A screened porch is a great way to add more space to your home and give your family more comfortable access to the outdoors. But it’s not a small project to take on. Adding a screened porch to your home isn’t like adding a new garden or painting a room—projects you could probably tackle yourself over a productive weekend. It requires planning, a budget, and a thoughtful approach.
For anyone thinking about tackling the project of building a screened porch in the near future, there are a few questions to start thinking about before you get too far into the planning process.
First, there are a few basic questions about what you want in a screened porch. These are important to consider before you can get to the point of starting to visualize your screened porch project.
1. How are you hoping to use your screened porch?
Will it mostly be to have more spaces for your family to hang out, or are you hoping to use it to entertain? If your main screened porch dream is reading the newspaper with a hot cup of coffee in the mornings while looking out over your yard, the design will be different than if you’re hoping to host extravagant dinner parties in the space. Think about how you want to be able to put your screened porch to use in the day to day, and if you want it to be equipped for any type of special occasion as well.
2. How often do you think you’ll use it?
Are you expecting to use it year-round? Or do you imagine primarily seasonal use, when the weather’s nice in the spring and summer? Do you think your family will be out there—taking advantage of the seating, the accessories, the view, and the space—on a daily basis? Or do you mostly want the extra space for when you have friends and family over for visits?
Having an idea of how frequently you’ll be using the space will help you both figure out how comfortable you need to make it (for example, winter use will require some form of heating), and how much you want to invest in it. If you expect the family to use it every day, that may make a higher cost feel more worth it.
3. How many people should be able to comfortably be on it at a time?
This also relates to your first two answers. If you want to be able to host large parties, then you’ll want to build a screened porch big enough to accommodate those plans. If you mostly want to give the members of your household more space—say, solve the problem of the kids fighting over who gets to watch TV in the living room—then a smaller porch may work just fine.
4. What are your top priorities for what you want in a screened porch?
It’s useful to have an idea of what your dream version of a screened porch will be. But for some families, the cost of getting everything you want may not match the size you have available to you or the cost you can afford. So, while it can be worthwhile to start by thinking big, you also want to consider carefully which of those wants are most important to you. If you end up needing to prioritize some wants over others, knowing your priorities early on can make future planning decisions easier.
What your screened porch will look like (and whether you can manage to build one at all) will depend on what you can spend. It therefore pays to figure out upfront what you can afford. Having a budget in mind by the time you meet with a contractor will ensure they’re able to help you plan out a screened porch you can feasibly achieve, and turn that dream into a reality.
One of the biggest decisions to make about your screened porch is how big to make it. And chances are, you’ll face some limitations in just how big you can go for practical reasons.
6. How big can it be, based on the size of my yard?
If your home sits on several acres of land, then you may be able to go as big as you want. But if you live in a residential neighborhood where yard size is limited, then the size of your screened porch will have to stay within the confines of the space you have. And chances are, you don’t want to give your whole yard over to your screened porch. Think about what portion of the available space you’re comfortable converting into a screened porch.
7. How big does it need to be to include the features I want?
Any features or accessories you want to include in your screened porch—be they as significant as a kitchen or as simple as some nice furniture—will need to fit into the space available. If you know you definitely want your screened porch to include some specific features and accessories, consider how much space they’ll each require.
8. What size can you afford?
Size is one of the biggest indicators of what you’ll spend on a screened porch. A bigger porch will take longer to build, meaning more labor costs. And it will mean having to buy more of the materials the screened porch is constructed with. The extra cost may be more than worth it to you if it means your screened porch accomplishes everything you want it to, but it’s an important consideration to make when planning what’s possible.
Selecting your materials will have a big effect on the resulting screened porch you end up with. A good contractor will help a lot with this part, as they can use their expertise to provide recommendations based on your priorities.
9. What type of screen material will best match your needs?
The look and feel of your screened porch will depend a lot on the type of screen material you choose. Do you want to let a lot of light in and be able to see your yard clearly? Or is it more important to you to block out the sun? For a higher cost, you can consider retractable screens that you can raise and lower based on the weather of the moment. Also think about how much maintenance a type of screen material requires, and how quickly it will wear out. If you hate the idea of dealing with replacing the screens in a few years, spending more on a higher quality screen makes sense.
10. What type of flooring should you go with?
You have a few main types of screened porch flooring options each with a set of advantages and disadvantages. To pick the right one for you, you’ll need to measure cost against aesthetics against the level of maintenance they require. Talk through your options with your contractor to figure out what best matches your preferences and budget.
11. What type of lighting do you prefer?
Lighting can do a lot to create the atmosphere of your screened porch. You can stick with something basic and functional, or look for lighting fixtures that add some style to the space.
Once you’ve considered the basics, you can start to think about some of the more fun aspects of adding a screened porch to your home—all the accessories and features to include.
12. Do you want options for heating and cooling?
If you hope to use the space throughout the year, then you’ll probably want some way to make sure the temperature stays comfortable. That may mean connecting it to your home’s HVAC system. Or it could mean investing in alternative options to keep the space warm in winter like a fireplace, a fire pit, or outdoor heaters.
13. Do you plan on hosting people on your screened porch?
If you hope to have parties in the space, think about whether you want to add a kitchen or bar to make dinner parties easier. Getting your guests a fresh drink is a lot easier if no one has to go back and forth from the inside kitchen to the porch. Also think about how much seating you’ll need and what kind of furniture you need to accommodate your plans.
14. Do you hope to include an entertainment center?
If you include an entertainment center on your porch, it can squash future arguments about who gets to decide what to watch on the living room TV, and give you the means to host movie nights semi-outdoors. It can be an easy way to make the space go that much further and ensure it gets more use.
All of these questions will give you a good start on thinking through what you want from a screened porch. But to take it from the consideration stage and start turning it into real plans, you need to take the important step of talking to a professional.
15. Who will perform the work?
The last question on our list is arguably the most important in helping you actually realize the ideas you’ve been pondering for the last fourteen. Hiring the right contractor is crucial to making sure you can figure out the best possible iteration of your screened porch dream project that fits within your budget. It’s key for ensuring the building process goes smoothly and on schedule. And it’s important for making sure you end up with a screened porch that’s safe for your family to use.
For homeowners in the Charlotte, NC area ready to get started on adding a screened porch to your home, Fineline Construction is a licensed contractor with years of experience in your community. And setting up an initial consultation is entirely free. Let us help you turn all your ideas into something concrete that you and your family can enjoy.