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  #1  
Old 05-09-2011, 05:00 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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The Boxed-In Front porch-Why?

Where I live (New England), there are lots of old houses (I'm talking 100-150 years). Most of them have a strange feature-the front porch has usually been closed in with windows and a storm door. Why do people do this? The front porch is an arifact of the 19th century-in the days before airconditioning and TV, folks wold sit out on the porch after dinner, enjoying the cool evening air, and chatting.
Now, all of this isn't done..so what people did was to close in the porch with windows and a door. Now you have a pretty seless room-unheated, and small. Plus, doing this makes the livingroom dark, and the window facing the porch gets less light.
Our house has this..these "mud rooms" seem to attract a lot of junk.
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  #2  
Old 05-09-2011, 05:14 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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I can't speak for New England, but what you describe sounds a lot like similar porches in the Midwest. Sometimes the porches were originally screened-in, for summer use only, then were more enclosed to make them useful for 3 or 4 seasons.

But there's a trend of making a "sunroom" on a new construction that's very similar to an enclosed porch. It is a room, often open on 3 sides with copious windowage, and sometimes thrust out of the house profile. It may have a skylight. The whole idea is to "let the sunshine in," and may not be intended to be used year-round, but practical for at least all seasons except winter (because heating it to room temperature may be costly). Such a sunroom is a welcome selling point for a house.
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  #3  
Old 05-09-2011, 06:18 PM
fumster fumster is offline
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It helps keep out the cold when you open the door (like an airlock). It also serves as a mudroom so you can take off your shoes.

Last edited by fumster; 05-09-2011 at 06:19 PM..
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  #4  
Old 05-09-2011, 06:18 PM
doreen doreen is offline
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My house has a porch that was enclosed sometime after the house was built. I'm not certain why it was enclosed, as it was done before I bought the house, but I can think of a couple of possible reasons.

1 It provides a buffer zone between the outside and the living room , which might lower heating and a/c costs, since the heated/cooled part of the house is not right up against the outside. Even if doesn't lower costs, it does get rid of the cold air rushing into the living room every time the front door is opened - that's what happens in the houses that either haven't enclosed the porch or the ones which removed the wall between the living room and the porch.

2 It provides a place to put coats, boots,snow shovels etc. We don't have garages, so everyone goes in and out through the front door. Imagine Archie Bunker's house without the closet. That's what I would have if the porch hadn't been enclosed. Houses where it hasn't been enclosed tend to have an area for wet shoes and boots on the living room floor and coats are either kept in a closet further into the house or on a rack or hooks in the living room.

I've found a couple of other uses- it 's a good place to store items like soda, that I want to serve cold but don't actually need refrigeration between Thanksgiving and New Years, when I don't have extra room in the refrigerator. And I'm planning to put my fig tree on the porch in the winter because although it's unheated, it's much warmer than outside.

They do accumulate a lot of junk, though.

Last edited by doreen; 05-09-2011 at 06:19 PM..
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  #5  
Old 05-09-2011, 06:57 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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I built an enclosed patio in the back, off my living room. I had baseboard heaters installed and a ceiling fan. I use it as an all-season greenhouse . . . and the kitties love going out there, since they're not allowed outside. If I had an enclosed front porch, I'd probably use it the same way.
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Old 05-09-2011, 07:49 PM
conurepete conurepete is offline
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I boxed mine in because the basement is bigger then the house and extended out as far as the porch. So the floor of the porch was a roof to the basement. We could never get it water-tight enough, especially since it is flat. Closing in the porch to keep out the snow and rain was the only option. It is still a perfectly good porch, and now I can sleep out there in the summer. It does not make the house warmer in the summer, which is good because I don't have A/C. In a northern place like Detroit or New England, the winter airlock effect is nice.
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  #7  
Old 05-09-2011, 07:56 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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There is a common perception that indoor square footage is more valuable than porch space. I think the truth is more the reverse, once you've got the indoor space you really need.

This
is a great book about the history and culture of porches. If you have an enclosed porch, you'll tear it open again.
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  #8  
Old 05-09-2011, 08:35 PM
conurepete conurepete is offline
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No I won't, it keeps the rain out.
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  #9  
Old 05-09-2011, 09:02 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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If your porch was getting much rain in, I imagine it was either poorly situated (facing into prevailing winds) or its eaves not nearly deep enough. I've stood at the outside edge of really good open porches in driving rainstorms and felt only the odd droplet.
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  #10  
Old 05-09-2011, 09:21 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doreen View Post
My house has a porch that was enclosed sometime after the house was built. I'm not certain why it was enclosed, as it was done before I bought the house, but I can think of a couple of possible reasons.

