How to Build a Porch

Your guide to DIY porch plans

Porches are great places to entertain guests and spend time with family, and they make excellent additions to both front and back yards. While you can get ready-to-build porch plans from home improvement retailers which contain product-specific step-by-step instructions -- and this is a recommended path for newbies -- it also pays to have a solid working understanding of what's involved before you get started. The following instructions assume relatively simple porch designs, which take the capabilities of novice do-it-yourselfers into account.

Building Porches: A Step-by-Step Guide

The building process can be divided into three main steps. First, you'll create the frame:

  1. Create a concrete floor for your new porch of the appropriate size and shape. Make sure it's perfectly level before proceeding.
  2. Lay down a sill plate by orienting your 2 x 4 lumber boards in the appropriate configuration. Be sure you're using pressure-treated lumber, as your sill plate will be bearing loads.
  3. Affix the edges of your newly laid sill plate to the corners of the concrete porch floor. Use a cement drill to create holes in the edges of the concrete floor, then attach the sill plate using lag bolts attached to plastic concrete anchors.
  4. Cover the top of the sill plate with plywood, and nail it into place.
  5. Add trim or decorative elements to the face edge of the frame as desired.
  6. Use studs as props to mark the spots where you're going to ensconce the porch's top plate.
  7. Create room for doorways, if necessary, by removing impeding base plates. You can use either a hand saw or a reciprocating saw to complete this step.
  8. Install the wall studs at regular intervals along the perimeter of the porch. If your porch has a door frame, allow for two studs on each side of the door.

Next, you'll build the balusters, top rails and the frame for the door:

  1. With the help of a level, create a chalk line running along the wall studs at a distance of 32 inches from the porch floor.
  2. Build the top rails by cutting 2 x 4 plywood boards to the desired length, and inserting them between the studs you laid in step 8 of the previous task. Use toenail screws to fasten them into place.
  3. Measure the distance between the sill plate and the top rail. Then, create 2 x 2 plywood boards of that length, adjusting for the downward or upward slope of the porch if necessary. Place them so that they are both aligned with the outside wall and spaced at regular, equal intervals. Use finish nails to lock them in place.
  4. If the porch has a door, install a doorstop around the top and the sides of the porch door frame. The porch is now ready to be painted.

Finally, prime and paint the porch:

  1. Begin with the door and the porch frame. Apply two coats of primer, allowing each coat to fully dry before moving ahead with the next paint coat.
  2. Paint the porch the color you desire. If you like, you can also stain the wood to give it your preferred appearance. Regardless of whether you choose to paint your porch or stain the wood, you will need to treat it with a weatherizing product to protect it from sun, rain and wind damage.

You also have the option of creating a screen around the porch. If you'd like a screened porch, you will need to extend the porch frame so it reaches your eaves. Then, install the screen by unrolling it around the perimeter of your porch, then securing it to the top and bottom of the frame with staples or nails. Other porch coverings, including transparent and removable plastic panels which function like glass, are also available. These are recommended if you want to keep the rain at bay.

While building a porch can be demanding and labor-intensive, it's also rewarding and offers an excellent way for you to increase the value of your home. Don't be afraid to enlist the help of a more experienced do-it-yourselfer if you need advice or assistance at any step of the way.