From deck to screened porch

Home Work

March 15, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

IT'S JUST a simple deck, but during the past few years it's had almost as many lives as a cat.

It started about eight years ago, when clients asked Ron to replace a window at the back of their house with a door that would lead to a new deck. A few years later, they decided they wanted to put an addition on the back of the house, so Ron and his crew took off the deck's steps and railings, detached the deck from the house, and set it elsewhere in the yard.

Then they built the addition, and then they reattached the deck. They moved the deck by rolling it on round landscape timbers. "It was the first time we'd ever tried anything like that, and it worked. It saved a lot of money, too," Ron says.

But that's not the end of the story: Recently, the homeowners decided they weren't using the deck as much as they'd like, so they asked Ron to come back and turn it into a screened porch.

They're not alone in wanting this versatile indoor-outdoor space.

A screened porch is a great spring project -- something that can be ready for summer fun.

If you're dreaming of having one, here are some things to think about:

* If you have an existing deck, carport or patio to enclose, you can screen in all or part of it. Think about how you'll use the space.

If you're starting from scratch, also consider how many people you might want to accommodate -- just for family, or are you the party sort? -- and how you want to furnish the space in deciding the size.

* Screened-in structures generally are built of wood or aluminum. If you're working with an existing wood deck, the logical thing is to enclose it with a wood structure. In most cases, the railings would be removed and replaced with supports for the roof, built of pressure-treated lumber.

The roof itself could be a conventional framing of rafters, plywood sheathing and shingles. Or you could use less expensive corrugated fiberglass panels, which allow more light. (You still need rafters.) The panels can also simplify the process of attaching the porch roof to the existing house roof.

The drawback to wood is maintenance: It needs to be painted, stained, or pressure-cleaned and sealed regularly. There are some new products that reduce the amount of maintenance. One is a composite substance (made of sawdust and PVC plastic) that can be used for the decks and railings. It can be stained, but it doesn't require sealers -- and you don't have to worry about splinters. It's not designed for support structures, though; those will still have to be built of pressure-treated wood. There are also some vinyl and fiberglass decking and rail systems that require no maintenance.

* Aluminum enclosure systems have a factory-applied baked-enamel finish that requires no maintenance and offer more options for screening and glass. Aluminum structures typicallyare built on a concrete or masonry slab. Roofs are made of corrugated aluminum or, especially if the space is designed for expanded-season use, of plastic foam panels encased in embossed aluminum. Besides providing more insulation, the foam panels also offer a better sound barrier.

How much will this dream cost? The figures vary widely, depending on how fancy you make the structure. But to screen in an existing deck (similar to the one in the picture) would be about $15 to $20 a square foot.

Next week: Enclosure options and amenities.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc. of Baltimore and current president of the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at or Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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