Creating Shade on my Screened-in Porch

love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)April 26, 2014

My back porch faces due west. For years, I have been mulling over ideas of how to create some shade during the summer months. I have large, mature trees planted, but from about 1-3 pm, direct sun comes in through the screen before the sun drops lower than the tree-tops.

I have considered replacing the current screens with a stronger shade-version of screening, as well as hanging curtains or shower curtains (or painters drop-cloth), installing roll-down blinds, or installing lattice. I ruled out curtains as too flimsy, will blow around and will get dirty/mildew. I ruled out roll-downs because I won't roll them up/down daily - they will stay down during the summer. I ruled out both replacing the screens and building lattice as too big projects. I have scoured Pintrest and Google images for the right answer (for me and my skill set).

The project that excites me most is DIY tropical room divider linked below. I like the look of the shade and it allows some light through. And, I think I could build it and hang it. I would hang it from the wood frame inside the screen. I would love your ideas, comments and suggestions - especially if they relate to the construction. Or, if you have come up with a better solution at your house. Thank you so much, everyone.

Carol in Jacksonville

Here is a link that might be useful: Room Divider - DIY Tropical Style

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what about folding shutters,like for closets, but with movable louvers? you just need to move them up or down for more/less light. and they are easy to attach .
they are called plantation shutters.
that room divider is very flimsy - it won't stand up to any wind at all. you might as well just buy a rollup reed/bamboo 'chinese' shade - they are very cheap and easy to find. at least you'll be able to roll-it up if necessary.
found this in jax: looks similar to link, but folds

Here is a link that might be useful: folding 'screen' curtain for patio

This post was edited by petrushka on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 16:47

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:37PM
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if you google 'matchstick rollup' blinds - you'll see lots. target has them very inexpensive. i think it lets thru enough light without rolling it up and is sturdier then reed curtain.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:53PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

HI Petrushka - I always appreciate your replies because you always give me something to think about. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

I looked at free-standing screens/shutters after you recommended it. I've realized my problem is near the top (around 10' tall), not at the bottom, when the sun moves just west of the roof line. I really need something that is tall enough/hangs high enough to cover sun coming in at the top of the shade. I don't think something free-standing will do it. Also, I don't know how I will keep it from falling after a gust of wind. I don't want something that looks rigged up/tied up and looks junky.

Another big problem is that all of the supports for the screens - all the way around on all four sides - is aluminum. I don't have a way to attach anything to the aluminum. However, if I go in and just a little higher, I have a wood frame at the ceiling. That is where I was planning on going with the hanging screen. See photos below.

I don't mind the light-weight dividers blowing into the porch, away from the screen. That will be just fine. I am looking for something light-weight because I don't want to hang a lot of weight from the wood trim and I want filtered light to come through. So light-weight and flimsy is good from my point of view. Also, since this is designed to be fencing, I am thinking (and that could be my problem - thinking) that the string/cord that is used to hold it together is meant for outdoor use - so it should hold up to sunlight/weather for a few years.

Lastly, the knucklehead construction company that built my house (I wasn't around - I'm the third owner), apparently spaced the three large sections of screen across the back using the eyeball method! Shaking my head. The width of each large section of screen across the back varies by 4-6". If I used pre-fab blinds, that difference in width will become quite obvious. However, if I build my own from fencing and custom-cut the width, I can make the edge spacing (distance from the aluminum frame) standard and no one will notice.

I read the reviews on lots of those reed and bamboo shades at Lowes, Home Depot and Target and a frequent complaint is that the cord breaks. I am not looking to put these up/down anyway. I will roll them up and put them away in the attic from October - mid-April. They will hang at full length during the growing season.

I did consider bamboo beach mats but they only come in 33-36" width. The smallest width screen section I have is 4'7".

Here are some photos of the porch from a year or two ago when I was working on a different project. That is a 6-foot ladder in the photos.

Even though I may waste my time and end up looking like a first-grader made it, I am going to give my FFSs (flimsy fence shades) a try.

Thanks very much for your help!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Why not just do curtains? Put up some narrow iron piping/rods as a rod and use drop cloths or get some cheap ikea curtains. Pull them back and tie them when you don't need them.

If you want to get fancy you can get sunbrella material, but that would probably block too much light. You can bleach the canvas drop cloths to make them lighter.

Here is a link that might be useful: one example

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:46PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Hi writer,

I thought about painters' cloth curtains. I decided against them because:

1) I need the shade every single day in the afternoon from April - October so whatever I hang will need to stay open all the time. I don't like the look of the curtains when open. I have looked at tons of photos of porch curtains and everyone always takes photos of them tied back because that is when they look cutest/best. But I would never have them that way. They would always - every single day - be open.

2) The area is too exposed to rain - look at the very small roof overhang in the photos - and I don't want mildewed/molded curtains hanging there.

