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How to Build a Four Season Outdoor Living Space in the DMV

Posted in: Screen Porch in Northern Virginia, Screen Porch, Screen Porch Tips, Screen Porch Questions, Screen Porch in Maryland, infrared heaters

James Moylan

Monday, June 15, 2015


Designing luxurious outdoor living spaces for year-round use in the DMV

If you’re thinking about adding a unique outdoor living space to your home in Washington, D.C., there are several factors to consider into the design if you want to use that space year-round. With the right structural design and finishing touches, any outdoor space can be a comfortable and pleasant option no matter the month, temperature, or weather.

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Why can the Washington, D.C. area be challenging?

The DMV is well-known for enduring each season quite distinctly every year. Most outdoor spaces are only usable from March to November, with the remaining month ranging anywhere from a bit uncomfortable to unusable. With a few design tweaks, however, you can successfully battle the cold as well as the heat, humidity, bugs, pollen, and any other seasonal barrier to enjoying your outdoor space.

Combating the Heat

When Maryland and Virginia are having particularly hot and humid summers, screened porch areas can feel sweltering. To alleviate that, consider incorporating the following elements into a new or updated design:

  1. Roof. A roof adds structural support and visual appeal to your outdoor area, but it also creates a shaded, protected area from the brunt of the heat and sun.
  2. Ceiling Fans. To promote air circulation, a ceiling fan is definitely necessary in an outdoor space. If you’re especially sensitive to the heat, your contractor will likely recommend multiple fans to counteract the warmth and humidity.
  3. Motorized Retractable Screens, like those made by Phantom Screens, Many people are hesitant about adding screens to their outdoor areas because they dislike the feeling of being enclosed. However, screens offer excellent protection against seasonal insects, which can be particularly bad in the DC area from about June to early September. One work-around for this problem is retractable screens. With the push of a button, you can have the open-air experience or the protection screens offer. This greatly enhances the year-round utility of these outdoor spaces.

 Combating the Cold

Just as heat can make an outdoor space unpleasant, so too can a harsh Virginia winter. Luckily, there are many options to heat these outdoor spaces and make them viable to use even in the harshest weather conditions.

  1. Fireplaces. Many luxury outdoor spaces incorporate fireplaces as practical means of heat as well as ambiance. Choose from natural wood, gas, or propane to cut the chill on late autumn nights or even the coldest winter days.
  2. Infrared Heaters. These heaters are another great way to skate through the shoulder seasons or to use extensively in very cold weather. If you choose Infratech, these products heat by touch and hardwire directly into your circuit box.
  3. Retractable, Motorized Vinyl Window Systems. This is a relatively new feature in the outdoor living space arena, and Phantom Screens is one company that’s spearheading and marketing this new technology. Like retractable screens, retractable vinyl windows are entirely self-storing and activated at the push of a button. This makes your outdoor space impervious to wind, rain, snow, and other elements of inclement weather. While this window system keeps the cold out, the windows are still transparent, so you have the benefit of any available natural light and the beauty of the surrounding grounds. Fenetex retractable screens are another great option as well.

 Combating the Dark

An effective outdoor spaces need to be designed with light in mind, which becomes particularly apparent during winter's shorter days. Various outdoor lighting options like those offered by Trex (recessed into columns, decking, stair risers, etc.) are necessary to ensure you can use your outdoor space not only year-round but at all hours of the day as well.

Skylights are another way to foster natural light, but they’re a personal choice. If your outdoor space has southern exposure, and if you want the added heat and light of direct sun, skylights are a great way to extend the use of your outdoor living area. If you want to limit sun and heat, avoid skylights.

For more information about how to use outdoor spaces year-round in Washington, D.C. and its surrounding areas, leave a comment below or contact the Design Builders team directly.