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In Racine, summer snaps into fall and fall quickly vanishes into winter. If you’re lucky enough to have a screen porch on your house, you’ve had the chance to enjoy summer breezes without bothersome bugs. In winter, however, screen porches let icy winds and snow blow through. Here’s how to winterize your screen porch.

Clean Gutters

Make the screen porch part of your winterizing routine. Don’t neglect the gutters on the porch just because they extend beyond the front or back walls of your house. You don’t want icicles forming on the porch gutters or downspouts getting plugged with ice. Keeping them clear will keep meltwater flowing out and away from the porch pilings or foundation.

Remove Overhanging Branches

Every year, snow and ice bring tree branches down. Take preemptive action to keep downed branches from damaging your porch roof. Cut back branches that threaten your porch structure to keep them away from the porch roof. Call an arborist to do it if the branches are too thick to cut with loppers—chainsaws and ladders don’t mix.

Clean Everything

Sweep, dust, and vacuum the porch. Clean the furniture and either cover it or store it away. Wipe down tables, and store pillows or other decorative accents. Dust off all the nooks and crannies where cobwebs form and where dirt washed in from summer rainstorms collects.

Seal It Up Before the Snow Flies

Vinyl sheeting can work like storm windows for your screens. Take careful measurements before cutting the sheeting, adding two inches on each of the four sides to give you enough room to cover the entire screen area. Hang your vinyl sheeting by attaching Velcro tape to the panel and to each screen frame. Press the panels into place, matching the Velcro tapes for a firm hold. You could add tape around the perimeter of the vinyl, but removing it could damage the paint on your screen frames.

Sealing the porch could extend its useful season a little, but it encloses also the space so that it can’t be regarded as a safer “outdoor” space for reducing the risk of infection from airborne viruses. Only the people who live together in the house should use the sealed porch until the threat of infectious disease eases or when everyone can go back outside.

Winterizing your screen porch takes a bit of work. If it’s any comfort to you, even folks in Florida have winterizing to do (although it’s tough to sympathize if the result is an extended pool season). But once you have your vinyl panels measured and cut, they’ll be ready to go to winterize your screen porch next year.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.