Friday, November 2, 2012

(Plastic) Enclosed Porch

This year we decided to enclose the front porch with plastic. Our hope is that doing this will achieve three goals: provide a warmer environment for the dogs, allow Andrea to over-winter some plants that would otherwise have to be brought inside, and allow us to better take advantage of sunlight through the window that opens onto the porch.

I had a vague idea of how to go about this project, but had previous experience with this sort of task. Fortunately we were able to do this while my Dad was visiting, so I was able to take advantage of his knowledge and experience. I believe that Andrea and I could have done the project ourselves, but it would not have been doing as well.

Our first step was to buy materials. I bought one 10' long 2x4 to serve as a temporary post on the back corner of the porch. I also bought ten 8' long firring strips, which were used for attaching the plastic. Lastly, I purchase one 10'x25' roll of 4 mil clear plastic sheeting. We also used some 1/4" staples and 1 5/8" drywall screws that I already had on hand.

My plan was simply to cut the plastic to size, fit it against the posts, then attach the firring strips on top to hold it in place. My Dad suggested, however, first stapling the plastic to the firring strips, then rolling then up in the plastic a few times, so that the screws would be going through several layers of plastic in addition to the wood. The roll of plastic we had was more than we needed, so we were able to use his approach with no issues. We began by stapling the firring strip to the top edge of the plastic, then rolling it a couple of times. We then attached the strip to the top beam of the porch roof using screws. Once the first piece was up we cut the excess plastic off of the bottom, leaving approximately 6 inches so we could roll the bottom strip in plastic. We then attached the bottom strip, rolled it, and stretched the plastic tight before attaching the bottom strip to the porch. The process for the sides was the same, although we did have to cut the plastic in the corners to allow us to fold it over the strips. We repeated the same process for the end of the porch, making sure to overlap the plastic where the two pieces met.

We had a few small pieces of wood left over from the strips we had to cut to length. We used those to reinforce the plastic, by putting screws through them, and through the plastic, into the center posts. This seems to have helped brace the plastic against the wind.

During the process of attaching the strips a small hole was made in the plastic. I didn't want to risk that hole being enlarged by the wind, so I patched it with clear packaging tape. I put a piece of tape on both the inside and outside of the plastic, over the hole. I am hoping that this is sufficient to keep the hole from getting any bigger.

I can definitely feel the effects of having the plastic up around the porch. The front corner, which is where Luke likes to lay, is very warm when the sun is out. The benefits would be increased if the porch were completely enclosed, but that was going to be more work and expense. Because we have steps on one end of the porch, we would have had to install at least 3 more 2x4 posts in order to enclose that end, and still leave an opening of the steps. If we wanted to completely enclose the end, by putting up a door for the steps, it would have required the addition of a 2x4 header to box in the area above the door. Depending on how well this works out, we may choose to completely enclose the porch next year. I think that what we have now, however, is a good place to start.

One thing that we did not anticipate was the decreased visibility from enclosing the porch in plastic. The 4 mil plastic lets plenty of light in, but does obscure the view. It is possible to make out shapes, but no real details can be made out of anything seen through the plastic. If we do not have any tears of the plastic this year, we may consider trying a thinner type next year that has improved visibility. If the 4 mil doesn't survive the winter, however, I can't imagine that we'd want to even consider using anything thinner.

We spent maybe 2 hours total on this project. The cost was just under $30. I doubt that we'll save $30 on our heating or lighting, but I still feel that it is well worth the cost. Knowing that the dogs have a warmer place to stay is worth a lot. The plastic will also keep the porch dryer, which, combined with the extra warmth, will make it more usable during the winter.

Since this original post I have made a couple of changes to my process for installing plastic around the porch. A post describing those changes can be found here.

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