What Would Bob Do? Installing a Screen Door

A screen door is a great thing to have. It lets in cooling breezes in the summer and protects your front door from harsh weather in the winter. If you're in the market for a new screen door, or just want to replace the one you have, here are some tips on purchasing the right door for your house.

How to Install a Screen Door

Photo: smithandvansant.com

I’m going to install a new screen door. Any advice or time-saving suggestions on how to go about it?

It’s relatively easy to install a screen door, but to avoid hassles it’s imperative that you choose the right kit (these are commonly sold at brick-and-mortar home centers as well as through online suppliers). But of all the many screen door kits on the market, how do you know which one is right for your home?

For one thing, the screen door must be the right size. If you are putting in a screen door where there wasn’t one before, you must start by determining the dimensions of the door opening. Measure the width and height of the space within the door trim; do so at a few different points along each side (chances are things are not perfectly level or plumb). Now select the standard door size that corresponds most closely to the smallest width and height measurements that you took. If there’s only a small deviation between the opening and the nearest standard door size, filler strips can help you achieve a snug fit. If, however, the door opening is 3/8 inch wider than the nearest standard width, or if it’s more than 7/8 inch taller than the standard height, you are going to need a custom door.

How to Install a Screen Door - Detail Door

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If, on the other hand, you are installing a new screen door to take the place of an older one, there’s much less measuring to do. Confirm the dimensions of the door you’re replacing so that you know what size door you need to buy. Also, note the locations of the hinges on the existing door. If the latch is on the right side and the hinges are on the left (when you’re looking at the door from the outside), that means you have a right-hand door, also called a right-swinging door. The opposite, of course, is a left-hand door. Your new screen door should match not only the size, but also the door-swing direction of the panel you are replacing.

I highly recommend opting for a screen door that comes preassembled. Installing these novice-friendly designs requires only basic tools and a minimal investment of time. The popular manufacturer Andersen, for example, estimates it would take the average do-it-yourselfer in the ballpark of one hour to install its “rapid-install” series 3000 preassembled models.

Here’s another tip to help you save time: Choose what’s known as a self-storing door. These designs greatly simplify the twice-a-year task of exchanging the screen for a glass panel and vice versa. In the manner of a triple-track storm window, the door integrates both screen and glass panels; you can easily slide one or the other into use as the season requires.