How to Build a Simple Screen Door
A screen door on your house, garage, shed, or gazebo allows fresh air and extra light while keeping out insects, leaves, pollen, and other airborne detritus. With a screen door, you'll enjoy the energy-saving benefits of keeping your door and windows open instead of running costly air conditioning.
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—especially where a less formal appearance is adequate, such as for a shed, garage, or back porch. 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.
Before You Begin
This simple screen door is made of 1x2 lumber, screen fabric, and some simple hardware. Factory-built screen doors' screens are mounted with plastic spline forced into a groove in the frame, but for simplicity's sake, in this DIY project the screen is face-stapled to the back of the door. The cut edge of the screen can be covered with an additional molding, or it can be left as-is.
Flat metal L-brackets and T-brackets join the five frame pieces, eliminating the need for dovetails 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 corners of the frame for square. Continuous micro-adjustments ensure that you will end up with a true and square screen frame.
As described below, this project will produce a standard 36 x 80-inch wood-framed screen door. If your dimensions are different, it is an easy enough matter to adjust the dimensions to create a door with a different size. Just make sure to sketch out your door, and remember that the actual dimension of 1x2 lumber is 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches.
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.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Power miter saw or circular saw
- Tape measure
- Carpenter's square
- Screw gun
- Paint brush
- Utility knife
- 4 1x2 lumber, 8 ft. long
- 4 4-inch galvanized flat corner braces
- 2 4-inch galvanized flat T-braces
- Wood stain (optional)
- Wood screen molding with wire brads (optional)
- Clean cloths
- Wood sealer or paint
- Metal or nylon screen fabric, 48-inch roll
- 3 Flat hinges
- Double-roller catch with spear strike
- Galvanized door handle
- 2-inch galvanized screws
- Door spring
- Anti-sag turnbuckle kit (optional)
Cut the Frame Parts
Measure and cut the frame pieces from 1x2 lumber at the following dimensions, using a power miter saw or circular saw:
- Two pieces at 77 inches (frame sides)
- Two pieces at 36 inches (top and bottom rail)
- One piece at 33 inches (center rail)
- One piece at 6 inches (latch standoff)
- One piece at 3 inches (latch standoff)
Build the Outer Frame
Arrange the two 77-inch pieces and the two 36-inch pieces on a flat surface, with the 36-inch pieces covering the end grain of the long pieces, forming an 80 x 36-inch rectangle. Use a carpenter's square to adjust the corners so they are perfectly square.
Measure diagonals to verify that the rectangle has perfectly square corners: If the opposite diagonals are exactly equal, the rectangle is square.
Carefully position a flat corner brace at each corner, and attach it with a screw gun and galvanized screws. Measure the diagonals again to make sure the frame is square.
Add the Center Brace
Position the 33-inch center rail between the frame side pieces. This rail should be roughly in the middle of the door, though you can adjust it for a more asymmetrical look—near waist level, for example. Secure the center rail to the frame sides with two galvanized flat T braces and galvanized screws.
Stain or Paint the Wood Frame
If you wish to tint the wood, place the screen door frame in an open, protected area. 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 (at least two hours) stain it a second time. Allow to dry completely.
If you wish to paint the wood instead, make sure to use an exterior-grade paint. Apply two coats, allowing the first to dry completely before repainting.
Seal the Wood Frame
If you have stained the wood, allow the second coat of stain to dry completely, then finish by applying two coats of exterior polyurethane varnish. If using an oil-based varnish, make sure to wait at least 6 to 8 hours between coats. Water-based varnish will dry more quickly.
Roll Out the Screen Fabric
Roll out the screen fabric over the back of the screen door (the side with the braces). Let the screen overlap the sides by a few inches, as the excess will later be cut away.
Staple the Screen Material
Staple down the screen fabric around the entire perimeter, keeping the screen taut as you work. It is helpful to have an assistant pull and stretch the screen as you staple it down.
Trim the Screen
With a utility knife, cut away the excess screen material. For a cleaner look, it helps to use a metal straight edge when cutting. If desired, you can cover the edges of the cut screen fabric with wood screen molding for a neater look.
Mount the Screen Door
Position the screen door in the rough opening, and drive shims around the perimeter to hold it in place. Make sure there is an even gap between the door and frame around the entire perimeter.
Secure the door to the frame with flat hinges screwed to the door and to the door frame. Using three hinges rather than two will give the door extra stability.
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 block for the spear strike part of the double roller catch. Position it near the handle side of the door, so the end of the longer piece is flush with the door frame. Screw the stand-off assembly to the center rail with 2-inch galvanized screws.
Install the Catch
Install the double roller catch on the doorframe and the spear strike on the standoff, using the screws provided with the catch.
On the exterior side of the screen door, attach a door handle.
On the interior side, attach a door spring, with one side attached to the center rail and the other side attached to the door frame. This will allow the door to automatically pull shut and latch itself.