The Problem: We put in a full storm door two years ago, with glass for the winter and a screen for the summer. Since then our dog has slowly lost her eyesight. The first year saw her lightly scratching at it as she might the glass. Last year, she went right through it, thinking the door was open.
Add to this our children, who persist in putting weight against it--be it their shoulder, toe or nose. Over time the frame has become bowed and the screen misshapen. In two years, we have replaced the screen twice. Before I see another screen go I decided to solve the problem.
The Solution: They sell guards for the screen door, designed for dogs and small children. Essentially baby gates that screw into the door, they are plastic, ugly and expensive. No thanks. But the idea of putting a solid sheet of plywood seemed a bit to utilitarian to look at for six months of the year. We had a decorative piece of tin ceiling tile, which made me think of grates and finally perforated aluminum sheets.
I bought M-D Building Products 57042 2-Feet by 3-Feet .020-Inch Thick Cloverleaf Aluminum Sheet from Amazon, but there are other designs you can purchase. Perforated sheets are not only strong enough and pleasing to the eye, but they allow air to flow through the otherwise covered portion of the screen.
Step 1: Materials
Perforated Aluminum Sheet: Aluminum is light weight and withstands the elements. I bought M-D Building Products 57042 2-Feet by 3-Feet .020-Inch Thick Cloverleaf Aluminum Sheet because I liked the pattern. There are other patterns and sizes. You will measure your door to see the size right for you.
Sheet Metal Screws: You want to attach the sheet to the door, but also remove it every season. Sheet metal screws allow this without wiggling out from vibrations and use. I bought these because they were cheap: Steel Self-Drilling Screw, Zinc Plated Finish, Pan Head, Phillips Drive, #2 Drill Point, #6-32 Thread Size, 3/8" Length (Pack of 100). I only needed nine.
Black Spray Paint for Metal: To match my door, I needed to paint the sheet the same color as the door so it blended into it and the screen.
Spacers: I made my own, but it allowed me to drill the frame into the sheet to keep its shape. You may not need this if your screen is not already warped. You might find appropriate spacers at your local hardware store.
Tools: Drill, metal bit that matches screws, tape.
Step 2: Measure Your Door
Finding the right aluminum sheet requires answers to a series of questions.
1. Measure the Door's Width: Is your door 30"? 32" 36"? Obviously, you can't have a gate wider than the door. My door was 32". I eventually cut the sheet to 30".
2. Measure the Screen's Width: How wide is the opening for the screen? Mine was 26".
3. Width of the Sheet: I needed to buy an aluminum sheet wider than 26". Because sheets are either 24" or 36" I chose the larger one. Expect to cut it to size. I eventually cut the sheet to 30".
4. How High Do You Want It? Originally, I had thought a six inch kick plate would do, but the more I watched my dog push her nose up against the door the more I realized two feet would be ideal. Two feet keeps my kids' toes from kicking it and the dog's body away.
5. Design of the Aluminum Sheet: What pattern do you want to look at half the year? There are several designs at Amazon and Home Depot, and even more if you look elsewhere. In the end, I bought the M-D Building Products 57042 2-Feet by 3-Feet .020-Inch Thick Cloverleaf Aluminum Sheet
Step 3: Cut the Sheet
My door is 32" and I cut the 36" sheet down to 30".
I went two inches short for clearance of the molding, etc. Give yourself that clearance. It's also four inches wider than the hole for the screen.
Using a Sharpie, I measured 30" along the top and bottom and used a straight edge to connect the two for a straight cut. I used tin snips to cut. This left me with a square 24" x 30" perforated aluminum sheet.
Because the edge is slightly sharp at pits (pointy, too, because I cut through the perforated design) I mounted that edge on the side of the door with the hinges. That hides it well.
Step 4: Paint the Sheet
You can buy aluminum sheets that are black. Or, you might like their offerings (gold, silver, copper) if they match or compliment your door.
I wanted black to match my door and screen. Buy a spray paint made to bond with metal surfaces. Choose a color that matches or goes with the door.
Paint a side, wait for it to dry. Turn it over and repeat.
Step 5: Attach Sheet to the Door
You want to place the sheet so it covers the bottom of the hole for the screen, both across and hanging slightly over the bottom. That bottom will add an extra dimension of support when the sheet is pushed on. Remember to put the cut side of the sheet towards the hinge side of the door! You can use tape to hold the sheet in place before you start drilling.
Starting with the top corner by the hinge (which is also the side of the sheet I cut prior), I drilled a hole using a metal bit in both the aluminum sheet and door. Then, I put a single metal screw. This takes the weight of the sheet while I carefully drill and mount the rest.
Next, move down that side--one screw half way down, another at the bottom corner. Be sure the sheet is square with the door as you go. Because I want the sheet to be tight across the door, I wanted the one side to be square and solid.
Now, I start at the top of the other side. I did it a hole ans screw at a time because I wanted to check my work before I went too far down the wrong path; you might be more confident. Move down the side until both sides are solid.
Put a seventh screw at the middle of the bottom.
Step 6: Add Spacer to Keep Screen Frame Square
Over two years my screen frame has become warped. When I put it in the sides bow an inch each side. Not good. From the natural pressure my kids put on the screen the frame needs reinforcements. I saw this a good time to do that.
Because the frame is a centimeter from the sheet, I need spacers if I want to screw the two together. You can buy them, but instead I cut them from a hard plastic tube I have laying around.
If you need this step::
1. Measure the distance between your screen frame and sheet.
2. Cut your tube that length. You will need metal screws that are longer than the spacers to go through the sheet, spacer and frame.
3. I made two because I thought that was enough. I wanted them at the top of the aluminum sheet because that's where the bow in my frame was.
4. Drill a hole through the sheet and into the frame. Be sure your frame is where you want it to be--you don't want to reinforce a bowed frame, but support it where it is supposed to be.
5. Position the spacer between the two holes.
6. Screw through the sheet, spacer and into the frame.