How To Screen In A Porch, DIY-Style
Andrew Dehan7-minute read
July 02, 2021
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Porches are universally loved. This is a fact. What better way to relax on a nice evening or to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning than sitting on your own porch? The only thing that can make a covered porch better is a screen on it.
A screened-in porch keeps out bugs and other insects, along with yard debris like leaves. It retains that open-air feeling with a little more privacy.
So now that you know you want to screen in your porch, let’s talk about how you can do it.
Is It Worth It To DIY Or Should You Hire A Professional?
This is always a question homeowners need to ask themselves. Are you confident you can handle it yourself? Or are you aware of the time it will take to complete?
Let’s talk about two different scenarios for putting in a screened-in porch, depending on if you’re starting with a covered porch or not.
Starting From Scratch
If you currently do not have a covered porch, you need to hire a professional. Building a covered porch is a large undertaking and shouldn’t be done yourself unless you have experience framing and roofing. For the inexperienced, trying to DIY an attached, covered porch could be dangerous and detrimental to your home.
Sean Chapman, an experienced professional carpenter and founder of the Tools’n’Goods blog, says, “If you need a porch to be constructed from the ground up, the price will be from $25 per square foot to $120 per square foot for the entire design and construction.”
He adds that “Constructing a porch from the ground up will take up to 3 – 4 months, where only 1 month is for construction, while the rest of the time is needed for document preparations, design development, etc.”
Monty Walker, the COO and vice president of Screenmobile, notes that there are some more cost-effective options if you don’t already have a covered porch. He suggests installing a retractable awning as alternative to keep your deck or patio cool.
Starting With A Covered Porch
If you already have a covered porch, converting it to a screened-in porch is much easier. Depending on the size of the porch, your experience level and whether you have help, it could take a couple days or more.
Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn Austin Lawn Care, says, “If you have a small to average-sized porch, this can be a weekend project. I would recommend making it a two-person job, however, as the screens can be somewhat unwieldy and it's best to have someone else hold them in place.”
If you’re on the fence about whether it’s a project you can take on, Walker recommends hiring a contractor. “Hiring a contractor removes the guesswork,” he says. “When a homeowner decides to hire a professional, he or she is guaranteed the most accurate size estimate of their space, and the precise materials needed to complete the project at hand.”
Screened-In Porch Permits And Regulations
One thing that’s important to know when you decide to screen-in your own porch is that many areas require a permit. A licensed contractor would do this part of the work for you. You need to research the regulations of your local area by calling your local building authority. If you do not pull a permit, you could face a hefty fine.
Part of this permitting process is usually followed by an inspection when the work is done. If the work is not done up to code, the inspector will require you to make changes at your expense to bring it up to code. If you ignore the inspector, you risk a fine.
Supplies For Your DIY
Here are some of the tools and materials you will need to do this project yourself. For this project, we’re using a screening system of base strips, screen, spline and cap strips. These are commonly found at hardware stores.
- Measuring tape
- Rubber mallet
- Electric drill (cordless or corded will work)
- Drill bits
- Utility knife
- Spline installation tool
- Rolls of screen
- Screen doors
- Spline (.175” for fiberglass screen, .160” for aluminum screen)
- Cap strips
- 1” wood or drywall screws
- Screen door
Note: This is for installing into a wooden porch. If you’re installing this screen into stone or cement, you’ll also need:
- A hammer drill
- Stone/cement drill bits
- Stone/cement screws
How To Screen In A Porch In 6 Steps
Follow these basic steps to screen-in your covered porch yourself.
1. Measure The Entrance And Frame Dimensions
Use your measuring tape to measure your porch’s size and dimensions. Sketch out the layout of the porch, complete with measurements between posts and the size of the entrance. Use this as your guide to buying the right amount of materials. Factor in that you may need extra, so buying an additional 10% may save you a trip to the store.
Note that screen comes in rolls of varying sizes, usually from 3 – 8 feet. You’ll need to choose the right width to fit the opening.
