Set aside an afternoon to install a new screen door, but allow for more time if you need to paint or stain it.
You’ll wonder why everyone doesn’t do this themselves.
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What you'll need:
Angled paint brush
Door sweep (optional)
Paint or stain (optional)
A screen door provides a barrier between the outdoor elements and the indoors. It allows you to let the sights, sounds, and fresh air in—no fly swatter necessary. Learn how to install a screen door yourself to enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your home.
How to Install a Screen Door in 7 Steps
Learn how to install a screen door yourself following this step-by-step guide.
Pick the Door Material
Before you begin the project, it’s important to pick the right door, so it will last for years to come. You can use our Screen Door Buying Guide for a comprehensive explanation of what to look for when purchasing a screen door, but here are some of the main points.
In general, you can choose between wood or vinyl screen doors, so weigh the pros and cons of each before making your selection:
Wood screen doors:
Provides an old-world, nostalgic feel, and can have ornamental accents.
Looks cohesive with homes that have wood siding and are customizable, if you choose to paint or stain it.
If the frame breaks or is damaged, it’s easy to repair.
A wooden door has a higher upfront cost than vinyl.
Wood can rot, so it requires regular maintenance.
You will need to repaint or restrain it every few years.
Vinyl screen doors:
They come in a variety of styles, and they often include the hardware and latch.
Vinyl doors are usually more durable than wood and are lighter weight and easier to maneuver.
They have a lower upfront cost.
Thinner vinyl doors are often prone to cracking and drying out when exposed to the sun for an extended period.
It’s difficult to repair or replace the frame if it’s damaged.
Measure the Frame
Once you have chosen the type of door material you will purchase, start by measuring the frame to find the right size.
To get the width, measure the door jamb horizontally from the top of the door, middle, and bottom sections.
To get the height, measure the door jamb vertically from the left, middle, and right sections.
Then, subtract a quarter of an inch from the measurements to determine the proper size. Adjusting these measurements by a quarter of an inch allows for a tight fit and provides enough clearance.
Fit the Door to the Opening
Once you have purchased the correct-sized door, you will want to fit it into the opening. Start by determining the way the door will swing. If the handle and latch are either adjustable or do not interfere with the main door’s handle, attach it on the same side as the main door’s hardware. If the handle and latch will obstruct the main door’s hardware, attach it to the opposite side.
After you have determined the direction the door will swing, use wooden shims on the sides, top, and bottom of the door to hold the door in place. If the door is too wide or tall for the opening, you may need to remove some of the frame to get a proper fit by trimming excess material.
To trim the door, use the tape measure and ruler to mark the overlapping section. Use a circular saw to cut the excess material from the frame. Then, use a sanding block to smooth over the rough areas.
Paint or Stain the Door (Optional)
Photo: Danchooalex / Getty Images
Sometimes, wooden door frames will leave the top and bottom edges unfinished. Moreover, you will need to touch up paint on the edges if you trim off the excess wood. Sealing unfinished edges with a matching paint color protects the door frame from wear and tear, and ensures long-term durability.
If you opted for a fully unfinished wooden frame, paint or stain the door before you install it for easier application. Using an angled paint brush, apply the paint in even coats over the surface and edges, and allow it to fully dry. Choose an exterior paint or stain for long-lasting results.
Attach Door Hinges
Photo: Alexnikit1981 / Getty Images
Using the hinge side of the main door as a guide, mark the placement of the hinges on both the screen door edge and the door jamb with a pencil. Make sure the hinges are placed in the right direction to swing out the way you want them to. Using the marks, drill pilot holes with a drill bit that is smaller than the screws. Drilling pilot holes prevents splitting and cracking in the material.
After the pilot holes have been drilled, attach the hinges with the provided screws. If applicable, attach any included hinge caps over the exposed screws by snapping them into place.
Install the Door Handle and Latch
Next, move on to the other side of the door and attach the handle. If the door opener is not attached to the door, you will first need to pick the location for the handle. Remember to place it above the main door’s handle so the new handle doesn’t get in the way. Once you have picked the placement of the handle, mark the location with a pencil and drill pilot holes. Then, attach the handle into place with the included screws.
Next, attach the included hook-and-eye latch to keep the door secure as needed. Mark the location of the latch (usually above the handle) and drill pilot holes in the door jamb and in the screen door with a smaller drill bit. Then attach the hook-and-eye latch by hand.
Make Necessary Adjustments
Test the door by opening and closing it, attaching the latch each time to ensure the handle and latch are in the right position. If you notice the hinges are sagging, you may need to adjust the screws. Conversely, if the door is rubbing against the door jamb, you may need to loosen the screws for a proper fit.
If you notice a large gap between the bottom edge of the door and the door sill, you can install a door sweep on the bottom to prevent drafts or crawling bugs and debris from getting inside. A door sweep can be found at most hardware stores and is usually attached by drilling pilot holes and attaching the screws. However, refer to the manufacturer’s directions for detailed instructions.
Advantages of a Screen Door
Here are a few reasons to consider installing a screen door in addition to your main door:
Energy-efficient—turn off your air conditioning unit to naturally cool your house down.
Installing a screen door keeps pesky bugs outside, so you can take in the views in peace.
A screen door serves as a barrier between your front door and the outdoor elements, protecting the surface of the main door.
It keeps unwanted critters out while keeping furry friends inside.
A new screen door that blends with your home's exterior boosts curb appeal.
It allows fresh air to circulate throughout your home, providing more ventilation.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you took measurements of the door and can’t find the correct size in store, you may need a custom-size screen door. Many door manufacturers produce doors fit-to-size using individualized dimensions.
There are different types of screen materials available when purchasing a screen door, but the two main options are fiberglass and aluminum.
Fiberglass: Fiberglass is one of the most common types, as it is lightweight and doesn’t corrode when exposed to moisture. Fiberglass is more affordable than other types, but keep in mind that it can stretch, so needs to be replaced more often. While this material goes back into place if dented, it is not scratch-resistant, so keep this in mind if you have pets at home.
Aluminum: Aluminum is a screen material option that is preferred by many because of its sturdiness. While it has a higher up-front cost, it is a more durable material than fiberglass. However, it can be more difficult to install and can corrode or rust if it doesn’t have a protective coating.
If your screen has a small tear in it, you can usually find a patch kit to economically repair the damage. However, if you have larger tears or have patched multiple times, you may choose to replace the entire screen. If the frame is damaged, however, it might be time to replace the entire door.
While sometimes used interchangeably, a screen door differs from a storm door. Screen doors are composed only of the frame and screen, whereas a storm door has more components. A storm door comes with a glass panel that can be installed instead of a screen to keep the air inside the home. A storm door offers more protection, but costs more than a screen door, so weigh the pros and cons to determine the best option for your needs.