Screen house design
Our porch is built over a hefty
foundation of 6x6 preservative-treated
pine timbers sunk in a
crushed-rock base. Upright timber
posts at each corner are notched
and lag-bolted to the buried timbers.
Each post is also lag-screwed
to 2x6 treated joists. The joists hold
the posts firmly in place and provide
a decay-resistant framework
to elevate the cedar decking above
ground level. The spectacular open
rafter roof is supported by cedar
headers bolted to the posts and by
stationary doors fastened to the corners.
The curved corner brackets not
only provide elegant detailing to
each corner, but act as reinforced
structural bracing (whatever you do,
don't eliminate them).
Making the finely detailed doors
is simplified by building a jig to hold
the door parts square for accurate
and foolproof assembly. The same jig
also holds the door securely for
stretching the screen, stapling it to
the frame and then applying the decorative
Time, tools and cost
A project like this requires a fair
amount of carpentry experience. If
you've built a wooden yard shed, a
complex deck or an intricate fence,
you'll have the confidence to tackle
this project. It'll also take a huge
chunk of time, so plan to take a couple
of weeks off work along with a few
dedicated weekends (now is the time
to call in all those favors from friends
you've helped over the years).
You'll need basic carpentry tools
for this job, with additional help from
a table saw and router. You'll need a
couple of stepladders for this project
as well; we recommend a 6-ft. and a
12-ft. You may also want to rent a section of 6-ft.
scaffolding to help
with the roofing. Figure on spending
about $4,000 to $5,000 for materials (see Cutting
List in Additional Information, below) and get as much delivered
to your home as possible.
Figure A: Overall Details
The total size of the screen house at the roof is 18 ft. by 15 1/2-ft. A printable, PDF version of this plan is available in Additional Information (below). Note that building codes in some regions require
additional seismic and high-wind anchors. Ask
your building inspector about local requirements.
This is not a small-scale project. At its
longest points (the roof overhang) it
measures just over 18 ft. long and
15-1/2 ft. wide. Keep these numbers
in mind as you look for a place to nestle
your structure. We shoehorned
our screen house into the back yard of
an average-size city lot and crowding
the existing fence and surrounding
trees. This nestling effect made it look
as if the screen house grew into its
Before you do any digging, call
local utilities (gas, electrical, phone,
cable) to locate any buried lines. Also
make some plans to get rid of the
extra dirt and sod you'll dig up. We
ended up with about 1-1/2 cu. yds.
to haul away.
Completed screen house plan
Figure B: Completed view
Figure B shows the completed screen house. For a larger view, see Additional Information.
Once you've staked out your perimeter
on well-drained level ground (see
Fig. C for the foundation dimensions),
you'll need to dig trenches for the 6x6
treated beams (A). (Be sure they're .60
treated, rated for underground protection.
Special-order them if necessary.)
Follow the foundation plan in Fig. C for
the correct placement. Dig each trench
about 10 in. deep and 12 in. wide. Fill
each trench with about 5 in. of crushed
rock (we used crushed limestone
because it packs well).
Now cut the beams to length and lay
them in the trench (Photo 1). Level
them with each other and make sure
the diagonal measurements from the
ends of the two outer beams are equal.
This ensures that the foundation will
have square corners. The beams should
sit proud of the surrounding grade
about an inch so the joists that lie over
them can clear the soil. Once the beams
are in place, pour crushed rock around
them to lock them into position.
The next phase involves setting the
posts (B) onto the beams. First, cut
them to length and notch the bottom as
shown in Photo 2. Measure in from the
ends of the outer beams (A) as shown
in Fig. C. Get a helper to hold the
notched end of the post perfectly vertical
(plumb) on the beam and aligned
with the mark. Drill two 3/8-in. pilot
holes through the post and into the
beam. Now insert your lag screws
(1/2 x 5 in.) and washers and tighten
them (Photo 2). Repeat this for each
post. TIP: If you're working alone, you
can tack each post into position with
nails and 2x4 braces.
