Sheets to the wind
by David Zimmer
A breezy screened porch can’t be beat on the best days of summer, but in the cold and rainy shoulder seasons – or over the deep-freeze of winter – it’s good to wrap up a bit to keep the rowdy weather outside. Proper windows will keep the elements at bay, but they turn a porch into a regular room, defeating the whole point of that airy space. There are also companies that will create custom enclosures for your porch, but here are some cheap-and-cheerful DIY solutions:
For seasonal cottagers, there’s a time-honoured tradition of simply stapling polyethylene plastic over the screens for winter. It works, but every spring means ripping and tearing, and a buildup of rusty staples on your siding. Better to build simple frames from 1″ x 4″ lumber and cover them with 6-mil polyethylene vapour barrier, sometimes called “super six,” which you can get at any building centre. The frames fit over the screens, attached with hooks and eyes (or bent-over nails). Granted, poly will break down after a few years of ultraviolet exposure, and it’s somewhat ugly and opaque, but at $20–$30 for 500 sq. ft., you can cheaply recover your frames for generations with just one roll.
For unobstructed views, a better choice is clear vinyl sheeting. More UV-resistant than poly, it comes in 48″ and 54″ widths in varying thicknesses from building centres and hardware stores, starting at about $4 a yard. You can staple it to a frame, as above, but a slicker trick is to bind its edges with weatherproof cloth, then attach it to the window frame using marine dome snaps.
Another, more expensive solution would be to build frames and insert panes of solid acrylic or polycarbonate (usually described as Lucite and Lexan, two common brands). Both are clear, durable, and won’t yellow or break down with UV exposure, though polycarbonate is more shatter-resistant. Standard-size sheets are available at building centres, but they can also be cut with wood-working tools. A 30″ x 60″ sheet rings in at $50–$70. Regular glass is cheaper, but it’s also heavier.
Published in the September/October 2004 issue of Cottage Life magazine.