When a hurricane or strong storm is coming, remove your screen panels. The more you remove, the better.
Some contractors recommend removing all screening from the chair rail to the eave — in other words, from 3 feet above the patio to 9 feet, all around.
Before the season begins, you should check all the fasteners for rust and replace if loose. If the enclosure has anchoring cables, make sure they and the bolts that hold them are intact and tight.
If you’re still not sure whether your screened enclosure was properly installed, hire a structural engineer to check it out. Though it could cost several hundred dollars, plus the cost of any retrofitting and repairs, it’ll be cheaper than replacing the entire structure.
Why screens fail: Q&A
Question: My enclosure survived past hurricanes. Does that mean I have nothing to worry about?
Answer: Luck may have a lot to do with it. It might have been protected by the house next door; it might have been toast had the wind come from another direction. And keep in mind that the hurricanes that hit South Florida in the past few years were well below the 140 mph winds that the building code requires enclosures to withstand.
Q. The Florida Building Code has tough wind-resistance rules for garage doors, windows and roofs. What about screen enclosures?
A. The Florida Building Code focuses on saving lives, not luxuries like pool enclosures. That thinking may change, as insured losses continue to mount.
Q. Does it matter what kind of screening is used?
A. Yes. The denser the mesh, the more bug protection — but the more likely your enclosure will catch the wind and break. For replacement screens, avoid using screen that’s more dense than 20-by-20 threads per square inch, the maximum allowed under the code. Pet-resistant screening and solid shading panels are even worse than dense screening. The most common screening used in enclosures is 18-by-14 mesh, which gives less shade and less bug protection, but also catches less wind.
Q. Why aren’t enclosures designed with removable panels?
A. The simple answer is the cost; removable screens can cost thousands of dollars, if you can find a contractor willing to make them.
— Tony Doris