Now you can lay in the joists as
shown in Photo 3 and Fig. C. The joists
that connect to the posts must be cut
and blocked as shown in Fig. C. You
can cut and block each pair of remaining
joists, or you can overlap 10-ft.
joists on the center beam. Just be sure
the joists that butt against the posts are screwed to the posts with 1/2 x 3-1/2 in.
lag screws, and all the joists are toenailed
with three 16d galvanized nails where they
overlap each foundation beam.
To finish off the foundation, nail the
five-quarter (5/4) decking (D) to the joists
with 10d galvanized casing nails.
Figure C: Foundation Plan
The overall size of the base framing for this screen house plan is just under 18 ft. by just over 15 ft. For a larger version, see Additional Information.
The upper headers (E1, E2, E3 and E4) fastened
from post to post (Fig. D) are the
main support for the roof. The stationary
doors that fit later under the lower headers
(M1 and M2) help support the roof as well.
When you install the inner headers (E1
and E2), be sure your posts are plumb and
that the distance from post to post is identical
at the top and bottom of the posts. Lag-screw
(1/2 x 3-1/2 in.) the inner headers to
the posts as shown in Photo 5, then nail the
outer headers over the inner headers with a
pair of 10d galvanized nails every 16 in.
Figure D: Roof Framing
Bolt the upper headers to the screen house posts, as shown in this plan. Then add the rafters.
Think of these supports as a structural
skeleton to hold the roof skin in place.
Our roof has three basic types of
rafters: common, hip and jack. Pick
your lumber for the rafters carefully
because they'll be visible when the
project is finished.
The common rafters (Photo 6) are
all the same length and have the same
miter cut at the top and the same
“bird's-mouth” or notch cut near the
bottom. Cut them to the dimensions
in Fig. E and nail them to the ridge
board (F). Support the ridge board
temporarily with a 12-ft. 2x6 toenailed
to the decking and to the ridge
itself. The top of the ridge should be
roughly 123 in. up from the decking
(you may need to raise or lower it
slightly for a tight fit for the miter cuts
on the rafters). Once you like the fit,
fasten all the common rafters to the
ridge board with 16d galvanized nails.
Nail the rafters through the ridge
from the back to hide the nailheads.
The four hip rafters (Photo 8) rest
over each corner and meet the ends of
the ridge board. You'll notice that the
upper miter is a compound cut. This
miter angle differs from that of the
common rafters (Fig. E), and you'll
notice it has a 45-degree bevel cut on
each side along with the miter cut.
This allows the hip rafters to fit snugly
between the common rafters. The
bird's-mouth notch is also unusual
because it sits at an angle to the common
rafters. You can leave a bit of
extra length at the overhang of each
hip rafter and trim it to final length
once the other rafters are in place.
The jack rafters (Photo 8 and Fig.
E) rest on the header just like the common
rafters and have the same degree
measurement at the top. However,
the edge of the jack rafter has a
45-degree bevel (a cheek cut) so it fits
tight against the hip rafter. Toenail each of these cheek cuts to the side of
the hip with three 8d galvanized nails.
Note that the cheek cuts (Fig. E) on
each side of the hip rafter are mirror
images of each other.
When you're finished installing the
rafters, nail the subfascia (H1, H2) to
the tails of the rafters and install the
2x6 lower headers (M1, M2) directly
beneath the upper headers. Also nail
(8d galvanized casing) the 5/4 header
trim (M3, M4) to finish off the transition
between the upper headers and
the lower header.
TIP: Before you set the roof boards
over the rafters, nail temporary 2x4
braces on two sides of the structure,
from the middle of the header diagonally
to the bottom of the post. This
will minimize any racking during the
Figure E: Rafter Details
Follow the measurements shown here when you cut the hip, common and jack rafters. See Additional Information for a larger version.
Much of the beauty of the interior
comes from the 1x6 cedar
boards visible between the
rafters. These boards alone,
however, aren't enough to give
stability to the structure, so
they're backed with 5/8-in. CDX
plywood. The plywood also adds
enough thickness to keep the
shingle nails from poking
through the underside of the
First, nail the 1x6 roof boards
to the rafters (Photo 9) with 8d
nails. Start at the bottom flush
with the ends of the rafters and
work your way to the top, leaving
a 1/8-in. clearance between the
boards. Overlay the plywood
onto the 1x6 and nail it through
the plywood and roof boards
into the rafters with 10d nails.