I do like the cheap cost of painters drop cloths, though. However, they are not as cheap as I would have hoped. I priced them yesterday in Home Depot and I guess they are onto the recent trend of using them as curtains, LOL.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 3:07PM
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thanks, carol! i just love to play with ideas.
there is a chinese shop in nyc, and they have online shop too - have a look at their reed roll-ups, they have them as wide as 72". i think it would be very easy to custom cut them with sturdy cutter or garden shears.
you can actually detach the ropes altogether, and still roll them up by hand.
i used to have smth similar. the main problem with matchstick/reeds is that they snag at the sides and bend and break.
so if you can cut some canvas strips (painters drop cloths will do), fold them and staple them thru with a stapler (the bending staples kind) around the edges - it would look good and protect the edges well.
often they have this type of edging on more expensive blinds.
you can prolly use duct tape as a cheap make-do alternative - should be easy to apply, first under, then fold over the edge.
you can spray the fabric with silicone spray like they use for shoes to make it water-proof and deter mildew.
post pics when done ;).
nice porch!
you can also just hang half-way screen to block only the top too.

Here is a link that might be useful: reed-rollup

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:47PM
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I get morning sun in the summer right into my living room. I put a white plastic slat roll-up blind on the outside of the window. It let's nice filtered light in during the day, blocks the sun, and I can still see through it. I really like how it looks. The blinds come up to 10' wide, and can easily be cut. I leave it down all summer, and roll it up for the winter. It lasts a few seasons and is easy to maintain. Since your porch trim is white, I think it would look very nice.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:28PM
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i thought of smth else: shade cloth like they use for greenhouses, hooptunnels. dewitt makes in sev colors, even in tan. this site even offers hemming services for edges.
you can staple it to a wood plank and then hang it up in 3 panels.
it comes in var grades (%) of sun-shading and also UV protection. there's silver, green, grey and now even tan.

Here is a link that might be useful: hemming for shade cloth

This post was edited by petrushka on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 21:37

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:35PM
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How about a tree outside the screen? I have a similar porch and have a Loquat tree right in the middle of the screen. It shades the afternoon sun (which is intense), yet lets air and light in.

I also have a large, potted Pachira (umbrella tree) sitting in the same spot, inside the screen. It shades the sun also.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:48AM
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I have a west porch with strong sun in summer and use the sunshade material on rollers. It is attached to wood trim and you can still see through the material a little bit, but it reduces glare and heat build up. It comes in different shade levels and does not seem to mildew so far.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 7:26AM
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Years ago I watched a show that wanted to divide a room, but couldn't put up walls. Anyhow, they purchased old doors and attached them with hinges to make them foldable. If you searched Craigslist or a fleamarket you're sure to find doors with character that would look marvelous on your porch. They wouldn't even have to match to add more charm! Just trim the bottom, if need be, to make sure they're all the same height. If you need to increase stability, adding blocks to create a leg-base would work too.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:59PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Thanks for all of the help, everyone! The suggestions are great and I will post back when I have something hanging. I found better blinds on sale at but still will be in for close to $100. I also like the shade cloth idea and could sandwich that between boards. I'm still (over-)thinking this and I'm concerned about the thickness of the ceiling trim boards from which I am going to hang this thing (see labeled photo below). I don't know if those ceiling trim boards are 1/2" thick, 3/8" thick, or what thickness. I don't know how much weight I can attach. I don't want to buy nice, long, heavy-duty stainless steel eye-bolts/eye-screws just to find out they are spinning around in air! I wonder if I need to use toggle bolts? I don't know how to get the answer to the question other than to drill a hole and shine a flashlight up there. I've posted the question to a number of do-it-yourself forums hoping that someone in construction can give me the answer.

Thanks again for all of the helpful comments! You guys are awesome.


Here is a link that might be useful: How Thick are Porch Ceiling Trim Boards?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 1:10PM
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you can drill a very narrow hole with the smallest drill bit - the little bit of wood that will come out in the drill bit will tell you how wide is the board. just hold a towel underneath, so you don't drop it to the floor.
you can patch the tiny hole and touch up with paint. you can drill it where you THINK you might position the fixture - so you can redrill in the same spot (no harm done).
however a reg toggle bolt is usually used for a range of thicknesses and will adjust to hold tight for whatever width you have. provided you have a space behind the board. which you should from the picture.
it will take the weight of plants/curtains, etc without a problem. toggle spreads the load.
google 'ceiling hook', 'plant hook', 'swivel hook', 'swag hook'.
any hardware store will have plant hooks - for the ceiling, they come with toggle bolts. they are cheap.
you can buy a metal or bamboo rod , attach the reed panel/shade cloth to it and slide it thru the hooks.
when your shade is down in winter you'll be able to use the same hooks for hanging baskets too! nice double duty.
if you go to drapery dept in a shop like 'bed bath and beyond' you can find a number of fittings that will take a rod and also var. rods that can be multi-purposed.
plain bamboo pole suitable size will be even cheaper.
you can probably find bamboo stakes thick enough for the purpose in the garden/nursery shop (bean poles/stakes).
look at pics of var shades to eye-ball hook position: not all the way to the side, but may be 6" off the side: so the rod won't sag in the middle.
look at var drapery fixtures for ideas on how to put it all together.

