One of the joys of fair weather seasons is relaxing on a porch and talking with friends, swinging, reading, or listening to music. But insects never seem interested in your privacy. It takes only a few mosquitos or flies to drive everyone indoors. Instead of being an exile from your porch, lay claim to it again by screening it in. A DIY screened-in porch keeps the bugs out and removes annoying hassles while letting you enjoy your porch again.
Basics of a DIY Screened-In Porch
Porches have flooring, a roof, posts, and often a hand railing and balusters. With so many structural elements, it may seem like a simple matter to staple down screen material across the front of your porch.
While this is possible, you will obtain cleaner, more professional results by using individual wood-framed screen panels as the building blocks, and attaching those panels to the porch.
Build as few or as many screen panels as you need. You can construct the panels off-site and then move them to your porch for installation or use the porch floor as your workshop.
Another advantage of building screen panels is that you can remove the screens when fall and winter set in. This helps to protect the screens, increasing their lifespan.
Codes and Regulations
Many municipalities require homeowners to obtain a permit before screening in a porch. This is especially the case in historically designated zones. Alterations to the facade (or even the back) of a house in a community controlled by a housing association will nearly always require board approval.
When to Build a DIY Screened-In Porch
Because the screen panels do not have to be constructed on-site, much of the work can be done in a garage or workroom, making this an ideal way to get a head-start during winter months. Otherwise, spring tends to be the best time to build a screened-in porch.
Equipment / Tools
- Speed Square
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Six-foot step ladder
- Laser level
- Carpenter's pencil
- Staple gun
- 9 8-foot pressure-treated two-by-twos
- 1 48-inch by 25-foot fiberglass window screen
- 2 1/2 inch screws
- 3 1/2-inch Bolts and matching washers and wing nuts
- 16 3-inch zinc corner braces
Cut Screen Panel Boards
With the electric miter saw, cut a two-by-two in half, producing two 4-foot boards. These will be the top and bottom rails for one panel. Repeat for the second panel.
Install a Nailing Board on the Floor
Use the cordless drill to drill four pilot holes through one of the 4-foot two-by-twos. Switch to a driver bit and drive the 2 1/2-inch screws through the two-by-two and into the face of the floor.
For a finished look, step back the board 1 1/2 inches from the leading edge of the flooring. This will allow the bottom edge of the screen panel to be flush with the outer edge of the flooring.
Install a Nailing Board on the Ceiling
Similar to the nailed board on the porch floor, add a two-by-two nailing board to the ceiling. Use the plumb feature on the laser level to strike a plumb vertical line between the bottom and top boards.
Measure Porch Ceiling Height
With the tape measure, measure the height of the porch ceiling. Transfer this measurement to the 8-foot two-by-twos and cut to size.
Because the two 4-foot boards represent the top and bottom of the panel, subtract 1 1/2 inches from the ceiling height measurement before cutting the 8-foot boards on the miter saw.
Construct the Panel Frame
Make a rectangular screen panel frame, using two 4-foot boards at the very top and bottom and two longer boards for the vertical pieces. Construct the frame with the four metal braces and the screws included in the packet. Maintain square with the Speed Square. Repeat for the second frame.
Add a Center Rail
To provide a visual stop so that users do not walk into the screen, and for some additional structural support, add a horizontal center rail to each panel. Each rail will be cut to 45 inches on the miter saw. Place each rail at around the 40- to 48-inch high mark—wherever looks best to your eye. Secure each rail in place with four metal corner braces. Repeat for the second frame.
Add the Screen Material
Stretch the screen material across the face of a panel and then down on the sides. Keep the screen tight as you staple it down to the sides. Fiberglass screen is pliable, so you should be able to wrap it back, much like wrapping a package. Keep the screen tight and flat against all sides. Cut off excess with scissors.
Create Holes for the Bolts
Have an assistant push one of the screen panels tightly up against the floor and ceiling nailing boards. Using the six-foot step ladder, drill two holes at the top of the panel, all the way through the panel and the nailing board behind it. Back on the ground, do this again (two holes) for the floor section. Repeat for the second panel.
Insert Bolts in the Screen Panels
Have the assistant maintain pressure on the panel as you slip the four 3 1/2-inch bolts through the four holes, adding washers and wing nuts to the back. Do the same for the other panel.
Tips For Building a DIY Screen Porch
- For the sake of appearance, if you would like to use wood that is not pressure-treated, you should treat the outside of the wood with a weatherproof coating.
- It is vital to keep the screen material tight on the sides of the panels, as bumps may create holes through which insects can enter the screened-in porch.
- Do not assume that the floor-to-ceiling height is the same throughout the entire porch. Instead, measure separately for each screen panel.