Ah, Spring! First the flowers begin to bloom... then the birds begin to sing... then the mosquitoes begin to bite. That's right, it's time to get the screened-in porch out of storage. If your porch needs a little TLC, you might get inspiration from a project I recently finished on an historic Asheville home.
The Puppy Porch Peril
One of my clients owns a lovely home in the Montford neighborhood. It's 75 years old, and although it's in great shape, it needed a little help here and there.
Her first concern was the aging porch. It has screens going all the way down to the floor. Her cats had already clawed a few holes in the mesh, and she was about to adopt a puppy, so more damage was on the way unless we could find a solution.
It's hard to tell in these picture, but the paint on the porch was also getting chipped and dirty, and some of the screens were torn. Fortunately the "bones" of this porch are quite nice. The wood is all still solid, and it has nice clean lines and an appealing design. With a little bit of work, it had great potential curb appeal, especially with the upstairs deck off the master bedroom.
Of course, the upstairs deck railing was also in need of repainting:
This is all just typical wear-and-tear, the kind of maintenance every home needs occasionally. We got started by replacing a few of the porch screens.
How to Replace a Porch Screen
On most porches, this would be a tough job, but whoever built this addition was thinking ahead, so they saved me some trouble. Here's why:
A Typical Porch Install
The old-fashioned method of installing a screened-in porch is to staple the screen to the frame and then hold it down with wooden strips. To replace the screen, the old strips would have to be ripped up, then I'd have to pull out the staples, replace the screen using new staples, and lay down new wood strips. Not only is this time-consuming, but with large openings like this, it's hard to make the screen pull tight all the way around.
The Modern Option
Fortunately the previous remodeler used the Screen Tight system from Lowe's. This is a nifty little setup that works on the same system as the screens you put in your windows: you install a vinyl frame, then hold the screen in place using a spline (a rubber gasket). You can read more about splines in my screen repair tutorial, but here's a diagram of the basic idea:
If you don't have the Screen Tight system already, it is possible to retrofit an existing porch with it. As I've already mentioned, it's not only great for long-term maintenance, but it also makes installation easier because it stretches the screen tight all the way around.
In this system the frame around the screen is made of durable vinyl, so it didn't even need to be painted. But I did need to paint the rest of the porch.
How to Paint a Screened-In Porch
The first step to painting was getting the wood clean. This porch is in a shady spot, with mature trees hanging over it, so it had built up a lot of mildew over the years. I stopped by the Mountain Paint and Decorating shop on Charlotte Street here in Asheville because I wanted a good paint that would prevent mildew. The staff was very friendly, and they hooked me up with two products.
First they suggested that I clean the existing mildew off with Jomax House Cleaner and Mildew Killer. I mixed it into a bucket and scrubbed the mildew with a green scotch pad, then immediately wiped it clean with a dry rag.
To prevent future mildew, the Mountain Paint associate mixed MX3 Complete Mildewcide into the new paint. I'll be curious to see how that holds up.
The painting itself took a bit of skill, because of course I didn't want to drip any paint on the screens. There are three tricks to avoid drips:
Not to toot my own horn, but I'm also pretty good with a brush, so this went well with no drips or spatters.
Lattice and Finishing Touches
Next I installed a white vinyl lattice to keep off the kitten claws and the puppy noses. The downstairs looked great... I could definitely imagine spending a hot afternoon sitting in that rocking chair and drinking a cold glass of tea.
But that wasn't in the cards for me. It was time to paint the upstairs deck. Or should I say, scrape, remove mildew, spot-prime the bare spots, and then paint.
Now for a long-distance shot of the whole shebang. Everything looks crisper, and the lattice adds a nice finishing touch. Overall this is a great example of how a few small updates can really brighten up your home and add some serious curb appeal. That's why I specialize in the little stuff; it makes a big difference.
Need some help with your curb appeal? Call Asheville's friendly local handyman.