Building Screened Porches, continued
Many builders rely on removable screen panels to complete the
porch enclosure. Custom wood frames, aluminum frames with vinyl
splines, or a
combination of the two will certainly do the job, but they
also add a lot of labor and unnecessary cost to the job.
My system is much faster to install, completely effective, and
equally good looking. Once the framing is complete, it doesn't
take long to screen the openings. We unroll and cut a length of
screening sufficient to cover the opening from top to bottom. A
couple of 3/4x1-inch-wide pneumatic roofing staples tack the
screen at the top while we staple down one side, taking care
not to pull and distort the screen (Figure 6). Then we staple
the opposite side. If the staples are widely spaced initially,
the installer can tug at the screen between fasteners to remove
ripples and sags. After the bottom and top edges are tacked and
the screen is drum-tight, infill stapling completes the job.
Any excess screening is trimmed away with a utility knife.
Figure 6. Asphalt
roofing staples hold the screening tight, and are less
tiring to install than conventional screen staples.
Sagging screen is pulled tight between staples and
secured to ensure a drum-tight fabric
The use of roofing staples may seem unusual, but the heavier
wire penetrates the hard pine more effectively than lightweight
screening staples. Pneumatic stapling is also quicker and much
less tiring than squeezing off an equal number of conventional
Most of our porches feature painted trim that matches the
existing house trim. Before installation, we paint the edges
and one face of all the primed stock with two coats of premium
exterior latex. Whenever possible, instead of measuring, we
tack-fit and mark all of the trim in place for speed and
accuracy. The first trim board to be fitted is the arched head
casing above the openings (Figure 7), which is made from a
single 1x12 with its lower edge dropped 8 inches below the box
beam. We trace all of the upright locations and the bottom edge
of the box beam onto the backside of the head casing for layout
and cutting. We hold a scrap of 1-by material alongside the top
of the 4x4 posts to create a wide shoulder detail at the
arches' spring lines.
Figure 7. The author
uses a simple method for producing custom arches in the
continuous, dropped headcasing that accents the
individual screen openings. After establishing the
radius point of the arch, he uses a site-made trammel
stick to draw it directly on the 1x12 stock. The
resulting arch, cut with a jigsaw, is perfectly matched
to each opening.
Working on the deck, we use a quick layout method to
establish the radius for the arches, then cut them out with a
jig saw. We touch up the cut with a belt sander, then round
over the edges with a 1/2-inch-radius router bit.
Fast dimensions. Before we
take the head casing back down for cutouts, we map out the rest
of the trim. We temporarily cap the bottom plate with a
continuous 1x2 base molding. This makes it easy to mark all of
the vertical 1x4 post trim in place by standing it on the base
mold and marking it for cutting where it meets the head
We cover the edge of the Trex rail cap with a piece of 1x2
horizontal trim. After dry fitting, we label all the pieces for
location and take them down for cutting, edge routing, and
painting. We prime all of the cuts with an oil-based primer,
then coat the weather side of the trim with two coats of
Fussy details. The routed
rollover edge is another of our signature details (Figure 8).
Every last finished edge, notch, and joint in my system
receives the rollover treatment. The final appearance is not
only attractive, but also subtly informs my customers that
every piece of the porch has been "fussed over." Rolling the
edges also eliminates the need to shim joints for precise
alignment — joints where the boards may be slightly out
of plane or of unequal thickness.
Figure 8. Simple,
finish nearly every edge and joint in the system,
giving an appearance of heightened detail while
concealing small deviations in plane and material
When the paint is mostly dry, we install the trim in the
same sequence as it was originally laid out: head casing, base
mold, post caps, and frieze board. The frieze board closes the
gap between the top of the head casing and the roof soffit. We
fasten all of the trim with flush-set, stainless, hex-head
finish screws. They're easy to reverse if you forget a step or
need to make an adjustment.
Finishing. Although the
trim goes up primed and painted, there's always a need for
touch-ups. With all of the jobs I have going, I can keep a
subcontracted paint crew pretty busy. To reinforce the water
repellent in the treated lumber and keep it looking good, we
always apply a semi-transparent finish to the floor, American
Building Restoration Products's (800/346-7532;
X-100 Natural Seal in Cedar Tone Gold shade. We use the same
product in white for all of the railings and balusters. My
customers receive a product brochure at the first sales call. I
make sure that the supplier has stamped his business address
and phone number on the brochure so they know where to get
their materials when it's time to stain or touch up again.
In my experience, the first stain job lasts only about three
years on pressure-treated lumber. I tell the homeowner to
expect this, but that the follow-up stain job should perform
for seven years or more.
Jim Craigis the owner of Craig Sundecks and
Porches in Manassas, Va.