Here is a link that might be useful: here's a swag hook with toggle bolt

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Yes, I was thinking about this some more and what about aluminet?

I think the less opaque forms of it behave pretty much like cloth.

(I know nothing about that retailer, just the first place I found that had several different weights/opacities.)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 4:10PM
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i think it would look kinda industrial..may be put it on outside?
i do like their plastic clip-on grommets - in that link above..
you could clip it on any cloth/shade cloth and then just hang it on hooks, even without a header/rod.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:55PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

I finished the project. I'm soooo excited! They turned out exactly as I was hoping - what a surprise! I got them hung late yesterday and they are perfect. They let in some light but filter it enough to not burn the plants. I can't believe I built these!

Because they are exposed to weather, I used pressure-treated wood. It has to cure/dry three-to-six months and then I will stain and seal the boards.

I had originally planned to use sisal rope with fancy knots to hang between the hooks and the screw eyes but I don't think I will. They are fine as-is and I don't think they need to hang any lower.

The bamboo fencing is "sewn" together with wire, not thread, which I hope will give them longevity. It will take a few days to hang out straight. I have thin boards to screw across the bottom (as used in the original) but I have decided against those, too. I don't think need them. I think they will all be the same length after they hang out straight.

A good breeze was blowing as I got these hung and they don't move at all. I don't know if it is due to all of the air space between each stick of bamboo or the stiffness of the wire, but they sure don't bang or fly around. I even had the side door open the whole time. That is a pleasant bonus.

This afternoon will be the first shade-use! Yay!

Carol in Jacksonville

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 10:01AM
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nice! but we need to know the details :).
did you use toggle bolts?
i think i see simple screw-in hooks into the top frame (anchor?) and then a mat sandwiched between 2 boards. and how did you hang the boards onto the hooks?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 9:23PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Carol, you did such a great job! congratulations and I am sure that you are enjoying the shade in your porch.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 7:34AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Petrushka and Silvia, thank you so much. I'm as shocked as anyone, because most things I make turn into scraps. Or as my mother used to say, "I spend the day making rags", LOL!

The shades did their job yesterday. I was working in the back yard in the afternoon and I couldn't stop smiling because I'm so happy it actually works.

Petrushka, if you go to the link in my very first post, it will lead you to the blog with the original (my inspiration) and the instructions. I used screw eyes (some people call them eye bolts but they are not bolts, they are screws) in the frames. I used screw hooks in the ceiling. Right now, the screw eyes are placed directly into the hooks. I did buy sisal rope to use between. The plan was to make some fancy knots and I may still do that... but it may take me awhile to get six sets of fancy rope knots made. :)

I used a single piece of fence, 6' x 16', sold for around $25 at Lowes and Home Depot, and cut it into three pieces. Then I trimmed the sides of each piece of fence to fit the boards. The top boards are 1x4s and I have 1x2s for trim at the bottom. I still may attach the bottom boards for a more finished look. See the inspirational pictures for example.

Here are a few more photos:

These were temporary ropes until I could get the real ones cut and made. Then I tried hanging the eyes directly on the hooks and that is where I am today.

If I could, anyone could do this project!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 9:01AM
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perhaps instead of a wood plank you can attach a round bamboo stake/small pole to the bottom edge? it's probably lighter - so won't weigh down and stretch the reeds?
then you can add some hanging do-dads too! like a jingle-bells or earings or tassels. just kidding..

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 8:50PM
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You did a great job Carol and I bet it makes a big difference in the temperature inside the space.



    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 2:25PM
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Do you have a link to where I can find this fencing? I checked Lowe's and do not see it. I didn't realize that it could be bought in sheets. I've only seen the ready to hang matchstick blinds.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 7:34PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

The screen comes in a roll, covered in shrink-wrap. I purchased only one roll and cut it into three equal pieces. Here's some links - I hope you can find it!

Natural Reed Outdoor Privacy Screen
Item # 231190, Model # 839813, $24.47

Home Depot:
Backyard X-Scapes Reed Fencing
Item Model # HDD-DAN-RF01, $23.97

I have to say - this is working out absolutely beautifully. It doesn't blow or bang around - ever! It hangs in place, not a single reed has fallen out, it blocks the sun and my plants (and me) are happy. Good luck with the project!


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 8:19PM
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Thank you! it appears that my local Lowe's does carry the product.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 9:09PM
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Newhomebuilder, could you tell me what color paint you used in your kitchen with the cherry cabinets? (Saw pic on another older topic) I love it! Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 2:59PM
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