Subscribe for 17¢ / day

My husband and I are thinking of enclosing our porch so that we can have more interior living space.

The original roof covers the existing space, which measures about 20 feet wide by 12 feet deep. Besides installing some new windows between the existing posts, what else should we be aware of?

A great number of homes either have or once had a rear porch.

These structures provide an excellent framework for giving homeowners the additional space they desire without having to move or tackle a major addition.

The common porch enclosure is one of the simplest renovation projects to complete. However some factors need attention to ensure that the project is completed successfully.

The goal should be to convert the exterior porch to interior air-conditioned space that harmonizes, both on the interior and the exterior, so well that it is difficult to identify the original porch.

The new space should provide maximum comfort, livability, and resale value.

Here are some key points to consider for meeting these goals:

- Foundation or concrete slab. Usually the back porch steps down from the existing house. One of the biggest mistakes made is to build right on top of the existing floor. Because the floor of this exterior space is typically sloped for drainage, building on top of the existing floor results in a finished interior area that is sloped.

Any furniture placed in this room, particularly an entertainment center or table, would not be level.

- Enclosing exterior walls. The goal for finishing the exterior walls of the newly enclosed space is to try to match the existing finish and maintain consistent window and door reveals. This is true whether the exterior finish will be wood, block or another material.

In the case of stucco finishes, the new wall needs to be recessed enough — usually a half-inch to three-quarters-inch — to allow for the stucco to be applied and end up flush with the existing finish.

- Interior walls and insulation. Most porches have no insulation in the ceiling, so insulation will have to be added one of two ways.

It can be blown onto the porch ceiling from the attic of the house, provided that there is access from the inside of the house. Or, in the case of a flat roof, the ceiling drywall will have to be removed so insulation can be applied.

In addition, the interior walls of the porch, (originally the old exterior walls), must be prepared properly to accept the new finish.

Typically constructed of brick or stucco, the exterior walls are prepared by installing 1-by-2 pressure-treated wood or sometimes 2-by-4 walls onto the existing surface.

This creates a cavity for placement of electrical wiring and a means for installing new wall finishes.

- Electrical. The newly created room must comply with the building code by having the proper number of outlets and light switches for all interior walls and exterior doors.

Additional ceiling lighting, such as recessed lighting for highlighting bookcases or entertainment centers, also may be desired and allowed for.

- Doors from the original house to the newly created space. Old doors and-or sliding doors or French doors need to be replaced with doors that create a pleasing transition from the original house to the newly created space.

The old exterior doors should be removed and the openings finished with drywall or wood to match the interior of the house.

The old doors may either be replaced with updated French glass doors for privacy, or left open to create flow and spaciousness.

In either case, the opening should be finished so that it isn't obvious that it was once an exterior opening.

- Heating and air conditioning. If the new space is 200 square feet or less, the existing air-conditioning ducts in the attic probably can be tapped into and a new set of vents can be installed to the new space. This procedure typically would work to cool the new space adequately.

For a room larger than 200 square feet, a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning company should be consulted to evaluate the existing system and perform energy calculations to see if a new system is needed.

- Exterior windows and doors. Matching the new windows and doors to the existing ones is critical for smooth transition between the original home and the new space.

In some cases, the existing exterior doors may be reused. If the doors are constructed of wood and the intention is to move them to the new exterior opening, it would be wise to have a sufficient overhang to cover and protect the wood door from exposure to the elements.

A wood door with an aluminum or vinyl cladding may be more appropriate to use in cases where there is little protection from sun and rain.

In all instances, the profile and size of newly installed windows should match those of the existing house.

- Wall and ceiling finishes. Depending on the homeowner's preference, the new space can be finished with baseboards, window trim, and wall and ceiling textures to match the existing house.

In some cases, the homeowner may want to use contrasting finishes, such as a tile floor or stained trim to set the room apart.

The overall structure of the new space, however, should mimic the existing space.

Stephen Gidus is chairman of the Remodelers Council.