Verandas are both extremely beautiful and useful additions to homes, they add space and make your home more inviting. To be able to really appreciate the value a veranda adds to your home, though, it’s important to understand what exactly a veranda is.
This is a bit vague because there’s many different types of outdoor spaces and they’re all quite similar with just a couple features that distinguish each from the other. In this article, I’ll define for you what a veranda is and then we’ll go through a couple different types of outdoor spaces so you can see how they’re different.
This veranda has columns and a railing on the front but an open side.
What is a Veranda?
We’ll start with a plain and simple definition of what a veranda is.
A veranda is a roofed outdoor extension of the house on the ground floor, often wrapping around the sides of the house and with a railing. There are some features that vary depending on the style of the veranda, but there are some features that are consistent in every one.
It’s always covered with roofing, with the same kind of material and style of the roofing of the main house. This way, the veranda appears like an extension of the house, rather than something that is added on.
The roof of this house extends forward to create a spacious veranda.
Veranda’s are also quite large. As you’ll see later in this post, smaller outdoor spaces that don’t have room for furniture are not the same as a veranda. Verandas are intended to be entertainment spaces and will have enough space for furniture.
Verandas are always attached to the house by the roof and the flooring. Gazebos, for example, can look similar to the style of verandas, but gazebos are stand alone features while verandas are always a feature of the house.
It’s very common to see verandas with railing going around the edges of the space, but they don’t always have railings. Since verandas are meant to be an extension of the house, the railing is kind of like a wall around the space, but not as definitive so the space is still open. Having roofing and railings on a veranda creates the feeling of it being a secure space, although it’s still outdoors and open-air.
Spacious veranda with columns and railing that wraps around the sides of the house.
What’s the Purpose of a Veranda?
The main idea behind a veranda is to have a halfway space between indoors and outdoors. It’s essentially like having a whole room outdoors. In fact, in some areas, some people will sleep on the veranda in the summertime!
The idea, and even the name, for verandas comes from a similar style of housing in India. While English colonizers were in India, they saw lots of these kinds of outdoor spaces and started designing similar ones in England. This architectural design spread throughout France and Spain and eventually to the U.S.
Verandas are meant to be outdoor entertainment spaces, with enough space for multiple pieces of furniture and people. Although, they’re mostly for lounging around, usually not used for eating meals or having a dining table set up.
Why Have a Veranda?
As I described, the main use of a veranda is for lounging and spending time outside, but there are many reasons you might want to add or buy a house with a veranda.
Verandas are typically quite large, so they can be great for large families or houses with lots of people living in them. Verandas provide additional square feet so there’s more space for everyone in the house, but they’re open and shared spaces rather than just having an extra bedroom or two.
This also increases the value of the house. Both by having extra square feet and the aesthetic value added by a veranda. Just as with other outdoor spaces, like a deck or patio, this addition to the house will increase both its value on the housing market and its value in terms of what you get out of it.
You should keep in mind though that this also means a house you might be looking to buy will be more expensive with a veranda. This is especially true for older houses in the south, a lot of which have very historic designs.
This veranda is enclosed by large windows that can open, as they are here, or can be closed to make the space more protected.
Another benefit of having more space is that you can use it for storage. As in the picture above, verandas are great spaces for keeping bikes, scooters, or other outdoor gear. Since verandas are already outside, it makes sense to use the space to store items and equipment for the outdoors- think things you’d keep in the garage. Some people put storage chests out on their veranda and it’s a great place to keep gardening tools.
One other great use for a veranda is as a bedroom! In places with really nice and warm climates, sometimes people will just sleep outdoors on their veranda. With a hammock or even a small bed on the veranda, one can easily spend a cool spring night outside.
Types of Outdoor Spaces
You’ll be able to really understand what a veranda is by learning about different types of outdoor spaces that are also connected to houses or ones that are separated. Let’s begin with a balcony!
Balconies are another kind of extended space that is connected to the main building but provides outdoor space. But balconies differ in a couple ways.
First off, balconies are above the ground floor and protrude out of the building. Balconies are only on upper level floors, because their function is to create access to the outdoors even above the ground floor.
This photo is an example of how balconies can be added to create access to outdoors, but sometimes aren’t really outdoor spaces.
Balconies are also often much smaller than verandas. Sometimes there are very large balconies, but these are usually only with very expensive houses or apartments. In fact, some balconies are only doors that open up and don’t even have any flooring, just railing- this is called a false balcony.
Also Balconies aren’t always covered, that depends on the specific design of the building. Balconies can be a feature on houses or are small outdoor spaces for apartments, whereas verandas are only and always with houses.
Perfect example of a porch- spacious area by front door but not an area for eating or lounging.
Porches are very similar to verandas and the two are often confused. This is because porches and verandas are both in the front of the house and are entryway features. The difference is that porches are strictly entryway spaces. Porches extend from the front door area while verandas are full-on extensions of the house.
Porches can be large like verandas, but they are intended just for extra space in the front yard. Sometimes there is enough space for a bit of furniture, but just some small pieces like a chair or two and maybe a table. Porches do not have the same amount of entertainment capacity as verandas.
In fact, some porches are very small and are more just for extra space in front of the main entrance door. These are technically called a Portico.
An example of a Portico.
Porches are usually covered, but not always. Sometimes they may be just concrete extending out from the house to expand the entryway area and since they’re not intended to be a space to host people, having roofing isn’t as needed.
