Title:
Methods and apparatus for the aesthetic enhancement of screened enclosures
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method and apparatus for aesthetically enhancing extruded posts/beams, purlins and base members used in framing existing and newly constructed screened enclosures is comprised of pressure fitting opposing edges of flexible decorative inserts between available spline grooves or between mounted insert retention means. In an alternate embodiment, the inserts may be translucent, semi-translucent or perforated to serve as lenses through which light is transmitted when a light emitting means housed there under is activated. The inserts provide decoration to the framing members when the light emitting means is turned off, and permit the transmission of light there through when turned on, thereby accenting the framing member and/or casting light into the enclosed area.



Inventors:
Coley, Greg (Ocala, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/474617
Publication Date:
12/27/2007
Filing Date:
06/26/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B1/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KWIECINSKI, RYAN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Douglas Wm. Massinger, Esq. (Ocala, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed as being new, useful and desired to be protected by Letters Patent of the United States is as follows:

1. A method of aesthetically enhancing a surface of an extruded framing member having a pair of empty parallel spline grooves, each having a cantilevered lip, the method comprising the steps of: a) temporarily forcing opposing edges of a decorative strip of flexible material into a convex shape, b) inserting said opposing edges into the parallel spline grooves of the framing member, and c) releasing said opposing edges from force thereby allowing them to come into forcible engagement with the lips of the spline grooves.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein said decorative strip has a width greater than the distance between the parallel spline grooves of the framing member.

3. The method of claim 1 further including the step of inserting light emitting means between said decorative strip and the framing member.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein said decorative strip is opaque, translucent, semi-translucent, perforated or luminescent.

5. The method of claim 2 further including the step of inserting light emitting means between said decorative strip and the framing member.

6. The method of claim 3 wherein said decorative strip is opaque, translucent, semi-translucent, perforated or luminescent.

7. The method of claim 5 wherein said decorative strip is opaque, translucent, semi-translucent, perforated or luminescent.

8. A method of aesthetically enhancing a planar surface of an extruded framing member, the method comprising the steps of: a) mounting decorative strip retention means to a planar surface of the extruded framing member, said retention means having a pair of inwardly angled flanges, b) temporarily forcing opposing edges of a decorative strip of flexible material into a convex shape, c) inserting said opposing edges between said inwardly angled flanges of said retention means, and d) releasing said opposing edges from force thereby allowing them to come into forcible engagement with inwardly angled flanges.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein said decorative strip has a width greater than the distance between said inwardly angled flanges of said retention means.

10. The method of claim 8 further including the step of inserting light emitting means between said decorative strip and the framing member.

11. The method of claim 8 wherein said decorative strip is opaque, translucent, semi-translucent, perforated or luminescent.

12. The method of claim 9 further including the step of inserting light emitting means between said decorative strip and the framing member.

13. The method of claim 10 wherein said decorative strip is opaque, translucent, semi-translucent, perforated or luminescent.

14. The method of claim 12 wherein said decorative strip is opaque, translucent, semi-translucent, perforated or luminescent.

15. A method of aesthetically enhancing the interior of a screened enclosure constructed of extruded posts/beams, purlins and base members, the method comprising the steps of: a) mounting decorative strips to a surface of the posts/beams, purlins and base members occupying the interior of the enclosure; each of said decorative strips having a convex shape when mounted; at least one of said decorative strips being translucent or semi-translucent; b) threading at least one strand of light emitting means between said decorative strips and the posts/beams, purlins and base members to which they are mounted; and c) activating said light emitting means.

16. An aesthetically enhanced framing member produced in accordance with the method of claim 1.

17. An aesthetically enhanced framing member produced in accordance with the method of claim 8.

18. An aesthetically enhanced screened enclosure produced in accordance with the method of claim 15.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The subject invention relates to screened enclosures generally, and to methods and apparatus for the aesthetic enhancement and illumination of framing members therefore in particular.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Screened enclosures have achieved considerable popularity among residential home owners who enjoy experiencing warm sun and cool breezes of the outdoors without the attendant flies, mosquitoes and other flying insects. A significant number of homes built in warm climates, for instance, will have some form of screened enclosure whether it be a porch, patio or swimming pool area. A majority of such enclosures are constructed of extruded metal framing members including vertical posts/columns, diagonal overhead beams and horizontal cross-bracing purlins and floor-mounted base members. Each such extruded metal framing member includes at least one groove for retaining the screening material which is held in place using a flexible strip of rubber, typically circular or square in cross-section, called a “spline”. The groove, therefore, is referred to a as a “spline groove”.

