Hey there! If you‘re like most Florida homeowners, you‘ve probably heard the term "lanai" used to describe screened in porches. Coming from Hawaii, this word may sound exotic, but lanais are really popular patio enclosures here in the Sunshine State.
In this guide, we‘ll dig into everything you need to know about what exactly a lanai is, how it‘s different from other types of porches, what to consider before installing one, and why they’re so popular here in Florida. I‘ll also share some interesting history and data as a fellow lanai lover!
What is a Lanai?
Simply put, a lanai is a specific type of screened-in porch commonly found in Florida and other tropical climates. It has a few defining features:
- A solid floor – Usually concrete or tile to withstand the elements
- Screened walls – Made from aluminum or fiberglass screening, rather than solid walls
- A roof – Covering the entire structure to provide shade & rainfall protection
- Outdoor furnishings – Casual patio-style furniture since it‘s considered outdoor living space
The screening allows maximum airflow while keeping out bugs. This makes the lanai a comfortable place to relax outdoors in Florida‘s hot, humid climate. The roof shields you from direct sun and sudden rainfall.
Many lanai screens are made from aluminum or fiberglass mesh that blocks tiny insects but still allows air to flow freely. This keeps the space ventilated and comfortable.
How is a Lanai Different from a Screened Porch or Sunroom?
A screened porch is similar to a lanai in that it uses screening to enclose the space while allowing air to pass through. However, a sunroom takes things a step further by having more extensive glass windows and solid roofing and walls. This provides insulation against heat and cold.
While screened porches just keep out bugs, sunrooms actually feel like an indoor room you can enjoy year-round. Lanai screens still let in the outside air.
According to one industry report, the sunroom market size was $4.58 billion in 2019, while the screened porch category was lower at $3.46 billion. Sunrooms are a pricier investment but provide more temperature control.
What are Other Common Names for Lanais?
Since "lanai" comes from Hawaiian, you may also hear these outdoor spaces referred to with other names more common in Florida, including:
- Screened-in patio
- Screen porch
- Screen enclosure
- Florida room
While technically a type of sunroom, true "lanais" tend to have aluminum screening rather than plethora of windows. But there can be lots of crossover in terminology.
Why are Lanais So Popular in Florida?
There are several reasons these screened-in porches are found on tons of homes across the Sunshine State:
Insect protection – The fine mesh screening keeps out pesky mosquitos, no-see-ums, and flies so you can enjoy being outside without getting bitten up.
Allows airflow – Unlike a solid room, the screens allow fresh air to flow through while keeping bugs out. This creates a comfortable place to relax.
Provides shade & shelter – The roof keeps harsh sun and sudden rainstorms off your skin. The enclosure protects from wind.
Pool safety laws – Florida regulations require pools to be enclosed, and screened lanais provide an excellent option.
Indoor/outdoor space – It allows you to get the open-air experience while still being protected from elements.
Adds value – Lanai screens are hugely popular in Florida and add function and value to a home, especially with a pool.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, screened porches are one of the top residential features requested by new home buyers in Florida. Having an inviting lanai space can set your property apart.
How are Lanais Furnished?
Since the lanai is essentially an outdoor room, most people furnish their lanai with casual, weather-resistant patio furniture like:
- Tables and chairs – For dining al fresco
- Chaise lounges – For sunbathing or reading out in the fresh air
- Benches – Provide seating in a narrow space
- Patio sofas/cushions – Create a comfortable seating area
- Outdoor rugs – Help define the space and add comfort underfoot
Having a ceiling fan installed provides air movement and extends the seasons you can use the space. Wall-mounted or freestanding patio heaters can further allow enjoyment on cooler winter nights.
Many Florida homes have pools, hot tubs, and other water features adjacent to or even within the screened-in lanai area. You‘ll often see pool loungers and accessories like towels, inflatables, etc. stored and used in the lanai. It‘s a convenient spot for supervising kids in the pool from the shade!
Size and Layout Considerations
Typical lanai sizes range anywhere from 10‘x10‘ up to 20‘x40‘ or larger. Consider how you want to use the space. Just a cozy seating nook or room for a full outdoor kitchen and dining?
Make sure to leave adequate yard space around the perimeter. Don’t eat up all your lawn or landscape with a large addition.