The main difference in looks is all about the differences in purpose and that is simply that verandas are meant as full entertainment spaces whereas porches just expand the front area. This is why the spaces are usually smaller and less developed for hosting many people.
Example of a full outdoor eating area on a stone patio.
Patios are another type of outdoor space that have similar features to both porches and verandas. Just like how porches are only in the front entrance area, patios are always in the back of the house.
This is a huge difference between patios and verandas. Verandas will always be around the front of the house, although some stretch around to the back, and patios always start and stay at the back.
Patios are outdoor spaces in the backyard or space behind a house. They can be both attached and detached from the house, that just depends on the design style. Sometimes patios are an expansion of the back entrance area and in other designs they’re completely separate from the house, creating an additional seating area in the backyard.
Example of a covered patio with rails that overlooks the backyard.
Another thing that depends on design is whether the patio is covered. Patios have many variations in design- some with elaborate roofs, even some with walls.
Patios are also usually made with concrete or stone, whereas verandas are made with the wood that the house is constructed from. Also regarding construction, patios are usually just a slab, whether concrete or stone, that is flat on the ground. But verandas are a bit elevated to be level with the front door and have more features like railing or columns.
One thing patios and verandas have in common is that they are both spaces to entertain and host people. In some cases patios can also be like a halfway space between inside the house and fully outside and, in this sense, patios are kind of like verandas for the backyard.
A slightly raised deck that has a sheer roof, so it provides some shade and shelter, but still allows lots of sunlight.
Decks are extremely similar to patios in terms of styles, function, and placement. Decks are also backyard spaces conjoined to the house and meant for hosting friends and family. Often, decks are large areas for eating, kind of like an outdoor dining room.
Like patios, decks can be styled many ways. One of the most popular designs for decks is a raised deck, common with houses that are on a downhill and avoid the slope by elevating the deck. However, you can find all different kinds of designs for decks.
This picture shows a raised desk design that makes the deck go almost right into the forest. This kind of design is very popular for mountain homes where there’s often a downhill behind the house.
Contrary to verandas, decks are usually open spaces without roofs. Also, decks hardly ever have rails, although this depends on the style. For raised decks like this one pictured above, this has rails for safety purposes.
The main thing that differentiates decks from patios is the material: patios are often made from concrete or a similar substance, but decks are usually made out of wood. In this way, they are similar to verandas because verandas are also usually made out of wood.
Decks can sometimes be separated from the house, so that is one other thing that makes them different from verandas. Decks are usually connected to the house and are an extension of the back door, but there are some designs where the deck is separated, like in the photo below.
Example of a deck that isn’t attached to the house.
So, now we can go back to the characteristics of a veranda and better understand how they define a veranda from other outdoor areas.
You can see that in comparison to porches, they’re much larger and often more furnished. A veranda will span the whole front of the house, and sometimes even go around to the sides, while porches are smaller spaces just by the front door. Verandas are more like a whole additional room for lounging, just outside!
Even for the ones that extend around the sides, verandas are always spaces for the front of the house. Patios and decks serve the same function of a veranda, but in the backyard. Often, patios or decks may even have a very similar style to that of a veranda, but if it’s for the back side of the house, it’s not a veranda.
Cozy veranda with extra privacy from the tree branches.
Verandas and balconies can be confused easily, especially with really large balconies, because they’re both outdoor lounge spaces. In fact, some balconies are in the front of the house, so it might mimic a veranda.
The main thing to remember is that verandas are always on the ground floor, around the front entrance, while balconies are on the higher floors. Sometimes a balcony will be right over the veranda, so the balcony doesn’t hang off the house and has that same effect as the veranda as if it’s an extension of the house.
I think that last part, a veranda as an extension of the house, is the most defining characteristic. The whole idea behind a veranda is to have a space that is both part of the house and outdoors, so that people could lounge and have a furnished space while still being outside.
Remember, veranda styles first came to Europe after the English colonizers saw them in India, a country that has some incredibly warm regions. The warm climate is what sparked the idea for having a room outdoors and this is also why this design became so popular in Spain, Italy, and the south of the U.S.
In Hawaii, there is a very similar design called Lanai. A lanai has the same features of a veranda because it’s also very warm in Hawaii so there’s many ideas for outdoor spaces. The main difference between a veranda and a lanai is just style- lanai’s always have railings and have more of a tropical aesthetic versus the country house aesthetic of verandas.
Deciding if a Veranda is Right for You
As you can see from this article, there are many types of outdoor spaces that you can add to your home or look for if you’re buying a house. In fact, there’s even more that we didn’t cover here like pergolas and gazebos. Each different type has many options for design and can all be done beautifully to match your overall design.
The main criterion to think about when picking an outdoor space you wantcc is the function. If you want a large space for eating and having outdoor meals, a deck or patio would be better than a veranda. If you want a small addition to the entryway, a porch would be best. But, if you’re looking for a large space to enjoy the outdoors while still feeling like you’re at your home, a veranda would be perfect!
Especially if you’d like a space for the front or sides of the house, like if you have kids that play in the street or want a space to invite neighbors over. They can also be very useful if you live somewhere where it rains a lot and you need a space with roofing.
Depending on the situation and on your needs, it may even be easier to move into a space that already has a veranda versus building a patio or deck- which can be very expensive. Building a veranda isn’t the easiest project and could be pretty expensive, but if you find a house that already has a veranda or you’re building a house, a veranda is certainly a great addition.
If you imagine yourself and your family or roommates spending lots of time outside and wanting lots of outdoor space, you’ll get great use out of a veranda.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.