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In Four Southern States, Nearly 90% of New Homes Have Porches

Monday, September 10, 2018

Of the roughly 850,000 single-family homes started in 2017, 64.7% were built with porches, according to NAHB tabulation of data from the Survey of Construction (SOC). The SOC is conducted on an ongoing, monthly basis by the U.S. Census Bureau, partially supported with funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Among other things, the SOC data show that, over the period when single-family starts were declining (from 1.7 million in 2005 to 430,000 in 2011), the share of new homes built with porches was increasing (from 54.1% in 2005 to 65.7% in 2011).

Since 2009, the share of new homes with porches has been relatively stable, staying between 63 and 65% most years. However, the new-home porch share has broken above the 65% barrier twice. The first time was the record high of 65.7% for new homes started in 2011. The second time was the 65.1% of homes started in 2016. Although the share declined slightly to 64.7% in 2017, that still represents the third highest percentage on record.

The Census Bureau generally publishes characteristics of new housing only for the four principal Census regions, but the underlying data can be tabulated down to the nine Census divisions. There turns out to be substantial variation across divisions in the share of new homes built with porches. Sometimes, the difference is substantial even between neighboring divisions. 

The low extreme is the 52% of new homes with porches in the West North Central division, as well as in the West South Central that neighbors the West North Central to the south. At the high end of the scale, however, 89% of homes started in 2017 were built with porches in the four states that make up the East South Central division, which lies adjacent to the West South Central, on its eastern border.

While the SOC shows how many new single-family homes are built with porches, it doesn’t provide much information about the nature of the porches. Information on that, however, is available from the Annual Builder Practices Survey (BPS) conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs.  The preliminary 2018 BPS report shows that front porches were far more common than side or rear porches on single-family homes built in 2017.

The BPS also shows that the average size of a front porch on a new home is roughly 100 sq. ft. Measured by square footage, the material most commonly used to build new-home porches is concrete, followed by treated wood. Many species of wood used in home building, such as southern yellow pine, don’t withstand outdoor use unless pressure treated with preservative chemicals.

The next most commonly used material in new home porches is composite (a combination of plastic and wood fibers). In some parts of the country (the West South Central, and all the Census divisions east of the Mississippi except the East South Central) almost as much composite as treated wood is used. In the Pacific Division, the amount of composite used in new-home porches actually exceeds the amount of treated wood, by a ratio of more than two-to-one.

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