Tom Jenkins/Courtesy Coastal Signature Homes
Extend your outdoor living space in your own unique style with these DIY construction tips and décor suggestions.
One way to literally live large is to increase your outdoor space in a way that lets you enjoy it more—and a screened-in porch can be just the ticket. Unlike an open-to-the-elements deck or patio, or a sunroom, which typically has solid glass exterior walls, a screened porch has a ceiling and, as the name implies, encloses much of the area with mesh. Such a structure protects you from pesky insects and sudden showers while welcoming light and breezes. If you’re ready to bring this best-of-both-worlds addition to your home or to decorate an existing porch in a stylish new way, you’re in the right place for ideas and helpful how-tos to create screened porch perfection.
Plan a Porch Project
Screening in an open porch involves installing framing around it and then attaching mesh to the frame. Measure porch height by width plus 10 percent to determine material needs, then put up the enclosure using basic tools. Though a fairly simple DIY project, kits and framing systems available at home centers make it even easier.
Rely on the Right Wood
Andrew Hyslop/Courtesy Rock Paper HammerIf you aim to frame up a screened porch from scratch, purchase rugged redwood, cedar, or ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) lumber to resist insect and weather-related damage. Be sure to use the appropriate screws, too: galvanized for redwood or cedar, and ACQ-compatible for treated lumber.
Screen Your Screen Type
There are several types of mesh on the market, suited to different environments and situations.
Fiberglass is soft, easy to work with (it’s typically found in kits), and rust- and corrosion-resistant.Extra-fine fiberglass offers enhanced visibility.Metal is sturdy but can rust or corrode in humid climates; aluminum will perform best.Vinyl-coated polyester screens can withstand scratching by furry friends, so it’s the best choice for a pet-proof porch. This thicker material may somewhat obscure the view.Synthetic solar screen fabric limits the amount of sunlight entering the porch, reducing heat and protecting furniture upholstery from fading.Motorized, retractable screens lift and lower with button-touch control.
Figure Out Flooring
As an outdoor space bound to get plenty of foot traffic, a screened porch calls for tough flooring. Soft yet durable pine is perhaps the most popular natural wood for a porch, but redwood and cedar will likely last longer. Ultra-low-maintenance composite decking boasts the good looks of wood. yet won’t crack, splinter, or require re-staining. Concrete, brick, stone, and certain types of tile are all hardwearing options, too, though somewhat susceptible to chips. And don’t discount rubber—typically used in playgrounds, it’s a good choice if kids will be romping on the porch.
Sport a Special Ceiling
If your situation allows for it, a vaulted or angled ceiling will add visual appeal. If you’ve got to go straight, consider installing a skylight for added illumination by day and stargazing at night. How you finish the ceiling counts, too. Beadboard will evoke tradition, while shiplap lends a more casual cabin vibe.
Select a Design Scheme
The architecture of your home and your personal taste will both influence your porch décor. Do you fancy the Southern charm of an old-fashioned veranda (rocking chairs, comfy cushions, perhaps a few vintage items like an old milk can)? How about the laid-back vibe of a Hawaiian lanai (tropical woods like ipe, tigerwood, and cambara, rattan furniture, lush plants, beach-y accents)? Or perhaps you prefer desert colors, Native American patterns, and touches of turquoise for an Arizona room.
Let the primary purpose of your porch determine furniture arrangement. For socializing and conversation, seats should face each other, perhaps around a coffee table, just like in a living room. For more of a nature observatory, seating might be best set up along the wall of the house and facing out to the view. No matter how you arrange seating, include enough clearance from the door so that traffic can flow in and out.
Delight in Outdoor Dining
Costa Picadas/Courtesy Douglas Wright ArchitectsA screened porch is the ideal setting for al fresco meals—especially if it extends off the kitchen. If not, consider locating a vented grill on the porch, choosing a model with counter space on either side for food prep. In addition to a table and chairs, include a hutch to hold the dishes, glasses, and silverware you’ll use regularly in the space.
Default to Wicker
For durability, affordability, easy care, and casual appeal, it’s hard to go wrong with wicker furniture. Natural wicker won’t wear as well as its synthetic counterpart, notably pieces made of high density polyethylene (HDPE). Before purchasing, carefully check the weaving for loose ends that could unravel. While wicker tends to come in basic white or shades of tan, you can easily brighten it up with spray paint for a unique look; just be sure to pick paint designed to adhere to plastic if you’ve got synthetic pieces.
Boost the Breeze
A ceiling fan will let you control air circulation. Choose one that’s large enough (it will be most effective at cooling the area directly beneath it), made of weather-resistant material, and UL-listed for damp locations. Ensure at least eight feet of clearance beneath it for safety.
A screened porch allows you to immerse yourself in the natural environment. So if yours has a view of the woods, décor featuring earth tones, natural fibers, rustic wood, and plenty of plants will blur the lines between outdoors and in.
Tony Soluri/ Courtesy Stuart Cohen & Julie Hacker Architects LLCSheer, fluttery drapery panels lend softness and gentility while still allowing in some light. Let curtains hang loose for privacy or use tie-backs for an unobstructed view.
Turn It On
Lamps and ceiling fixtures UL-rated for outdoor use will let you enjoy your screened-in space once the sun goes down. But why let a lack of wiring put a damper on your nighttime porch party when you can hang plug-free solar-powered string lights.
Pump Up a Small Porch
Outfit a small, narrow screened porch with a space-saving bench or banquette against the house wall. Place a pair of chairs, perhaps at a round café table, on one end. A slender space may also be ideal as a coffee or cocktail bar. Pale colors will make it seem larger; and avoid accessory overload, which will just read as clutter.
Dream Up a Z-Z-Z- Zone
A lounge chair, sofa, daybed, or hammock will take relaxation to the next level. To further make your screened porch catnap central, lay in extra pillows and a soft, cozy throw.
Set Up a Swing
Feeling lazy yet playful? Indulge both moods with a porch swing! Select a two-seater to share with a loved one or consider individual swing chairs for a fun boho vibe.
Fire Up a Focal Point
Tom Jenkins/Courtesy Coastal Signature HomesA fireplace serves as a striking focal point that can let you enjoy your screened porch once the weather turns chilly. Natural stone is ideal for an outdoor environment, and it can impart a modern, traditional, or rustic vibe to suit your taste.
Explore Pillow Possibilities
Stylish, comfy pillows and cushions will tempt you to linger longer, but certain fabrics and fillings are bound to get musty when used in a screened porch. So choose inserts made of water-resistant polyfill and outdoor-rated fabric covers. Other smart accessories to stave off mildew include polypropylene area rugs you can hose clean and a large fast-drying Turkish towel instead of a throw.
Let It Grow!
Plenty of potted plants—including fern, elephant ear, and even certain orchids—can thrive on your porch. Just keep them well watered (circulating air can be drying), and bring them in after sundown should temperatures in your area dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
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