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Creating An Outdoor Living Room From A Screened-In Porch

The Outdoor Living Room Project. As we continue to finish up projects around our current house in preparation for selling and move to a house at the farm – one area that needed attention was our screened in back porch and deck.  It was a very typical 1980’s style porch, built with smaller 4 x 4 posts and complete with a metal screen door. The attached 20′ x 12′ deck was built well, but the railings were beginning to show wear, and it never felt very big with the porch and screen butted up against it. In short, the space was useful – but not something we loved.

The porch at the beginning of the project. The screen and door are already off

The porch at the beginning of the project. The screen and door are already off

So, as we grilled out on the back deck on one of the few warm days of early May – I happened to mention to Mary that maybe we should just open it all up into one big outdoor living area. As she looked at the porch and said – “that’s not a bad idea”- I knew had to seize the moment!  I quickly went to the garage, grabbed the reciprocating saw and proceeded to cut out the door and a few sections of railings before she could change her mind – and the outdoor living room project was born!

At the very least, we knew we had to replace the screen and railings before selling, so if we could complete an entire update for less or equal the cost – it would be a win-win.

We both knew that starting a project in the middle of gardening season is a little bit on the crazy side – but with a little work here and there as time allows – we have created an inexpensive space to enjoy the outdoors all spring, summer and fall!

The Demo…

Always one of my favorite parts of any project – the demo went fast and furious. We ripped off all of the screening, removed the rest of the door frame, removed the old ceiling fan and all of the old railings. In a little less than a week – the porch was completely opened up to the deck outside – and it was amazing to see how much bigger the space already looked!

Creating The New Look…

The posts all wrapped and the new railings installed

The posts all wrapped and the new railings installed

With everything removed – the first order of business was to relocate the original door post to the center to create a large pass through to the outside. Once that was accomplished – we began by wrapping each of the 4″ x 4″ posts with 1″ x 6″ boards to “beef” up the look of the living area. The larger posts made a huge difference in the overall look.

Next came an updated ceiling fan to replace the old one. I have to say – that was all Mary – as she completely wired and hung the new fan while I was away on a business trip.  As she sent me the pictures – I was impressed!

Creating The New Railings…

Next came the railing project.  We wanted to keep with a more open look for the entire area – and for us – the traditional railings really made the porch look and feel “closed in”.

The railings made from goat panels and 2 x 4

The railings made from goat panels and 2 x 4

It goes without mentioning that the cost of replacing the old rails with new ones priced out at around $500 – which seemed ridiculous to both of us. So we decided to build each of our railing sections from 2 x 4″ treated lumber and galvanized goat panels.  That’s right – goat panels! It was a project we originally used at the farm for creating decorative fencing – and we fell in the love with the look – and price!

We purchased heavy-duty 3′ x 16′ goat panels at our local farm store – and cut them down to create the 4′ railing sections. To make the individual panels – we created 3/8″ wide grooves in the 2 x 4’s about a 1/2″ deep with the table saw – fit the panels inside the grooves, and then screwed them together to create a strong frame.

Once the frames were completed – it was as simple as screwing the individual frames into the posts – and we had a strong and secure railing with a wide open look. It may be one of my favorite parts of the porch now – especially knowing that we created each railing section for about $12!

A Few Final Touches To Go…

A few final touches remain before the project is finished.

Testing the paint on the floor. The final paint job will really complete the project - if it ever stops raining!

Testing the paint on the floor. The final paint job will really complete the project – if it ever stops raining!

Overall, the existing deck wood was in pretty good shape – so we replaced a few boards here and there that were weak – and as soon as monsoon season ends here in Ohio (28 of 31 days with rain and counting!) and the deck floor can dry out – we will paint.

For the deck and floor painting project – we are using a restore product that will coat the boards with a thick layer of textured paint. Once completed – it will really do a nice job of joining the inside and outside spaces into one.

And finally, we have decided to remove the exterior siding from the inside of the porch area and replace it with a solid stained wood wall.  There is just something “not right” about still seeing the siding in the “living room” area – and the wood wall will create a nice focal point.

And that’s it!  The total project so far has cost around $500 – which is actually less than what the new railings and screen would have cost – and let’s us live and eat outdoors nearly every evening. In fact – since we have completed it – I am pretty sure the only time we have spent inside is for sleeping! Now – if I can just figure a way to make an outdoor bedroom….

Happy Building – Jim and Mary

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