Turning a Covered Patio into a Screened-In Porch

The first “big”, “official”, “serious”, “what are we thinking??” project Stephen decided to tackle was changing his mother-in-law’s covered patio into a screened-in porch. Luckily, the groundwork had been laid… the concrete was already there, as was the roof and the columns. This made the job so much more do-able by a DIY newbie!

These pics show what the porch looked like before she purchased the house. It has a great foundation to add the screens!
This is now with my mom living there, before Stephen really got going.

Stephen did a ton of research online… he printed off plans, did all the measurements, figured out all the items he would need, etc. This is a critical part of building anything- you have to be thoughtful and organized about it! This was his very general plan:

-Build a knee-wall up 30 inches from the ground and screen from there to the top.
-Frame out large window sections where screens will be installed.
-Add in a screen door in the middle of the wall that is opposite the house door.
-Insulate between the inside and outside knee-walls.
-Put bead board on the inside walls.
-Put siding on the outside of the walls.
-Paint. (**My mom tediously painted all of the pressure-treated wood ahead of time, which saved a lot of time after the porch was built)

Besides painting all the wood, the tedious to-dos at the beginning included taking off the gutter, tearing down some of the moulding on the columns and near the ceiling so the screens would insert nicely, and of course, the multiple trips to and from Home Depot with our trailer.

We brought in expertise help… a.k.a. our brilliantly handy neighbor… to help the first day. Stephen needed some muscles and brains to help build the first part, which was building entire frames for where the wall would be and where the screens would go. He did this for the side wall, which was a good place to start since there was no door. He then did this for the other side, leaving a spot for the door.

Once the entire porch was framed out, Stephen measured and cut out OSB board to put on the outside of where the walls would be.

NOTE: Something we learned along the way! My mom had originally bought window screens and Stephen built the frames to accommodate those- this was supposed to be a simpler way to build a screened-in porch. Window screens like these:

This is why there is a small solid wall on either end of the porch- this was excess space that wouldn’t accommodate a pre-built screen. The problem we realized after getting into it was… the concrete floor isn’t level. It’s made to tilt slightly down to push any water away from the house. Stephen had built the frames according to the very specific heights he originally measured, which actually slightly changes as you go down along the concrete. He didn’t realize that because of the variance in the frame, the screens wouldn’t work, as they couldn’t be altered for the change in slope. PANIC!!! All of the wood we had bought, plus the OSB, was already cut and installed!

Thank heavens for Google, right? Stephen figured out you can buy rolled-up screen kits that you can use spline and a roller tool to install it. This gave us the flexibility to have different heights of screen in each section! Whew! And the plus side is those side walls give the perfect amount of privacy from the very small section her neighbors would be able to see in, if they wanted to. We waited to do these screens until the very end.

The next step was adding in panel boards on the inside. These were huge sheets that Stephen cut out to fit each area precisely. It was like a puzzle… going around the porch and fitting in all these pieces until every part was covered!

Many of these panel boards were warped from being stored on top of wood. Luckily, you can push the warped areas in really hard and nail gun the heck out of it! It wasn’t perfect, but you really can’t notice it unless you know to look for it.
I took this pic from the inside… it looks like there’s glass in the frames, but I promise you we’re not that good! 😉

You can see that the cuts aren’t perfect… or maybe the floor isn’t perfect. Let’s go with the second one. 😉 Either way, know that caulk, wood putty and pieces of trim can absolutely be your heroes! You’ll see how we handled these cracks and unevenness later.

We’re getting there… next step is the outside siding! We opted for Hardiplank boards, which come in long pieces. They are very easy to install. You start at the bottom and nail it in where you want it. You need to decide ahead of time how much overlap you want, and keep it consistent. Stephen made a really cool tool that helped keep his measurements consistent… check back for more on that later. Installing Hardiplank is definitely a two person job!

Next, Stephen installed the door, and I helped him install the screens. It was tedious but not hard at all! And if you made a mistake, you could easily take the screen back out of the spline and start over. The hardest part was making sure you don’t slip out of the spline with the roller tool and accidentally cut the screen!

Once all the screens were in, we did the detailed fixings… fresh painting, adding trim, caulking. Can you see what a difference these things made to the panel boards from the picture before? You can’t see the cracks, uneven cuts, etc. I’m telling you- it helps to know you don’t have to start all over if something isn’t just perfect!

Are you ready for the grand finale?? Just to recap… here it was before:

And here it is now!

Isn’t this just an amazing transition?? I’m so proud of my hubby and actually being able to create this! Having a screened-in porch allows for so much more use- and I can guarantee you that my mom will be using it!

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