Introduction: Classy Screen Door Repair

About: I do stuff. Sometimes. Except when I don't.

First off, I'd just like to thank everyone who voted for this in the contest. Looks like I WON!!! :D
I'm about as giddy as a schoolgirl here, so you can also be thankful that you don't have to see *that*.

Age-old story: Our back door screen ripped out thanks to the ever-gentle touch of kids and pets.

I was just going to replace the screen, but as it turns they didn't have the typical groove and spline but rather the screen was pinched against the door with a metal inner frame. IMO, this is a stupid way to design the thing since the only thing really holding the screen fabric is a few screws. One little push and *rip*. Game over.

So, no doubt the best solution to this would have been to go down to Home Despot, buy a screen door kit for $25 bux, and slap it in.

But where's the fun in that?

I decided to follow my current cedar fetish and make a victorian-esque screen door. Not only will it help class the place up a bit, but it will also hold the screen with a proper spline and also it will have wooden supports in the lower half to keep little hands and paws from pushing directly against said screen.

Also, this is up on my project blog, here:
And on LumberJocks, here:

Step 1: The Plan

One idea would be to just start from scratch and make an entire wooden door.  After all, that's what they used to do back then.

Even though the manufacturer made a bad decision about holding the screen in, this was actually a fairly sturdy and well-built door.  After chewing on it a little bit, I decided to keep the metal framework and create a wooden insert to get the functionality and looks I was after. (I could pretty much get away with doing anything I wanted after that, since the structural strength is provided by the outer frame.)

Okay, so the framework consists of 1.5 inch cedar stiles (the vertical pieces) and two 3.5 inch rails top and bottom.  There is a 1/8 inch slot for affixing the screen around the outside of this starting about 1/8 inch from the outside edge.  By keeping this slot near the outside I was able to hide the spline entirely!

A third, center rail attaches via a tongue and groove and also needs the 1/8 inch spline slot in it.  I wasn't thinking and messed this up a little, but no big deal since I'll cover it with an inside cover later (step 9).

To keep the screen from pushing out I made a wooden lower section with decorative slats (step 5) tongue-and-grooved in between the center and bottom rail.

I even got a chance to have some creative fun making some corner embellishments for the top screen (step 3-4).

Step 2: The Framework

Constructing the framework was fairly straight forward.  I measured the inside of the metal door frame and made a quick frame to fit inside it.

I cut 1/4 inch grooves along the center and bottom rails and also for all the rails to go into.  On the rails, I cut some corresponding tongues.

If you remember from the plan, I also needed to cut some 1/8 inch slots to hold the screens in.  For that I used a 1/8 inch milling bit I got a great deal on. :)
Unfortunately it didn't fit my router. :P
So I improvised by cranking up the drill as fast as it would go and clamping on a crude fence.  It worked surprisingly well tho. (See pic #2 for the result)

To cut the slot that connects the center rail and the side stiles I simply penciled in where I wanted it to go and used a dremel tool. (pic 3)
In fact, probably best to wait until after the glue up (step 6) to do this so that you know they're in the right place.

Step 3: Design Some Embellishments

To achieve the victorian look I needed some decorative embellishments.  I was planning a gigantic big swirly thing, but after looking at some stuff on Pintrest, I found these simple little things that I really liked.

Taking a page from the Ikea manual... literally... I worked out this little shape with a pencil and pair of scissors.  Folding it in half ensured that it would be symmetrical (ala kindergarten snowflake technology).  The only functionally critical thing was to use a speed-square to make sure the attachment points were 45 degrees so the pieces would attach flat.

Step 4: Cut Out the Embellishments

Now that I had a template, I just taped all my boards to it with double-stick "carpet" tape.

You can do all the cutting and sanding with it all taped together so that they all come out being 100% identical.

But now comes a big moral dilemma.  You can...
1) Finish fixing the screen door.
2) Live with the flies getting inside the house and have four wooden mustaches! :-{o

Take your time.  It's a difficult decision. ;)

Step 5: Create the Slats

For the slats I was looking at the vintage screen doors online again, and a lot of them used decorative turned wood dowels.  I really like the look, but three problems:
1) The door would have to be thicker -- as thick as whatever dowel you used.
2) Cedar would be nigh impossible to turn on a lathe since it tends to splinter.
3) I don't have a lathe anyway.

If you really wanted this you could probably cut down some stair banister slats from the home store.
But instead of doing that I chose to go with more of a silhouette of turned pieces.  I think it turned out looking pretty good!

Now again, you could probably use the same process as the embellishments but I decided to try something new and a little more advanced.

First I sketched the idea of the shape I wanted on one side of one of the slats and cut out.  This was to be the template so I took lots of time sanding and refining the curves until they were smooth and flowed into eachother well.

Once I had that, I made a template follower for my band saw out of scrap wood.  That way you just cut along one side, letting the blade follow your template.  Then you flip it over *sideways* (not end-over-end) and cut the other side of the slat the same way.  Doing that makes the slat close to the same shape and a scoche bigger than the original template AND perfectly symmetrical.

Of course, you could skip that all together and just trace the template curve with a pencil and cut it out freehand.  But I made a jig.  What can I say?  I'm just jiggy like that, okay!

To finish that it up I took to a router with a template bit and followed the template to clean the edge and make it identical.

I did an OK job, I guess but I learned a few things:
1) Use tape!  I thought I could save time by just holding the slat to the template.  NOT WORTH IT!  Because of it I made some mistakes due to boards shifting and I think it was also less safe.
2) Don't do small details.  I tried to make the little knobs you see at the top in the final pic.  Soft wood is way to splintery for that on a router.  The tiny knobs on most slats chipped and one even broke off entirely.  The accompanying in-cuts were also bad because they were almost exactly the size of the router bit and it burnt the wood trying to get down in there.
3) Use the right bit.  I didn't have an official "template bit" so I used "laminate trimming bit" which was the size of the exact width of my boards.  Therefore any high spots or irregularities left annoying little ridges for me to sand off.

Step 6: Glue It Up

To hold everything the right shape for gluing I used the metal door frame and tapped in some wood shims.

The decorative corners took a lot of clamps to hold on.

In a perfect world I'd probably opt for a slower-drying glue like "hide glue".  I worked *fast* trying to get all those slats in and lined up and the glue was just about too dry to work with by the time I was done.

Step 7: Install Screen

There are lots of youtube videos and stuff on this, so I won't go deep into details.

Basically, just use a "screen tool" to roll some rubberized plastic "spline" into the slot to pinch the screen material in there.

For the bottom I went for a beefier "pet screen" that's supposedly able to hold up to anything short of World War III.   Maybe, but we'll just have to wait and see how well it holds up against toddlers and ravenous, enraged wiener dogs. ;)

Step 8: Put the Door Together

All that's left is to find some nice looking screws to attach the new wood part to the inside of the frame and hang it back on its hinges.

Also, when choosing "nice looking" screws, be sure that they aren't too long.  If they poke through then the other side gets less-than-nice-looking.  Oops.

Step 9: Add a Cover for the Center Rail

Earlier in this instructable I had promised to hide all the spline stuff on the center rail.  Now's the time.  All that was needed was a simple board on the inside.

The rest of the spline is already hidden by the metal door frame.

Step 10: Done!

I hope people found this helpful and encouraging. 

You really can make some great looking stuff for your home with not much money but just a little patience and willingness to try new ideas.

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