Friday, January 2, 2009

15: Porch Railing

I looked at a lot of porches on old houses as I designed the details for my porch. It's a forgotten room of the house and a window on the world. When the design of a porch works, there's no better place to watch the day go by in summer—almost magical at twilight when the sun fades and the stars start popping in the sky.

I had noticed that on many newly built houses, porches often looked like prisons hidden behind tall, dense railing. I realized that building codes probably had something to do with the excessive height, so I asked Oak Tree Homes to check the codes to find out how low I could have my porch railing.

The porches of old houses can often have railings that are only knee level, which might be great for someone perching for a few minutes but are a potentially dangerous height when the drop to the ground is more than a foot or two.

So, keeping within our local building code specifications, I used white packing tape to mock up the railing after Oak Tree had put in the simple columns. Sitting in a chair, I made sure that I could still see the view when seated—important! And, I even went further mocking up the banisters (my tape was about the same width that they would be) to find the exact amount of spacing that would give the porch a little sense of privacy but again not spoil the view of the ground around the house. All it takes is a roll of tape and a tape measurer. It's always good to get an idea of how a built-in detail will look...even if it's only a rough impression. You'll have a better idea of what works and what doesn't. I also found it really helped having a "visual" for the discussion with the builder and tradesmen—again even if it's only a rough impression of what you want.

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