The color choices of commercially available extruded metal framing members are limited, leaving consumers with only two choices, namely white and bronze. Because of this limitation, framing members adapted to receive colored panel inserts have been developed. A recent example of aesthetically enhanced extruded construction components for patio enclosures is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,495 B1 issued to Prince in 2003. According to the teachings of Prince, framing members are engineered during the extrusion process with integrally formed channels for receiving decorative vinyl or aluminum strips there between. More specifically, extruded posts/columns are adapted to receive and retain decorative inserts which lie flush against the surface of their side panels which run perpendicular to the screening material when installed. The Prince reference does not teach the use of decorative inserts along the working sides of post/columns, that is, the side facing the interior of the enclosure and having a pair of unused spline grooves. Accordingly, the side of post/columns facing the interior of the enclosure must necessarily remain white or bronze. The same method of construction exists for the extruded diagonal beams of Prince which, therefore, have the same limitation. By contrast, the purlins of Prince are adapted to receive and retain in a pair of preformed grooves decorative pinstripe inserts which are flexible arcuate extrusions of vinyl or aluminum having a pair of retaining legs running the length of each side of the insert. Unlike the above described inserts for post/columns and beams, the pinstripe inserts are retained in dome-like fashion (when viewed in cross-section) along the purlin surface facing the interior of the screened enclosure. The overall aesthetic enhancement provided by the teachings of Prince, therefore, is somewhat non-uniform because some interior facing surfaces are decorated while others are not, and some decorated surfaces have flat inserts while others have dome-shaped inserts. Another significant shortcoming of the Prince invention is that its benefits may only be appreciated in screened enclosures which are constructed using its customized extruded framing members. Existing enclosures constructed of conventional extrusions may not be enhanced in accordance with the teachings of Prince. Total demolition of existing structures would first be required followed by reconstruction of the enclosure using the customized framing materials. Finally, the Prince invention is intended to provide aesthetic enhancement of screened enclosures rather than illumination of the structure. While the decorative inserts of Prince are useful in imparting at least some aesthetic benefit to newly constructed enclosures, such benefits may only be appreciated during daylight hours unless conventional lighting devices exist within the enclosure.

In view of the shortcomings and limitations of the above described prior art, it is clear that a need exists for a method and apparatus for imparting both aesthetic enhancement and illumination of existing and newly constructed screened enclosures such that these enhancements may be appreciated during both daytime and nighttime hours.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Applicant has discovered that conventional extruded posts/columns and beams may be aesthetically enhanced with interchangeable decorative inserts without the need for modification to their structure generally, or the mounting of separate insert retention means in particular. Accordingly, what was heretofore made possible only through the use of specialized and proprietary extruded framing members is now made possible for existing enclosures erected from conventional posts/columns and beams. In accordance with the teachings of the subject invention a first and primary method and apparatus for aesthetically enhancing extruded posts/columns and/or beams used in framing existing and newly constructed screened enclosures is comprised of pressure fitting opposing edges of flexible decorative inserts into the readily available spline grooves located on the non-working side of conventional posts/columns and beams (i.e. the side opposite that used to retain the screening material). Applicant has therefore discovered that the parallel spline grooves of conventional extruded posts/columns and beams which are designed to hold screening material and splines serve as ideal receivers for decorative strips which are precut and sized in accordance with the specifications described herein.

Another embodiment of the subject method and apparatus includes the employment of a decorative insert in the form of a translucent, semi-translucent or perforated lens under which a light emitting fixture is mounted. The lens provides decorative color to the framing members when the light fixture is turned off, and permits the transmission of light there through when the light fixture is turned on thereby accenting the framing member and/or casting light into the enclosed area. The light is visible light, preferably but not essentially adjustable to varying degrees of luminous intensity using a dimming apparatus, and emitted in individual or synchronous color choices to produce a variety of aesthetically pleasing effects as well as practical lighting within the screened enclosure.

Another embodiment of the subject invention relates to the aesthetic enhancement of extruded purlins and/or base members used in framing existing and newly constructed screened enclosures. The method is comprised of fixedly mounting decorative insert receiving means to at least one surface of the framing member located on the interior of the screened enclosure, the receiving means comprising a pair of oppositely disposed and inwardly angled flanges; and then pressure fitting opposing edges of decorative inserts between the flanges. Here again, the decorative insert may be provided in the form of an interchangeable translucent and/or perforated lens under which a light emitting fixture is mounted for imparting accent lighting or functional illumination of the enclosure.

In all of the embodiments described herein, optional light emitting fixture retention means may be mounted on the insert receiving side of the framing members to securely retain the lighting fixtures in place.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto. In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Further, the purpose of the foregoing abstract is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The abstract is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.

