Few things reflect easy, relaxed living as well as a front porch. Many homeowners have memories of spending summer days and evenings on the front porches of their childhood homes. To bring back feelings of well-being, community, and contentment -- and to enhance curb appeal -- many owners are choosing to add or refurbish front porches on their current homes.

"People want to have someplace to walk out onto and sit," says Maureen Murray, a Trex spokesperson. "It's a revival of the porch."

The front porch fell out of favor for many years as garages became more popular and were designed at the front of the home. Meanwhile, the backyard deck won more homeowners' hearts as their desire for a private retreat increased. Today, with the demand for a sense of community reemerging, front porches are making a comeback in both new construction and remodels.

"The new popular trend of neotraditional neighborhoods has brought back the idea of the front porch, bringing the family back to the front yard," says Kent Hendricks, vice president of marketing for railing and column manufacturer HBG and porch plank maker Tendura. "It is fairly economical to build a porch and decorate it, and the curb appeal is so dynamic," says Hendricks.

One of the problems remodelers and homeowners face with porches is planks, balusters, and railings that peel and rot and have to be maintained or replaced periodically. While several low-maintenance alternatives to wood are available, homeowners frequently balk at using them, thinking the result will look too plasticlike. However, vinyl and wood-composite porch products have improved over the years to more accurately mirror the look of natural or painted wood.

"We're seeing a strong trend in remodeling existing porches with vinyl," says Mary Willard, marketing manager for railing manufacturer Kroy Building Products.

Manufacturers offer a variety of styles, sizes, and configurations of railings, balusters, spindles, columns, trims, and planks to give homeowners as many choices as possible. "One of the things people like in porches is uniqueness," says Willard. "We have concentrated on developing multiple porch rail options."

Porch additions can be simple or ornate, small or large. Pergolas are popular as well, says Phil Coleman, of Homeland Vinyl. "They are one of the fastest-growing items," he says, "especially in California, the Southeast, and the Southwest."