Dear PoP – Sleeping Porch Renovation Examples

“Dear PoP,

We recently purchased a fixer-upper rowhouse complete with original screen sleeping porches and an unfinished basement. We would like to renovate the sleeping porches and make the basement into either a large den/play area or a small apartment. I have been Googling my brains out trying to find some examples of these types of renovations but haven’t come up with much. At this point, I am tempted to knock on the doors of homes which are obviously renovated and ask for a tour! To prevent this, I was hoping you could encourage some PoP readers to submit photos of their sleeping porch and/or basement renovations and help a neighbor out.”

If anyone would be willing to share their renovation photos please send me an email at princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com.

15 Comment

  • The house we bought had stacked sleeping porches that had been enclosed but the floors were never fixed. The floors had a 3″ step down and a noticeable slant to the back of the house, which our home inspector told us was normal for drainage.

    A contractor installed a new plywood subfloor to level the 1st floor porch with the rest of the subfloors, and then we were able to lay seamless wood flooring throughout the house and onto the porch. It looks really great.

    The second floor is pending, but we will do something similar. Good luck with your project. These rowhouses can be a real adventure.

  • I am currently in the process of a basement renovation.

    Your best bet to find lots of pics is to look at real
    estate listings in your area. You can probably even find a house that has your same exact floor plan.

    My renovation isn’t done or I would send pics but I went for a more industrial look and kept the rafters and brick exposed. I really like it but that look isn’t for everyone.

    My one thought about the porch (which is something I want to do with mine) is to put in a washer and dryer on the bottom porch.

  • i second the advice to look at real estate listings and go to open houses around you. so, so many of the sleeping porches around dc have been renovated into additions, it’s not hard to find inspiration. i feel like half the houses we looked at (petworth, bloomingdale, h street) had enclosed the sleeping porches.

    also, please consult with a structural engineer to make sure you do it right. whoever enclosed our sleeping porches didn’t bother to reinforce any of the original porch structure which has old school style supports and was not intended to support the weight of drywall, windows, furnishings, etc. as a result, our enclosed additions are slowly detaching themselves from the rest of the house (you can see daylight in between cracks in the walls – awesome!). it’s not exorbitantly expensive to have a contractor fix this, but i do wish the previous home owners hadn’t cheaped out on this point!

    • Thanks for mentioning that – my sleeping porch downstairs is forming cracks where it connects to the house and I couldn’t figure out why. The brick posts weren’t sinking or cracking, and the floor itself seemed solid (if maybe more slanted than normal), so it looks like the wood supports underneath may be caving in in front especially. good to know.

  • Take a look at Redfin up here in Wardmanistan. A lot of the newer renovations have had the sleeping porch enclosed. Aan easy way to tell it has been redone in the back sleeping porch is to look for newer vinyl siding in the photos of the rear of the house.


    Don’t forget to save the web address of the virtual tour. Once the house is sold you won’t be able to see the home listing or get to the link for the home tour through the home listing. However you should continue to be able to look at the home tour online if you save the web addresses of the tours you like.

  • Me and a friend did a renovation, while the porches had previously been enclosed, the slopes still existed and the original brick wall, windows and even bars still existed on the inner, original wall.

    We knocked down those walls, leveled the floors. On the first floor, we added a full bathroom on the (if you were looking at the house from the back) right side, and added an enclosed washer/dryer area and a pantry on the other side. this added significant storage space to our house and kept all the new plumbing in one area.

    I think many developers use the old porch area as kitchens that are open and open up space into the dining room, etc.

  • We are almost finished with renovating the sleeping porch of our row house and definitely learned a lot along the way!

    – Make sure that you and our contractor know what the existing structure is REALLY like. Our porch had been enclosed in a previous renovation and it turn out that it was totally not to code and needed a lot more framing and structural support than we thought it would.

    – Think about demolishing the entire back masonry wall of the house. We knew we wanted to take down the wall on the first floor to expand the kitchen, and several contractors told us they would need to put in a steel beam with a crane (expensive!) in order to support the second floor wall. We just took the whole thing down and created larger master bedroom space upstairs that we are going to finish later. It was much cheaper!

    – Make sure that you think about insulating the floor of the new structure. Ours has a crawl space underneath and we insulated it, but it is still much colder than the parts of the floor that are over the basement.

    Good luck!

    • Great question! For those who have done this, how much did all that cost, and how did you go about finding contractors, engineers, etc., and what peculiarities of DC rowhouses did you encounter? I’d love to convert my sleeping porches into proper house space, as well as add a bathroom to the main floor, but hardly even know where to start…

    • Not sure demo of your masonry wall is the smartest way to go. Assuming like most rowhouses around here it was three wythes thick, the wall provided a good fire resistance rating, at least 2hrs. Also assuming like most contractors around here, they simply enclosed the sleeping porch with drywall, plywood or OSB sheathing and siding and you now have a potential fire hazard.

      What was once essentially an exterior space has been transformed into an interior addition without a fire rated party wall between properties. At least if the masonry wall had remained it could have served as a fire wall and compartmentalize the former sleeping porch from the rest of the house.

      Also homeowners should be aware that while the porch should have been counted towards the existing structure’s lot coverage, once it is enclosed it will count as additional gross floor area. Assuming people construct this on the up and up and get a permit, someone will have to calculate how this effects the overall Floor Area Ratio.

      Many of the old rowhouses in the city are already over the allowable lot coverage and FAR and technically cannot be added on to. Just food for thought…

      • You can also use fire rated drywall at the party walls, which depending on the partition detail can give you 1hr or 2hr rating. Brick is not the only way to go.

  • Ours was done before we moved in – but we have since renovated the renovation. Bottom floor is open to the dining room as a playroom and includes a bath. Second floor is an office. the really cool thing is that they are connected with a spiral staircase so we have a back stairs.

    I have an awesome contractor who did my kitchen, playroom reno including moving radiators, taking out the brick wall/windows to the porch through the dining room, insulating (as recommended above), leveling the porch to the rest of the house. Sterling Taylor is his name – company name is Silver Arrow Homebuilders. They are located in the district 202-240-7961. I will send pics.

  • My husband and I are in the process of completely renovating our DC rowhouse located in Petworth. The renovation includes taking down the masonary wall at the back of the house and closing in the sleeper porch area on both the 1st and 2nd floor. We can send some images once our project is complete.

  • Thanks everyone – these are great ideas. Keep them coming!

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