There’s a quintessential sound to summer. To someone under forty, it might be a buzzing cicada. But to someone over forty, that sound is the “THWAP!” of a screen door. It takes you back to the days of being yelled at to stop slamming that screen door. A screen door speaks of a small town store where the wide door handles advertised the local bread with some cute little girl biting a piece smeared with butter or jelly. Yes, screening takes you back, but screening has definitely moved forward.
Today’s screens come in a variety of options to choose from. Whether you want to screen in a porch or keep mosquitoes from biting, today’s screens offer a variety of choices to fill most homeowner’s needs. Screening used to stop glare and heat from the summer sun is sold as solar screening and is popular in sunny states. Solar screening is best used in areas where the sunlight it most intense, such as the west side of a house.
Solar screening will prevent sunlight damage to fabrics, upholstery and wood furniture in addition to keeping the house cooler. Screening used to be made mostly of galvanized steel, but screening can now be found in a variety of materials ranging from fiberglass to bronze and aluminum. Bronze screening, most often used on historical homes, has become more popular for the aged patina it acquires from exposure and time.
There are three basic styles of screening. The first is mounted and includes screen doors, rooms or porches. The second is retractable screening. Retractable screens can be made for windows, doors and garage doors and can sometimes cost as much or more than mounted screening. But the versatility of being able to have screening or not have it is what makes retractable screens so appealing.
Retractable door screens run around $150 or more. The last type of screening is hanging. Hanging, or drop, screens are usually applied with hook and loop tape and can be removed easily when not in use, which makes them convenient on nice weather days. Another bonus is they can be purchased for doors and garages very inexpensively. Drop screens for doors run around $15 and garage door screens can be had for about $50, sometimes less.
Determining the type of screening to use on your home will depend on the application. If you have a screen that’s exposed to salt air, then fiberglass screening will hold up better than aluminum or other metal. If screening is used around pets, one brand made specifically for pets, called PetScreen (www.phifer.com/petscreen.htm), is made of a specially-coated material that resists scratching and tearing. Sometimes the need for screening is for cross-ventilation but adding a screen door just isn’t practical.
And, of course, there’s the aesthetic consideration. Many of today’s homes don’t look right with screen doors. In either case, retractable or drop screening is the answer. These screens are good options because they can be used only when desired versus being a permanent fixture on a house and they don’t interfere with a home’s style. If pests are your goal for screening, then be sure to look for a mesh count of at least 20 by 20.
With soaring air conditioning bills, cooling cross ventilation is helpful and makes good financial sense. But without screening, the appeal of an open, airy house or lower utility bills disappears. Used correctly, the right screening will protect against sun or bugs, can give your air conditioning a rest and give your house a nice airing out.