Outdoor living is a must for many homebuyers today. For homeowners planning to stay put, perfecting the yard, patio or porch for relaxation, meals and entertainment is at the top of home improvement plans.
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But if you live in a buggy part of the country, that outdoor living gets less pleasant when evening arrives and mosquitoes come out. Rather than forfeiting your outdoor living space, you can screen in your porch or deck to keep the bugs away.
But a screened-in porch or deck comes with more options — and possibly a larger budget — than you may expect. Here’s what you need to know about the cost of a screened-in porch or deck.
How Much Does a Screened-In Porch or Deck Cost?
When looking at average costs online, you may get excited at the prospect of a low-cost project — HomeAdvisor reports the average cost to screen in a 200-square-foot porch is between $2,000 and $2,800.
But unless you already have a solid, well-maintained porch and roof already in place and all you’re missing is the screen, you’ll get estimates from professionals that are closer to 20 times that amount.
“Our average screened-in porch is about $65,000,” says James Moylan, president and CEO of Design Builders Inc., a builder specializing in outdoor living spaces based in Bethesda, Maryland.
The biggest contributing factor to the cost discrepancy, Moylan explains, is that most existing decks aren’t able to be screened in, because many counties and municipalities require that “a screened porch that has a roof structure is zoned like an addition.” This means adding more specific design, architecture and engineering requirements, longer lead times and careful inspections on the structure to your plans.
Will a Screened-In Porch Add Value to Your Home?
Because so many homebuyers are looking for a finished space to enjoy the outdoors, improving your deck, yard or home exterior is a good idea. But whether a screened-in porch will specifically add value depends more on where you live, according to Mischa Fisher, chief economist for Angi Inc., which is the parent company of Angi and HomeAdvisor.
“In areas like Florida or the Midwest where mosquitoes and other pests are potentially a year-round problem, having a dedicated outdoor screen area is going to be more appealing (and therefore add more value) than in climates with fewer pests like the West Coast,” Fisher wrote in an email. “In fact, in an area where pests are not a problem, you might even reduce the desirability and value of your home by adding a screen obstruction to the outdoor view when it’s not needed to enjoy the outdoors.”
Factors that Impact Your Screening Budget
To determine the budget needed to achieve the screened porch of your dreams, there are a few key factors to consider:
— Existing structure. “Screening a porch or deck can be relatively simple if you’re just looking (at) adding screening to an existing porch with an existing roof. However, if you need to add a roof or want to upgrade to motorized retractable screens or solar screens, the project can become more complex and more expensive,” Fisher says.
— Complexity. While the total square footage will affect the price, Moylan says the complexity of the project and materials are more likely to affect the price. If your screened porch has a balcony above it or the porch itself is on a second story, a more complex project will drive up the total cost.
— Additional features and finishes. Moylan describes the features and finishes you choose for your screened porch as a layering effect: You can get the bare structure with decking and screens, and then add flooring, ceiling, electrical wiring, gas hookup and more. “Once you start layering it, that’s where you really see that massive price difference. But it’s the same usable square footage in the same space,” Moylan says.
— Where you live. Like many other home improvement projects, typical costs are heavily dependent on where you live. The availability of construction labor, population density and proximity to shipping or trucking hubs can all play a role in the bottom line of the project.
— Local zoning and permit requirements. Many local governments treat a screened porch with a roof as an addition to the home, and it must be approved and permitted as such. This adds time and money to the project to handle the administrative aspects, along with getting the architectural or engineering expertise needed to sign off on plans.
Materials Cost Breakdown
You may be able to meet your budget by carefully considering the materials you choose that make up the screened porch:
— Screen type. Moylan says most screens used today are fiberglass, which runs between $4.50 and $5.50 per square foot, according to Angi. However, there are also aluminum screens, costing $5-$7 per square foot and solar screens costing $4.50-$7 per square foot, according to Angi.
— Screen frame. While you may not think of the wood needed for screen framing as a pricey part, recent lumber prices are creating an obstacle for all construction projects. “Framing lumber to build a screen frame has come down from its peak price a few months ago but is still higher than in the years leading up to COVID-19,” Fisher says.
— Decking. Requiring even more wood is the deck you would need to build, if you don’t already have a functioning porch with a roof. As with the lumber for your screen frame, expect higher prices and unavailability of some types of wood, at least for now. “We tell customers to pick out three colors that they like just in case the first one is not available — then they have a backup,” Moylan says.
— Roof. A roof or cover for your screen porch will likely cost $3,200 to $6,000, according to HomeAdvisor.
Additional Costs and Factors to Plan For
You may have mapped out your budget for the bare bones of the screened porch, the survey and permits, but there’s a good chance you have other costs to consider. Keep these extra costs in mind for your screened-in porch or deck:
— Electrical wiring. You’ll need electricity in your screened porch if you want a fan, TV, heaters or other features that will make your outdoor living space more pleasant. If you have more than a simple light or fan, Moylan says you’ll need a circuit added to your electrical panel. “For two heaters you’re spending $4,000-$5,000 on the heating system,” Moylan says.
— Motorized screens. Plenty of homeowners like the option of a screened-in porch, but want to be able to raise them as well. Retractable screens that run on a motor are estimated to cost $2,000 to $4,000 per unit, according to HomeAdvisor.
— Outdoor kitchen. For many, outdoor living is not complete without having a kitchen setup to take outdoor cooking beyond the grill. “The typical outdoor kitchen setup is going to be $15,000-plus, easy,” Moylan says.
— Fireplace. Instead of a heater, you may like the idea of having an outdoor fireplace. HomeAdvisor reports the average outdoor fireplace costs around $3,000. Expect a gas or electric fireplace to come with the additional cost of electrical wiring or gas hookup.
— Luxury finishes. Every part of your screened deck can become more expensive depending on the finish you choose. Stone facades over a post, decorative ceilings and even luxurious railings are common finish options people are willing to pay more for.
— Timeline. Whether it’s the permitting process, the wait for materials to be delivered or contractor availability, expect your screened-in porch project to take a while to start. In the Washington, D.C. metro area, Moylan says it takes about 60 days, on average, to get permits for a project. But availability requires plenty of advance planning — Moylan’s company is booking projects in August that won’t begin until March next year. Before reaching out to contractors, lower your expectations on how fast things can get done. “Give it a year, honestly. You’re going to need to be super, super patient,” Moylan says.
— Unexpected discoveries. You can always plan that something won’t go to plan when a major home improvement project is happening. Leave room in your budget and timeline for soil issues, the discovery of rot or termite damage on an existing porch, shipping delays and anything else that can come up unexpectedly.
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How Much Does It Cost to Add a Screened-In Deck or Porch to Your House? originally appeared on usnews.com
Correction 08/17/21: A previous version of this story used the incorrect name for Angi Inc.