Even though my clients had an extensive backyard with many areas to entertain, their favorite spot was a small patio just outside their back door, next to a fish pond, where they liked to sit at night enjoying a few quiet moments together. They decided that they wanted to upgrade the space by adding a roof to provide shelter from the rain; in addition, my clients wanted their new porch to be equipped with lighting and speakers, as well as a ceiling fan to keep the evening mosquitoes at bay.
I had done some work for these clients previously, so I was pretty confident that they’d like my initial simple design. I was wrong, though; after reviewing it, they called me and said they were looking for something a little more creative and encouraged me to think outside the box. On my second visit, a friend from Nantucket showed up, and my conversation with him inspired my redesign of the porch, including the arched beam and cedar shakes. In my redesign, I also paid more attention to the design elements of other pieces on their property that I had built over the years and tried to incorporate them in the new porch.
I think of the porch as a confluence of Asian and Arts & Crafts aesthetics, starting with the columns, which are 6x6 PT posts wrapped with meranti. One of the posts bears on an existing block wall supported by a footing, while we had to cut into the patio and dig and pour a footing for the other post. The posts are anchored to their footings with Simpson Strong-Tie ABA66Z post-base hardware.
To allow for seasonal movement with changes in moisture content, we used rabbeted joints on the corners of the meranti column wraps. While this corner detail is practical, the reveals also add interest to the columns, as do the pairs of decorative bands around their tops. The columns support treated LVL beams, which we fastened to the PT posts using SST TP37HDZ truss plates to resist uplift. The beams are also wrapped in meranti, installed over furring strips to provide for air circulation and prevent the meranti boards from cupping.
One of the key design elements of the porch is the curved meranti glulam that ties the beams together. We made up the glulam in our shop, using every clamp we owned to form ½-inch strips of meranti glued together with West System epoxy around a steel beam with an 8-inch block in the center to create the arch. We used SST’s powder-coated flat black decorative EGPC beam hangers to connect the glulam to the beams.
We cut the arched rafters from 2x12 meranti, using a circular saw to cut the gradual curves and finishing up the rafter tails with a jigsaw (the trick is to always have a sharp blade mounted in the saw). We eased the edges of the rafters with a router, then sanded everything smooth prior to installation.
To give the ridge a little more mass, we glued up a pair of 2x12 meranti boards to form a 4x12 ridge beam. Instead of using hangers, we used long timber screws to fasten the arched rafters to the ridge, as well as to the beams. Then we applied 1x4 T&G meranti ceiling boards to the exposed rafters, followed by a layer of 5/8-inch CDX plywood. Before installing the red-cedar shake roofing, we covered the plywood roof deck with Grace Ice & Water Shield and Cedar Breather ventilated underlayment, a nylon matrix that creates a gap between the shingles and the roof deck. The front gable is also finished—both inside and out—with red-cedar shakes. To finish up, we used Benjamin Moore Arborcoat translucent classic oil finish in teak.
Bob Kiefer owns Decks by Kiefer in Martinsville, N.J.