For screening a porch, it's aluminum or vinyl

Home Work

March 22, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

AS WITH most home-improvement projects, the decision to build or screen in a porch or patio is just the beginning of the decisions you have to make. They can be as basic as what kind of screening to use and as frivolous as whether to put a light fixture on the ceiling fan.

Let's start with the screening: What kind of structure you decided to build will have some bearing on the screening and the system used to install it. With a wood-frame structure, the conventional method for attaching the screen was to staple the screening to the studs and then cover the staples with screen molding.

Now you can get a screening system made of plastic, in which the base is nailed or screwed to the studs, the screening is rolled into the base, and a cover is snapped over it. With aluminum frames, the frame itself has a groove to accept the screening.

Screening comes in either aluminum or vinyl, and usually in either black or gray. Aluminum is more durable but has its drawbacks: If the dog, cat or the kids put a dent or crease in it, the damage is permanent. Vinyl won't dent, but it is easy to burn a hole in it if you have a smoker around.

So which one to use? Ron prefers vinyl because it looks better longer and is easier to work with when you have to replace a section.

Here are some other things to think about when planning your screened-porch project.

* Electrical stuff: Figure out where you want ceiling fans, lighting, outlets and switches. When these things are installed, make sure they are rated for exterior use and are GFI protected. Ground Fault Interrupt protection is similar to a circuit-breaker. The breaker trips when it's overloaded, and the GFI trips when it is grounded, preventing shocks. You might want to think about having phone lines or speaker wires installed, too. Remember that all wiring has to be exterior-rated and/or enclosed in PVC conduit.

* Safety features: Any porch or deck higher than three steps off the ground is required by code to have railings. Minimum railing height for residential situations is 36 inches, with picket or baluster spacing a maximum 4 inches apart.

* Bug control: Keeping bugs out of the porch can be quite a challenge. It seems that if there's a small hole or gap anywhere, some bug will find it and tell all the other bugs, who will then pay you a visit. If your enclosure is on a deck that has gaps between the floorboards, you need to use screening material to enclose the space underneath the decking.

Where the walls meet the house and where the walls meet the roof there may be gaps. Caulk any you find with clear silicone caulk -- it's flexible and less noticeable. If the gap is too big for caulk, use foam rubber or plastic foam to plug it.

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 Ron at or Karol at Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 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: 3/22/98

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