I get asked all the time by customers if it is best to build their new porch from natural wood or low-maintenance materials. Like any good question, the answer is… “it depends”. Let’s look at the porch from the inside out. Many customers ask if they should use synthetic decking boards for the floor of their porch. Our answer is that using synthetic decking on a screened-in porch is probably overkill. The primary enemies to wood preservation are sun, water, and heavy use. The worst offender is sun. Direct exposure to the sun causes the decking to expand and contract on a regular basis and also fades the decking unless if purchased a fade resistant decking. So if your porch flooring is covered by a roof and surrounded by screens, you likely don’t need to invest in synthetic flooring. From a cost standpoint, low-maintenance will increase your flooring costs 30-60%.
If you are building a covered porch that is not enclosed by windows or screens, the flooring may get more sun exposure and will get more exposure to rain and snow. In this scenario, other factors come into play. It might make sense to invest in synthetic flooring even though the sun exposure is dramatically minimized. The key factors in this decision become whether your porch flooring materials are connected to your deck and if you’re willing to do maintenance on your flooring. If your porch is attached to your deck that has synthetic flooring, you may want to use the same flooring in your porch for continuity.
When it comes to the components used in the exterior construction of your porch, this becomes a different story. Components such as railings, soffits, fascias, perimeter trim, roof beams and roof posts are generally not protected from the sun, or the elements. Predominately, as a builder we use wood to frame all of our projects. We do not use aluminum framing. We can however install vinyl sleeves over the exposed areas of the exterior wood framing elements which will deliver you a truly low-maintenance porch. Many homeowners opt to use iron railings, and even aluminum railings for their low-maintenance value and pleasing appearance.
Any wood and/or wood trim on a vertical plane would need to be maintained on average of 5-10 years. Examples are roof posts, roof beams, trim, soffit and fascia’s. Covered and screen porches built from wood leave only a small number of components exposed to the sun. Many homeowners choose to remain with wood overall because the areas that are exposed are on a vertical plane and aren’t subjected to foot and hand traffic which will cause breakdown and wear over time.
The answer to the million dollar question is no. You don’t have to use low-maintenance materials to still get low-maintenance value. The important thing is to choose what is best for your taste, lifestyle and budget. For example, if you never want to have to paint your porch then low-maintenance is worth the investment. You can also get the best of both worlds by combining wood with low-maintenance details that will not require maintenance until later down the road. The choice is yours.
If you are ready to start your journey toward building a new porch, screened porch or covered porch, contact Archadeck of Columbus to help make the trip a pleasant experience. We can help plan, design and custom build an outdoor space that lives up to all your maintenance and functional expectations. Call for a free consultation today (740) 879 – 3730