Screens are an old and popular way to protect a porch, gazebo or other structure from insects, blowing leaves and similar invasions, but installing and maintaining the screens can be troublesome.
A new product, Screen Tight, eliminates some of the problems. This system permits neat, fast installation and replacement of screening.
For example, the system uses no staples, which tend to rust and can be difficult to remove from screen frames for rescreening, or wood trim, which sometimes splits or breaks during rescreening and sometimes needs repainting.
Screen Tight uses a two-part vinyl frame and fiberglass or aluminum screening. The system can be installed either on the outside or the inside of a structure, as long as the surface of the framing is flat.
Frame strips 1 1/2 inches wide are available for 2-by-4 framing and 3 1/2 -inch strips are available for 4-by-4s. The strips are easily cut to length and mitered at corners with pruning shears, metal snips or a powered miter saw.
The base of the frame, which has narrow channels at each side and screw slots in the center, is screwed or nailed directly to the framing of the porch, gazebo or other structure. Rust-resistant, flat-head screws or galvanized or aluminum nails should be used.
The fasteners are driven through pre-cut slots spaced eight inches apart. Since the vinyl will expand and contract slightly with temperature changes, heads of fasteners are left a bit loose to allow movement.
BScreening is installed in the base in the same way it is installed in the channeled metal frames commonly used for window and door screens. The edge of a section of screen is placed over a base channel, and rope-like vinyl spline is forced into a channel on top of the screening, locking it in place. A splining tool -- a handle with a small wheel at one or both ends -- is used to roll the spline into place.
The base strips have a channel on each side, so they can be used to screen adjacent openings.
Installing screen with spline can be a bit tricky at first, but skill usually improves rapidly with a little practice. The usual technique is to start at one corner and work around the perimeter, straightening and stretching the screening as the spline is installed. Fiberglass screening is more flexible than aluminum and generally is easier to install.
When the screening is in place, a vinyl cap snaps over the base, tightening the screening and concealing the channels, spline and edges of the screen. The cap is generally tapped into position with a mallet.
Screen Tight base strips and caps are sold separately in eight-foot pieces, typically priced at about $3.50 each for 1 1/2 -inch widths and $5.50 for 3 1/2 -inch. Screening is sold separately in rolls of various sizes.
Screen Tight is made by a company of the same name at 221 N. Fraser St., Georgetown, S.C. 29440; (800) 768-7325. It is sold at some home centers, hardware stores and building-supply outlets, or can be ordered directly.
Gary Green, inventor of Screen Tight, said he was surprised at the "overwhelming response nationally."
"I thought screened porches were just a Southern thing," he said, "but there seems to be a resurgence in popularity. New England is one of our better areas" for sales.
Security screens are another screen innovation. These look and perform like regular insect screens, but can trigger a home-security alarm if cut or removed.
Unfortunately, security screens aren't designed for do-it-yourself installation. A spokesman for one manufacturer, Imperial Screen Co. of Gardena, Calif., said the best bet is to contact security-alarm installers and get estimates for a custom installation. Typical screens cost $125 to $175 each, the spokesman said.
The screens can be used with many existing security systems, )) but some modifications are usually necessary.
Security screens have small, harmless wires woven throughout conventional fiberglass screening. The special wires are connected by a plug to the alarm system's circuit. The alarm sounds if the circuit is broken by cutting or by unauthorized removal of the screen.
The screens also are available in a so-called solar-screen version, which helps filter out sunlight and reduce cooling costs, glare and fading of furniture and carpets.
To clean a security screen, remove it and wash with a fine stream of water from a hose.
Readers' questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.