Getting philosophical – and practical

A big essential question has been sticking to my back like burdock seeds to my dog’s coat: What do we want from the back porch?


Any simple answer to this question vanished down the rabbit hole once we started thinking about the potential use of this new space, now and in the future. But let’s start with…

…the past.

The old back porch was enclosed and had a full basement level. Originally, we had planned on another fully enclosed back porch, until it dawned on us that this may be more of a want than a need.

The now…

… is reflected in the permit drawings for the new back porch.

  • An enclosed basement level
  • An open 1st and 2nd floor level
  • A staircase extension to the roof level to access the future vegetable garden and solar panels

The future…

… could be as simple as leaving the porch as described above, turning the 1st and 2nd floor level into a screened-in sleeping porch for the dog days of summer, or enclosing each level with operable windows and converting it into an unconditioned three seasons room.

The devil is in the details

Take the enclosed and conditioned basement level, for instance. How do we heat the space, and more importantly, how do we insulate it? But more about that later.

Because the 1st floor porch level will start as an open porch, I will need some level of waterproofing. Simply put, I need a roof over the enclosed basement level. Not only that, I also need a roof over the 1st floor porch level, because I don’t know if, when and how I may or may not convert the 2nd floor to a sleeping porch or three seasons room.

The practical part

The first floor as well as the second floor level was built with a two percent slope away from the building. Once the plywood was in place, we installed a torch down roofing system. That took care of the “roof” we needed at each level.

To accommodate the deck, we installed sleepers that followed the two percent slope, with a depth of half inch at the house and two and a half inch at the opposite end. That provided us a level deck over the sloped roofing.

Any driving rain will drain through the deck board joints and then intercepted by the roof below and drained out to the face of the porch.

We applied the same principles to the staircase landing between the first and second floor, which will allow us to enclose the basement level as planned.

Back-porch-19 Back-porch-20

Typical open porches are built without the in-between roofing systems. In our case, it seemed a good future proofing practice to take this extra step.

Relates posts:

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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