If you love the outdoors but are easily bugged by insects, consider adding a screened porch, which provides the benefits of being outside with protection against swarms and sun. A good porch, if properly sealed against the weather and built in accordance with zoning laws, will be a useful addition to your home, providing you and your family with years of enjoyment while increasing the value of your property.
Before building your screen porch, check with your zoning officer or neighborhood association representative. Some communities have strict regulations about modifying any existing residential structure, and some municipalities require any improvement to a primary residence to get the approval of a building inspector.
Screens come in different sizes and materials. Metal screens are more resistant to puncture but will rust, whereas nylon screens will not. Some specialty screens have very tight weaves--this can be significant in areas with very small insects like no-see-ums. If your porch will have a lot of traffic, consider buying repair kits when you buy the screen material, to make sure you will have a good match if you need to patch a tear.
The most durable porches will have concrete floors. The concrete can be covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting or rugs to make a more indoorsy feeling. Porches built like decks can use planked flooring, but beware that bugs can crawl between the planks, largely defeating the purpose of screens. Use standard 2-by-4 framing studs for the walls of your porch, with high-quality plywood on both sides. Match the house siding on the exterior of the porch, and consider simple but elegant paneling for the interior walls.
To keep your porch bug-free, make sure all possible areas of insect entry are secure, including the seal around any exterior doors or windows. If a pre-built screen does not quite fit the frame for your windows or door, use color-matching weather seal tape; the tape will keep the bugs out but will not prevent (as caulk would) removal of the screen if you put glass panes in place during the winter.
Wind and Drainage
A screened porch makes a great vantage point for watching a summer thunderstorm, but make sure the porch has proper drainage. Water that cascades off the roof and onto the screen material will eventually weaken the screen and could leak into the porch. A screened porch that has inadequate protection from the wind is at greater risk of damage in high-wind areas, so consider installing some sort of windbreak or shutters to protect your screens.
A screened porch can still be useful in cooler climates, even in winter. Make sure the porch has access to a properly weatherized electrical outlet so a summer fan or a winter radiant heater can help moderate mother nature's thermostat.
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