Porch Doors, Lights and Fans

Pick the right door, lighting and fan, and learn how to make sure your choices are functional and will complement your style.

CI-anderson-windows_porches-hinged_s4x3 Photo courtesy of Anderson Windows and Doors

Doors

Well-chosen doors serve a number of purposes in a porch. In a front porch, a prominent entry door sets the tone for your house and greets guests. In a sheltered back porch, large French doors with transom windows above can provide access while allowing natural light into your home.

For a narrow porch where swing space is limited, a gliding door might be your best option. For a porch where you entertain, you want a door with a large enough opening that allows you to carry trays of food and drinks in and out of the house. Ideally, make door decisions early in your porch project. If you want to include new trim or use a larger door, the change may affect your siding.

Tips for the Perfect Porch Doors

  • Update an existing porch door by using paint or new hardware.
  • Look for energy efficient doors with high-performance insulation and a weather-stripped fit.
  • Make a statement with your porch door by using a contrasting color for your trim.
  • Screen doors encourage ventilation, allow light into your home and connect your porch with the rooms inside.
  • Glazing options, like beveled or frosted glass, can add interest to your porch door.

Lighting

A porch also needs good lighting. While many older porches may feature just one simple ceiling fixture, a more comprehensive lighting design that offers ambient, task and accent light, otherwise known as light layering, will make your porch more attractive, functional and safe.

You can combine a traditional ceiling fixture with lanterns and sconces on each side of a front porch entry door to avoid shadows and unpleasant glare. Use a stylish chandelier over a porch dining area for illumination and a touch of glamour, or add hanging lanterns for ambiance over a porch seating area.

When choosing lanterns for a porch, lighting designer Randall Whitehead, of Randall Whitehead Lighting Solutions, says go for frosted glass lanterns that obscure the light source inside and require less cleaning than clear glass.

Place task lights next to porch chairs or on tables so you can dine, read or play games, and use spotlights to highlight architectural details. On an entertaining porch, you might want to add recessed lights on dimmers that give you lots of control over the level of light in the space. Always choose porch light fixtures rated for outdoor use, and make sure all landing areas and steps are illuminated properly.

Ceiling Fans

Often used as both a decorative and functional feature, ceiling fans are popular additions to porches. There are many different styles of ceiling fans available, from oil-rubbed bronze fans, well-suited for traditional porches, to fans with wide rattan paddles, perfect for tropical-style porches, to brushed and stainless steel fans, fitting for more contemporary spaces. Keep in mind some materials are more durable than others. For example, stainless steel paddles will last longer than woven wood.

Choose a ceiling fan UL-listed for damp or wet locations and make sure the size of your ceiling fan paddles works for your porch. A ceiling fan with a blade span of 40 inches to 44 inches generally works for porches up to 144 square feet (12' by 12'); for larger porches that are about 225 square feet (15' by 15'), a ceiling fan that has a blade span of 50 inches to 56 inches is recommended. Have the dimensions of your porch available when you visit the store or buy online.

You also need to consider the height of your porch ceiling. The optimal placement for a ceiling fan for maximum comfort, circulation, safety and aesthetics would be eight or nine feet from your porch floor.

And if you're using a ceiling fan that has a light, consider having two switches installed in your porch so you can use each feature independently. Many ceiling fans have more than one speed, so a handy remote makes operating the fan easier and gives you control over the fan's speeds for the different seasons.

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