Nothing beats a front or back porch for enjoying the outdoors. Do you leave your porch open or screen it in?

Should you screen your porch?

To many, decks and porches are extensions of their living spaces. Sitting on the porch, especially in the heat of summer, is the best way to cool off and relax after a day of work or working in and around the house and yard.

Depending on your preferences and where you live, you might prefer an open porch, to really enhance the feel of moving outdoors. Especially when it comes to your front porch, you want a friendly, inviting welcome to your home. It’s a place where you can watch your kids play and wave to neighbors who walk or bicycle by in early evening.

But let’s say you live on a busy street or have ongoing problems with moths and mosquitoes that make your porch time less relaxing. Adding a low wall with screens or windows above gives you most of the view, but a little more privacy and a lot less buzzing and biting. You can’t beat a back or side sleeping porch, screened in to keep bugs and critters out and large enough to accommodate summertime sleepovers for kids or grandkids.

Pros and cons of screening in the porch

When you enclose your porch, there is the added cost of screens, along with the maintenance. And having screens can obstruct some of your view. If you do it yourself, you might get frustrated with the installation and sagging screens. But sliding curtains, professional help with the project or shopping for ready-made or easy-to-install DIY screens can be a solution.

Still, in many areas of the country, screens are essential much of the year. If your porch is on the back of a home in the mountains, you can still enjoy it. But so will the raccoons…and skunks…and bears… and you get the message.

If you prefer the open look, especially for the front porch, a ceiling fan can keep away flies and you can hang mosquito curtains during the peak pest season. Citronella candles or torches also keep the bugs away, and some versions of LED bulbs attract fewer bugs. Of course, if you’re stargazing, you want low or few lights on at the time.

Design tips

It’s always a good idea to sit on your porch plans. Or at least have a seat on your favorite chair, bench or swing and have someone measure how high they can take railings or supports for screens before swinging hammers. There’s nothing worse than building a great screened-in porch at your ocean or lake house, and sitting down to toast your accomplishment, only to realize that the lake or ocean has now disappeared behind the wall.

If the main reason you want a porch is for stargazing, think about your roof, regardless of how open you leave the sides. Try an open-slat or pergola design, depending on your house style, on a portion of your porch so you can see through to clear skies at night. If you want to screen the porch in for added comfort and security, then try a few clear skylights.

Best of both worlds

If you can afford it, a wrap-around porch, or one that wraps partially around your house, is always a crowd pleaser. If you’ve got more than one view or want to enjoy being outside at different times of day, nothing beats having shade and sights on a few sides of your home. So maybe enclose one end — the least private side or the one where the rain usually strikes the house — and leave the rest open.

Make your screened-in porch perfect for year-round use by adding shutters to keep out rain and cold or heat, but swing open when you want the outside to flow in. Enclose all of it with windows, which makes it more like a sunroom. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, assuming it’s in the right spot and the type of room you want!

Movable walls on tracks give you open decks or porches when you want them, and close up the porch when you want views, but privacy and warmth. Just adding a fireplace on one wall warms you up on chilly nights for an open or screened porch without having to move all the way outside.