2. Choose The Screen Material
There are two main types of screen material: fiberglass and aluminum. Fiberglass is cheaper and easier to install but is nowhere near as durable as aluminum. Aluminum is more expensive and inflexible, making it harder to work with. However, once it’s in, it’s less likely to need replacement.
If you’re new to this work or don’t have an extra set of hands to help you, go with the fiberglass. It will save you a lot of frustration. If it rips in the future, you can always replace it with an aluminum screen.
3. Install Base Strips
Once you have everything ready, the first step is to install the base strips into the frame of the porch using your drill and screws. If your porch has a cement portion, this is where a hammer drill will come in handy. Use a level be certain the strips are straight.
4. Attach Screen
This is the biggest piece of this project and will likely take the most time. Roll out your screen and cut it with your utility knife to fit the space. Remember that you want a little extra screen to make this easier.
Place the screen in the gap of the strip. Using your spline tool, push the spline into the gap so it wedges the screen in place. Do this for the four sides of the screen and all the screen panels, having someone hold the screen in place while you do it. If you don’t have help, a couple hand clamps are better than nothing.
5. Install Cap Strips
Once you have the screen attached, you can tap in the cap strips with your rubber mallet. Simply place the strips over the base and tap them in lightly. These strips conceal the screen and the spline, giving your porch a more trimmed look.
6. Install Screen Door
After you’ve enclosed the whole area, you’ll want to install a screen door. The easiest was to do this is to install a retractable screen door. These come in a variety of sizes and measurements, fit odder-shaped openings and are simpler to install than a hinged door.
The Advantages Of A Screened-In Porch
Besides just looking nice, there are several practical advantages to a screened-in porch.
Adds Value To The Property
A screened-in porch could add value to your home by making the porch a more usable space. According to Chapman, “The average return from constructing a porch is around 85%. For example, a house with a $20,000 screened porch will cost $16,000 – $17,000 more.”
While screening-in an existing porch may not add that much more to the home’s monetary value, it can increase your safety and increase the porch’s usefulness.
Keeps Bugs And Debris Away
Whether it’s mosquitoes, June bugs or cicadas, insects can be a nuisance when you’re outdoors. A screened-in porch will let you enjoy the comforts of the outdoors without worrying about these guys buzzing by.
Likewise, having a screen keeps things like acorns, leaves, grass clippings and other drifting debris out of your porch.
Provides Weather Protection
A screened-in porch can also keep out rain. Unless it’s really blowing, a screened-in porch will offer you more dryness than a regular covered porch. They also provide more protection from the sun, meaning they’re cooler and fewer UV rays get through.
Gives Privacy and Security
A screened-in porch gives you more privacy because it darkens the area, making it less easy to see what or who is on the porch from the street. This can add a little security to keep away unwanted visitors and keep young children and pets safe.
It also provides another barrier to entry for intruders. Someone is less likely to try to steel something off your porch if they have to go through a door or window screen.
How Much Does A Screened-In Porch Cost?
There are several factors that play into the cost of screening in a porch:
- Permit and inspection
- Installation (if you don’t do it yourself)
A medium-size porch will cost $500 – $1,000 depending on the materials you choose and the cost for permitting. One of the biggest single costs will be the door.
Walker of Screenmobile says, “When hiring a professional to complete the project, it should be noted that depending on the amount of openings, materials will typically take up 60% of the total project cost, with 40% of the cost going toward labor.”
He gave us an average cost range of $1,500 – $3,500, depending on size and materials. He also notes that contractors typically have access to a wider variety of materials and can make better use of materials to cut down on costs.
The Bottom Line: Be Sure Your Screened-In Porch Is Done Right
A screened-in porch installed the right way looks great, adds value and increases security and privacy. Screening-in a covered porch is a DIY project you can do that will probably take you and another person a weekend of work.
However, if you’re starting without a porch, or don’t know if you’re ready to do it yourself, hiring a professional is the smart way to go.
With any project where you’re adding onto your home, you want it to function and look good. If you’re looking for some ways to spruce up your porch, learn how to decorate your porch space.
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