DH talks about creating a screen door kludge

Here is another post from DH, this time about getting some airflow into our home office when the weather is nice (without losing our cat to the great outdoors).

Over 18 months ago, on a nice Fall day, we started talking about the possibility of putting a screen door in our office, which has a french patio door to the outside [1-door]. The office can get stuffy, and in Spring or Fall if we open the door the breeze is wonderful. Unfortunately, between cats and mosquitoes, we cannot just open the door [ed: or buy one of those dangly screens], we need a screen door there.

First plan, spend some time looking at pre-built wooden screen doors, but I couldn’t figure out how I would attach them. The door opens outward, so we could not just put a screen door on the outside. The frame around the door isn’t shaped to put a screen door on the inside, and the office is crowded enough that having anything opening inwards would be undesirable. So I gave up on just getting a screen door.

Second plan, shop the friendly-neighborhood home improvement store. Their website had a dutch door that could be purchased with a screen in the top half. Unfortunately when I talked to the representative, it was outside of my price range, something like $3k. While there I picked up a retracting screen, but when we put it up on the wall its large cylinder looked out of place on the frame. I think they also sell the magnet-close drapes, but I didn’t like the looks of those either.

Third plan, my dad came and looked it over. He’s quite the handyman, and often he has ideas that are marvels of simplicity and utility. His conclusion was to have a professional do a custom replacement for the door. That’s a good option, but I wasn’t convinced I was out of options, and a custom door replacement sounded like it could be expensive.

Final plan, make a custom screen. About a year after the third plan fizzled, I had a eureka moment when I realized we didn’t need a “screen door”, we just wanted a screen that covered the door opening [ed: that the cat couldn’t slip out through]. The hard part of this project is the constraints due to the existing door, the existing frame, and the limited space in the room. By creating a screen of the correct size, we just need a place to store it, and a way to hold it in place when in use.

The storage space is easy; with a removable screen we can just slide it behind the filing cabinet that’s right next to the door frame. After an hour or so of websurfing, I found out the holding-in-place aspect is also pretty easy via “casement clips” screwed into the door frame. All that was left was to get/make a screen (and then fix all the little things that would invariably go awry). [2-screen]

It turns out that making your own screen is really straightforward with the use of these plastic corner pieces. [3-corners] One just needs screen frame pieces, screen material, spline that holds the screen in the channel in the screen frame, and (optional but recommended) a spline tool to put it all together. [4-materials] Since this was going to be a tall screen, I went with the biggest frame pieces I could, 7/16″, and I bought extra to add a crossbar or two, along with the “crossbar clips”. To start, cut the frame pieces to the correct size (take into account the size of the corner pieces), and push in the corner pieces. [5-screenCorner] For crossbars, push the crossbar clips into pieces of frame and then the other end of the clip into the channel of the frame, where it will be held by the spline and screen. [6-crossbarConnector] Unfortunately, I was not able to find any 7/16″ crossbar clips, so I epoxied some 5/16″ clips into my 7/16″ frame. Lie the screen material over the frame. Check for any rips or cuts in the screen now (voice of experience). Then use the spline roller to push the spline into the channel, and cut off the excess screen material. There are a plethora of video guides online for this part so watch a couple to get the details. The tension in the screen holds everything together. With the screen assembled, screw the casement clips into the frame. [7-rightClip] The clips I bought use spacers so they can work for different sizes of screen frames, which was nice because on the left side of the door the door frame lip is higher than on the right side. [8-clip] Since I was worried about splitting the frame, I pre-drilled the holes and used painter’s tape to mark the approximate depth on the drill bit. [9-drillBit]

That’s what I should have done, but instead I did a test fit after I put the frame corners in, but before I added the screen. The test fit itself went great, but since I already had the screen frame put up against the doorframe, I decided to go ahead and screw in the casement clips. Unfortunately, I underestimated the flexibility of the screen frame and how much it would bow due to the screen tension. So after installing the screen, the clips barely held the frame.

I didn’t want a strong wind to blow the screen down, so on the left side I added some spacers/bumpers at the clips. That way we could just push the screen into the doorframe and then push it to the left until the bumpers hit the wall. In that position the clips would overlap the screenframe and the screenframe would completely cover the door opening. [10-leftClipAndSpacer] I made the bumpers out of Sugru since it is durable and easy to work with. Then on the right side, I moved both casement clips to a tight fit. I used the screw tip to mark the hole placement. [11-markingHole] Then I drilled the new hole and installed the clip. [12-movedRightClip] To fill in the old screw hole, I checked to see if a golf tee would fit, but the hole was too thin. Normally I would then use woodglue as a filler, but I happened to have a hot glue gun handy, so I tried that. I’m not sure if it was a good idea, but it worked. I smoothed the surface by carefully shaving any high points with a knife edge, then I applied a coat of white paint and sanded it. [13-oneCoat] Finally I applied another three light coats of white paint. [14-threeCoats] The doorframe has some texture, so the patches aren’t noticeable, and I took the opportunity to touch up some other places where the paint had been rubbed off the doorframe.

There was one other issue, which was the top/bottom fit. The doorframe has a very slight lip where the metal plate sticks out. [15-baseLip] My plan had been to rest the screenframe on that lip, and I assumed that the casement clips would hold the frame tight all the way down to the bottom. In reality, the screenframe is flexible enough that it would just slip off and fall to the wood floor, which left a slight gap at the top of the door. First I tried adding weatherstripping foam at the top and bottom of the screen frame, but it did not seem sufficient. So I used more Sugru to add three feet [ed:  the little bump kind of foot, not the 12 inches kind of foot] to the outside face at the bottom of the screenframe, and those feet rest on the metal plate to hold the screen up. [16-foot]

Looking back, this project taught me several things about making screens, but I wouldn’t change any of the core ideas. The screen works, it looks nice enough, and it stays out of the way when not in use. If we decide to sell the place, I can just remove the casement clips and patch the holes before we show the place to buyers. Most importantly, DW [ed:  that’s me!] was right that having a screen “door” there is wonderful, and I’m glad I was finally able to make it happen.

9 Responses to “DH talks about creating a screen door kludge”

  1. Leah Says:


  2. CG Says:

    Well done! Some might even call it…a hack. But we would not want to do that, of course.

  3. Miser Mom Says:

    I’m impressed. Just this weekend, I carted two busted screens off to the hardware store, to see if they folks there cold do the repairs. They said they couldn’t, but that the repair would actually be pretty easy for me. So I bought new screen and spline, borrowed the pushy tool from a neighbor, and watched a video. I haven’t done the repair myself yet (the weekend ran out), but I’m girding up to do it. So this is neat timing for me!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH didn’t use the pet-proof screening for this door, but when he put on a new screen for the kitten-destroyed patio screen he did and it worked great. (Not really a problem with Nice Kitty who isn’t interested in using screens for her claws.)

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

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