Once the plywood layer is
complete, nail the finished fascia
(L1, L2) over the subfascia and
align it with the bottom edge of
the plywood. Next, roll on the
30-lb. roofing felt and overlap
each layer by 3 in. Then nail the
No. 2 cedar shingles to the roof
deck (Photo 11) with 4d galvanized
nails (follow the positioning
instructions that come with
each bundle). The first course of
shingles must be double thickness
and overhang the fascia (L1,
L2) by 1 in.
You'll need to trim the cedar
shingles to conform to the angle
above the hip as you lay them.
Once you've finished shingling,
cover the gaps over the hip by
ripping 4-in. wide pieces of shingle
to create a cap over the hips
Figure F: Eave Details
Construct the eaves and roof for the screen house as shown in this cutaway plan detail.
Making the doors is the most time-consuming
part of the project, so we broke
it down into manageable tasks. Since
you can build them in the garage on a
work table, it's the perfect job for rainy
First cut the door stiles (side pieces)
and the rails (upper and lower horizontal pieces) to length. Then set up a simple jig (Photo 12) to use with your router to make the half-lap joints on the ends of all the stile and rails. Use a 3/4-in. straight bit. If you have a table saw, you could make the half laps with a dado blade.
The next step is to set up a 3/4-in. thick,
4 x 8-ft. plywood work surface over a pair of
sawhorses. Use scrap wood to make blocks
(Photo 13) to hold the door parts square.
Before you apply screen to the door frames,
flip them over so the screws are on the back and
then staple the screen as shown in Photo 14.
Once the screen is applied to the doors, you can
cut the moldings (see Fig. G) from 2x6 cedar
(use a table saw) and nail them to the door
frame with small screen molding nails.
Figure G: Door Assembly
Build the door frame first, tack on the screen, and then add the bars and molding.
Installing the doors
Before you install the doors, nail the cleats to the
deck (Photo 16) and the upper doorstop to the
inside edge of the lower header. It's best to use a
string line to mark the deck to get the floor
cleats positioned in a straight line. To align the
doors properly in the opening, find the center of
each side and measure each door width (mark it
off on the deck) back to the corners.
You may have to trim each door's height
slightly to fit the opening. The stationary doors
should fit snugly, and the operable doors need
3/16-in. clearance on the bottom and 1/8-in. on
the top. Screw the corner doors to the post (the
door edge should cover roughly half the post),
the upper doorstop and the lower floor cleat.
The longer side has an additional door, which
should be positioned tight to the corner door
and nailed to the floor cleat and the upper
The operable doors (the double doors on the
front and back, and the single on the long side)
must be shimmed on the bottom and top
(Photo 18). This will hold them in place while
you screw the self-closing hinges to the adjacent
stationary door frame and the swinging door.
Remove the shims and make sure the operable
doors swing freely. To finish the door system,
you'll need to install the vertical stop (P5, P6,
P7) as shown in Fig. A to the back of the doors.
This trim runs from the floor cleats to the upper
doorstop, covers the gaps between the doors
and finishes off the interior.
Finish each exposed post with a cedar 2x4
and a 2x6 (T1 and T2; see Fig. H) that are ripped
to width and then cut to length. Be sure the
front of the screen house has the wider piece to
overlap the longer side post trim.
Back to Top
The corner brackets
Cut the bracket supports and the curved
corner brackets (U1, U2) as shown in
Fig. H. Notice that the top of the bracket
support is notched to fit over the header
trim. Screw the bracket supports
(predrill all these holes) to the corner
trim with 3-1/2 in. galvanized screws
(use three screws for each bracket).
Next, screw the curved corner bracket to
each bracket support (two screws on
each side) and to the upper jack rafter
(four 3-in. screws here).
Now you're ready to clean up the
work site and enjoy the rest of the summer
in your beautiful outdoor space.
Figure H: Corner Details
Lay out the corner brackets using the grid diagram, then cut and attach them according to the screen house plan shown here.