Home Preservation

Porch Pride
Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board

Porches are the most important feature on the front of Lakewood houses. The porch is often the first part of a home that visitors see. The thousands of architectural details of Lakewood porches, such as columns, railings, and lattice, are put together in almost endless variations.

In addition, porches serve an important role in the community. By encouraging people to be in their front yards, more neighbors talk to each other, and the presence of more people outdoors makes a neighborhood safer. The porch is a reflection of the people who live there. Lakewood porches should continue to be friendly and inviting, invoking a sense of fun and be a place for all types of activities.

Don’t Enclose.

Permanent porch enclosures destroy the original architectural character of a house. A porch permanently closed up with siding and windows becomes a room of the house, not a link to the outdoors. To enjoy a porch without insects or extend the season of use, install removable screen or glass panels. There are many examples in Lakewood. To help preserve the character of a porch, make the removable glass or screen panels the same size as the porch openings; set the panels behind the porch railing; and set the panels behind the columns or against the sides of the columns. For the best appearance, the removable glass or screen panels should be recessed—not flush with—the front edge of the columns or walls.

Woodwork.

Original porch railings, columns, and lattice help define the character of a porch and the style of a house. Retain and repair the originals whenever possible. In many projects, repair is often less expensive than replacement. In addition, many new products available in stores today are too generic for Lakewood porches. These products rarely have enough detail or come in the right proportions and dimensions to look visually correct when installed. When making repairs, match the shape and size of original pieces. When repairing or replacing the balusters in the railings, match the original spacing between them. Depending on the size and style of the balusters, the space between two balusters is usually equal to the width of one baluster. Flat boards with cutouts typically touch each other.

Masonry.

Maintenance of masonry, such as columns, railings, and steps, involves inspecting surfaces for open joints, which can cause deterioration and shifting of the bricks or stones. Open joints should be tuckpointed with a lime mortar. The size and depth of the mortar joints should match the original joints. In addition, mortar repairs should match the color of the original mortar. The use of caulking or pure Portland cement mortar can cause further deterioration.

Metal.

Original apartment balcony metal railings, often curving, are more ornate than railings available today and should be retained.

Ceilings.

The traditional ceiling on Lakewood porches is known as beadboard, which are narrow boards with a rounded molding detail along one edge. Originally, the beadboard would have been stained and coated in a clear finish. Over the years, some ceilings have been painted. If you have a porch ceiling with a clear finish--keep it. It adds to the charm of a Lakewood porch.

Floors.

The wooden board flooring on most porches is tongue and groove style, but occasionally thick straight-edge boards, called five-quarter, were used. When replacing deteriorated sections, it is important to get boards that are the same width and thickness.

Step Rails.

When constructing a hand rail on the steps, look at the shape, size, and spacing of the balusters, top rail, and bottom rail of the porch railing. Try to match the porch railing or find similar pieces. Local carpenters and architectural metalwork companies ("Iron Work" in the Yellow Pages) can make railings that will complement the architecture of a house. Plumbing pipes and wood two-by-fours are not appropriate for old house porches.

Paint Colors.

Generally, porches should be painted to compliment the colors used on the house. Slight variations can be appropriate, given the style of the house or the construction materials, but using the body, trim, and sash colors of the house in some combination on the porch are usually good bets. Try to avoid painting every molding detail or every turn on a baluster a different color. In most cases, less is more. Remember, brick and stone are not meant to be painted. Once painted, it will be an ongoing maintenance chore.

Landscaping.

Landscaping around a porch should be selected to complement and enhance the experience of the porch. For example, trellises and small trees can create shade. Mixed borders--meaning combinations of shrubs, evergreens, perennials, annuals, and bulbs—create year-round beauty. Planting large trees and bushes too close to the structure could cause damage. Plants should be selected and maintained to allow the porch and front of the house to be seen from the street, both for beauty and safety.

Building a New Porch.

If a home never had a front porch—don't add one. It will change the architectural design of the front of the house. If a porch has been removed and is now being replaced, research sources of old photos to discover its details. Keep the design of new work compatible with the porches of similar Lakewood houses. A qualified contractor or architect can help get the details right.


The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board was established to serve in an advisory capacity for the purpose of educating, informing and making recommendations to City officials, departments, boards and commissions, and the community on matters relating to historic preservation

The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board may be contacted through the City of Lakewood Department of Planning and Development (216/529-6630). Information in this publication may be reprinted. Please credit the Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board, Lakewood, Ohio.

© 2005 Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board

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