WILKES-BARRE — Joe Matteo knew something was missing from the Frederick Stegmaier Mansion from the moment he bought it.
“When I first bought the house, I always said I wanted to put the porch back on,” he said, sitting on the wicker chairs outside of the 304 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, bed and breakfast. “If I’m doing a restoration, I want to do it all the way.”
Looking over the lazy arches and the lights salvaged from an old church, Matteo smiled as he discussed the finer details of the project completed just two years ago. Light touches — from the paired columns along the edges and the trios on the corners to the mantle he has planned for the side of the porch — were designed to fit the original porch.
“It almost has a plantation feeling to it or an antebellum feeling when you’re sitting out here,” he said.
The porch fits the same footprint of the previous structure and incorporates the original foundation, and the scale of the porch is accurate compared with the original.
“The biggest compliment is when I tell them that we just put the porch on and they’re like, ‘What?’ They can’t believe it because it blends in with the house so well.”
While the restoration of the Stegmaier Mansion had been showcased in national magazines at least a year before the addition of the porch, Matteo said the refinished entryway sends a warm message.
“It’s almost like the porch is the welcome mat of the house. It says, ‘Come in.’ It draws you to it,” Matteo said.
Of course, not every porch project is as detailed as the one Matteo undertook. Likewise, not every well-loved porch is found at the front of a home.
For Tony Brooks, director of development and public relations for the Luzerne County Historical Society, heaven is a second-floor back porch in downtown Wilkes-Barre that’s surrounded by trees at the apartment he shares with Matt Malani.
“For me, it’s the beauty of the porch. I live in an old historic home in downtown Wilkes-Barre with a lush, green backyard. It’s an oasis,” Brooks said.
Brooks said his second-floor porch is easy to maintain, and a fabric screen door allows the dogs he and Malani own together — Sophie, a miniature Dachshund, and Remington, a Bluetick Beagle — to enjoy the porch with them. Relaxing in his space above the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown is part of Brooks’ daily routine.
“Every night when I come home from work, I’ll have a glass of wine, some cheese and crackers, and I will read until the evening news comes on,” he said. “On the weekends, I tinker around with flowers and plants.”
Brooks has a compost bin, modest grill and small seating area that he uses throughout the year.
“A porch just adds to the quality of your life. I think man is not meant to be indoors at all times,” he said.
A solid investment
Tom Tarrant, owner of Tarrant Construction in Mountain Top, said many homeowners look for one of a few ways to enhance their outdoor living space.
“We get quite a few requests for decks every year, and a combination of deck and patio is always nice,” Tarrant said. “Screen rooms are becoming more common. We get about 10 requests for them every year.
“They’re common and very enjoyable, and they usually add a few extra seasons of sitting outside and relaxing, bug-free,” he continued.
Depending on the size of your project, Tarrant said, a screen room could cost between $5,000 and $7,000 and take about three days to complete, including a porch and a roof. An average deck could cost between $8,000 and $14,000 and be completed in about eight days.
The extra space is in high demand, as far as home-improvement projects go.
“It adds a lot to the enjoyment of the use of your yard and home for a stay-cation’s sort of sake. Back decks are something that are important to almost every customer that I run into,” he said.
His family is no stranger to the concept. His former Wilkes-Barre home and his new residence in Mountain Top each offered their own outdoor space.
“At our house in Wilkes-Barre, we have a nice screen room. Our television is there with some furniture, and we tiled the floor with porcelain tile. There are a lot of options you can use. My new house in Mountain Top has a large, long deck in the back. I’m actually going to screen three-quarters of it but leave part of it open for the grill. Then we’ll go into the screen room and eat, bug-free,” he said.
The cost is worth it. In most cases, Tarrant said, across the country, decks return about 77 percent of the homeowner’s investment.
More to enjoy
Edwardsville resident Kathy O’Day had a 28-year-old back deck replaced last fall.
The new deck is screened in and virtually maintenance-free, O’Day said. The screening was added on this time around so the family could enjoy their yard without being “tired of the bugs,” she added.
The improvement project completed last fall cost about $10,000, O’Day said, and it was worth it.
“Now, it’s even more enjoyable. You can eat out there without the bugs bothering you,” she said. The family is also enjoying the new deck longer into the fall.
Donna Henderson of Nanticoke previously had two screened-in back porches at the double-block home she shares with her daughter on Espy Street. The 40-year-old rooms were completely replaced and refurbished.
“I wanted to make it one big porch across the back,” Henderson said. The new screened-in sun porch was completed just before Mother’s Day.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “We had Mother’s Day brunch out there. Everyone was just shocked when they came over and saw it.”
Henderson has big things set for the new porch, including a plan to eat Christmas Eve dinner outside this year. “It’s warm enough for me to put space heaters out there for the day.”
Due to some additional work, she spent an estimated $19,000 on the project and believes it was “absolutely money well spent.”
“I am so pleased with it,” she said. “One of my friends came over and said, ‘I don’t know what you paid for this, but whatever you paid, it was worth it.’”
“We all love it. It’s like having another room.”