Mosquitoes can break up an outdoor party a lot quicker than you can cook up the gumbo you’ll serve to your guests.
These uninvited party guests buzz and bite until everybody moves indoors or calls it quits for the night.
The solution: Screens.
Made from tightly woven mesh, fitted screens that enclose a porch, patio or deck will keep all of summer’s bugs in the yard and out of the party.
Especially on patios with outdoor kitchens, you’ve got to keep the bugs away from the food.
My friend Robert Reneau says this time of year—when the weather’s nice but the mosquitoes aren’t biting yet—is when you should consider protecting your patio.
Reneau, of Sew Elegant Designs in the Home Design Center on Fern Loop, asked me to pass a few tips along that might help you as you decide whether to install screens:
1. If you really want to keep the bugs out, you need screens that fit into some sort of a welded track so the corners zip together. If you just hang flapping screens that don’t connect to each other on the corners, bugs will fly in through the openings on the corners.
2. Instead of installing permanent, stationary screens, opt for a system that allows you to roll the screens up on nice days and on bug-free nights, and to roll them down when the mosquitoes are biting. Some come with motorized up/down buttons, and others have hand cranks.
3. As long as you’re investing in screens, let them do double-duty. Choose screens that not only keep the bugs out, but also shade you from the sun. Reneau likes products made from PVC-coated polyester and designed to reduce heat transfer through windows. They reduce glare and harmful rays from the sun, which can cool off your patio on hot summer days and also prevent your patio furniture from fading.
4. While you’re keeping the sun and bugs out, don’t block your view. Choose a screen that allows you and your guests to see out, even as the material prevents the sun’s rays from coming in. Before you buy, ask about “openness”; that is, how much of the sun’s ultraviolet rays does the mesh keep out, and how well can you see through it? The optimal combination, suggests Reneau, is 90 percent visibility, while letting in only 10 percent of the sun’s harmful rays.
5. You can install shades on an existing patio, but you might have to add posts to support the tracks and hold the screens up. If your patio has straight columns, the system will probably fit them, but columns that are bowed or tapered might not be well-suited. Also, if your patio isn’t covered, consider adding a roof or investing in a system that includes a retractable awning.
6. If you’re building a patio, ask your contractor to consult with a screen vendor before building. With good planning, the contractor could hide the track in the porch wall so it’s invisible.
7. You’ll need ample space from ground to roof for the shades to work properly. Reneau advises having a shade specialist measure and install the shades so they will fall squarely into the tracks and operate properly. “You can buy a very expensive shade that will not fit,” he says, adding the installation isn’t a do-it-yourself job.
8. Most outdoor screens and shades are water resistant, so if you pull them down during a light rain, you’ll be able to sit outdoors—and your screens won’t get ruined. But mesh is not a solid fabric and is not waterproof, so wind-blown rain will still find its way onto your screened-in space. Still, invest in a brand that is sturdy enough to hold up well against the wind, even though it won’t be waterproof.
9. You might be used to peering through the black screens in your home’s windows, but Reneau doesn’t recommend black for outdoor shading. Instead, look at the surroundings, and choose a shade color that matches the décor.
10. Expect to pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for your outdoor shades, depending on the size of your porch and the options—like a motor—that you choose.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.