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, D.C. to actually enjoy nature at least three months out of the year. Whether its traditional porch screens, retractable screens, or even under-deck screens, screens are a necessary barrier the three months out of the year where you'll otherwise be sharing that space with mosquitoes and other unwanted bugs.
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. But motorized porch screens, 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 with this Bethesda home, It’s the most cost-effective solution, making it a good decision 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 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.
- Look Great: Many people are surprised by how good they look nowadays. There are fewer needs for posts than with older systems, 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. But these systems are intended to be installed permanently for year-round use. That means, during the 8 or 9 months that you don’t truly need bug protection, your screen 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 on 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 neat feature that helps your living space to feel wider.
- Wide Openings – The screens can span almost 20 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 can just use those screens for those months where you typically need it: June, July, August, and maybe part of September.
- No Screen When You Don’t Need It – Those 8 to 9 months where bugs aren’t a worry, you don’t need to be bothered by that screen. It’s a great option for people who truly hate screens. 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. You can simply open the screen to take advantage of one larger area, and you can put the screen down if you want the screen to act as a wall between the two spaces.
- More Expensive – Substantially more expensive, retractable screens are typically at least 5 times as expensive as fixed screens. For just one motorized system, the typical cost is $3,000, and you’ll need 3 systems (for the 3 “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 if you can afford the investment. But it’s also important not to assume that you hate screens if you haven’t seen a new fixed screen system installed in recent years. You may be surprised by how unobtrusive it truly is, even if you do have to put up with it all year long.
For more examples, you can see our screened porch portfolio here.