On this week of Thanksgiving, every member of the PoP family has been made ridiculously grateful for an inanimate object that normally occupies very little of our brain power (but has required far too much attention as of late). The object – Lanai Screen. And though it would seem a ridiculous topic for our blog, in actuality lanai screen has found itself caught in the center of a venn-diagram of the three main topics we like to muse on here: Money, Happiness, and Kittens.
Our lanai (as they are called in Florida – I’m not sure if they exist anywhere else or go by another name) is a large screened enclosure that houses our pool and back patio. Think a large room (with a pool in the center) where all the walls, doors, and ceiling are all made out of window screen. Lately our lanai been doing triple duty as a favorite relaxation spot, a project space where I can build cabinetry, and a storage spot for Sunny while we wait for more available free time when we can start restoring a 40+-year-old Mercedes Benz.
This aluminum structure (if it’s really fair to call it that) is hugely important when it comes to maximizing our enjoyment of our little house, after all, the lanai is about the same size as all the interior square footage of our house! And the screen that makes up the walls and ceiling of the lanai is a large part of that, keeping mosquitos and other biting bugs out (though lizards often get through to provide Kitty PoP with endless entertainment), and keeping Kitty PoP in! Though it is designed to LITERALLY fade into the background, the screen is a really integral part of our day-to-day existence. But it wasn’t until recently that we learned to be truly grateful for it.
Our History With Lanai Screens
When we first bought our house out of foreclosure 6.5 years ago, many of the screens on our lanai were in terrible condition. Landscapers who had been maintaining the house while it was foreclosed had run their weedwackers too close to the screen and created large holes in most of the bottom screens. Several of the upper screens were broken as well, with large holes and mostly-broken edges that let in to our lanai by not only the biting mosquitos, but also birds. The only bluebird we’ve ever seen at our house flew into the lanai shortly after we moved in and Kitty PoP dashed out the sliding glass doors behind us, pounced it, and caught the poor creature in his mouth. We managed to save and release the bluebird, which was miraculously unharmed, but keeping the lanai in such a state of disrepair wasn’t an option, even though we had our work cut out for us fixing up other areas of the house at the time.
After scouring Angie’s List, we found an independent screen repair guy that works for less than half of the going rate who let us pick and choose which screens to replace. The going rate is expensive – think $6/square foot expensive – so it still wasn’t cheap. And we didn’t get the premium screen… mostly because we didn’t know it existed.
But once Kitty PoP decimated the lizard population inside the lanai, he began to occasionally go for bugs that sat on the outside of the screen. A courageous moth or dragonfly will sometimes cling to outside of the screen, and Kitty PoP will open his jaws and try to get a bite. This punctures small holes in the screen, that over time become bigger and bigger… until one day Kitty PoP ends up chasing a lizard or some other bug through and creates a one-way portal to another world*.
It doesn’t happen all that often, but often enough that Mr PoP learned how to replace the screens himself**. And after doing it a couple of times (and deciding he really didn’t like doing it), Mr PoP did a little research and found that…
All Screen Is Not Created Equal
We had never really given much thought to the quality of the screen on the lanai. But as it turns out, there are grades of quality when it comes to screening and ours was the “regular” old screen. What we needed for Kitty PoP was “pet screen”! Supposedly 7x as strong, and resistant to teeth and claws, pet screen was our answer. The only problem with pet screen is that it’s freaking expensive. Our local hardware store has the best deal we can find, selling it to us cut to custom-cut at $4/linear foot. Add in the spline (the rubber strip that you use to hold the screen in its frame) and the 45 minutes or so it takes Mr PoP to replace each panel and the costs really start to add up, especially for something that you’re NOT supposed to notice or think about!
So we resolved to replace any future panels that Kitty POP managed to destroy using pet screen. That’s been working really well, with 1-2 panels per year getting replaced, often in advance of Kitty PoP making a full portal in the screen. But we’ve been a little busy this year, and haven’t been as diligent with the preventive screen maintenance. That, combined with age and wind- all the panels that were still original are now old and sun damaged enough that they are starting to get holes even without a whole lot of Kitty PoP’s help, created a whole barrel-full of inconvenience when three times since Halloween (yes, that’s just 3 weeks ago!), Kitty PoP found himself stressed out standing in the world on the other side of lanai*** after creating yet another portal.
It’s Been A Unpleasant Few Weeks For All The PoPs
By timing his adventures just right (Sunday or Monday nights each week!), Kitty PoP managed to maximize the inconvenience of having a broken screen since it’s now dark too early in the evening for Mr PoP to be able replace one at night. This has made:
- Kitty PoP unhappy since he has grown quite accustomed to being able to prowl the lanai every night.
- Mr PoP unhappy since when Kitty PoP cannot prowl the lanai at night, he instead creates havoc inside the house, waking Mr PoP who is the lighter sleeper.
- Me unhappy because I’ve trained Kitty PoP that when he really wants something (usually food), he needs to jump up onto me and cuddle. And while that’s normally adorable, it’s been quite inconvenient as he’s been constantly jumping on to me the last three weeks trying to convince me to just let him outside!
The third panel was replaced this weekend, and we’re now resolved to replace the rest of the aging base panels quickly. Once all of the base panels are of pet screen, we expect to be set there for years.
So this Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for each other, and for our families, and our friends (both IRL and online via this blog!), and everything that we have. But we’re also ridiculously thankful for pet screen because without it (as we’ve been reminded lately), all the PoPs are just a little less happy.
* We call these cat-sized holes one-way portals because once through them, Kitty PoP cannot for the life of him figure out how to get back and he is NOT a happy camper when we find him later pacing and meowing his head off on the wrong side of the screen.
** With pet screen and flat spline, Mr PoP gets the admiration of the workers at our local hardware store since in their opinion that’s the toughest kind to install.
*** Kitty PoP really is a scaredy-cat. It’s pathetically adorable to watch him stress out and pace and be afraid to walk to me opening the screen door to “rescue him” when he’s standing less than 4 feet away from the hole he escaped through.
[Update: Just as this post was about to go live, we awoke to find that Kitty PoP had once again broken out of the screen overnight. That’s the FOURTH TIME in FOUR WEEKS! I am no longer convinced that this is 100% accidental. Kitty PoP has learned a new skill and we will be spending our Thanksgiving morning replacing every last regular screen with pet screen. Darned freaking cat. I love him, but also hate him a little right now.]
What are you thankful for this week?