabinets, here are some cost estimates for materials, based on HomeAdvisor information:
Budget: $3,600 for stock cabinets, butcher block countertop.
Midrange: $13,800 for semicustom cabinets, midrange quartz or granite countertop.
Splurge: $52,050 for custom cabinets, concrete countertop.
Kitchen: new appliances
If you're not looking to drop $50,000 on surfaces, consider freshening your kitchen with new appliances. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe's often offer significant discounts if you purchase kitchen appliances in a package deal, with the added benefit of having the same brand appliances that match in color and style. Consider these budget options to replace your fridge, range, dishwasher and microwave all at once (based on prices listed as of Sept. 14, 2018). You're more likely to get a deal on appliance purchases close to the end of the month, on a holiday weekend or just after the new year.
Budget: $1,234 for mixed brand.
Midrange: $2,794 for Whirlpool Kitchen Suite through Lowe's.
Splurge: $6,476 for Bosch Kitchen Suite through Lowe's.
Kitchen: knocking down walls
Removing a wall tends to cost the same in every room, but these days it is commonly done in the kitchen to create a more open floor plan. Wall demolition costs vary based on whether the wall is load-bearing – meaning it's a key part of the house's structure – or if there is plumbing or electrical wiring running through it. HomeAdvisor provides national averages for the cost of removing a wall:
Budget: $300 to $1,000 for a wall that doesn't bear any weight.
Midrange: $1,200 to $3,000 for a load-bearing wall in a single-story house.
Splurge: $3,200 to $10,000 for a load-bearing wall with two or more stories.
The second- and third-most popular home renovations, according to the Houzz study, both fall under the bathroom category, covering guest or secondary bathrooms and master bathrooms. Current design trends show homeowners want a spa experience in their bathroom, whether that means a rain-style showerhead, double vanities or exquisite tile work. Remodeling Magazine separates the cost of remodeling a bathroom into two categories, based on national averages for 2018:
Midrange bathroom remodel: $19,134
Upscale bathroom remodel: $61,662
Beautiful tile in a bathroom can make the room a showpiece in your home, not just a necessary space for privacy. But depending on your tastes, new tile can get pricey. Home renovation cost estimate site RemodelingCalculator.org notes the material and installation costs increase with the intricacy of the design and rarity of the material. Based on Remodeling Calculator's estimated costs, here's some pricing to consider:
Budget: $4.60 per square foot for ceramic tile, $3.80 to $6.70 per square foot to install.
Midrange: $6.70 per square foot for granite tile, $5.45 to $7.50 per square foot to install.
Upscale: Up to $25 per square foot for custom mosaic tile, anywhere from $15 to $300 per square foot to install.
Bathroom: moving plumbing and drains
Plumbing changes are often one of the most expensive parts of a renovation. If you're looking to relocate the toilet, shower or sink in your bathroom, the cost to move both the plumbing for water and the drains can add up quickly. Home improvement marketplace and information site Porch.com – a former U.S. News contributor – estimates the national average to move one plumbing line costs between $653 and $802 – and that’s just for the work. Be sure to factor in the cost of new fixtures and any additional work related to opening up the floor and walls.
Budget: $653 to $802 to move shower.
Midrange: $1,306 to $1,604 to move shower and toilet.
Splurge: $1,959 to $2,406 to move shower, toilet and sink.
To renovate a bedroom that's more focused on the furniture inside than the four walls means a simple bedroom remodel should be fairly attainable for someone with a small budget. Often a fresh coat of paint can do the trick to bring new life to a bedroom, but sometimes a little more work is involved. Home remodeling cost guide Fixr estimates the national average to completely remodel a room – from replacing the drywall on the walls and ceiling to new flooring – at nearly $8,000.
Budget: $200 for paint and painting materials.
Midrange: $800 for high-end painting, professionally done.
Splurge: $7,880 for new walls, floors, etc.
Bedroom: master suite addition
Sometimes, though, the bedroom you have isn't the one you want or need. Master suites are frequently high on the list of homebuyer wants, but they're also not always common in older houses. Making an addition to a house is an extensive project that will cost you a lot of money, but your investment does come back to you, at least somewhat, in the increase in property value. Remodeling Magazine notes a master suite addition recoups just over 48 percent of the cost in resale value for upscale projects and more than 56 percent for midrange projects. Here are the average costs for both projects, per the Cost vs. Value report:
Midrange master suite addition: $123,420
Upscale master suite addition: $256,229
Easily transforming your closet to fit all your clothes and having extra room for storage is the dream for many, but a custom closet can cost you. The overall price tag will vary depending on the size of the closet and how customized you want the space to be – a hanging rod and a couple shelves can put you back a few hundred dollars, but once you factor in wood finishes, built-in shoe racks and rolling drawers, that price tag climbs. Here's what Fixr estimates for closet costs:
Budget: $400 to $1,000 for small closet.
Midrange: $300 to $3,000 for walk-in closet.
Splurge: $400 to $6,500 for custom closet.
Once your kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms are right, it's time to tackle those rooms that aren't as frequently used but can make a big impact on your daily life. A revamped laundry room can be just the ticket to taking the household chore of cleaning clothes from a hassle to downright enjoyable. The cost to redo or build a laundry room varies based on what you have already and whether you need plumbing and electric moved. Fixr breaks down the range of costs depending on if flooring is replaced, whether appliances are new and if professionals are required.
Midrange: $6,000 to $7,000
While it's more out of necessity than luxury, your roof is certainly a major home improvement project to consider if you’ve experienced leaks or it's near the end of its functional life (about 25 years). It's possible you'll only need repairs done to the existing roof to ensure the rest of your house is protected from the elements, but you may need an entirely new roof installed.
Budget: $334 to $1,243 for repairs.
Midrange: $2,380 to $12,100 for new asphalt shingle roof.
Splurge: Up to $84,000 for a new slate roof.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.
Devon Thorsby | June 5, 2019
Homeowners should not fret, as long as they're prepared for the possibility of a downturn.