Porches in the historic districts were designed as open spaces, the commission encourages keeping them open and does not approve closing them off for additional living space.
Secretary of the Interior’s Standards recommend against:
- Removing or radically changing entrances and porches, which are important to defining the overall historic character of the building so that, as a result, the character is diminished.
- Removing an entrance or a porch because the building has been reoriented 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 or permanent windows.
Applications for porch alterations should provide a lot of detail:
- Why is the change proposed? (Piers sinking, porch pulling away from wall, storm damage, restoration, broken or missing trim and/or rails, etc)
- Be specific: wooden framed screens painted to match/contrast with house measuring X” x Y” with 3” wide framing held in place with hooks and eyes on the screens and _ round on the deck.
- Measurements – depth of new porch, guardrail height, type and pitch of roof, placement of steps.
Screening should not change the details of the porch structure. On a porch with a solid rail covered with clapboard, the screens may be framed in removable window sized units and extend from the top of the rail to the frieze board of the porch. On a porch with an open rail, the best solution is individual, removable, wood framed screening units that extend from the floor to the frieze board inside the rail.
Skirting can be more elaborate than the designs described and illustrated in the standards. The vertical boards can have patterns cut into them, for example. These plans will need to be reviewed by the commission to determine if the decoration proposed is appropriate for the house.
Column Repair – Over time, porch columns and the piers they rest on may settle and no longer support the weight of the porch roof properly. Repairs must be made to the original material or replacement must be in matching material. Fiberglass replacement columns may be considered if they substantially replicate the existing columns.
Handrails not to standards – On many structures, a handrail on the steps, while not part of the original design of the house, needs to be added to meet current building code or as a general safety precaution for the residents. The full commission must review any design that does not meet the standard stated above unless it is a documented restoration of missing pieces (with historic photographs). Other handrail materials may include pipe rail, vertical spindle rail and others. Some rental properties may be eligible for a handrail waiver. Contact the coordinator.
Balustrades –There are several common styles of balustrades including square or turned spindles set between rails. Other, more elaborate styles need to be preserved and repaired with matching materials. Woodwork – Many older porches have elaborate woodwork trims such as ball friezes or brackets and cutwork. These details must be repaired or replaced with matching materials whenever possible
Approved Porch materials
Cedar or redwood or cypress used for all visible parts of the porch including, but not limited to step risers and treads, handrails, spindles, aprons, screen or window framing, screen doors and columns or posts.
Pressure treated lumber is allowed only in parts of the porch, which touch the ground, such as stair stringers and posts or as framing under the porch where it is not visible. Note: A wide variety of decorative millwork is available today in home improvement center and lumberyards. Much of it is poplar – a fine material for interior projects but totally unsuited to Michigan weather conditions for exterior application.