Carefully consider traffic flow from indoor rooms and doors out to the lanai. You generally want easy access.
Face the long side of a rectangular lanai toward the best views of your yard, pool, or other outdoor features.
Linking the lanai to decking or a patio with a walkway provides expanded space.
Place the lanai close to the home’s rear or beside continuous windows/doors for an integrated indoor/outdoor feeling.
What Should You Consider Before Installing a Lanai?
If you‘re thinking about adding a lanai to your Florida home, here are some important factors to consider beforehand:
- Climate protection needs – If you mainly need insect and rainfall protection, a simple screened enclosure may suffice. For more insulation from heat/cold, a glass sunroom could be a better option.
- Intended use – Casual lounging and outdoor dining? Or do you want more of an airy den to use for half the year? Make sure the design suits your needs.
- Budget – Basic screened lanais start around $6,000-7,000. More elaborate sunrooms with some glass walls or custom features can cost $25,000+.
- Size & layout – A lanai can range from a cozy 10‘ x 12‘ seating nook up to a 40‘ x 20‘ outdoor entertainment room. Plan smartly!
- Aesthetics – Will simple screening suit your style, or do you prefer a more solid roof and partially enclosed feel? Keep the look consistent with your home.
- Placement – Facing views, integrating with the home design, and allowing access should guide placement.
- Contractor – Hire an experienced, licensed lanai company rather than a handyman for proper permitting and construction.
Properly weighing all these factors will ensure your lanai adds function and enjoyment for years to come.
Different Types of Covered Porches to Consider
While a lanai has screening that sets it apart, there are other styles of covered porches to consider for your home:
Portico – A small covered porch framed by columns at a home‘s entrance. Also called a porte-cochère if it covers a driveway.
Pavilion – A freestanding covered structure often used for outdoor dining. The roof is supported by columns but sides are open.
Veranda – A long, covered porch running along the outside of a house. Typically has railings but open sides.
Covered Porch – A roofed open-air porch without screening. Often wraps around part of a home.
Reviewing photos of different porch types can help narrow down the look you prefer. An experienced lanai company can further help advise you on the best style for your home.
A Little History on How the Lanai Evolved in Florida
While the lanai originated with a Hawaiian meaning of “porch” or “veranda,” the term has come to signify a very specific type of screened enclosure in Florida.
According to the vintage home design experts at RetroRenovation, screening porches started appearing on Florida homes in the 1950s with the post-World War II population and construction boom.
Screening provided a way to enjoy fresh air outdoors while keeping biting insects at bay. The simple and affordable design was well-suited to both the Florida climate and mid-century construction style.
By the 1970s and 80s, “pool cages” became the norm around residential swimming pools to meet safety codes. This further ingrained the indoor/outdoor screened porch as a central design feature of many Florida homes.
The term “lanai” was popularized as a marketing term by home developers to conjure up exotic Hawaiian imagery. The breezy, tropical feel of a screened lanai suited the Florida landscape perfectly.
These days, you’ll find lanais gracing all styles of homes across the state – from mid-century ranches to sprawling modern estates. Screened porches have become an iconic part of Florida living!
Key Statistics on Florida Lanai Popularity
Looking at some key statistics shows the prevalence of pool enclosures and screened porches in today’s Florida home market:
67% of new homes in Florida include a pool, and most put screens around them.
9 out of 10 consumers consider screened porches highly desirable in Florida homes.
The screened lanai category accounts for over $3 billion in remodeling annually.
Homes with lanais sell for around 8% more compared to homes without screened enclosures.
(Sources– National Association of Home Builders, US Census Bureau, IBISWorld market research)
As you can see from the numbers, adding a high-quality lanai is one of the best investments you can make to increase enjoyment and resale value!
Ready to Install Your Own Slice of Paradise?
Well, there you have it – everything you need to know about what sets the classic Florida lanai apart along with factors to consider when planning your own.
With inviting outdoor spaces being more desirable than ever these days, a tailored lanai allows you to extend living area while still enjoying fresh air and garden views. Making the most of beautiful Florida weather!
I hope this guide gave you a helpful overview of what defines a lanai, how to design the perfect one for your home, and why they‘re so popular here in the Sunshine State. And be sure to let me know if you have any other lanai questions come up along the way!