2017 Guide to Building a Round Portico in the DMV

Posted in: porch topics, Portico

James Moylan

Monday, January 30, 2017

custom front walkway with flagstone and brick pavers at night with outdoor lighting package (1).jpg

How do You Build a Round Portico in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.?

One of the most dramatic and elegant touches that can be added to an entryway is a round portico, as seen on this Clifton, Virginia home. Before implementing the desirable design element, however, there are some considerations to note. From railing style limitations to column placement, the key to a successful portico is planning and forethought as well as some industry knowledge about what can and can’t work with a round portico system, or even within your local regulations.

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The first major consideration is whether you want railings on top of the portico or not. (Note, this is assuming a flat roof style portico.)

If you do want a handrail system, go in knowing there will be some limitations due to the round nature of the structure. Some materials will simply not work altogether, and others will be difficult to install. Traditional wooden railings, for example, can be rounded, but that will pose a challenge for the design and build team. Matching the existing railing is also going to be a significant challenge. If you are interested in installing railings, though, wrought iron is perhaps the most easily customizable.

In addition to material feasibility, the other limiting factor is cost, as it can be prohibitive to work these railing systems into a round design. Because of these style and cost restrictions, some homeowners choose to forego the railing entirely.


The next design issue to tackle is trim. You must determine: 

  • What kind of trim you’re going to use.
  • How many pieces of trim are necessary.
  • Where those trim pieces will be placed.
  • How much of an overhang on the project you desire.

For this Design Builders original project, three pieces of trim were used: one interior piece of crown molding and two exterior pieces.


The columns serve as structural support. They hold up the round portico project, but before placing them in a potential design, it must be determined that they are in the correct locations. This means they aren’t in front of any windows or disrupting any existing lights.

For this project, the columns did conflict with some installed lights, and it required the removal of two existing carriage lights in front of the house. The resulting area was covered with brick to match the mortar, and a decorative light was then hung from the ceiling. (In a round portico, hanging lights are preferable to recessed or wall-mounted lighting.)

Front Walkway

The next consideration relates to the front walkway itself. If the house is brick, it’s going to be a challenge to match that material. Therefore, going with a contrasting stone is typically the best route from an aesthetic and design standpoint.

One important aspect to remember with walkways is that you don’t want more than two or three risers to the door. Anything more than that and you’ll need to install railings on the portico itself.


The last important consideration is the portico roof. There are several options such as metal, standing seam, rubber torch down, or a rubber membrane system, but for the best visual appeal, metal is typically the way to go.

If you’re interested in adding a round portico to your home’s entryway or have any questions about the material limitations, cost restrictions, or design logistics of a portico, please feel free to contact a representative of Design Builders, Inc.