Building A Covered Patio

Building A Covered Patio

There are numerous ways to cover a patio: umbrellas, awnings, trellises, or pitched roof structures. After carefully considering costs and benefits, the one that best fit the family’s needs was a modified trellis that not only created shade, but also a dry space. The patio area to be covered is fairly large, 24’X12’, so spanning it became the major obstacle.  The two choices were to run 12’ beams and then get 24’ engineered trusses to cover the span, or run 24’ beams and run 12’ 2X8’s to span the 10’ gap.  If we had chosen the former, we would have gone with a gabled ceiling trimmed out with tongue and groove cedar, and covered with asphalt shingles.  In the end the cost differential was substantial enough that the latter was a better choice.  The final cost including all the finishing materials was just under $2000.
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Building A Covered Patio

By Tim Carter By Tim Carter February 7 This is the base of a wood column that sits on a wood-framed porch exposed to the weather. Water is leaking, causing the wood to rot. (Tim Carter) I’ve got water leaking and infiltrating the underside of my front porch. My house is about 10 years old. The porch has a roof over it with a decent overhang, but the floor system is regular wood joists covered with plywood. The contractor installed a waterproof layer over the plywood, and then ceramic tile filled with urethane grout. The ceramic tile overlaps row-lock brick at the edges of the porch. What could have possibly gone wrong, and how can it be fixed? How would you have built this porch if you were the builder? — Steve G., Ellicott City, Md. I’m really sorry you’re having this water leak problem with your front porch. You’ve got a real mess on your hands, and I’m afraid I’ve got distressing news for you based on all the photos you sent me. You’re going to have to demolish everything and start over. I’m fortunate to be old enough to have worked on many older homes that had wood front porches that stood the test of time and were built somewhat similarly to yours. The big difference was the materials used and the method of construction. In fact, the second home I owned had a wood front porch. This house was about 80 years old when I bought it and the porch had virtually no rot, even though it was open on three sides and had a roof overhang similar to yours. The reason my porch lumber didn’t rot was that the wood for the porch decking was tongue-and-groove vertical-grain wood that sloped away from the house. Also the individual boards were installed so that the interlocking tongues and grooves pointed away from the house. These decking boards overhung the porch fascia and framing by about three inches. The wood joists under the porch and the tongue-and-groove decking were old-growth timber that had about a 50/50 ratio of summer wood to spring wood. This high concentration of dense dark-grained summer wood made the wood very rot-resistant. The decking was also painted, and the paint was always kept in good shape. The wood used to build your home and front porch deck has been hybridized so it grows fast. As such, it has a much higher concentration of the lighter-colored spring wood in the annual growth bands. This spring wood is very susceptible to wood rot because it’s not nearly as dense as the dark summer wood. The darker bands of summer wood are so dense that they have a hard time absorbing water. I feel the contractor who built your porch didn’t have a full understanding of how water migrates through and around building materials. At the very least, the plywood deck should have been covered with the best ice-and-water-shield product that seals to itself and just about anything it touches once it heats up. This membrane would have needed to lap up on the walls of the house next to the porch and then lap over the finished exterior wall surfaces below the porch. Properly installed, this membrane would have created a waterproof barrier over the wood framing system. So long as the wood-framed porch had a slope built into it allowing it to shed water to the outside of the building, any water that penetrated through the tile floor, around the waterproof substrate under the tile and around the large corner support column would have eventually made it to the outside and never touched the wood. But don’t underestimate how hard it is to install a membrane like this and have it work. You also were inviting all sorts of issues with any connections between porch railing supports and the porch floor. Each one of these is a possible entry point for water. While it’s impossible in this small amount of space to share all construction details, had I been the builder on the job, I would have tried to persuade you to install a properly flashed poured-concrete porch floor that rested on masonry foundation walls on all sides of the porch. The technology to do this and prevent water infiltration into the storage space below has been known for decades. The house I grew up in had a poured-concrete porch with a roof over it. It was exposed on three sides and the storage room below never had a drop of water in it. If you resisted using concrete, then I would have insisted that the entire wood system that was installed be all treated lumber, including the plywood decking. As you know, treated lumber can resist wood rot quite well. Many people are unaware that you can purchase sheets of treated plywood. It’s readily available at traditional lumberyards near you. The porch would have had a slope to it so any water that hits the plywood drains away from the house. I would have made sure the waterproof membrane that was applied to the plywood overlapped another waterproof membrane that was on any wood-framed walls that might support the porch floor. Picture how a traditional asphalt shingle roof works where one shingle overlaps another and works with gravity to keep a house dry. You need to do the same thing to waterproof any wood-framed structure including walls and floors. The final finished flooring of the porch would have been installed and it would have overlapped the exterior lower section of the porch by three inches. I would have made sure there was a drip kerf in the underside of the overhanging material so water would not run back to the vertical walls. Need an answer? All of Tim’s past columns are archived for free access at www.AsktheBuilder.com. You can also watch hundreds of videos, download Quick Start Guides and more.
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Building A Covered Patio

“Thank you for the interest in the project. The beams and cross members were chosen based on the engineered load specifications provided by my local lumber yard. I attached it to the house because of personal preference, not because of any code requirements. It was probably overkill, but I felt better as I am a bit of worrier. While the expert advice I sought from the local lumber yard when I was designing the structure was that it could function as a free standing structure, I wish I had buried and cemented the posts a couple feet into the ground to create greater rigidness. With regards to the slope, there were two reasons we tilted it back. Since the structure does not cover the entire patio, I did not want to have a drip line worn across the exposed part of the patio and thus created it to drain back onto the roof. Secondly, if I had tilted the structure forward it would have created a much more closed in feeling, and that was not what we were looking for. I am sure you could tilt it forward and add a gutter to the front if you feel that there would be too much water added to your roof drainage system. As with all structures it is best to seek advice from your local permitting agency to make sure you meet the building codes for your area.”
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Building A Covered Patio

When you are building a patio cover off of an existing roof or wall, you must take all of your measurements from the point at which the patio roof will attach to the existing structure, not the outside of the slab. The slab can vary considerably, throwing off crucial measurements.
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Building A Covered Patio

Hi Daniel, great questions! I e-mailed my brother-in-law, Curt who wrote this post. Here’s his response:“Thank you for the interest in the project. The beams and cross members were chosen based on the engineered load specifications provided by my local lumber yard. I attached it to the house because of personal preference, not because of any code requirements. It was probably overkill, but I felt better as I am a bit of worrier. While the expert advice I sought from the local lumber yard when I was designing the structure was that it could function as a free standing structure, I wish I had buried and cemented the posts a couple feet into the ground to create greater rigidness. With regards to the slope, there were two reasons we tilted it back. Since the structure does not cover the entire patio, I did not want to have a drip line worn across the exposed part of the patio and thus created it to drain back onto the roof. Secondly, if I had tilted the structure forward it would have created a much more closed in feeling, and that was not what we were looking for. I am sure you could tilt it forward and add a gutter to the front if you feel that there would be too much water added to your roof drainage system. As with all structures it is best to seek advice from your local permitting agency to make sure you meet the building codes for your area.”

Building A Covered Patio

Building A Covered Patio
Building A Covered Patio

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