A custom-built screen room gives you an outdoor living space you can enjoy almost year-round. It's the ideal setting for a cool lemonade on a hot summer day. It provides insect-free entertaining space in the evening and becomes a wonderful spot to savor an early-morning cup of coffee.
Depending on your climate and lifestyle, you may want a true screen room with no windows, or you may prefer a three-season room with removable windows. Either way, with careful planning and professional design help you can create an ideal space that bridges indoors and out and extends your living space.
Determine the Best Location
Deciding where to place your screen room can be crucial to your enjoyment of it later. First, consider the climate. A porch with a southern exposure is likely to get too hot in Southern regions, whereas a northern exposure will likely work only in the South.
Also consider the view from the porch. Take into account the direction the breeze usually comes from, and even think about where you might place an outdoor grill. You don't want smoke to blow right into your screen room.
It's best to place the porch near rooms that you use often, such as the kitchen. This makes eating meals out on the porch convenient, but if you'll be blocking the kitchen's only source of natural light, you may want to place it in front of an adjacent mudroom or laundry area.
Design the Space
When determining the size of your screen room, decide whether you want only a sitting area or a place to dine, too. Keep in mind that a long, narrow porch (at least 8 feet wide) can provide adjacent spaces for seating and dining and lets more light into the house than a square room.
If possible, build a room that is open on three sides. This increases the feeling of sitting outdoors (sans bugs) and helps air circulate. A peaked roof will allow you to install high windows, which also help with air circulation, and provides space for a ceiling fan.
A gas or wood-burning fireplace will ensure the room is comfortable on chilly spring and fall evenings. Windows that can be removed and clipped back in during cooler weather also extend the screen room's use. However, they can limit design possibilities. In a room with only screens, you aren't limited by window sizes and can use larger pieces of screening. This provides more of an outdoor feeling, but the trade-off is less refined, all-weather furniture and more dirt and dust.
The building materials you choose will have a large impact on style and cost. Wood is a popular flooring choice; cedar is more expensive than some, but it will stand up well to the elements. Plastic decking made from recycled materials is more expensive than wood, but it's virtually maintenance-free.
If the screen room is built on grade (at ground level), it can be built on a concrete slab, which is the least-expensive flooring option. Staining the concrete adds a more upscale look. Stone, slate, or porcelain tiles also are good choices.
On the walls, beaded-board paneling provides a cottage look, while wood produces a more rustic appearance. Overall cost can vary greatly, but for a starter 12x12-foot screen room that matches the style of the house, expect to pay $5,000—$10,000. For a custom look, you may pay $25,000 or more.