Who knew there was a world of screens out there? Today they're available in a variety of colors, materials, and finishes, from old-fashioned galvanized steel to fiberglass, bronze, and aluminum. Each kind has its advantages and disadvantages. In coastal locations, fiberglass and bronze are your best bets, according to Mona Plyler of Phifer Wire Products, a leading manufacturer of screening materials. (She doesn't suggest aluminum because it will anodize and break down in salt air if the rustproof coating chips or cracks. And few professionals recommend galvanized screening because it's considered outdated.)
Bronze screening―actually a combination of copper and zinc―is extremely durable and will withstand punishing coastal weather. Sold with a bright gold finish, it fades to a beautiful dark brown over time. The patinated screening looks particularly good when installed on older homes. One consideration: Bronze screens are relatively pricey, averaging $1.20 per square foot.
The most economical option remains fiberglass, at about 14 cents per square foot. It won't corrode in salt air and requires little maintenance. Fiberglass is easier to work with than bronze and aluminum because it's less rigid. But it can ripple if not stretched correctly during installation.
What to look for when shopping for screens:
• Darker colors such as charcoal or black absorb sunlight, diminish glare, and provide the best visibility. If one side of your porch gets more sun, consider a solar screen, which can reduce heat and UV rays about 65 to 90 percent.
• If you live in a region where mosquitoes or other pesky insects cause problems, look for a mesh count of 20 by 20 (see "How to Speak Fluent Contractor," below).
• Have pets? Durable weaves such as vinyl-coated polyester "pet screens" can be seven times stronger than standard insect screening. If you have a small dog, you can install pooch-proof screening on lower panels only.
How to Speak Fluent Contractor
Screen mesh is categorized by its weave density. For example, standard mesh screen is commonly referred to as "18 by 16." This simply means it has 18 openings across and 16 openings down per square inch. The more openings per square inch, the tighter the weave―meaning a stronger, more bug-proof screen.
Backyard America; 877/489-8064 or backyardamerica.com
Home Depot; 800/553-3199 or homedepot.com
Lowe's; 800/445-6937 or lowes.com
Phantom Screens; 888/742-6866 or phantomscreens.com
Phifer Wire Products; 205/345-2120 or phifer.com
Screen Tight; 800/768-7325 or screentight.com