Unity Blog

Unity’s Screened Porches

Home should be more than a living space. It should be a place of calm, joy, and inspiration. Have you ever sat outside to enjoy the peace, only to swat a mosquito away from your forehead and get drizzled on by rain? A screened porch is a versatile gathering space for enjoying the outdoors, while providing comfortable protection against the elements. If having a nook to store garden boots, play card games, and sip a cup of coffee sounds appealing, you may want to consider a screened porch as a part of your future Unity home.  

Predesigned Craftmanship 

Since Unity homes first started in 2012, over half of our clients have chosen to add a screened porch into their home design. The porch is a predesigned element, not an add-on, built to compliment our design platforms. 

When a screened porch gets incorporated into one of our designs, we know all the parts, how it will attach to the main volume, how long it will take to build, and what it will cost. Working within Unity’s design system allows for a high degree of cost and time predictability, without sacrificing quality. Our screened porches are fabricated off-site in our reliable factory setting to ensure the highest level of craftsmanship and installed during the rapid on-site home assembly. 

What Makes a Unity Screened Porch Different? 

What sets our screened porches apart are the materials we use. Port Orford Cedar is a premium wood, widely recognized for its quality and appealing scent. It is one of the rare light-colored woods that is naturally resistant to decay, which makes it an excellent choice for our screened porch kits. It is twice as hard as the more common Western Red Cedar, stronger, and more resistant to insects. The species grows in a small area along the coast of Oregon and Northern California and has a rich history of use in stadium seating, indigenous sweat lodges, and even Japanese temples.  

We source the material from a small family sawmill, with whom we (and our parent company Bensonwood) have worked closely for more than 3 decades. That close relationship has given us confidence that the wood is harvested in harmony with our sustainability standards, while ensuring a beautiful screened porch that will last. We also use non-toxic coatings and stains, such as Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey, which is made from milk whey and leaves a durable finish safe for people and pets. We finish the panels off with powder-coated extruded aluminum inserts and optional tempered storm glass to ensure this is a space that you’ll be able to enjoy for the long run. 

Factors to Consider Before Building 

A screened porch can be incorporated into any of our 5 design platforms; Tradd, Värm, Xyla, Zum, or Nano. For a Streamlined Unity home, options for customizing screened porches are limited. If pursuing the Personalized design path, there is more room for customization. There are some considerations to think through prior to entering the design phase if you plan on taking the Personalized path.  

It is beneficial to think through what time of day you plan on utilizing the porch, which affects the design placement. Do you have a lakefront you want to face? Want a western-facing sunset view? Are there spaces within the house where direct sunlight is less important? Another factor to consider is the square footage. Our screened porches range from 8×12 up to 12×24, with options depending on the chosen design path and costs increasing along with the square footage. A larger space can accommodate two doors, more panels, and increase the functionality of the space.

There is also the option to extend year-round living with a three-season screened porch, which requires tempered glass storm panel inserts. By switching out the screened panels with glass panels during the change in seasons with our easy-to-use twistable clips, the porch can be enjoyed all year round. This is a great option for maximizing the space even in the colder months, especially in New England! One other consideration is deciding whether to use a woodstove in the well-ventilated porch area, which can make for a cozy ambience without affecting indoor air quality with particulates. 

Our Unique Building Process 

Our woodworkers begin the screened porch process by machining and assembling rough-sawn Port Orford Cedar to size in the shop – and yes, it smells great! Wood boards that are even a hint off-color are not used to avoid any potential mold growth in the future. The end caps, mullions, trim, stiles, railing, and threshold are all milled, using the CNC Routech to precisely cut the tenons to their final size and profile. Then the panel joining and gluing takes place, typically resulting in 4-8 panels depending on the design. They also prepare 1-2 doors which are completed with oil-rubbed bronze or satin black hardware finishes. The woodworkers take great care in stabilizing any small knots by melting on a matching wood acrylic finish to seal them. The panels are then sanded, with the hard edges slightly rounded to better take on the finishing coat.  

During the final finishing process, we use a hydro oil primer and a non-toxic stain from Vermont Natural Coatings, made from milk whey. Their PolyWhey technology started as a collaboration between farmers, furniture makers, and University of Vermont scientists to expand the value of Vermont’s agriculture and forestry industries. PolyWhey meets the building industry’s highest performance and safety standards without the toxins found in traditional wood finishes. The result is a lasting, beautiful panel finish that is safe for people, pets and the environment. Once the woodworkers finish all the porch components, everything gets packed and sent out to the build site as kits, to be installed with the rest of the home.  

Donna, a Unity Xyla homeowner from Wellfleet, MA, said, “We spend so much time on the screened porch. We eat many of our meals out there, and sometimes we even sleep on the porch!” Here at Unity, we are inspired by craft ethos. Our timeless and durable screened porches are a valued addition to many homes, and we hope to provide this space of connection for many Unity homeowners to come.