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Screen is all the same… right? Wrong!  Yes, there is more then one type of screen mesh covering all these enclosures.  You actually have a few different choices.  Not enough choices to make your headspin, but enough to warrant making an informed decision.  There is good screen that will outlive you, and there is screen that probably wont last more then a few years.  There is even screen for fido who who likes to chase dogs, and for pale skinned people who can’t stand the Sun (or anyone who would like to prevent a bout with sun cancer, myself incldued).  Which kind do you want, well that depends!  On both your objective and your budget.  We are going to start with the basics and add to this list slowly.  If you have heard of material, not covered here, mention it in the comments and perhaps we will add it.

As a consumer it is important to know which type of screen your screen company is using and what you are paying for.

Artisan Wire: This is the material that builders use when a general contractor, developer, or homeowner DEMANDS the CHEAPEST.  And cheap it is.  Artisan is a Chinese made product, and while many great things like your Iphone and computer are made in China, Artisan Mesh is not something I would call great.  It has little resistance to the natural Florida elements such as salt, so the material weathers faster then other screens.  In my experience the material often doesn’t last much beyond 3 years.  I’ve even seen it start tearing at the seams in 1 year.  I would recommend avoiding this material, and making sure your contractor does not use it.
Phifer 18/14 Screen Mesh
Phifer 18/14 Screen: This is an American made screen by Phifer, in Tuscaloosa Alabama.  Its a coated fiberglass product with a mesh weight of 4.5 oz/d, a Warp Tear strength of 14.0 lbf, and a Ball Burst Strength test of 6l lbs.   The testing specification reveals very little.

In the real world, under typical Florida conditions it lasts 7-10 years on a pool enclosure.  When used on an under roof application, where the spans are smaller, and it is not in direct sunlight all day long, it can last a bit longer.  Although, initially quite a strong product, the material does become weak and brittle after the first couple years.  This can be a problem if it is subject to pets or power washing.  Typically after 3 years a power washer will tear the screens.

All in all this material really shows value and would be my recommend choice for an economical option.  Although there might be cheaper options available Phifer 18 x 14 screen outlasts the rest.
Phifer 20-20 screen mesh.
Phifer 20/20 Screen: This mesh is the cousin to Phifer 18/14 screen.  It is made out of exactly the same material and in exactly the same place as Phifer 18/14 Screen just with a tighter weave of mesh.  The testing specifications such as mesh weight, and ball burst strength are slightly higher than the 18/14 as a result of the tighter weave.  The lifespan is also about the same as the Phifer 18/14 screen, 7-10 years.

With a tighter weave, the smaller insects that you can feel, but not see can’t quite make it through.  For this reason, this mesh is commonly referred to as ‘No See Um’ screen.   It is is effective in  keeping out most of the smaller bugs, however if you have lots of vegetation or gardening (I mean lots, not just a couple flower pots) within the enclosure the smaller bugs can get inside the enclosure and breed — so it is best to not worry about this screen choice in that scenario.

20-20_mesh_For_stopping_tiny_insectsSuperScreen is an excellent material.  If you’re planning to keep your home for quite a while, you will get the best value for your dollar with SuperScreen.  To put it in perspective, fiberglass screens (Phifer) or cheaper will shred if you attempt to powerwash them after 3-4 years.  On the other hand, I’ve seen 10 year old Superscreen withstand a power-washers blast.  SuperScreen is warrantied for 10years and simulated tests have indicated that the material has a life expectancy beyond 21 years. To achieve such an extended lifespan SuperScreen is made of a unique polyester yarn that has superior tear and tensile strength that is 100% stronger than Phifer 18/14 screen. It incorporates UV tolerant properties which delivers unparalleled color retention, longevity and filter characteristics. SuperScreen fabric is also compounded with a biocide that resists mildew and algae growth and repels insects.

With those properties the specs on Superscreen come in high.  It has a mesh weight of 6.5 oz/yd which is 18% more than Phifer 18/14.  The ball burst strength test rating of Superscreen is 188lbs which is 300% higher.  You can checkout more of the specs at the photo below.

Superscreen comes in 2 mesh types.  Although the mesh weaves are less dense, the fibers of Superscreen are slightly thicker than Phifer make a lower thread count optimal for comparison.

Superscreen 14/16: Standard comparable to Phifer 18/14

Superscreen 17/20: Comparable to Phifer 20/20

Good question!  You’re not the first person to ask though.  The truth is, the difference in view between the these screen types is negligible.  Its hard for even me to tell the differences between screens from just a glimpse.

 

Kenneth Wilson
April 28, 2015

Kenneth Wilson

I can build it, and I can help you get the patio enclosure you want! I got my start in the Florida patio industry back in the 70s as a young general laborer looking for something to make a few bucks. At the time I never thought it would end up as my career. Over the years I grew beyond the laborer position, becoming a foreman, superintendent, and then into executive management for some of the largest patio contractors, and material vendors. Now into retirement and slightly bored, I offer consulting services to new and existing contractors, and publish this website to help the people who love their patio's and screen enclosures the most - YOU!

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