It is, therefore, a primary object of the subject invention to provide a method and apparatus for the aesthetic enhancement and lighting of screened enclosures.

It is also a primary object of the subject invention to provide a method and apparatus for the aesthetic enhancement of screened enclosures wherein in said method includes the retention of decorative inserts within spline grooves of conventional extruded post/columns and beams.

Another primary object of the subject invention is to provide a method and apparatus for aesthetically enhancing screened enclosures through the use of lighting fixtures and translucent decorative inserts in combination with conventional framing members.

Still another object of the subject invention is to provide methods and apparatus for the aesthetic enhancement and illumination of screened enclosures wherein the apparatus are relatively simple in design, comprised of a limited number of components and therefore capable of rapid construction and installation at relatively low costs.

These together with other objects of the invention, along with the various features of novelty which characterize the invention, are pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed to and forming a part of this disclosure. For a better understanding of the invention, its advantages and the specific objects attained by its uses, reference should be had to the accompanying drawings and descriptive matter in which there is illustrated a preferred embodiment of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood and objects other than those set forth above will become apparent when consideration is given to the following detailed description thereof. Such description makes reference to the annexed drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is an end view of a conventional post/column framing member adapted with the aesthetic enhancement components of the subject invention;

FIG. 2 is an end view of a conventional purlin framing member adapted with the aesthetic enhancement components of the subject invention;

FIG. 3 is an end view of a conventional base framing member adapted with the aesthetic enhancement components of the subject invention;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of a preferred embodiment of the aesthetically enhanced post/column framing member of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is an exploded view of a preferred embodiment of the aesthetically enhanced purlin framing member of FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is an exploded view of a preferred embodiment of the aesthetically enhanced base framing member of FIG. 3; and

FIG. 7 illustrates a typical connection between vertical and horizontal framing members of the subject invention.

REFERENCE NUMBER LIST

REFERENCE NUMBER LIST
 10Insert
 12First Edge Of Insert
 14Second Edge Of Insert
 16Space
 18Insert Apex
 20Light Emitting Means
 22Insert Receiving Means
 24Screws
 26Flanges
 28Mounting Plate
 30Retention Means
 32Surface Of Retention Means
 34Channel
 36Light Emitting Surface
100Post/Beam
102First U-Shaped Member
104Second U-Shaped Member
106First End
108Second End
110First Side Wall
112Second Side Wall
114AFirst Spline Groove
114bSecond Spline Groove
116Lip of Spline Groove
118First Aperture
120Second Aperture
200Purlin
206First End
208Second End
210First Side Wall
212Second Side Wall
214Spline Groove
216Screw Boss
300Base Member
302First Side Wall
304Second Side Wall
306Top Panel
308AFirst Bottom Member
308BSecond Bottom Member
310Lag Bolt

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Screened enclosures are most commonly constructed of extruded aluminum framing members in the form of: 1) vertically oriented posts (sometimes called “columns”) which are the primary support means for side walls, 2) diagonally oriented beams which are the primary support means for the roof structure, 3) horizontally oriented purlins disposed between posts and between beams to impart stability and lateral support, and 4) base members which are used to anchor screening material to the floor about the enclosure's perimeter. It should be appreciated that the framing component used to construct a post for the enclosure is also used to construct an overhead beam. There is no difference in the component itself, only in its method of use, namely as either a wall component or as a roof component. Accordingly, the term “post/beam” shall hereinafter refer to the framing component itself, and the terms “post(s)” and “beam(s)” shall refer to an erected wall structure or roof structure, respectively. Once the frame of the enclosure is erected, the screening material is mounted by inserting its edges within spline grooves integrally formed in each framing member and securing it in place using flexible strips of rubber or vinyl (“splines”) which are pressed into the grooves over the fabric.

In order that the various embodiments of the subject invention may be fully appreciated it is first necessary to understand certain design characteristics of the framing members. Accordingly, reference is now made to FIGS. 1-3 wherein end views of a conventional post/beam 100, purlin 200 and base member 300 are illustrated, respectively, together with the subject enhancement components described, infra.