1 It provides a buffer zone between the outside and the living room , which might lower heating and a/c costs, since the heated/cooled part of the house is not right up against the outside. Even if doesn't lower costs, it does get rid of the cold air rushing into the living room every time the front door is opened - that's what happens in the houses that either haven't enclosed the porch or the ones which removed the wall between the living room and the porch.

2 It provides a place to put coats, boots,snow shovels etc. We don't have garages, so everyone goes in and out through the front door. Imagine Archie Bunker's house without the closet. That's what I would have if the porch hadn't been enclosed. Houses where it hasn't been enclosed tend to have an area for wet shoes and boots on the living room floor and coats are either kept in a closet further into the house or on a rack or hooks in the living room.

I've found a couple of other uses- it 's a good place to store items like soda, that I want to serve cold but don't actually need refrigeration between Thanksgiving and New Years, when I don't have extra room in the refrigerator. And I'm planning to put my fig tree on the porch in the winter because although it's unheated, it's much warmer than outside.

They do accumulate a lot of junk, though.
My father's childhood home had this feature, and Grandma Bodoni said that it was because the unheated front room kept the warmth mostly in the house and the cold mostly on the outside. We only went up there in the summers. I think that the family MIGHT have taken off their coats and boots in this room, but I don't know.

A mud room, as I've always heard it, is a tiny bathroom with a sink and toilet, which is usually located by the back door. This bathroom is used when one is gardening, and going through the house to the main bathroom would track mud through the house, and also used to wash up after gardening or working on the car or whatever.
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  #11  
Old 05-09-2011, 10:12 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is online now
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I know that porches are screened in to keep bugs out, but I don't know anything about the ones who are fitted with windows. I've heard the theory that it makes them useful in all seasons, but I can't ever recall seeing someone use a porch in the traditional fashion (to sit in and enjoy "the outdoors") once it's been windowed, so it seems to rob it of function rather than increase it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
A mud room, as I've always heard it, is a tiny bathroom with a sink and toilet, which is usually located by the back door.
Weird. That's definitely not what people around here mean by a mud room: it's an entryway room, often the windowed in porch that is the subject of this thread, at the front of the house where you abandon muddy things/winter clothes.

Last edited by elfkin477; 05-09-2011 at 10:15 PM..
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  #12  
Old 05-10-2011, 02:15 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfkin477 View Post
I know that porches are screened in to keep bugs out, but I don't know anything about the ones who are fitted with windows. I've heard the theory that it makes them useful in all seasons, but I can't ever recall seeing someone use a porch in the traditional fashion (to sit in and enjoy "the outdoors") once it's been windowed, so it seems to rob it of function rather than increase it.
As a real estate agent, I have to tell you that sunrooms, which are essentially windowed porches, are all the rage. Step into a sunroom and the interior ambiance changes to near-exterior. It's a little like a gazebo without leaving the house, and gazebos are common in upscale homes in the country.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:59 AM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
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porches are very nice. in northern climes they don't get used for quite a few months of the year, so boxing them in does make a bit of sense.

rocking on a front porch is lovely, due to allergies and having a thing about creepy crawlys, enclosed is better.
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  #14  
Old 05-10-2011, 08:03 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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My mother's parents (as opposed to my father's parents) had a porch with a roof and screened sides. This is in Texas, where our mosquitoes need to file flight plans because they are so big. They used to sit out on the porch in the evening, enjoying the cooler temp, and it was a good place to eat or entertain without the skeeters and flies bothering everyone. Also, it would have been an excellent place to barbecue, had Grandpa ever felt like doing so. Due to the Texas climate, this area was usable for about nine or ten months out of the year, and of course before they had AC, it was about the only way to beat the heat.
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:43 AM
fiddlesticks fiddlesticks is offline
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The house my grandfather grew up in (probably built around 1900) and my great-aunt lived in until she died in Wisconsin had this feature too. The house is gone now, but on the same street neighborhood there are a number of houses with a similar porch, though some houses have been remodeled to bring the space into the interior of the house. I'm willing to bet the porch was used for sleeping on hot summer nights in the days before A/C, as well as being a place for the family to gather in the evenings before the advent of radio and TV.

