Do You Really Need insect Screens?

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I’ve spent most of my 45-year career designing and selling beautiful windows and doors.  Most of them have been mostly glass with relatively thin frames.  Architects usually specified them because they fit into the modern, delicate aesthetic of their design.  Then the owners review everything and says how about insect screens?  When I hear that question, my shoulders slump, my smile disappears, and I think to myself, “If you are truly rich and powerful, why can’t you control the flies and mosquitoes without screens.”

Of course, I can’t utter those words out loud, because if the house is going to be in almost any American community, flying pests are a problem during the nice weather.  Need notwithstanding, screens muck up elegant window and door design.  They are a necessary evil in the window and door industry.  There are good options for handling them and some cases where they are just not necessary.  Being judicious about where they are used and what kind of screens are used can mitigate the annoyance of screens.

For windows, fixed frame screens are the default standard.  That means that the screens, while removable, usually sit in the window all year long and you look through the screen mesh all the time.  Removing and storing them is a real pain in the butt and promises to do it are usually soon forgotten.  On out-swing casement windows, simple twist and push (simplex) handles can’t be used because the screen needs to be on the inside.  You get around this problem by changing the hardware to roto operators at the sill and compression cam fasteners on the lock jamb, but they don’t always work so well and the rotos are kind of ugly in my opinion.

Other work arounds are to replace the aluminum or fiberglass screen fabric with bronze wire which is thinner and organically ages to a blackish finish.  The other option is to use hinged screen frames or rollup screens where the fiberglass screen mesh rolls up into a canister like an old-fashioned shade.  Then the homeowner and architect will try to have you hide the track and canister so that they can function, but not be seen.  All this to keep the little buggers away from the inside of the house when you want fresh air.

Doors are the more interesting area for me.  To correctly ask about screens on doors you need to analyze how the door is being used.  Unlike windows, doors primary reason for living is to allow for free passage between two spaces.  On the exterior walls, it is for egress.  This means that ventilation is only a secondary purpose.  Beautiful front entrance doors almost never need screens and neither do garage doors . . . why bother.  Sliding doors and French doors to the outdoor patio spaces are another case because they often also serve ventilation almost as much as egress.  Again, sliding screens can be used, but they never go away on at least half of the opening.  Side rolling screen are an option for doors.

Very large sliding and folding screens can incorporate pleated screen assemblies at the jambs, but again, you really need to decide how the door is being used.  If you have a 20 or 30 foot-wide opening that is designed to fully open, it is most often used for free access between the inside and outside.  On those occasions, the opening and closing of a screen door is not very practical.

At 2Fold® we offer pleated screens for larger openings and side rolling screens for smaller single and French doors if you need them.  We only ask that you think carefully about how you will use the fully opened door to decide how important they really are.  I still hate flies, mosquitoes, AND screens.

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