Written by Joseph Truini
Illustration by Steven Stankiewicz
Few architectural elements are as beloved as the front porch. It's a favorite place to watch the world—or at least the neighborhood—go by. Whether you are adding on or rehabbing an existing one, here are the front-porch components that every homeowner should know.
1. PORCH ROOF The overhead covering that protects the porch from the weather. It's usually built as a shed roof, meaning it's a single, angled roof plane.
2. FASCIA A flat trim board that runs along the front edge of the porch roof, just below the edge of the shingles. It covers the ends of the roof rafters and adds a clean, finished appearance to the porch.
3. FRIEZE BEAM This structural component supports the porch roof and helps transfer the roof's weight to the posts or columns. The perimeter of the beam is typically concealed by a piece of flat trim, known simply as a frieze board.
4. CAPITAL The decorative uppermost part of the post or column. (Its name derives from the Latin caput, meaning "head.")
5. POST OR COLUMN The vertical support that holds up the porch roof. Usually an inner core of solidwood timber or steel provides the necessary support.
6. BALUSTRADE The entire railing system, which includes balusters, rails and newel post.
7. HANDRAIL The uppermost horizontal component of a balustrade. It's often rounded or chamfered for gripping comfort.
8. BALUSTER The vertical spindles that span the distance between the handrail and bottom rail of a balustrade. Building codes typically require balusters to be spaced no more than 4 inches on center (measuring from the center of one baluster to the center of the next).
9. NEWEL POST Located on or beside the bottom step, this large post anchors the balustrade and lends visual weight and significance to the staircase.
10. BOTTOM RAIL Running horizontally along the bottom of the balustrade, it supports the balusters and connects to the posts.
11. STEP RISER The vertical boards that join the stair treads, closing off the space underneath each step.
12. STEP TREAD The flat, horizontal walking surface of each step. Treads typically range from 10 to 14 inches deep and have a rounded front edge, called the nosing.
13. STRINGERS The angled, sawtooth boards that support the staircase. They're typically cut from 2512s and spaced 16 inches on center. A trim board often covers the visible stringers on each side of the staircase.