How to Screen in a Porch, Patio or Deck
A screened-in porch is an excellent place to relax, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or chat with your soulmate all while keeping pesky insects on the other side of the stunning enclosure. A DIY screened-in porch allows refreshing breezes to flutter over you and shades you from harsh sunlight. You can get the same benefits with a DIY screened-in patio assuming the patio was designed with the proper foundation to support your new private insect-free oasis!
Benefits of Screening in a Porch
You’ll not be the first homeowner to immediately recognize a three-season screen porch creates a dry, insect-free outdoor living area where you can still enjoy the outdoors rain or shine. If you’ve suffered a swollen itchy mosquito bite or a puffy painful bite from a black or horse fly, you’ll instantly know why a screen-in porch is the way to prevent this agony. There are many benefits of screening in a porch, not the least of which is an increase in value of your home and a place for you to comfortably enjoy the space outside of your home.
How Much Does It Cost to Screen in a Porch?
Screened-in porch cost is a moving target. Prices depend on the type of porch you decide to have, the screen porch materials you choose to use, whether or not you’ll include electricity, the difficulty of connecting the porch to your existing home, and several other factors. When you research how much it costs to screen in a porch, consider all the things that need to happen to make your dream come true. First you have to see if your zoning code will permit it. Then you need to investigate the level of plans called for by your local building department to obtain a building permit. You may be able to draw the plans yourself for permit purposes, but they may not be good enough to answer all the questions you’ll have as you break out your tools.
Other Things to Consider Before Building a Screened-In Porch
The success of all home improvement projects is firmly rooted on excellent plans and specifications. Your plans become your north star - they guide you from the beginning until such time as you move furniture into your new stunning insect-free retreat. You should give serious consideration to extending electricity into the porch. You’ll never regret having outlets for floor or table lamps and to power computers or tablets. You’ll appreciate having a paddle fan above you in case it’s a stuffy day or night. Be sure to think about how the sun sets and rises each day and how the low-angle rays might pass through the screening. Think long and hard about the periodic maintenance of all the products that are part of your new deluxe refuge.
Types of Screen Fabric
You’ll soon discover you’ve got a serious decision to make with respect to the actual screen for your screened-in porch. Screen material for a screened-in porch is available in many different types. Here’s a short list of types of screen fabrics:
Aluminum Screen Fabric
Aluminum screened fabric is a legacy material. It’s strong, it doesn’t rust, the sun doesn’t damage it, and no matter how hot it gets, it’s not going to droop or distort. That said, it can - and does - dent if you press against it. It’s not the easiest material to install on your own, and if you live near salt water, you’ll discover the thin wires will start to change color over time.
Fiberglass Screen Fabric
Fiberglass screened fabric is popular for a number of reasons. You should discover you can get a pleasing variety of colors and it’s affordable. The fiberglass won’t dent or lose its shape but it’s not nearly as strong as aluminum. You can cut or tear fiberglass with relative ease and the sun’s UV rays will ravage the fiberglass over time.
High-Visibility Screen Fabric
You may not like how some screen fabric obscures your view to the outdoors. This is why high-visibility screen fabric was invented. Some are nearly invisible yet they offer many of the benefits of fiberglass screen fabric. You will do yourself a big favor by getting samples of traditional fiberglass screen and high-visibility screen fabrics and doing a side-by-side comparison holding them five feet away from you. You’ll instantly see a difference.
Pet-Resistant Screen Fabric
Dogs and cats have a history of crashing through some fiberglass screening. Screen manufacturers responded with a material that can prevent holes in your new porch caused by your pet going after a pesky squirrel, bird, or chipmunk in your yard. Your local screened-in porch dealers will have samples of this durable material for you to see.
Solar Screen Fabric
If you live in a southern climate in the U.S. where the sun’s infrared rays are more intense, you can incorporate a screen fabric that’s designed to deflect and/or absorb the heat. Give this material serious consideration if you plan to be out on your new porch during the middle of the day when the sun is beating down on your screening.
It’s important to realize you should spend a considerable amount of time thinking about the design of your screened-in porch. This includes, but is not limited to, the actual shape of the porch, the height of the ceiling, the type of ceiling, the amount of roof overhang to provide shading, and how big you can make the actual screened panels.
Perhaps the most important aspect of design is the actual size of the porch. The best advice is to purchase the furniture you plan to have in the screened-in porch before you start to plan. Take this furniture and arrange it on your driveway or in your lawn as you imagine it might be placed in the finished porch making sure there’s enough space to walk around the furniture. Create an outline around the furniture using string or long boards to simulate the actual screen panels. This exercise will help you determine the size of the actual structure. From there, you can start to think about how it will look so it blends with your home’s architecture.
Don’t feel that you’re limited to a square or rectangle-shaped porch. Invest time in online research and you’ll discover you can create an octagonal porch, a hexagon, a rectangle with a 45-degree bay, etc. You’d be wise to spend hours looking at online photographs of other screened porches and visiting the websites of companies that build screened-in porches to browse through photo galleries of past installations.
Pay close attention to the type of flooring you’ll have in your porch. Keep in mind that screened-in porches by default get wet. Driving rainstorms will bring water into your porch. The flooring needs to be waterproof and not slippery if it gets wet. All of the material used to build your newly screened porch must be resistant to rot because water will infiltrate every crack or seam. All of these things become very important as you determine your overall design.
How to Screen in a Porch
Screening in a porch can be as simple as purchasing large rolls of screening and stapling them to existing porch posts. This will work and you can keep insects away from you, but the odds are you’ll not win a contest for appearance.
