The Best Laid Plans….

Mel and I have long agreed that one of the “must haves” in our new house was a screen porch. We saw the porch as the best way to enjoy summer evenings in the woods: watching the sun set over the lake, listening to the loons and enjoying friends and family all without having to swat mosquitoes.

When we began designing the house our emphasis on a passive solar design required that the porch be located on the end of the house to maximize the number of south-facing windows. Having the porch on the southwest end made the most sense, since it was closest to the lake and would have the best view. We anticipated that we would be cutting into the ridge on the west side of the house to create a level surface for building. We thought this would mean the porch would have a 3- or 4-ft berm against it, but believed there would still be room for a view.

By the time excavation was completed and the foundation was in place, it was clear that we had underestimated the depth of the cut on the west end of the house. What we thought would be a 4-ft cut became a 7-ft cut. To get any kind of view out the porch would require excavating out the south toe of the ridge, which lies within the 100-ft shoreline buffer zone. After obtaining a variance, our excavation contractor had already taken some of this material out, which created a nice level space for a patio in front of the living and dining rooms. But to get the view we wanted from the porch would have required taking out a lot more material, doubling the size of the disturbance in the buffer zone.


The screen porch was to go in this corner. (Buddy included for scale)

Meanwhile, Mel was lamenting the size of her sewing room and spare bedroom. As an unintended result of making revisions to the plans previously, this room became less than 11 ft wide. This worked against our original intention of having a spacious, handicapped-accessible spare room. After contemplating these issues while staring at the ceiling one sleepless night, I came up with a solution to both problems. We would eliminate the screen porch, move the TV room (which doesn’t need a lot of windows) into that space and expand the sewing room and spare bedroom. We ran the idea by Bernie, our contractor, who had also been scratching his head about the porch. He thinks the change makes sense.

Giving up the screen porch is hard. We’ll have to put up with the bugs if we want to sit outside in the evenings. More than that, it means giving up a fun, comfortable space in which to entertain and relax. But the space would only have been used 3 or 4 months out of the year, which doesn’t sit well with our practical mindset. We’re at peace with this change; we get a little more space where we need it and we won’t have to break more ground. Someday maybe we’ll build a screen gazebo. Meanwhile, we’ll just use more bug spray.

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