How to Build a Porch

House With Wood Front Porch

dpproductions / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 4 days
  • Total Time: 3 - 4 days
  • Yield: 12-foot wide by 6-foot deep by 1-foot high porch
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $1,000+

A porch may evoke thoughts of wiling away hours with family or friends on warm summer evenings. Or it might put you in a solitary mood that includes a porch swing, a cup of coffee, and a book. With one foot on the inside and another on the outside, a porch acts as a transition zone that acts as a supplemental and decorative living space.

Building a porch also adds solid equity gain and curb appeal to your home. These plans show you how to build a basic open ground-level porch for the front or rear of your house. Optional guardrails provide a decorative finishing touch. This porch is a moderately easy build, as long as you allow for plenty of time to complete the project and have the occasional help from a partner.

Obtain a Building Permit

You may need to obtain a building permit before building your porch. As an exterior floored structure attached to the house, a porch is often classified as a deck in many municipalities' building codes. Check with your local permitting department and be prepared to show details about the intended project. The permitting department can give you information about the required depth of foundation footers in your area. Because you will be digging, also call your local utility company for location services to avoid hitting critical electrical, gas, and water lines.

Choose a Porch Style

The easiest way to determine the best porch style is to match your house's style. This porch design is simple and allows for subsequent embellishments that bring the porch closer to the house's style. A Queen Anne-style home, for example, can be complemented with a porch that follows basic Queen Anne style cues such as ornamental details and bold colors.

If later you decide to add a roof to the porch, you have several options. You can erect a short roof that cantilevers over the porch with no vertical supports. Or you may decide to cover the entire porch. If so, you will need to run new vertical posts to hold the end of the roof.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rented electric auger or manual post hole digger
  • Laser and bubble level
  • Chalk snap line
  • Ratchet set
  • Circular saw
  • Electric miter saw (optional)
  • Cordless drill with bits and drivers
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Eye and hearing protection
  • Pocket jig tool (optional)

Materials

  • 2 bags Gravel
  • Ready mix concrete
  • Concrete form tubes
  • 3 6-inch by 6-inch Metal column bases
  • 4 inch long 1/2-inch galvanized lag screws
  • 4 Double joist hangers for 2-by-10 boards
  • 18 Single joist hangers for 2-by-10 boards
  • 11 12-feet long Pressure-treated 2-by-10 boards
  • 1 8-foot long Pressure-treated 6-by-6 boards
  • 11 12-foot long Pressure-treated 2-by-6 wood decking boards
  • 6d stainless steel galvanized nails
  • Exterior acrylic-latex paint (optional)
  • Sealant or oil (optional)
  • Paint tray/liner (optional)
  • Paint roller frame and cover (optional)
  • Roller extension pole (optional)
  • Railing

Instructions

  1. Pour the Concrete Footers

    1. Based on the footer depth information obtained from the permitting department, dig three holes at that prescribed depth.
    2. All of the holes need to be 6 feet away from the house.
    3. The two end holes should be 12 feet apart.
    4. The third hole should be positioned directly in the middle.
    5. Disperse the two bags of gravel between the holes to create a gravel base that is about 6 inches deep.
    6. Place the form tubes in the holes.
    7. Mix and then pour the concrete.
    8. Embed the metal column bases at the top of each form tube.
  2. Attach Posts to Footers

    1. On the piece of 6-by-6 lumber, mark off three sections that correspond to the desired porch height. These sections will attach to the column bases for the porch joists to rest on.
    2. Subtract 9 1/4 inches from each section to account for the actual height of the 2-by-10 pieces of lumber that will form the porch joist base plus another 1 1/2 inch to account for the porch flooring.
    3. Finally, be sure to take into consideration the drop from the door threshold to the porch surface: between 1 1/2 inches to 3 inches.
    4. Attach the three post sections to the footer bases.

    Warning

    Whenever you are cutting a piece of lumber with a saw, wear eye and hearing protection.

  3. Attach the Ledger Board

    The ledger board runs the width of the porch and attaches the porch to the house.

    1. If necessary, remove siding in this section using a utility knife to help.
    2. Strike a level line with the laser level.
    3. Attach the ledger board at the desired height with the 1/2-inch lag screws, using the ratchet wrench.
    4. Attach two of the double joist hangers at each end of the ledger board.
  4. Create the Porch Outer Perimeter

    1. Double up and attach two 12 foot-long pieces of 2-by-10 lumber to the metal footer bases to form the rim joist.
    2. Attach the remaining two double joist hangers at each end of the rim joist.
    3. Cut two pieces of 2-by-10 boards in half.
    4. Run the resulting four 6-foot boards (doubled up) from the double joist hangers on the ledger board to the adjacent double hangers on the rim joist.
  5. Attach the Porch Joists

    1. Attach the single joist hangers every 16 inches on-center both to the ledger board and to the parallel 2-by-10 board.
    2. Cut six of the 2-by-10 boards at 6 feet each.
    3. Insert them in the single joist hangers.
    4. Secure them by drilling fasteners.
  6. Install the Porch Flooring

    1. Because this porch is 12 feet wide, you can use 12-foot long appearance- grade pressure-treated boards for the flooring, running them the entire width without interruption.
    2. Face-nail the boards with a hammer onto the joists.
    3. If you choose rare hardwood such as ipe for the porch flooring, these boards attach with proprietary clips from underneath.
    4. Leave 1/8 inch of space between the boards.

    Tip

    For a smoother look without visible fasteners, consider purchasing a pocket jig tool such as the Kreg Pocket Hole System or even a tool designed specifically for deck boards, such as the Camo ProTec system.

  7. Finish the Porch Flooring

    Though the porch is not yet complete, it is easier to finish the porch flooring at this point since the surface is still free of obstructing railing.

    If you choose pressure-treated 2-by-6 boards for your flooring, it is recommended that you use a solid color exterior acrylic-latex paint. For redwood, cedar, ipe, or other wood with a beautifully natural appearance, you may want to use a clear or lightly toned deck sealant or a penetrative oil.

  8. Add the Railing (Optional)

    A railing is not always required by code; it depends on the height of your porch, for instance. If your porch is 30 inches above the ground, you will need a railing. Note that balusters are vertical posts and balustrades are the horizontal rail pieces.

    1. Prime your railing depending on the material.
    2. Install the balusters (posts).
    3. They must be firmly secured to the supporting structure below the floorboards — not to the floorboards themselves.
    4. For a porch with a concrete foundation, this requires drilling a post-hole into the concrete before securing the post.
    5. Measure distance between balustrades (horizontal pieces).
    6. Secure the balustrades to the posts or columns with screws or brackets.

    Tip

    Install balustrades at a slight angle, not completely horizontal, as a way for water to run off the railings.