What You Need to Ask When Planning Your Porch

“If you are thinking about adding a porch to your home, you’ll want to consider everything from how you want it to look to how you plan to use the space,” said Brad Flannigan, exterior product specialist with Callen. “You want to maximize the use of your porch and make sure the location flows with the rest of your property.” Ask yourself these five crucial questions as you plan the porch of your dreams.

What You Need to Ask When Planning Your PorchFirst, how do you want to use the porch? The answer to this question will help determine the depth and length of your porch. For instance, a porch with a small café table and two chairs will have different size specifications, than a porch suited for dining and entertaining. “You need to incorporate room for circulation; it helps to think of a porch as a small-scale house with a foundation, roof and walls,” Brad said.

When do you want to use your porch? Due to Wisconsin’s often cool climate, you may want to include details that will make your porch usable throughout the year. A fireplace, insulation in the ceiling, and screens to keep out bugs are just a few options to consider.

Third, is your porch user-friendly? Consider the best entry to and from your porch into your home, to make the space easily accessible and encourage good traffic flow. “Large patio or French doors can offer easy access to side and back porches and be an excellent source of natural light for your home,” explained Brad.

Do you want a porch made for entertaining? If you have the space, make your porch a destination for guests by creating separate seating and dining areas. A seating area with all-weather furniture and an indoor/outdoor rug gives visitors a spot to enjoy cocktails and conversation. You can make a separate dining area inviting by including a table and chairs with comfortable outdoor pillows and cushions.

And lastly, do you know how you want your porch to look? “The best porches are designed with scale and proportion in mind,” he said. For inspiration, talk to a professional designer, go online, cut pages out of magazines, and get ideas from your own neighborhood. Once you have a solid concept for how you plan to use the porch, have a rough drawing of the basic floor plan created. Be sure to note all existing windows, doors, and obstructions. You can even trace a photo of your home and add the details you would like to see on your porch. This will help when you explain your ideas to a design professional.



Decking: More Than Just Wood Planks

Callen Blog - Decking - More Than Just Wood Planks 081015A new deck is a wonderful opportunity to spread your living space outdoors in months when temperatures are conducive to spending more time outside. Whether you’re looking to build a simple deck to host a grill, or a more elaborate deck with multiple levels, there are endless designs to fit your lifestyle.

Before considering a contractor, you should first consider how you are going to use your deck. Do you want a large deck with space for furniture and a grill? Are you considering building an area of the deck for a hot tub or fire pit? What about building a deck with multiple levels?

Start thinking about the material you are going to use for your deck. The most common deck material today is wood, and the most common wood deck is made from treated southern yellow pine. This material is durable and long lasting, but requires cleaning and resealing on a periodic basis.

Additional wood decking materials you can select are redwood or cedar. Both materials are more attractive, typically a bit more costly, and require the same periodic cleaning and resealing as southern yellow pine. When properly maintained, all three wood deck materials will be long lasting.

Another option for your deck is composite decking, which has become a popular choice. This deck material can be made from either wood and plastic fibers or a cellular PVC material.

Some common composite deck materials include Trex, TimberTech, and AZEK. All exterior building materials require cleaning. Composites provide less maintenance and more colors than wood; however, it is important to look at the care and cleaning instructions from the manufacturer you choose.

After considering the material, start thinking about deck railing systems. They not only provide a safety element, required by building codes, but they also serve as a design element and provide an opportunity for you to personalize your deck. There are many materials and styles to consider, and each manufacturer has railings to complement its brand.

Some options include glass panels and cable rails, which preserve views without compromising safety. You can also use wrought iron or aluminum. Built-in planters also can be used instead of rails, which add some texture and color to the deck. Use taller plants if you want to add a layer of privacy.

Decks can also be gated as a safety factor if you have children or pets. Building code dictates any deck around a pool needs a gate and a rail.

Lighting is another element that can add character and function to your deck. Low-voltage LEDs can be placed under rails, on steps, or flush into the decking.

Consider the design and appeal of your deck. Today, multi-level decks are a big trend, as they incorporate unique designs and allow those on the main deck to be able to easily interact with others from different levels. They also have more opportunities for built-in features such as seating, lighting, and planters.

Before building your deck, it is important to check with your community’s regulations. In some cases, you have to submit plans or a plot survey for your deck, and some communities require submitting plans to an architectural review board. Decks attached to the house will always require a building permit. For freestanding decks, check with your local building inspector before proceeding.

