Screen Selections
Homeowners have an array of options to choose from when deciding on screen for enclosing a porch.
Fiberglass screen is by far the cheapest (15 cents per square foot). It won't rust and it looks good as long as it's handled with care. But because strength is not one of its assets, a bump with a cigarette or an overeager dog can send you to the hardware store for replacement screening.
Aluminum, which costs about 25 cents per square foot, is considerably stronger, and is the most popular for screened porches. With proper care, says Charlie Brakefield, of Phifer Wire Products in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, "Aluminum can last 30 to 40 percent longer than fiberglass." Aluminum screen tends to show glare in bright sun, however, so charcoal and the new black aluminum (30 cents per square foot) have gained in popularity, the latter because it's almost invisible when you look from the inside out.
Bronze and copper screens aren't affected by salt spray as aluminum is but they are more expensive (90 cents per square foot). Unlike bronze, which is stronger, copper loses its color over time, taking on a bluish cast that eventually blackens. "Considering esthetics and longevity, bronze is the best," says Alan Dorn, of Screen Technology Group in Washougal, Washington.
Stainless steel ($1 per square foot) is the most expensive of all. A special stainless grade (Type 316, about 10 percent more) won't rust and is virtually maintenance-free, though because it's bright and shiny, it will cause glare in bright sunlight.
You'll also find specialty screens, such as superstrong vinyl-coated polyester. Designed to resist pets, it will outlast aluminum but is twice the price. And a variety of vinyl-coated polyester and fiberglass sun-control screens (50 to 65 cents per square foot) are good for hot climates. These dissipate heat to the framing system and have a slight effect on visibility.
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