DIY Screened Porches
Birds singing in the trees, a warm breeze rustling their bright green leaves, the distant sound of a lawnmower and the smell of fresh cut grass: These are your surroundings as you relax on your covered and screened porch. Oh? You don’t have one, yet? Well let’s build one.
Increases Home Value
Building a screened in porch is hard work, but it is totally worth it. A screened porch is something that will increase the value and resale value of your home. It’s not so much the dollar and cents increase as it is the aesthetic increase. Home owners enjoy having an outdoor living space, especially one where you don’t have to worry about insects.
And if the screened in porch is built with durable materials, it will last for a very long time. I’ve seen homes that were built in the early 1900’s around here that still have their original screened in porches and they are still just as nice looking and functional. If you build the porch with quality materials it will be something your family will enjoy for many years to come.
Increases Living Area
Having a screened in porch will you give you extra space for entertaining or just relaxing. Even if it’s just a small porch it will still add valuable square footage to your home. I know that my kids love to go outside on sunny days and that a screened in porch will give them extra room to move and play. It would also give me a place to watch them from without having to be eaten alive by mosquitos.
That is a major consideration here in the south. We have a mosquito problem. You might even say it’s a mosquito epidemic. We hide from the little buggers and go to great lengths to keep them out of our homes. A screened in porch gives you a bit of padding between your main entryway and those bugs. It also gives you a place to sit and relax where they can’t get to you.
A screened porch is easy to maintain once it is built. You might have to replace the screens on it every 10 years or so and repaint it, but that is basically all you will ever have to do. Once you have the porch built, just make sure that the roof doesn’t leak and that no one pierces the screening and you should have an addition on your home to last you for years and years to come.
Versatile Through the Seasons
A screened in porch is not just for the spring and summer. It makes a great mudroom for the mucky days of winter and fall. We talked about mudrooms in a previous blog and how wonderful they are. I would love to have a place for my husband to take off his nasty work boots before he treks across my nice carpet. A screened in porch could give you an alternative place to store those types of things. It would also be great to help with unloading the groceries.
Building Your Own Screened In Porch
If you have ever done any sort of building yourself, don’t worry you’ve got this. The basic building techniques don’t change no matter what the project is. You’re going to need to know how to use a measuring tape, a level, a saw, a drill and a hammer. Everything else is just a combination of those skills. There are tons of how-to websites online that can walk you through just about any project. I went through and simplified a few to use in this post. This post is not a how-to article, but just for general information.
Here are a few of the articles that I found while I was looking for information:
Foundations and Ledges
The first thing you need to take into consideration is where you are going to put in your screened porch. The project I have in mind for my home is actually the easiest one of the group. We have a small porch in the front of our home that leads into the front door. It’s already built and is covered. Basically all we would have to do is build a frame for the screen and hang the screen and the door.
Your project may be completely different. Every home is unique. Before you do anything, make sure to call your local utility companies to make sure the area that you want to put your screened porch is in a good place. Also, be sure to check the local building codes. We don’t want you to build anything without a permit if you need one or something that is not up to local codes.
Think about where you want to put your screened porch. Do you have a patio that you want to cover? Do you have a deck already built that you feel like would be better screened in and covered? Or are you looking at a bare bit of dirt that needs some TLC?
If you already have a deck on your home that you are modifying, you can skip this section and go straight to the section about putting in side walls.
Every screened porch needs a floor. And there are two basic options for the floor of a screened in porch: 1) patio or concrete pad, and 2) wood decking. If you are building on a patio or concrete pad, you’ll need to put in posts to support the structure of the screened in porch. To do that, you’ll need to either dig in the area past the patio or dig through the area of the patio. Either way you’ll have to set the posts with either footings or concrete around the base of them.
If you are going to install decking to be the floor of your screened in porch, then you are going to need to bury posts as well. These are going to have to be sturdy and be able to hold up the entire structure of your screened in porch. Make sure they are level and that you have them spaced equally and no more than a couple feet apart.
