Screens are a polarizing backyard feature. While many homeowners don't mind or even notice porch screens because the latest deck screening technology is so see-through, others detest them, viewing them as distracting barriers between them and their enjoyment of the beautiful outdoors.
What's not up for debate is that screens are a necessity for nature lovers in Maryland; Virginia; and Washington, DC, in order to actually enjoy nature for at least three months out of the year. Whether it's traditional porch screens, retractable screens, or even under-deck screens, screens are a necessary barrier for the three months out of the year when you'd otherwise be sharing that space with mosquitoes and other unwanted bugs. (Not interested in screens at all? Here's a cheap, easy way to keep mosquitos at bay.)
Your feelings about screens in general will probably play an important part in the decision between a fixed screen system and a retractable screen system. Most people are familiar with fixed screen systems, which simply hold your screen in place year-round. Motorized porch screens, though, such as Phantom Screens and Fenetex retractable screens, can be pulled up and down with just the press of a button using a motorized system.
Here are some pros and cons of both systems to weigh in your debate:
- Lower Price: As seen in this Bethesda home, fixed screens are the most cost-effective solution, making them a good choice if your primary goal is to get a good return on your investment when you sell the home. High-quality screening systems like SCREENEZE are affordable for most homeowners.
- Inexpensive to Maintain and to Repair: Fixed screen systems are fairly simple once they are correctly installed by a professional. Newer systems like SCREENEZE make repairs simple. You can address just the panel with the issue without having to reinstall the entire screen.
- Great Aesthetics: Many people are surprised by how good fixed screen look nowadays. Newer systems require fewer posts, and the screens are nearly see-through, providing a barrier that’s practically invisible but still bug-proof.
- Less Flexibility: For some, this is a major downfall; others don’t mind. These systems, though, are intended to be installed permanently for year-round use. During the eight or nine months you don’t truly need bug protection, your screens will still be up.
- Hard to Remove: Some fixed screen systems can be removed for seasonal use, but it’s something we don’t recommend to clients. Why? It’s a major hassle. First, it takes you at least a full day to remove all of them. If your porch isn’t ground level, this is even more difficult and time-consuming, involving climbing up and down ladders. Second, you have to find storage for the screens where they will be protected from potential rips or damage. Third, you have to go through the process again, in reverse, to put them back up!
- Eliminates the Need for a Door: A great example of this technology in action is this Northern Virginia home. You just hit a button, and the walls all go up! It’s a great feature that helps your living space feel wider.
- Wide Openings: The screens can span almost twenty feet, which means fewer (or no) columns.
- Seasonal: With the push of a button, you’ve transformed your screened-in porch into just an open-air, covered deck. This means you only have to use those screens for the months you typically need them: June, July, August, and maybe part of September. Those eight to nine months where bugs aren’t a worry, you don’t need to be bothered by the screen. It’s a great option for people who truly hate screens. Remember, you’ll still have the benefit of the roof to get away from the sun.
- Connect Two Porch Spaces: If you have an exterior porch or deck alongside your ground-level screen porch, retractable screens are an ideal way to connect the two. Simply open the screen to take advantage of one larger area. Put the screen down if you want it to act as a wall between the two spaces.
- More Expensive: Substantially more expensive, retractable screens are typically at least five times as expensive as fixed screens. For just one motorized system, the typical cost is $3,000, and you’ll need three systems (for the three “walls”) in most screen porches. That’s around $10,000 for your project. Compare that to the average cost of $2,000 or $3,000 to install a quality fixed screen system.
Want to get screens out of your life as much as possible? A retractable screen system has many benefits that make it worthwhile, so long as you can afford the investment. It’s also important, however, not to assume you hate screens if you haven’t seen a new fixed screen system installed in recent years. You might be surprised by how unobtrusive it truly is, even if you do have to put up with it all year long.