Home Renewal | Perfect Porches

New Orleans is a social town. People interact with their neighbors here and a lot of that social interaction happens on the porch. It is a space where people can relax outdoors, watch life in the neighborhood, and chat with neighbors as they pass by. It also provides a shaded place to get a little outdoor time in without being pummeled by the punishing summer sun. So if you’re looking to add a porch or patio to your home, what factors should you consider?

The first thing homeowners should remember is that New Orleans’ rainy, humid climate poses some challenges. Chris Kornman, owner of Entablature, said wood products do not hold up well in New Orleans, even if they are covered.

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“They’re soft and don’t handle the sun and the rain,” Kornman said. “Because we have a lot of sun, and a tremendous amount of rain, you would have to keep repainting it constantly (approximately every two years).”

Kornman said synthetic materials like Aeratis better survive the local climate challenges. He added these synthetic materials will cost homeowners more in the short term, but will save them money in the long term.

It is also best to keep bushes from getting too close to your front porch. Morning dew collects on bushes, and if they’re too close to the porch, the moisture can cause the porch edges to swell and rot earlier than the rest of the porch.

Kornman added it is also advisable to keep the ground below the porch graded in a way that shades away from the foundation. If it is not graded, it will create a bowl effect, collecting water. The water will accelerate porch rot, plus it will attract termites which can damage the entire house’s foundation.

Porches and patios can also increase a home’s resale value. Jenny Ross, a realtor with Entablature, said homeowners would on average get an 80% return on their porch-construction investment before the COVID-19 pandemic. That return is a little lower now because of supply chain issues that make the construction more expensive. Ross estimates that a porch or patio will cost a homeowner somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000.

If that cost is out of your price range, Ross said there are easier additions you can do for a similar effect at a cheaper price. She said simply paving a small section of your lawn with bricks and placing a table with an umbrella in it is a good way to create your own affordable outdoor relaxation space. This kind of work can be done for under $1,000.

“You don’t have to have a large, expensive porch to enjoy being outside,” Ross said.

While porches and patios usually increase a home’s resale value, Ross warned that poorly constructed ones can actually decrease resale value. Buyers won’t want to have to deal with decaying, poorly built porches and patios. She said this usually happens when homeowners try to take on the construction themselves.

“You should know when to go DIY and you should know when to hire an expert,” Ross said.

Kornman added that many people are now also building outdoor barbecue areas in their backyards, as well as screened-in porches in the backyard.

Another outdoor space homeowners might consider is a balcony. However, Kornman warned that there are a lot of pitfalls to building one.

“It’s probably the least used aspect of a house,” Kornman said. “And it’s not an inexpensive element.”

Kornman stated that many balconies he sees have been built incorrectly. The contractor constructed them the same way they would build a porch. But that doesn’t work because the process of directing water off the balcony away from the property is more complicated than the process for keeping it off the porch.

“We see balconies totally rotted out because they were built the same way as a first-floor porch,” Kornman said.