How to Properly Install and Use Outlets in a Screen Room in Washington, DC

Posted in: Screen Porch, Screen Porch Tips, Screen Porch in Maryland, Screen-Porch Design Tips, porch topics, screen porch products, porch add-ons, outdoor accessories, Screened Porch in Virginia, Outdoor Lighting, building a deck, Electrical, Screen Room

James Moylan

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

screened room with recessed lights in a tongue-and-groove ceiling in maryland

What are the top 12 considerations for Installing and Using Outlets in a Screened-In Porch?

Installing exterior outlets in your screened-in porch might seem like a minor design detail, but this process actually presents a few unique challenges to be aware of. Consider the following information when designing the layout of your outdoor space and making final decisions about which amenities to include.

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1.  Outlets and Building Codes

One vital thing to keep in mind regarding outlets and your screened-in porch is that you must have at least one outlet on your deck in order to be compliant with building codes. If your original design plans didn’t account for or include an outlet, you’ll need to slightly tweak those plans to include one.

If you’re enclosing an existing space in your backyard to create your new screened-in porch, the plans often end up covering the existing exterior outlet. If that’s the case, again, you’ll need to devise a place to install a new one in order to stay fully compliant and to code.

2.  Limited Space in a Screened-In Porch

Perhaps one of the biggest outlet-related challenges with a screened-in porch is that you’re often somewhat limited as to where you can put them. In interior spaces, you have plenty of options for outlet placement, but in an exterior screen porch, there are simply less viable places.

3.  Columns and Posts

The most logical place for outlets usually ends up being the columns and posts of the exterior structure, but this setup does come with a few disadvantages. For one, because it’s an exterior environment, you’ll need a cover over each outlet. These covers stick out a bit from the mounting surface, take up space, make it difficult to push furniture flush against them, and are not the most attractive solution.

The other issue is that outlets can’t be added to counter posts because you’re dealing with rails and other structural impediments. This means you’re even further limited to using mid-span columns.

4.  Floor

Homeowners often wonder whether putting outlets on the floor is the solution to this problem. Even on the floor, however, you’re still dealing with those exterior covers, and that means any floor-installed outlet would present a serious tripping hazard. In addition to the tripping danger, inspectors are also reluctant to OK floor outlets because of the potential of water getting in.

This design roadblock often catches homeowners off guard because none of these issues or considerations apply to interior outlets. Inside the home, outlets can be on walls or on floors, and they’re always flush against the mounting surface, meaning they simply don’t present the same safety issues as exterior outlets.

5.  House Wall

One viable option for exterior outlets is the actual house wall. It’s a proper structural wall, so outlets can safely be installed here, but you will need to deal with the minor touch-ups associated with that (drywall repair, repainting, residing, and so on).

6.  How Many Outlets Do I Need in My Screened-In Porch?

Given the unique challenges of installing outlets in your exterior living space, it pays to really consider how many outlets you need in that space. To get a good sense of this, think about how you’re going to be using that space on a day-to-day basis. What amenities are essential, and what activities will be done most often in this area?

7.  Laptops and Phones

If you’re only going to be using the exterior space casually, you probably don’t need dedicated outlets for your laptop or phone. The battery life should suffice for the amount of time you’d use the devices outside. If, however, you work from home, for example, you might be using that exterior space to work for many hours on end. In that case, you probably would want an outlet to plug in or to recharge your electronics.

8.  Lamps

If this exterior space is going to be a dedicated reading nook, think about how much light you want in that area. One (or more) lamps could help ensure you can use the screen porch how you envision. If you think natural light will suffice for casual or infrequent reading, an outlet meant specifically for lamps might not be necessary.

9.  Television

If you want a television in your outdoor living area—a device that’s quickly becoming one of the most common additions to these spaces—an outlet for that amenity will be necessary. If you’re not a big TV watcher in general or if you don’t think you’ll often utilize that option outdoors, a television (and its associated outlet) could be omitted from your design.

10.  Speakers

For many, speakers and audio systems are an integral part of an outdoor space. Whether you’re using them during parties or for personal enjoyment, consider all your audio options—both wired and wireless. If you want to avoid a dedicated outlet for speakers, think about options like Bluetooth speakers or portable radios. If you want something even more substantial, an in-wall speaker system could do the trick, but it will likely require an outlet.

11.  Grilling Station

Outdoor kitchens are increasingly becoming as sophisticated and personalized as interior kitchen areas, and one common addition to these spaces is a grilling station with an outdoor rotisserie. If you’re big into entertaining, this could be an invaluable addition to your outdoor living space, but it will require installing an outlet near that grilling area. Make sure to talk through the logistics of kitchen layout with your design and build firm to ensure your vision is possible.

12.  Retractable Screens

The convenience of retractable screens is appealing to many homeowners, but keep in mind these are electric-based devices. An outlet will be necessary to operate any of these screens you wish to have installed.

Just as the design, layout, and aesthetics of every screen porch will be different, the ideal number of outlets will vary from structure to structure. Knowing the unique challenges of installing exterior outlets, however, can help you make important design- and layout-related decisions about your screened-in porch.