1. Topic: Porches

  2. Definitions:

    For purposes of these guidelines, porches include structures attached to or immediately adjacent to a permanent structure, with or without a roof, without permanent weatherproof walls or windows, used as or connected to an entrance to the main structure.

  3. Policy

    “The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings recommended against:

    “Removing or radically changing entrances and porches which are important in defining the overall historic character of the building so that, as a result, the character is diminished.”

    “Removing an entrance or porch because the building has been re-oriented to accommodate a new use.”

    “Enclosing porches in a manner that results in a diminution or loss of historic character such as using solid materials such as wood, stucco, or masonry.”

    The following guidelines concerning porches are provided to assist in the interpretation and application of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines.

    Any repair, replacement, change or addition to a porch should be consistent with the main structure and its setting in size, style, materials and appearance. Any repairs should be conservative in nature. Total reconstruction may be unnecessary. Repairing only problem areas cuts down on cost and preserves the original integrity of the structure.

    Materials and construction methods used as the time of construction of the main structure are recommended; however, newer methods or materials may be acceptable when they are consistent with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards. The finished appearance must be consistent with the existing structure.

  4. Guidelines

    1. Size, Shape and Proportion

      Porches should be consistent with the design, scale and levels of the house. When available, photographic or other evidence of the original porch should be incorporated in the application.

    2. Materials

      Materials of any walls/solid fences starting at the level of the main building floor should be compatible with those of the main building. Use of cedar or redwood lumber is recommended, but whatever wood is used should be finished or painted. Use of pressure treated lumber is not recommended, other than where the wood will be in contact with the ground. Replacement features, such as columns and railings, should duplicate historic features whenever there is adequate documentation. Where a feature is missing and documentation of the original design is not available, the replacement feature should be consistent with the historic porch.

      Materials of foundation walls, if any, should match that of the original building foundations. If this is impractical, unobtrusive substitutes should be used. Such as grey finished stucco near granite block foundations, rather than concrete blocks.

    3. Details

      Steps onto porches should have solid risers, rather than an open rise (the vertical area between the steps). Porch floors should provide for drainage.

      Railing spindles, finials, rails, etc. should be appropriate to the architectural style of that porch and the original structure and be constructed of consistent materials. Railing heights should be appropriate to the design of the porch. Building Code limits may be waived based on historic preservation concerns.

      The spacing between railing spindles and other elements is often critical to the appearance of the porch. Spacing of existing elements on the house, or on other houses of the same style, should be studied carefully. Generally, the space between spindles was 1 to 1 and 1 1/2 times the width of the spindle itself. The Housing Code sets a maximum space allowed, but smaller spaces are legal and are generally preferred.

      The style of skirting should match existing original skirting or be consistent with the commonly used at the time the original building was constructed. Use of stock, unframed, cross-hatched wooden skirting in a diamond design is not recommended since size and spacing of members is not historically correct in most cases.

These guidelines were approved by the Michigan Bureau of History as of May 24, 1995 pursuant to Section 5.(3) of Act 169 of 1970, as amended (Local Historic Districts Act).

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