A wood porch can add such architectural character to a house, and present great opportunities for adding detailing to your home. Porches, being at a higher elevation than the surrounding grade, use masonry piers or wood posts to support the structural framing for the raised wood porch (ledger boards are used also, but they typically not visible). This creates a space between the underside of the porch floor and the ground beneath it.
Visually, this space leaves an unfinished look to the porch, especially if you use this space to store things like extra pavers. Building a decorative porch skirt panel that conceals the void (and everything else) under the porch is a great solution and can create a very distinctive look.
Porches skirt panels can be all sort of shapes and sizes, it just depends on the distance between the piers/posts and the height of the porch. Even though this porch had a small visible space (about 12”) under it, it still needed to be ‘finished’. Many of these panels that you see on old houses are built using lattice for the infill area of the panel. In place of the lattice, this panel used 11 1/2” lengths of wood cut from cedar fence boards.
Building This Porch Panel
The panel is not difficult to build. The first step is to build the frame to fit the opening. This frame was built with treated lumber since the lower rail would have ground contact. Actually, only the lower rail of the frame would have needed to be treated, the other 3 sides could be cedar or other decay/insect resistant lumber. Pocket holes or corner brackets can be used to create a strong panel frame.
A wider board was used for this frame’s top rail because a portion of the rail would be tucked up under the porch behind the header joist about 2”.
After the frame had been constructed, 1 x 2 board(s) were attached to the back of the top horizontal rail of the frame, and flush with the top of it. 6’ cedar fence boards were cut to the needed length for the infill area, and were attached to the back side of the panel against the 1 x 2 and one inch from the edge of the bottom rail. The one inch space will keep the cut edge of the cedar boards from coming in contact with the ground where water could wick up through the open wood fibers. At the other end of the cedar fence boards the 1 x 2 protects that cut end from water that could fall between the porch decking. The cedar fence boards are not expensive, and several pieces could be cut from one 6’ board for this panel.
Overtime, as the cedar fence boards dry, about 1/8” gap will be created between these boards which will add to the detailed look of the entire panel. Also, it is important to have adequate ventilation under a porch to help keep all the wood dry, and reduce the likelihood of mold and mildew forming. The other underneath side of the porch is completely open. The lattice skirt, so often used for porch skirts, is another option.
This porch’s panel intentionally fit snug between the masonry pier and the house foundation wall so it would not have to be connected to the porch – this was done so that the things being stored under the porch could be accessed easily by removing the panel. Various connectors could be used to attach a panel to the porch in a more ‘permanent’ manner. Another option is to use eye hook screws and hooks which would enable you to hang the panel , and remove it when necessary.
If you make a skirt panel for your porch, be sure to use outdoor fasteners and connectors, and finishing it with an exterior grade paint or stain can increase its longevity.