Most new screened porches are built from scratch. The porch may rest on top of an existing patio that can handle the weight or you may have to install a new concrete slab or build a raised platform that becomes the floor of the porch adjacent to your home. Both of these require walls to be built and a roof erected over the top of the new structure. Doing all these tasks to create a new space, as opposed to retrofitting an existing open porch, requires considerable skill, lots of time, and a wide assortment of tools.
Step 1: Build the Floor
Your new screened porch may have a concrete slab for a floor. Concrete requires a compacted soil base with no organic material under the concrete. Steel reinforcement is essential. You should consider using 1/2-inch rebar placed on 2-foot centers much like graph paper looks like. The slab should be no less than 5 inches thick and 6 inches is better. Be sure the concrete is perfectly flat so no water puddles form when rain gets inside.
Should you decide to use a wood flooring system, you’ll basically be putting your screened-in porch on top of a wood deck. You’ll need to size and space the floor joists to the overall size of the porch. You may have to put in an extra beam or two under the floor to ensure the floor is not bouncy. All fasteners and metal connectors must be rated for exterior use with treated lumber that will get wet. Once again, plan for the floor to get wet from rain as would any exposed deck.
Step 2: Build the Walls
The walls to your new screened-in porch will be very unusual. You want a minimum of supports as the open areas of the walls will be filled in with the screen panels. Vertical support posts block the views to the outdoors but they’re necessary to support the beams across the tops of the walls that will in turn support the roof.
You may have to engage the services of a residential structural engineer to size the beams that pass over the supports. Be sure to request from the engineer how to properly connect the horizontal beams to the vertical posts. There are special metal connectors made for this purpose. You can’t just toenail beams into the vertical wood posts. It’s also important for the engineer to call out exactly how to connect the wood support posts to the floor. Without proper connection, a windstorm could actually lift the entire screened porch off the floor and drop it 50 feet away in a neighbor’s yard.
Step 3: Build the Roof
Your new screened-in porch reeds to have a roof on it to keep you dry and out of the sun. There are several roof designs you can choose from with the simplest one being a flat roof. Sloped roofs can be a gable roof or an attractive hip roof. Should your screened-in porch be an L-shaped room, you’ll even have an attractive valley above.
While roof framing is not too difficult, you’ll discover it does require you to master the use of a carpenter’s framing square. Steeper roof pitches, 7 inches of rise per foot of run, allow for very attractive vaulted ceilings within the screened porch. Imagine a lazy paddle fan up 10 feet, or more, off the floor washing you with refreshing air on a steamy summer day. Tall roofs on screened-in porches are always more comfortable.
Give serious consideration to incorporating one, or more, skylights into the roof of the porch. Screened porches can be quite dark, believe it or not, and you’ll never regret bringing some extra daylight into the space.
Once the roof is framed, you can then install the roofing materials and do all the necessary flashing where the roof touches up against the side of your existing home.
Step 4: Framing Porch Doors and Openings
You’ll undoubtedly need a door in your porch to get you outside. You’ll want to select the door in the design and planning stage. The door will come with rough-in dimensions. You need these dimensions to know how wide and tall to make the opening for the door. Keep in mind if the door will be installed against or over any finish trim that covers your rough-lumber support posts. Rookies often rough-in the doors too narrow and it becomes very problematic to correct this error.
You need to do the exact same thing with your screened openings. Do you plan to build the screened panels yourself, and if so, how big will the panels be? No matter who builds the panels, be sure they’re built using a rot-resistant wood such as redwood or high-quality cedar.
The openings for both the door and screened panels must be square and not in a helix. An opening is square when the diagonal measurement from corner to corner is the same. This assumes that the vertical distance of both sides of an opening are the same and that the horizontal top and bottom measurements of the opening are identical.
Stretching taught string diagonally across the opening to form the letter X is how you check for a helical defect. The opening is in the same plane, and not a helix, when the two strings just touch one another when switched from side-to-side of the string. If there’s a gap between the strings, you’ve got a helix. Do what’s necessary to straighten the opening until the gap disappears.
Step 5: Painting the Porch
Your screened porch requires special painting techniques should you want the paint to experience minimal peeling. Each piece of finished lumber used to cover the rough frame should be primed and painted on all sides and cut edges. The end grain of lumber requires extra attention as water can soak in there and cause the wood to swell.
It’s easiest to purchase all the trim lumber that will be used on your porch and completely paint it on all surfaces before you cut it and install it. Each time you make a crosscut, use two coats of paint on the end grain for optimal sealing.
To prevent rust marks, be sure all fasteners are hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel. You absolutely must use stainless steel trim nails if you’re close to saltwater.
The best paint is one that has a urethane-resin base. These exterior paints are very sticky and will adhere to wood that’s properly prepared and painted. You’ll need to pre-paint all the surfaces of the screen panels before you attach the screening.
Step 6: Attaching the Screening
The best way to attach screening, if you’ve never done it before, is to practice on a smaller opening. Follow the instructions provided by the screening manufacturer. DO NOT guess as to the types of fasteners to use.
Watch online videos that demonstrate some of the tricks that keep the screening both square and taught. It’s not easy to do both, but with practice you’ll discover what methods you can master.
Ready to Screen in Your Porch?
You now have a really good view of screen porch installation from 30,000 feet. There are hundreds of other tiny details involved in creating a screened-in porch. You may be able to tackle this large job on your own, but if you feel intimidated by the process, by all means consider getting quotes from professionals. You’ll get the best quotes if you take the time to create great plans and provide photos of exactly what you want your porch to look like. Good luck and enjoy your new screened-in porch for decades!
Using engineered porch roof trusses can take a lot of the hassle out of building your porch roof. Learn more about premade porch roof trusses at Decks.com!
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