A typical post/beam 100 is an elongated hollow structure comprised of two oppositely disposed and interlocking U-shaped members 102 and 104. When mated as shown, post/beam 100 will have cross-sectional dimensions of 2″×6-10″ and may come in a variety of lengths which are cut-to-size as needed in the screened enclosure construction process. Post/beam 100 includes first end 106 and second end 108, with opposing side walls 110 and 112 there between. First end 106, referred to herein as the “working end” of post/beam 100, will face the exterior of the screen enclosure when erected; second end 108, referred to as the “non-working end” of post/beam 100, will face the interior of the screened enclosure when erected and will be adapted with the enhancement and lighting components which characterize the subject invention. As may be appreciated, due to the symmetrical nature of post/beam 100, the designation of either “working end” or “non-working end” is purely arbitrary and dependent only on whether the end faces the exterior or interior, respectively, of the enclosure. Both first end 106 and second end 108 include a pair of parallel spline grooves 114A and 114B, respectively, along their length. Spline grooves 114A-B receive the screening fabric (not shown) which is held in place using elongate strips of flexible vinyl or rubber which are urged within the grooves in a manner well known to those skilled in the art.

A conventional extruded purlin 200 (FIG. 2) is typically comprised of an elongate hollowed rectangle, either 1″×2″ or 2″×2″ in cross-section, and available in a number of standard lengths which may be cut to suit. Purlin 200 includes first end 206 and second end 208, with opposing first side wall 210 and second side wall 212 there between. First end 206, referred to herein as the “working end” of purlin 200, will face the exterior of the screen enclosure when erected; second end 208, referred to as the “non-working end” of purlin 200, will face the interior of the screened enclosure when erected and will be adapted with the enhancement and lighting components which characterize the subject invention. Unlike its post/beam 100 counterpart, only first end 206 includes a pair of parallel spline grooves 214 along its length. The non-working second end 208 has no spline grooves, and is merely planar in cross-section. A pair of screw bosses 216 is integrally formed on the interior surface of side walls 210 and 212 for the purpose of receiving screws used to join the ends of purlin 200 with a post/beam 100.

The third and final framing member used to erect screened enclosures is base member 300 (FIG. 3) which has a substantially C-shaped cross-section of 1″×2″ dimensions. Anchored to the floor about the perimeter of the enclosure for the purpose of retaining the lowermost portion of the screening material, a conventional extruded base member 300 is comprised of two side walls 302 and 304 each connected at one end to a common top panel 306. The opposite ends of side walls 302 and 304 terminate in perpendicular bottom members 308A and 308B which occupy a common plane. One side wall (in this case side wall 302) includes a single spline groove 314 along its length. Here again, this working side of the base member will face the outside of the enclosure. The opposite side wall 304 has no spline groove and is therefore characterized as the non-working side. Lag bolts 310 are employed for mounting base member 300 to the floor.

With continued reference to FIGS. 1-3 and additional reference to the corresponding exploded views of FIG. 4-6, a first method and apparatus for aesthetically enhancing screened enclosures constructed of extruded posts/beams 100, purlins 200 and base members 300 may now be described. A decorative insert 10 made of pre-cut strips of vinyl or other suitable flexible polymeric material is pressure fitted into the available spline grooves 114A located on the non-working side 106 of each post/beam 100. More specifically, installation is accomplished by forcing together (i.e., such as by squeezing together between fingers and thumb) the opposing edges 12 and 14 of each planar insert 10 causing it to bend (FIG. 4) into a convex shape and until each edge 12 and 14 are close enough together to be inserted into opposing spline grooves 114B. Once inserted, the force is released. This causes edges 12 and 14 of insert 10 to spring back (i.e., because of memory) against the cantilevered lip 116 of each spline groove 114A.

Because of the recessed nature of the spline grooves, in order to be able to utilize planar strips of decorative sheet goods the strips must have a width greater than the distance between the parallel spline grooves. Applicant has determined that widths ranging from 2 3/16″ and 2¼″ are preferred for 2″ wide framing members. Note that the post-insertion shape of each insert 10 will necessarily be convex (i.e. dome-shaped in cross-section) resulting in space 16 between the insert 10 and outer surface of the non-working second end 108 of post/beam 100. As may be appreciated, the height of apex 18 of insert 10 above surface 118 is directly proportional to the width of insert 10. Greater widths will produce more exaggerated or severe arcs and visa-versa. Applicant has therefore discovered that the available parallel spline grooves 114A of conventional extruded posts/beams 100 serve as ideal receivers for decorative inserts 10 when the latter are precut and sized in accordance with the specifications described herein. Inserts 10 may be produced in an infinite number of aesthetically pleasing colors and designs to improve the appearance of the interior of the screened enclosure.

In another embodiment of the subject invention, inserts 10 may not only be opaque in appearance, but may also be translucent or semi-translucent to serve as a lens through which light may be emitted for even more dramatic visual effects. For instance, the use of backlit semi-translucent inserts 10 will have a glowing effect. Alternatively, opaque inserts 10 may be modified with randomly or incrementally spaced perforations through which light emitted from light emitting means 20 may pass to simulate stars in the sky. In yet another embodiment, inserts 10 may be fabricated of luminescent material such that the glow in the dark.

