Want to use your screened porch before summer?

February 15, 2012

You may have a screened in porch that is a wonderful place to hang out in the summer but is too cold the rest of the year. Enclosing it with windows can extend the porch's usefulness for several more months while maintaining the room's outdoor view. So, what kind of glass or windows can you use?

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Window options for a porch conversion

When converting a porch to a room, the screened spaces between the columns supporting the porch roof become the window openings. You can enclose these spaces with anything from simple storm windows to custom-sized replacement windows and a number of options in between. Here's a run-down of the various kinds of windows used for a porch conversion:

Full panes of insulated glass -- This is an expensive option. The glass must be tempered, but can be ordered to fit the exact size of the openings. Full panes provide the most visibility because there are no window parts to obstruct the view.

Storm windows -- Storms come with screens that are accessed by raising the glass panels. They are the least expensive option, but also the least energy-efficient because they are single-glazed and don't have enough weatherstripping to prevent air leakage. If it's cold outside, storm windows keep the room only marginally warm.

Traditional replacement windows -- With their 3 ¼-inch frames, replacement windows fit nicely into the depth of the support columns, which are usually made from 4-by-4 or 6-by-6 posts. However, while screens and even storm windows can accommodate the large openings between the posts, the energy-efficiency of replacement windows that size would be compromised. The openings have to be framed in to accommodate smaller, more effective replacement windows. Visibility may be lessened because typically the meeting rails are positioned in the middle of at least 1/3 of the window, so when opened, there is a bar at the sight line.

Custom-made windows -- Custom windows can be designed with a large, upper fixed-glass area and a lower operating sash with a screen. The fixed lite is about 80 percent of the total glass area while the sash is only about 20 percent. This proportion allows for maximum visibility, plus an option to ventilate with little disruption of sight lines.

Whichever option you choose to convert a warm-weather-use, screened porch to a three-season room, make sure your design affords maximum use and maximum visibility. You'll be rockin' on (your porch) into winter.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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