In The News

Today's Homeowner Article, July/August 2000 (Today's Homeowner is now owned by This Old House.)

Weekend Project


Screen-It-Yourself Porch

A clever new way to replace or install porch screening

By Joseph Truini

The traditional method of screening a porch has pretty much remained the same for a hundred years. That's unfortunate, because it's a flawed system. Small tacks or staples are used to attach the screening to the porch posts and railings. Then, narrow wood battens are nailed up to conceal all of the seams and fasteners.

It's a labor-intensive method, and screens installed this way typically develop noticeable sags after just a few months. Plus, when it's necessary to replace a damaged screen or fix a sagging one, you must remove several battens and yank out about a million fasteners.

But there is a much better and easier way to install screens, and it doesn't require a lot of experience. This "Weekend Project" will

show you how to rescreen an existing porch using the Screen Tight installation system. You can use the same techniques detailed her for new and remodeled porches, deck enclosures, breezeways and gazebos.

System Analysis
Screen Tight is a cleverly designed, all-vinyl system that consists of two main (continued)

Photographs by Don Taylor
Screened Porch
SCREEN STAR: THIS RENOVATED PORCH SPORTS all new screening installed with a low-maintenance vinyl track system.


narrow 1x2 wood battens to expose the staples that secure the old screens in place.

at home centers and hardware stores, starts at 15 cents per square foot; aluminum costs 25 cents per square foot.

PRY THE VERTICAL 1x4 battens from the porch posts. Pull down all
the old screening and pound the staples flat.

components: a black base strip and a snap-on cap trim, which comes in white, grey, beige and brown.

The base strip is screwed in place around the perimeter of each opening that will be screened. It comes in 8- and 12ft. lengths, and in two widths for attachment to 2x4 and 4x4 framing. Molded into the surface of the base strip are two grooves, which accept the rubber spline that secures the screen in place. Once the screens are installed, the cap trim is snapped on to conceal the base strip and screen spines.

You can use either fiberglass or aluminum screening, although fiberglass is a better choice because it's easier to handle, stretches tighter, and is less expensive. Fiberglass screening, sold


You can buy the rubber spine (12 cents per linear foot) and a spline-roller tool ($6) wherever screens are sold. Be sure to use 0.175-in. rubber spline for fiberglass screen and 0.160-in. spline for aluminum screen. This system will cost about $1 per square foot for all the materials, including the Screen Tight components, fiberglass screen, rubber spline and screws. (continued)

FASTEN THE vertical base strips to the outside of the porch posts.
Use the 3 ½ -in.-wide base for 4x4 posts.
USE PRUNING shears or tin snips to trip the base strips to
length. Screw 1 ½ -in.-wide base to 2x4 rails.

We installed Phifer Wire's standard black fiberglass insect screening in the openings above the handrail. Below the railings and on the porch door, we installed Phifer's new PetScreen (55 to 68 cents per square foot), a durable material that resists tears and punctures from pet claws. This vinyl-coated polyester is much stronger that standard screening.

Fiberglass and aluminum screening come in a variety of colors. However, black screening is typically the best choice for porches and doors because it's less reflective and offers much better visibility than lighter colors, especially bare aluminum.

We also replaced the warped wood door with Screen Tight's Better Board solid-vinyl screen door. This unit never needs painting and it won't rot, split, or fade. Available at most home centers, it comes in 32- ($58 to $68) and 36-in. ($62 to $72) inches.


Start by using a hammer and flat bar to pry off all the wood battens nailed to the porch framing. On our porch, we removed the horizontal 1x2 battens first (photo 1), then yanked off the vertical 1x4 battens that were nailed to the 4x4 posts (photo 2).

Once you have removed the battens, cut down the old screens with a utility knife. There will be many old tacks and

PULL THE SCREEN fabric tight with one hand as you roll the spline
into the groove in the base strip.

staples left behind, which you can either pull out with pliers or tap flush with a hammer. (We employed both methods to create flat, smooth surfaces.)

Next, fasten a vertical base strip to each porch post with 1-in. screws (photo 3). Put a single screw in each prepunched slot and another one in 2 in. from each end of the strip. The screws should be driven snug but not so tight that they deform the vinyl strips.

TRIM AWAY excess screening by drawing a utility knife along the
edge of the raised spline groove.
ON THIS porch, we installed tough, tear-resistant PetScreen to the
lower portion of the walls and to the door.

Then, screw the horizontal base strips to the framing that spans between the vertical posts. Trim the strips to length with pruning shears (photo 4). They can also be cut with tin snips, a hacksaw or a power miter saw. Install the remaining base strips, making sure to drive a screw through each slot and 2-in. from each end.


Installing screening with a spline roller isn't difficult, but it does take a certain

COVER UP the base strips and screen splines on the 4x4
porch posts with long pieces of wide cap trim.

amount of practice before you can do it quickly and effortlessly. Keep these tips in mind: Always install the top edge of the screen first, followed by the two sides and finally the bottom edge. Pull the screen taut wit one hand as you roll the spline into the groove with the splining tool (photo 5).

If you create a wrinkle or fold in the screen, pull out the spline and start again. When securing the bottom edge of the screen, check to make sure the screen is flat, wrinkle-free and relatively

tight. If it isn't drum-tight, don't worry. When you snap on the cap trip, the screen will tighten up quite a bit.

Trim off the excess screen with a sharp utility knife (Photo 6). Work slowly and with great caution; one small slip and you'll slice open the new screen.

After screening in the upper portion of the porch wills, repeat the process on the lower half. If you've got a dog, or cat (or both), consider installing a (continued)

USE A nonmarring mallet to tap the narrow cap trim onto the base strips that are screwed to the 2x4 railing.
CUT the narrow, horizontal cap trip to length with pruning shears after tapping it onto the base strip.

more durable screening to the openings below the handrail (photo 7) and a screen door with a pet door built in.

Once all the screening is up, install the cap trim, starting with the vertical pieces (photo 8). Align the cap with the base strip, then strike it with a plastic or rubber mallet until it snap-locks into place. Use the same method to install horizontal cap trip along the top and bottom of the walls, and along the top and bottom of the walls, and along the handrails (photo 9). Let these pieces run long, then trim them to length with pruning shears (photo 10).

After we completed screening in the porch, we hung the new vinyl screen door (photo 11) which perfectly matched the bright-white cap trim.

  FINISHING TOUCH: To complement the new screening system, we installed a matching solid-vinyl screen door. It never needs painting.

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