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Building Screened Porches, continued

Screened Openings

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.

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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 installation.

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 screening staples.

Arched Trim

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.

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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 casing. 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 latex. 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.

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Figure 8. Simple, router-rolled corners

finish nearly every edge and joint in the system, giving an appearance of heightened detail while concealing small deviations in plane and material thickness.

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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; www.abrp.com) 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.