Watching your dream (house) take flight.

Need for screen-enclosure reform exposed

A Palm Beach Post examination of widespread wind damage to pool and patio enclosures across Florida has led to calls for action by legislators, regulators and the industry that builds them.

The Dec. 29 report, published after two busy hurricane seasons, documented that thousands of aluminum enclosures collapsed at wind speeds far below what they're supposed to withstand, at a cost of millions of dollars. Among the causes cited for the failures: inadequate engineering, poor construction, cut-throat price competition and poor building code enforcement at the state and local levels.

In South Florida, the Florida Building Code requires structures to withstand 140-mph gusts. That's discounted for patio cages, because people aren't expected to weather storms in them, and for exposed locations, but it's clear even within the industry that massive damage is occurring at wind speeds of 100 mph and less.

When I had my screened patio room installed, the builder was quick to point out that the fine-mesh screen, in high wind, acted like a sail. He said that if I was expecting winds in excess of about 75mph, cut the screens. That will allow the wind free passage through the patio, and will not generate lift against the roof panels. He went on to say that replacing screen is cheap compared to having to replace the enclosure plus structure damage. I agree.

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