Just in time for summer: all you need to know about screens

By Allen Bunting
April 25, 2007
Becky Luigart-Stayner

Who knew there was a world of screens out there? Today they'reavailable in a variety of colors, materials, and finishes, fromold-fashioned galvanized steel to fiberglass, bronze, and aluminum.Each kind has its advantages and disadvantages. In coastallocations, fiberglass and bronze are your best bets, according toMona Plyler of Phifer Wire Products, a leading manufacturer ofscreening materials. (She doesn't suggest aluminum because it willanodize and break down in salt air if the rustproof coating chipsor cracks. And few professionals recommend galvanized screeningbecause it's considered outdated.)

Bronze screening―actually a combination of copper andzinc―is extremely durable and will withstand punishingcoastal weather. Sold with a bright gold finish, it fades to abeautiful dark brown over time. The patinated screening looksparticularly good when installed on older homes. One consideration:Bronze screens are relatively pricey, averaging $1.20 per squarefoot.

The most economical option remains fiberglass, at about 14 centsper square foot. It won't corrode in salt air and requires littlemaintenance. Fiberglass is easier to work with than bronze andaluminum because it's less rigid. But it can ripple if notstretched correctly during installation.

What to look for when shopping for screens:
• Darker colors such as charcoal or black absorbsunlight, diminish glare, and provide the best visibility. If oneside of your porch gets more sun, consider a solar screen, whichcan reduce heat and UV rays about 65 to 90 percent.

• If you live in a region where mosquitoes or other peskyinsects cause problems, look for a mesh count of 20 by 20 (see "Howto Speak Fluent Contractor," below).

• Have pets? Durable weaves such as vinyl-coated polyester"pet screens" can be seven times stronger than standard insectscreening. If you have a small dog, you can install pooch-proofscreening 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." Thissimply means it has 18 openings across and 16 openings down persquare inch. The more openings per square inch, the tighter theweave―meaning a stronger, more bug-proof screen.

Screen Sources
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