It used to be that about three out of every four projects built by Tailor Decks, in Statham, Ga., featured a screened porch. Now, owner John Paulin says, those porches are more likely to be open, that is, no screens. Tailor Decks gets a lot of requests for open air porches, which range in cost from $18,000 to $40,000 or $50,000. What's the difference if all that's missing is the screen? Actually, Paulin says, it's less expensive to build an open porch than a screened porch. He estimates that the cost of adding charcoal fiberglass screening plus screen stops to a 12 foot by 14 foot deck would be about $5 per square foot, which comes to $840, plus the cost of a door. But saving something on the project price is not the reason why people want an open porch when they want it. They want the look and feel of the open porch.

HOW DOES IT FEEL? A screened porch, Paulin says, is “an extension of the house projected outdoors.” It feels “enclosed and private.” An open deck, on the other hand, is “like a piece of the outdoors brought … inside.” You can grill there because screens don't hold the smoke in. And you have a view. Add to these the advantages of a porch over a deck, namely that it's roofed and therefore requires of homeowners considerably less investment of time and money in maintenance.

The protection of a roof also means Paulin can specify his preferred materials — natural woods — which give the structure a comfortable, homey, and inviting feel.

The success of any outdoor structure, he points out, is in how often homeowners actually use it. Not enough privacy? He suggests installing a sliding curtain.

LIGHTING EXTENDS USE Extending porch use will be considerably longer when lighting is part of the package. An open porch can include all the amenities that a screened porch does: lighting, an outdoor fireplace, a ceiling fan, a TV, audio speakers, or electrical outlets. Soft lighting on rails, stairs, and the roof promote greater use. Paulin says that his company uses LED lights instead of incandescents, which helps to keep bugs away.