Light emitting means 20 is disposed within space 16 between the underside of insert 10 and the surface 118 of post/beam 100. Light emitting means may be selected from a variety of different types including, but not limited to, LED strips, string lighting or fiber optics. When a semi-translucent insert 10 is employed, thereby serving as a lens, it provides decorative color to the framing members when the light emitting means 20 is turned off, and permits the transmission of light there through when activated thereby accenting the framing member and/or casting light into the enclosed area. The light is visible light, preferably but not essentially adjustable to varying degrees of luminous intensity using a dimming apparatus, and emitted in individual or synchronous color choices to produce a variety of aesthetically pleasing effects as well as practical lighting within the screened enclosure. Insert 10 may alternately be clear (i.e., translucent) to transmit non-colored visible light although such an embodiment will not aesthetically enhance the underlying framing members when the light means is turned off.

With particular reference now to FIGS. 2 and 4 on the one hand, and 3 and 5 on the other hand, purlins 200 and base members 300, respectively, may also be equipped with the subject decorative inserts 10. First, with regard to purlins 200, because the non-working side 208 is not equipped with spline grooves, insert receiving means 22 are fixedly mounted thereon using a plurality of screws 24. Insert receiving means 22 are preferably comprised of a pair of oppositely disposed and inwardly angled flanges 26 having an integrally formed mounting plate 28 through which screws 24 are inserted for attachment to the underlying purlin 200. Inserts 10 may then be pressure fitted between flanges 26 in a manner consistent with the method employed for insertion between spline grooves 114A of post/beam 100. Here again, the decorative insert may be provided in the form of an interchangeable semi-translucent, translucent and/or perforated lens under which light emitting means 20 is disposed for imparting accent lighting or functional illumination of the enclosure.

In all of the embodiments of the subject invention, optional light emitting fixture retention means 30 may be mounted on the insert receiving side of the framing members to securely retain the lighting fixtures in place. Retention means 30 may be constructed in a variety of shapes and fabricated from a variety of materials although pre-molded strips of flexible rubber or plastic are preferred. Retention means 30 are employed when it is necessary or desirable to retain light emitting means 20 in a fixed and linear position under insert 10. This may be required by local building codes, for example. Note that the exposed surface 32 of retention means 30 includes a recessed channel 34 specifically designed to hold the light emitting means in place in clip-like fashion. Light emitting means may be urged into channel 34 using light thumb pressure, for instance. An important feature of retention means 30 is that it secures the light source in place while simultaneously permitting a portion of its light emitting surface 36 to remain exposed so that light emitted there from may be transmitted through the above insert 10. Retention means 30 may be mounted to post/beams 100, purlins 200 and base members 300 using screws 24. Alternatively, retention means 30 may be mounted to base members 300 using lag bolts 310.

FIG. 7 illustrates typical connections between the aesthetically enhanced extruded framing members of the subject invention in general, as well as the manner in which light emitting means 20 may be concealed underneath inserts of abutting or interconnecting framing members in particular. In one example, at least one continuous strand of light emitting means 20 will originate at a power source (not shown), such as a light emitter for fiber optics, and then be threaded through the interconnecting framing members of a screened enclosure. More specifically, the strand may be threaded along a base member, up a post, across an overhead beam, down another post and then across another base member, and so on. The threading process is continued until all or selected framing members are equipped with the light emitting means to produce an aesthetically enhanced interior environment of the enclosure. Opaque inserts may be used on framing members which are not intended to be illuminated to merely conceal the light emitting means 20 there under, while semi-translucent inserts may be employed on other framing members which are intended to be illuminated.

With continued reference to FIG. 7, a strand of light emitting means 20 is threaded as follows: between a length of a first insert 10A and its corresponding horizontal base member 300; through a first aperture 118 drilled through side wall 112 of an abutting post 100A; through a second aperture 120 drilled through first end 108 of the same post 100A; between a length of a second insert 10B mounted to vertical post 100A; and then between a length of a third insert 10C and its corresponding diagonal beam 100B. As may be appreciated, lengths of light emitting means 20 may be snaked along and/or through interconnecting framing members in a variety of ways and combined with translucent, semi-translucent, opaque, perforated and/or luminescent inserts to produce a variety of visually appealing effects.

Although the present invention has been described with reference to the particular embodiments herein set forth, it is understood that the present disclosure has been made only by way of example and that numerous changes in details of construction may be resorted to without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the scope of the invention should not be limited by the foregoing specifications, but rather only by the scope of the claims appended hereto.