Installing Screens and Sliding Doors
The option of initially building screen windows, then converting them into sliding doors was incorporated into our plan. As a result, in this section we'll describe how to put the screens in -- then replace them with the sliding doors that really make the porch usable for at least three seasons of the year.
Nail in 2x4s to provide extra strength and horizontal sills for the screens. Snap chalklines across the trimmers and studs to mark the height of the sills 3 1/2' above the deck.
Start at the outside corner and work your way back to the house. That way you can hide nails better. Toenail first against the trimmer and then nail through the next screen stud. In our case, they're cut to the lengths we used to lay out the plates so they'll help correct any bowing in the studs.
Cut and paint or stain any trim boards before putting them over the screen. Cut the screening for the first opening -- allowing about 2" of overlap
Start by setting the screen over the framing and stapling in the upper right corner. Keeping the screen straight, work down stapling every 3" or so.
Then staple in the upper left corner and work down the left edge. Finish the section by stapling down the top and bottom. Cut away any excess. Cove the other openings the same way, overlapping the screens at the studs and sills.
After the paint or stain is dry on the trim boards, nail them over the framing. The trim binds the screens more securely to the framing and covers the staples.
Hanging Screen Doors
Cut the bottom plates out of the rough openings. To hinge the door, tack a pair of temporary stops 1-1/8" inside the jambs. Fasten the handle to the door so you can manage it better. Then, rest the screen door against the stop -- flush with the jamb. Then shim the door for proper height and gaps.
Mark the hinge locations on the door, then screw the hinges to the door. For a screen door, you should only need two hinges about 7" in from the top and bottom. Since the hinges lie on the outside edge, they don't have to be mortised. Just screw them in at their marks. Once the door is hung, check that it opens and closes properly. Plane down any tight spots. Remove the temporary stops and nail up the permanent stops around the sides and top of the door. Add any closer hardware.
Building Platform Steps
The heights of our deck doors didn't require a full set of stairs, but did need a "1-step" platform.
Measure down from the surface of the porch deck halfway to the ground or sidewalk and snap a chalkline across the rim joist at the platform's width.
Cut 2x4s or 2x6s to form the sides of the platform "box" (factoring in the thickness of the deck boards). Install joists inside the platform for extra support.
Slide the platform up against the rim joist chalkline and nail the platform into the rim joist. Nail on the deck boards across the joists.
Converting To Sliding Doors
Lets say you've now enjoyed your screen porch for a few summers and you're ready to convert the screens to sliding glass doors.
The glass will let you enjoy the porch earlier in the spring and later in the fall -- while still giving you a lot of breeze through their screens in the summer. If your climate is mild, a small space heater may keep the porch comfortable even in winter.
Remove the screen trim with a pry bar and take off the screening. Tear out the cross bracing members, cutting the nails with a reciprocating saw if necessary. Take off the screen door, stops and hinges. Remove the screen studs and save them for framing the door openings.
Once the screen framing is gone, you just need to add a trimmer (and maybe a spacer) on each side of the post on the outside wall. Just to be sure, measure all the new rough openings and adjust any of them that don't match up. After that, cut out all the bottom plates in the rough openings.
Test fit the door frame in the rough opening. Once it fits correctly, remove it and caulk along the bottom. Fit the frame into the opening and step down to seal the caulk. Then nail the lower corners down.
With a level against one jamb, make sure the sides are plumb and nail the top corner in place. Continue down the side, plumbing and nailing. Repeat this step on the other side to make sure the door sets level.
When both sides are nailed in, fasten the top flange across the door header. Hang the doors in their tracks with the screen on the outside.
You may want to consider air flow when choosing which doors to keep from opening. Only half the door can be opened to the screen, so it's a good idea to have openings across from each other to keep the breeze flowing through the porch.
If needed use 1x6 boards to cover the studs between the doors and put shakes over them to match the house siding.