Screen Door Buying Guide

Jacqueline Zenn
Written by Jacqueline Zenn
Updated August 2, 2021
Woman helping child put on shoes with an open screen door
LOUISE BEAUMONT/ Moment via Getty Images

Learn what to consider before installing a breezy new screen door

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Buying and installing a screen door is a home improvement task that you can likely take on yourself if you are handy or otherwise trust in your DIY talents. However, you do need to decide whether you want a hinged, retractable, or sliding screen door. And, depending on the complexity of the existing door frame, you may want to consider hiring a professional handyperson to handle the project. Learn what factors to consider before buying and installing a  new screen door.

What Do I Need To Know About Buying a New Screen Door?

The main goals of a screen door are to improve your home’s airflow, increase natural light, block insects, and add some protection from the elements to your home’s exterior doors. Plus, a  new screen door can also help boost curb appeal.

Nearly every exterior door on your home should be able to have a screen door installed in front of it.

The screen may also be able to be replaced or fitted with glass. In this case, the screen door is technically called a storm door.

Standard hinged screen doors can usually be attached in front of or behind your exterior doors, depending on your preference and the structure of your doorframe. Sliding or retractable doors may have to be situated on a particular side to fit the tracks within the existing door jamb.

Types of Screen Doors

An open green screen door
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There are several different options for screen doors depending on the size, shape, and style of your existing door frame, the style of your home, and your personal preference.

Retractable Screen Doors

These screen doors retract or nearly disappear into the doorframe when they are open, making them an attractive option. They consist of a metal frame with tracks on the top and bottom, a canister that houses the screen on one side, and a magnet or hook that holds the door on the other side. It all mounts on the inside or outside of the existing door jamb.

Retractable screen doors are typically more expensive to purchase and install than hinged or sliding doors. These screen doors can also snap shut quickly, making them a potential hazard for small children and pets. 

Hinged Screen Doors

The most common type of screen door, hinged screen doors are essentially a standard hinged door with a screen instead of a solid material. They usually have three-part hinges on aluminum or vinyl frames, and may also have glass panels that can slide or lock open. Some hinged screen doors have dampeners so they won’t slam closed due to wind or drafts.

Sliding Screen Doors

These are your typical sliding doors, but with a screen instead of a glass panel or other material. They open and close on a track that has either rollers or tensile springs. You will likely need these types of screen doors if you have sliding glass patio doors on the rear or sides of your home.

How Do I Know What Size Screen Door to Buy?

Knowing the size of screen door you need seems easy—just measure the frame or the old door and buy a new one that matches up, right? Not so fast: You’ll also want to make sure you have some clearance so the door closes all the way.

How to Measure Your Door for a New Screen Door

When you measure your door frame for a new screen, you should subtract 0.25” from the height and width to get the correct size. For instance, if the width of your door frame is 32.25” inches and the height is 82.5” inches, then you’ll want a screen door that is 32 inches wide and 82.25” inches tall.

Can I Install a New Screen Door Myself?

If you are handy around the house and have the time, patience, and basic tools, you can probably install a basic retractable screen door yourself. Many of these sorts of doors are one-size-fits-all and include detailed installation instructions.

On the other hand, if you want to add a hinged or sliding screen door, you might want to look for a general contractor or professional door installer in your area. You’ll avoid the risk of damaging the accompanying solid door and save yourself some time in the process.

What Else Should I Consider When Buying a Screen Door?

In addition to the width and height of the door, you want to make sure the knob is on your preferred side–left or right–and that it is not too high or stands out too far from the door, which can prevent the door from closing all the way.

You also may want to avoid a screen door that automatically locks, making it all-too-easy to accidentally lock yourself out (been there, done that). Screen doors usually have a basic lock or latch, but they should be part of your home security gameplan, as they rarely feature a separate lock and key system like a solid door does.

Finally, consider the cost of the time and amount of labor (including any necessary tools) it will take you to install a new screen door yourself versus having a contractor do the work. It might be best to outsource and ensure you get a perfectly fitted new screen door to greet you every time you come home.

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