How to Build a Screen Door

A cat behind a sliding screen door

Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 6 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $100

A screen door on your house allows fresh air and extra light while keeping out insects, leaves, pollen, and other airborne detritus. With an attractive screen door, you'll enjoy the energy-saving benefits of keeping your door and windows open instead of running costly A/Cs. While it can be tempting to buy a screen door from your local home improvement store, this is a project many DIYers can handle on their own. The sense of accomplishment when you begin using your new screen door can be just as rewarding as the money saved.

Basics of Building Your Own Screen Door

Factory-built screen doors can be costly and complicated, with features such as pneumatic closure tubes, solid lower panels, locks, and sliding glass inserts. While these screen doors definitely have their advantages, a do-it-yourself screen door can be built along far more basic lines and for much cheaper.

This simple screen door is made of 1x2 wood, metal brackets, and a metal screen. Factory-built screen doors' screens are forced into a perimeter groove with plastic spline and a spline tool. For simplicity's sake, the screen on this do-it-yourself door is face-stapled to the back of the door. The cut edge of the screen can be covered with black duct tape or it can be left as-is.

Flat metal brackets join the five main pieces of the screen door. Brackets help you avoid dovetail or other specialized wood joints. With brackets, though, it can be more difficult to keep the door frame square. Have your square tool nearby and keep checking all areas of the frame for square. Continuous micro-adjustments ensure that you will end up with a true and square screen frame.

You'll also want to construct the screen door on a perfectly flat surface. Any variations will be transferred to your screen door as you build it. A concrete slab, such as a garage floor in good condition, is a suitable surface.

Before You Begin

Before you start the project, it helps to cut the wood into easy lengths to work with. Using the electric miter saw or a circular saw, measure and then cut the following from the 8-foot lengths of 1x2 lumber:

  • 2 at 36 inches
  • 1 at 33 inches
  • 2 at 62 inches
  • 1 at 6 inches
  • 1 at 3 inches

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Staple gun
  • Electric miter saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Manual screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Carpenter's square or Speed Square
  • Tape measure
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Clean cotton rag
  • Utility knife
  • Straight edge

Materials

  • 6 1x2 softwood lumber, each 8-foot in length
  • 4 Flat 2 1/2-inch corner braces
  • 2 Flat 2 1/2-inch T-braces
  • Clear satin oil-based exterior polyurethane spray
  • Wood stain
  • Hinges
  • Door handle
  • Double roller catch with spear strike

Instructions

  1. Build the Outer Frame

    Place the two 62-inch sections parallel to each other, with the two 36-inch sections at each of the ends. Square it off with the Speed Square or carpenter's square. Place the four flat 2 1/2-inch corner braces on each corner. With the cordless drill and the screws provided by the brace kits, screw the braces into place.

    Add Corner Braces
    Lee Wallender 
  2. Add the Center Brace

    The center brace will be the 33-inch length of the 1x2 board. You can place this at any number of different places between the two long sections, as long as it is generally in the middle.

    You may wish to place it directly at the center (at 31 inches). Or you may want to place it a bit off-center for a different, asymmetrical look (between 26 and 30 inches). Secure the brace with the two flat 2 1/2-inch T-braces and the provided screws.

    Add Center Brace to Screen Door
    Lee Wallender
  3. Stain the Wood Frame

    Place the screen door frame in an open, protected area. While wearing latex or nitrile gloves and using a clean cotton rag, stain the frame on both sides. With another clean cloth, wipe the stain off of the metal braces. After the stain has fully soaked in and dried, stain it a second time.

  4. Seal the Wood Frame

    After the second coat of stain has dried, finish by applying two coats of the clear satin oil-based exterior polyurethane spray. Oil-based coating takes a long time to dry and cure, so wait at least 6 to 8 hours between the two coats.

    Tip

    Instead of staining your wood screen door, you may want to paint it. If so, there is no need to apply sealer since paint is durable enough on its own.

  5. Roll Out the Screen Material

    Roll out the screen material over the back of the screen door (the side with the braces). Let the screen overlap the side by a few inches as the excess will later be cut away.

    Roll Out the Screen Material
    Lee Wallender
  6. Staple the Screen Material

    Staple down the screen material around the entire perimeter, keeping the screen taut as you work. It is helpful to have an assistant pull the screen as you staple it down.

    Staple the Screen Material
    ​Lee Wallender
  7. Cut the Screen Material

    With the utility knife, cut away the excess screen material. For a cleaner look, it helps to use a metal straight edge when cutting. Cover the cut end of the screen material with black duct tape or leave as-is.

    Cut the Screen Excess
    Lee Wallender
  8. Mount the Screen Door

    Screw two hinges on the inside of the screen door. Then, with assistance, screw those hinges to your house's doorframe.

    Tip

    If it is difficult to drive screws for the hinges into the doorframe, drill small pilot holes first, then insert the screws.

  9. Add a Standoff For the Latch

    On the inside of the door, double up the 3-inch and the 6-inch blocks of wood to create a stand-off for the spear strike part of the double roller catch. Screw it into place with two brass screws.

    Create Standoff
    Lee Wallender
  10. Install the Latch on the Door

    Install the double roller catch on the doorframe and the spear strike on the standoff.

    Douible Roller Latch on Screen Door
    Lee Wallender
  11. Add a Door Handle

    On the exterior side of the screen door, add a door handle.