The big screen: 7 reasons a screened porch is a must-have for summer (and fall)

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For added privacy (and a shield from the sun), this Glenmore porch employs a curtain. Photo: Stephen Barling For added privacy (and a shield from the sun), this Glenmore porch employs a curtain. Photo: Stephen Barling

A screened porch just might be the perfect marriage of indoors and out. There you sit (or lie or swing). Rain and bugs can’t get to you. But—who was the genius who came up with this?—you’re gloriously available to the breezes, the night sounds, the cool evening air.

What’s more, the climate here in central Virginia, with its mild spring and fall weather, is especially well-suited to a screened porch. We can go there not only to watch fireflies dancing in August, but to smell the lilacs in April and to sip cider in November.

After their heyday in the early 20th century, screened porches were eclipsed in popularity by decks; many were enclosed to make sunrooms. But these days, screens are making a comeback. Maybe nostalgia is part of the reason why. Or maybe it’s just that the screened porch is such a great idea—a design that embodies function and pleasure. Read on to glimpse a few of our favorite local examples.

A pint-sized porch on Blenheim Avenue makes for a cozy morning coffee spot. Photo: Stephen Barling
This wicker wonderland in Farmington is on the more luxurious end of the screened porch spectrum. Photo: Stephen Barling
An informal atmosphere in Fifeville. Photo: Stephen Barling
The blue ceiling on this Free Union porch is a charming Southern touch. Photo: Virginia Hamrick
At a modern home in the country, walnut framing in Mondrian-like shapes lends a contemporary vibe. Photo: Virginia Hamrick
In North Downtown, a new screened porch acts as an auxiliary dining room, with views to the wooded backyard. Photo: Virginia Hamrick

Bug off

The pluses and minuses of adding a screened porch to your home

In a Virginia summer, there’s no great way to avoid the inevitable mosquito bite if you’re planning to be outside. Enter screened porches.

“You can experience the outdoors like you would on a deck, but without fear of getting burnt or bit since you’re covered and screened in on all sides,” says Anna Posner, design manager for Southern Development Homes.

So what are the pros and cons of putting an outdoor three-season room on your deck? Local experts break it down.

The drawbacks

Most homebuilders don’t see many downsides to screened porches, as long as they’re handled correctly. “Screened porches on the front of a house are harder to pull off from an aesthetics standpoint outside of a traditional farmhouse style,” says Ben Davis, vice president of sales for Craig Builders. “Most often they are a great addition to the side or rear of a home.”

The real impediments are the usual suspects—space and cash. For the first concern, Davis says some customers get creative. “Recently, we’ve seen trends for adding a screened patio/porch underneath a deck,” he says. “If a screened porch can fit on a homesite, customers are inquiring about them.” One of Craig Builders’ suppliers offers a product that makes it easier to weatherproof under-deck screened areas and add outdoor space to a home, Davis adds.

As for the cost of screened areas, there’s no getting around a significant spend. They typically run $15,000 to $20,000 more than a deck or patio alone. Posner says homeowners can expect to see some return on their investment, though.

Davis also concedes screens can limit the amount of natural light that makes it into the home—specifically the great rooms and kitchens you’ll often find them next to. Skylights can help in that case, he says.

Then there’s that whole “hip” question. And it’s hard not to admit folks who are more interested in practicality than perfection are into screened rooms. “I see more baby boomers add the screened porch feature than millennial buyers,” Posner says. “But, that could also be influenced by their budget.”

The benefits

Davis says local buyers are all about it. In the Out of Bounds community, which Craig Builders helped develop at the corner of Barracks and Georgetown roads, the majority of customers opted for some screen-protected living.

Homeowners are dressing up their screened areas up, as well, according to Davis. He’s seeing an increasing number of customers pull great rooms and screened spaces together with see-through fireplaces. “We’ve also had customers request outdoor wood fireplaces with stone chimneys installed in the screened porch space,” he says.

Davis and Posner both agree that, space and cost permitting, most modern homeowners are inquiring about screened porches. No matter the type of home, it’s a way to bring some of the comforts of the indoors to the outdoors.

And “since they can be installed in new homes very easily, it opens up a lot of possibilities,” Davis says.—Shea Gibbs

Photo: Virginia Hamrick

Screen scene

But what’s actually keeping the sun and insects out of reach? Here are a few standard screen types available from major retailers nationwide.

Fiberglass

The most inexpensive and popular route for screened porch builders, fiberglass is a great entry level material.

Aluminum

Coming in at about a third more expensive than fiberglass, aluminum is more durable but harder to install.

Bronze, stainless steel, copper

Premium metals cost more but are long-lasting and can improve the look of your screened space.

Sun-blocking screen

All screen will block some of the sun’s rays, but materials are available that can keep porches considerably cooler, knocking out up to 90 percent of the sun’s heat.

Pet screening

Dogs, feisty cats and screens don’t mix. For those willing to shell out the big bucks, screen is available that can stand up to the most unruly pets.

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