Screens keep the mosquitoes and biting flies as well as local annoying but non-biting lake & riverflies out.
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:50 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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Such porches are a pleasant place to sit on cool but sunny days in spring and fall. Passivew solar heating through the windows brings the temperature up to a comfortable level. In the summer, they make a nice bug-free place to sit if you replace the windows with screens.
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Old 05-10-2011, 12:17 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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in cold winter climates an enclosed porch is an airlock for the entry door, a buffer to prevent cold and air infiltration into the living room (which would have long hours of occupancy after dark). also it is very cheap weather tight storage that might also be used to store food in the winter.

it may have had removable storm/screen windows and doors. screens don't last as long as windows. the screens might have deteriorated and never replaced.
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  #18  
Old 05-10-2011, 12:19 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfkin477 View Post
I know that porches are screened in to keep bugs out, but I don't know anything about the ones who are fitted with windows. I've heard the theory that it makes them useful in all seasons, but I can't ever recall seeing someone use a porch in the traditional fashion (to sit in and enjoy "the outdoors") once it's been windowed, so it seems to rob it of function rather than increase it.
Yep. Our house once had an open porch -- the bases of the pillars are still there -- but the previous owner enclosed it and used it for extra storage.

He not only enclosed it, he built a wall across the shorter portion (with a door) so now there's sort of an enclosed entry (mud room, I guess) and a slightly larger room behind it.

Sometimes I think I'd like to make it an open porch again but (1) we don't have the money and (2) there's no view anyway.

The only time we use that room is when there's a storm to watch.
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Old 05-10-2011, 03:36 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sh1bu1 View Post
It helps keep out the cold when you open the door (like an airlock). It also serves as a mudroom so you can take off your shoes.
Similarly, I imagine it provides an extra layer of insulation during the winter.
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  #20  
Old 05-10-2011, 03:47 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
...But there's a trend of making a "sunroom" on a new construction that's very similar to an enclosed porch. It is a room, often open on 3 sides with copious windowage, and sometimes thrust out of the house profile. It may have a skylight. The whole idea is to "let the sunshine in," and may not be intended to be used year-round, but practical for at least all seasons except winter (because heating it to room temperature may be costly). Such a sunroom is a welcome selling point for a house.
My sister's house has exactly this, with an exit that leads to an outdoor deck in the back yard. The two spaces together are her summertime party space, as she has a grill out next to the deck.

And for the (indoor) cats she had a little shelf installed just beneath the windows around all three walls, so they can watch the wildlife and follow around the little critters who are scampering through the yard.

It's a terrific space.
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  #21  
Old 05-10-2011, 04:13 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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My grandmother has an enclosed front porch, on her house in a small Midwest town.

It contains a coat closet, a place to leave wet/muddy shoes, and a cafe table with 2 chairs. In spring through fall, it's a great place to eat your breakfast while reading the news paper and watching people. Depending on the temperature, the windows may be open (to screens) or closed. In the winter, it serves as a buffer between the winds blowing across the prairies and the living room. It's a very informal area (Grandma was born about 1910 and things were a bit more formal), and it seems that she feels more comfortable sitting and chatting while in say grubby gardening cloths, than she would be sitting in the living room.
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  #22  
Old 05-10-2011, 04:26 PM
StGermain StGermain is online now
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I have a small enclosed back porch I just built last year. It has the dog door allowing the dogs outside without letting all the warm air out in the winter. It's a space to store dogfood, wood pellets and ladders. My covered front porch is open, 24' X 6', with a porch swing, a rocker and a trellis, and it's a great place to sit on a rainy day and read.

StG
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  #23  
Old 05-10-2011, 06:24 PM
FeAudrey FeAudrey is offline
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My ideal house would have two porches -- an enclosed, windowed one facing south for cold weather use, and an open, screened one facing north for hot weather use.

Plants and wicker furniture for both! And garden views ....
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  #24  
Old 05-11-2011, 10:54 AM
ethelbert ethelbert is offline
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I have always viewed front porches as a social element of a neighborhood. It is the interface through which the inhabitants of a house communicate with their neighbors. Covering it up is like gagging a house. If I were king, all houses would have front porches and when the king walked by you would have to come out and chat with him, except when he was in a bad mood you would just wave to him.
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