Adding a screened-in porch

What could be better than a relaxing afternoon dozing off in a screened-in porch, safe from sun and insects, while summer breezes waft across you.

Covered porches, a common feature in homes of yesteryear, dropped out of favor during the 1980s and ’90s. But today they’re experiencing a revival. Once again, homeowners want to dine alfresco or curl up with a good book without the worries of too much sun exposure, mosquitoes or inclement weather.

Local bylaws
There are two ways to create a screened-in porch: screening-in an existing covered porch beneath a roof overhang or adding an extension to your home. With either plan, check local housing bylaws to make sure you obtain the proper permits. Specific requirements vary from region to region but you will most likely require a building permit to build an extension. Your local building code may also restrict such things as the size of your porch and how close it’s allowed to come to your property lines.

Curb appeal
Before adding a porch to your home or screening-in an existing porch, remember that curb appeal is a key factor in your home’s value. Take into account how it’s going to change the look of your home and make sure it blends in with your home’s exterior. If the project requires building an addition, the National Association of Home Builders recommends consulting an architect or experienced renovator to help with the design.

Screening material
Screening comes in various widths, lengths and colors. Most modern screens are either aluminum or vinyl-coated fiberglass. Fiberglass is available in several colors, while aluminum typically comes in black, dark gray and bright aluminum. When choosing, keep in mind that dark shades tend to provide less glare and better outward visibility.

Vinyl-coated fiberglass is the most popular screening material, but it tends to stretch or tear more easily. Aluminum is the stronger of the two but is slightly more expensive and harder to work with because it’s less flexible. There are also special screening materials available. If you have pets that are likely to shred your screen doors, for example, it may be worthwhile paying extra for stronger, pet-resistant vinyl-coated polyester.

Building requirements
Unless you’re an experienced builder, you will likely require the help of skilled tradespeople to build a porch addition onto your home. Screening-in an existing covered porch, however, is an easier alternative. If you’re handy, you may even want to take on the project yourself. But be sure to consider the following:

  • Sealing the floor: A concrete floor is ideal, but it needs to be sloped slightly away from the house to accommodate rain runoff. If you have a wooden deck, you’ll want to put a plywood floor on top to keep out weeds, insects and moisture from below.
  • Finishing the ceiling: You can use plywood sheeting or paneling to finish the area beneath the roof overhang. You may want to consider adding a power source to attach a light or ceiling fan.
  • Building the walls: To enclose an open porch, you’ll need to frame it with 2x4s, spacing them apart to accommodate your desired screen openings and, if you want, a door to the outside. If you don’t want floor-to-ceiling screens, you can nail crosspieces at the desired height and nail paneling on the inside wall beneath where the screens will go. (Consider adding fiberglass insulation if down the road you might want to glass-in the porch to use it year-round.) You will also need to finish the outer wall with siding or all-weather material to complement the exterior of your home.
  • Installing screens: You can buy either ready-made window screens or rolls of screening that you can cut to fit your desired framing. Ready-made screens are easy to remove for storage and cleaning but they only come in specific sizes, so your design may be limited. Check your local building store to see what’s available and right for you.
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