Coming to a big screen near you

 Skill level skill2

In our area of the country, mosquitoes and no-see-ums own the outdoors and my ever-loving wife, “Arbutus” (not her real name, but I suspect you knew that already), has always wanted a screen porch. Our house has a nice big deck but no screens and, as much as I like a challenge, it is not a trivial matter to put a roof over the deck in order to screen it in. Sometimes it is just easier to buy another house that already has the screen porch.

And that is what we did.

Buy a beach house and get a screen porch for free!

Screen porch by lagoon
Screen porch by lagoon

The beach house has many nice features but the screen porch overlooking the lagoon clinched the deal for Arbutus. (She likes it when I call her “Beautie.”) I knew she wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t buy that beach house. And if Beautie ain’t happy then ain’t nobody happy.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “lagoon”? If you said mosquitoes you are on the right track. The real bugaboo (a rather apt word) is the unseen world of little biting insects commonly called no-see-ums.

They can get through standard screens so you might be sitting in a lovely screened-in porch but feel a little itchy all over and can’t see what is doing it or how they got in. A demented raccoon provided the final straw when it ripped holes in the porch screening. (See “How to replace a torn door screen.” ) It’s a good thing my ever-loving wife didn’t catch that varmint or we would have had our own “Beautie and the Beast” on the big screen.

Typical screen material is 18 x 18, which means there are 18 wires per inch both horizontally and vertically. Although the local Lowe’s didn’t have any in stock, I found a 8′ x 100′ roll of 20 x 20 no-see-um screening online.

Is unscreen a word?

I pried off the molding that covered the staples holding the screen and then ripped off the old material. I either pulled or hammered down any staples that were sticking up but left the rest of them. For good measure I pulled a wallpaper scraper across them to cut off any rogue staples. They were RUSTY and broke off easily.

pneumatic stapler
Pneumatic stapler

There were zillions of staples because you put one in about every inch. Being a quick study, I put my Math degree to work and figured out that putting that many staples in by hand was not how I wanted to spend the remainder of my declining years. A pneumatic stapler goes for about $25, which might be the steal of the century.

I also ordered some stainless steel staples (no rusting!) to go with it.

Cut, staple, repeat

cutting screenThe screens were about 8½’ tall so I put a piece of tape next to the crack between the deck boards about 8½’ from a wall and used that to measure and cut the screening by running a utility knife in the crack between the boards.

stapling outside edge
Pull tight and staple.

Our son, Graham (his real name), helped hold the screen tight while I stapled it starting in the top right corner and working left and down. It is important to pull the screen really tight as you staple it to avoid creases and Graham did a great job.

I mitered some vinyl molding (no rotting or peeling!) and used the finish nail gun to install it around the perimeter.

Second shift

We had gotten only one of the two sides done when Graham said he “had to leave.” I choose to believe that he had a legitimate excuse as opposed to getting tired of the project.

scaffold for screen
Scaffolding is the only way to go.

Fortunately, our son-in-law, “Jim” (that might be his real name), came a couple of weeks later to help me finish. He already knew all about pneumatic staplers and we did the remaining side and around the door in two government-days, which is a total of about 8 hours in real life. If you get a chance to pick a son-in-law, pick one like Jim. You’ll be glad you did.

The scaffolding, which I bought at the start of this project, made it infinitely easier than working off of ladders.

Those pesky insects still have another way to get in the porch: through the floor cracks.

I have plenty of screening left to do the underside of the floor but I think I’ll screen all of the sides of the carport under the porch so that the whole area is protected from mosquitoes and sundry other nuisances.

That’s a project for another day. Until then I’ll have to rely on the polar vortex to beat back those little buggers. You have to pick your battles. Beautie taught me that.

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