Screened-in Porches - Part 1 of 2

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Screening in a porch is an inexpensive way to make your outdoor living space more comfortable.

 

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Overview

If you have ever built a stud wall and repaired a window screen, you already have most of the skills needed for a screened-in project. A screen-in can be accomplished on many areas of a house or yard, including decks, patios, and gazebos. But by far the most popular area for a screen-in is the front porch. The quick and simple front porch screen-in demonstrated on the following pages is a good example of how to make outdoor living space more livable.
There are several strategies that can be employed for screening-in a porch. If you already have a basic framework of posts and rails, you can attach screen and trim directly to the framing, then add a screen door to complete the enclosure. If no suitable frame exists, you can build a simple 2 x 4 frame.
The traditional way to install screening is to staple it directly to the frame members then cover the staples with trim or to hold the screen in place with a decorative retaining strip. Another option is to use a screening kit, which yields a clean, finished look and drum-tight screens that are easier to repair than traditional staple-and-trim installations. A third method is to build individual screen frames to fit inside each opening in the porch framework. The main advantage with these methods is that you can easily remove the screens for the colder months of the year.
Screening for porches, doors, and windows has performed the same primary function—keeping the bugs out—since it came into popular use in the late-1800s, but today’s screening products can offer more than protection from insects. To help you select the right material for your project, here is a look at the most common types of screening and the specific properties of each. By far the most common type of screen used for porches, fiberglass mesh is inexpensive and offers good visibility due to minimal glare from sunlight. Fiberglass screen won’t crease like metal screening, and its flexibility makes it the easiest type to work with. Its main drawbacks are that it stretches and tears more easily than most other screen types. Commonly available in black, silver gray, and charcoal; black tends to produce the least glare. Aluminum is the other standard screen material and costs about a third more than fiberglass. It offers excellent visibility, but glare can be a problem, especially with bare (silver) metal screen. Aluminum screen is more rigid than fiberglass and thus a little harder to install, but it’s also more durable, although it is prone to creasing during installation and to denting at any time. In coastal areas, aluminum will oxidize. Available in gray, black, and charcoal; black usually offers the best visibility. For upscale jobs, screen is available in bronze, stainless steel, copper, and monel (a nickel-copper alloy). All of these are tough, long-lasting, and desired for their specific coloring and somewhat more elegant appearance over standard screening. Bronze, stainless steel, and monel hold up well in seaside climates. For porches and sunrooms that tend to overheat in the summer, sun-blocking screen is available in a variety of types. The idea here is to keep out the bugs, along with most of the sun’s heat, while letting light pass through to the interior of the space and still maintaining good exterior visibility. Some sun control screens can keep up to 90% of the sun’s heat from getting inside. Pet screening is many times stronger than standard mesh—perfect for owners of dogs, cats, small children, and other loveable but destructive creatures. It’s more expensive (and affords less visibility) than standard screen, so you might choose to install pet screening only along the lower portion of screened walls, such as below a sturdy mid-rail or hand railing.

What You'll Need

Tools:

Basic hand tools
Saws
Staple gun
Carpenter’s level
Framing lumber
Deck screws
Fiberglass insect mesh screening
Screen retaining strips
Brass brads
Screen door

Materials:

Basic hand tools
Saws
Staple gun
Carpenter’s level
Framing lumber
Deck screws
Fiberglass insect mesh screening
Screen retaining strips
Brass brads
Screen door

 

Step 1

Understanding Screen Weave

Standard insect screening is made from woven strands of material. The tightness of the weave, or mesh size, is measured in the number of strands per inch. Standard mesh is 18 x 16, which has 18 strands per inch in one direction and 16 strands in the other direction. For large expanses of unsupported screen, you might consider using 18 x 14 mesh. This has slightly heavier strands, so the screen holds up better when stretched over large areas. If you live in a climate where tiny “no-see-um” bugs are a problem, you might need 20 x 20 mesh screen, which offers the best protection from teensy pests.


Step 2

How to Screen in Porches

Outline the project area on the porch floor using a chalk line. The goal is to create the largest possible space not obstructed by beams, posts, railings, trim, or the ceiling. Check the corners of the outline with a framing square to make sure the chalk lines are square. Mark the door's rough opening—the door width plus 3" for the door frame and 1⁄2" for the door.


Step 3

How to Screen in Porches

Attach 2 x 4 sole plates to the porch floor inside the outline using 3" deck screws driven at 12" intervals. Do not install sole plates in the door's rough opening. Tip: Paint all of the wood parts for the screen-in before you install them.


Step 4

How to Screen in Porches

Mark stud and post locations on the sole plates. Start by marking 2 x 4 door frames at the sides of the door's rough opening—frames should rest on the floor, butted against sole plates. Mark the doubled 2 x 4 posts at the front corners of the project outline, and mark 2 x 4 end posts on the sole plates next to the wall of the house. Mark the 2 x 4 studs for screen supports, spaced at even intervals of 24" to 36", depending on the total distance spanned. Lay the 2 x 4 top plates (cut to match the sole plates) next to the sole plates, and copy post and stud marks onto the top plates. The top plate is not cut out for the door opening.


Step 5

How to Screen in Porches

Using a straight 2 x 4 and a level, mark the locations for the top plates on the ceiling directly above the sole plates.


Step 6

How to Screen in Porches

Attach the top plates to the ceiling with 3" deck screws driven into the rafters, if possible. Make sure the top plates are aligned directly above the sole plates, with the framing member marks also in alignment.


Step 7

How to Screen in Porches

Cut the studs and posts to length, then position and install them at the marks on the top plates and the sole plates. Install by toenailing with 16d galvanized casing nails. When installing the 2 x 4 door frames, nail through the frames and into the ends of the sole plates.


Step 8

How to Screen in Porches

If the ledger board sticks out past the siding, work around it when installing the 2 x 4 end posts. One solution is to butt two 2 x 4s together so one fits between the floor and the ledger, with the edge against the wall. Toenail the other 2 x 4 into the top plate and sole plate, and nail it to the edge of the first 2 x 4.


Step 9

How to Screen in Porches

Cut 2 x 4 spreaders to fit between the studs and the posts at the same height as the porch railing. Attach them with 16d casing nails. The spreaders prevent framing members from warping and provide a nailing surface for screen retaining strips.


Step 10

How to Screen in Porches

Install a 2 x 4 door header to create a rough opening that is 3⁄4" higher than the height of the screen door. Nail the doorstop molding to the inside faces of the door frames and header. The stop molding provides surfaces for the door to close against. It should be installed to create a recess the same thickness as the door, so that when it is closed, the door is flush with the outside edges of the door frame.


 
 

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