Callen can design and build the deck or porch that works best for your home. From a simple porch roof to the most complex bi-level deck structure, our carpentry crews have done it all. We deliver the highest level of care and attention, no matter how big or small the project. Call Callen at 414-765-2585 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.



“Staycation” Suggestions for Your Home’s Exterior

by Christopher Wittmann, CR, Callen Exterior Product Specialist

With many families watching their spending, opting for “staycations” instead of extravagant getaways has become a frequent compromise. A staycation is a vacation from work for relaxation and leisure activities at home. Designing outdoor spaces does take planning, but these suggestions can help turn your backyard into a staycation destination. A wide range of upgrades, additions, and remodeling projects for the home’s exterior can be done to create the ideal atmosphere for vacationing at home.

The first step is to think of exterior space like the inside of your home. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want space for cooking and entertaining? Do you want seating and recreation areas? Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve, you can move forward on developing the space.

Callen Blog - Staycation Suggestions 072015Deck
Homeowners can make the deck a destination by defining different activity zones within the space. For example, a pergola featuring vines and an abundance of plants in containers bring the surrounding garden up onto the deck and help blend the structure into the landscape. Another option is adding a hot tub or spa for long, relaxing soaks. To determine the best location for the spa, consider access to the house, privacy, and whether you want the tub in sunshine or shade. A typical round hot tub is six feet in diameter, requiring 30 square feet of space, while a rectangular tub requires about 48 square feet. Additional space is needed for sitting and walking around the tub.

The patio has become an extension of the home and with planning, the space can be a restful seasonal room.  Patios are usually surfaced with brick or stone. If concrete is used, add texture and color to imitate stone for a more natural look. It is also best to pattern the space after the home’s architecture.

Outdoor Kitchen
If you are a regular griller throughout the year, eating outdoors as weather permits, an outdoor kitchen is often an excellent addition to a home.  A countertop for preparing food, along with closed storage and a separate side burner will improve the outdoor cooking experience. Also consider adding a small refrigerator and sink to make preparation and cleanup even easier.

Outdoor Structures
A gazebo adds another aspect to an outdoor getaway. Whether adjacent to a deck, near a pool, or within the landscape, a gazebo is its own outdoor room, providing a sheltered space for dining or relaxing.  Adding tall objects, like arbors or fences, can make the eye travel upwards, creating a larger sense of space. Pergolas and trellises are other options that also help delineate zones within the space.

Additional Amenities
Fountains, fireplaces, and fire pits are used to augment the attractiveness and effectiveness of outdoor spaces. Fountains add the calming sound of trickling water and often serve as the space’s focal point.  Fireplaces can also be a focal point and define the space. Whether built-in or moveable, fire pits also draw people together and can prolong use of the outdoor space.

Consider these aspects of the outdoor space to ensure it is utilized to its fullest potential.

Privacy: The area needs to have a sense of enclosure, achieved through the use of fences, garden walls, pergolas, and landscaping to define the space and restrict views of neighboring houses.
Shade: You will enjoy the outdoors more by providing relief from the sun through the use of mature trees, umbrellas, retractable awnings, or pergolas and arbors planted with vines.
Furniture: There are more options than ever when it comes to outdoor furniture, including wrought and cast iron or aluminum, wood, wicker and synthetic, weatherproof furniture and fabrics.
Lighting: At a minimum, this entails porch lights that illuminate home access and provide ambient lighting.  For outdoor kitchens, task lighting is needed at the grill and work areas. Other options include wall mount down lights and dimmable electric lamps. Steps and walkways should also be illuminated for safety.
Landscaping and Gardens: Incorporating the area with natural greenery allows the mind to rest. Use of colorful and fragrant flowers, tall grasses, and gardens can bring back memories of past vacation venues.

General upkeep for the space is also important. Clear and trim low hanging branches to open the view, sweep away leftover spring debris, and wash hard surfaces. Not only will this type of maintenance make the space function better, it will make it safer to walk around and play outside. Also, make sure there is plenty of space around high traffic areas like doorways and grills.

For assistance with any exterior improvement projects, call Callen today at (414) 765-2585 for a FREE inspection and estimate. We’re the exterior remodeling company Milwaukee homeowners have trusted since 1986!