If you don’t have that lovely patio or concrete pad to take the place of a floor, you are going to need to install Ledgers. Ledgers are long wide boards that are attached to the structure of the home that will give support to the newly built structure. You’ll want to remove the siding from the side of your home and measure so that the ledger board sits between 6 and 8 inches below your doorway. You’ll need to install flashing and take precautions so that rain and snow do not get caught and cause rot and other nasty things to happen.
Once you have the ledger board in place against your home, you are going to run additional ledger boards to support the weight of the structure. If you don’t have to have a ledger board against your home, you are going to run lighter lumber in the same way. You’ll anchor these boards to the concrete or to the support posts. You want good, flat, straight boards to run the perimeter of where you are building.
To Deck or Not To Deck
If you have a patio or a concrete pad, you can skip this next section. If you are putting in a deck, please read on. Now you’ll have to cover the area with boards or decking material. There is a wide variety of materials that you can use to put down for the deck from the traditional lumber to manufactured wood products and even to synthetic wood products. It all depends on what you want and how much you can afford.
To build the deck you are going to take the ledgers and put in cross pieces. If you haven’t done so already, you are probably going to need to put in more footers and support posts. Just the perimeter is not going to support the deck, the structure and roof. Once you have those in place, you’ll run a joist across the open areas. Make sure that they are securely nailed into place and level.
Once you have that accomplished, you can start putting in the decking material. While there are new and fancy ways of putting in the decking, including a nifty little gadget that can hide the nails between the boards, the old fashioned way will work just fine. You’ll need to put two nails where the boards intersect the joists. A rule of thumb for space is to use an extra nail, usually 10d or thicker between each board to make the spacing even.
Building the Walls
Building a wall for a screened porch is easier than building one for a house or even a shed. The premise is the same, though. Walls are built one wall at a time and then attached to each other. You’ll start with a sole plate – that’s your bottom board and you’ll measure and mark where you are anchoring it into the structure. Go ahead and drill those holes out in the sole plate. You don’t want to mess with them while you are trying to lift the board into place.
Next you’ll mark where you are putting the studs. You’ll start at the center of the sole plate and mark every 16 inches. You’ll do the same thing for the top plate. Then you can attach the studs to the sole and top plate. Once those are attached you’ll make sure that the wall is square and brace the entire structure. We’re going to leave those braces until we put on the rafters for the roof. Now you’ll raise the wall, anchor it in place and repeat three more times.
Roofing or Awning
Now you can decide what type of roof you want for your screened porch. Regardless of the style or the material covering it, you’ll need to start with rafters. You’ll probably need help with this. You’ll either need to tie the roof into the roof of your home or pitch the roof so that it isn’t a problem. The main issue with the roof of a screened porch will always be moisture. You want to make sure there isn’t any place for moisture to accumulate.
Once you have those two things figured out, put in your rafters and secure them with either cross braces or with joists. Now you can either roof it the traditional way or put in a waterproof, durable awning that will cover the entire porch. If you are going to roof the porch the traditional way, then you are going to probably need to consider renting a rolling scaffold. I know without one of those things we would have never gotten our shed finished.
Painting and Screens
Before you put the screen in, you’ll want to paint or stain the porch and the walls. After it dries you’ll be able to put in the screens. Be very careful with the screens. They are not exactly delicate but they tend to hold onto whatever shape they get bumped into. Staple the screens into place and cut off the excess. Then you can put in the trim board that will hold the screens down. Now you can mark where the door is going to hang and prep the area for it.
A screen door is probably the easiest thing you can build. It is literally two squares set on top of one another with a cross brace and screens. Once you have it built, or you can buy one prebuilt you’ll want to hang it. Once all the hard ware is in and fitted and the door works the way it’s supposed to, you can sit down and enjoy your new outdoor living space.
Here at House Plans Plus we have thousands of plans that can be modified to include a screened in porch. We also do custom plans and can help you plan for a remodel or addition. Remember most communities building codes require you to have a blue print filed with the code enforcement office before you start buil