How do I… screen a metal door?

How do I...

Windows are pretty easy to screen; most of us can get (or make) a frame, put the screening inside and mount it. But doors? Mama, doors are another story, and most of the doors here have some kind of openness to them, even when they’re closed. Never fear! There is a solution.

First, you’ll need some rubbing alcohol. Grab a rag and use it to clean the surface of the metal so that the glue will adhere well. You may also want a pair of disposable gloves to protect your skin from the cement in the next steps.

This is a bottle of rubbing alcohol

Next you’ll need…screen! It comes in big rolls. There are different quality levels with different sized holes, so go for the smallest gauge and toughest material you can find. I prefer fiberglass over aluminum, but that’s just a personal preference. If the fiberglass rips, it’s more easily repaired with screen tape.

Next you’ll need a sharp pair of scissors. Screen is actually pretty easy to cut. I measure the width of the door, then leave it longer than necessary (why will become clear). Leave it as wide as you can to allow more surface to contact the metal. When I was a new, fresh, green missionary (not the decrepit old lady I am now), I used bias tape I made from an old sheet and bound the edges on my sewing machine to make them look nice. (I was so industrious. Sigh.) I didn’t do that this time. I’m not sure if it would work with the clear cement; you might need RTV if you’re going to go that route.

Once your screen is the right size across, you’ll go ahead and start using the clear PVC cement to attach it directly to the metal. It smells pretty bad, so you may want a fan. I found it best to apply it fairly heavy, wait a minute for it to start to dry, then apply the screen once it’s tacky. (It’s helpful to have two people to do this part, but I know how you roll, mamas, and if it’s just you, you can totally still do it.) Press the screen to the cement all along the edge; the cement will pass through the screen. As it starts to take, I do another pass with the cement over the top of the screen. Hold it in place until it can take the weight of the screen (two or three minute at most; it dries quite quickly).

Next, you’ll work your way down each side of the door. If you have any odd things you have to work around, go ahead and make the cuts to accommodate it first. Then, just like across the top, put a layer of cement on the door, pressing down the screen, and applying another layer of cement on top. Be careful not to pull the top away if it’s still drying; you could wait until it’s hardened to do the sides if you’re concerned.

Once the sides are both done, you can tell how much you’ll need at the bottom. Sometimes the screen can gap or fold funny, so that’s what it’s important to leave the bottom part longer, to ensure coverage. You do not want to get to the bottom and be half an inch short. (Trust the voice of experience, mamas.) Then you can go ahead and follow the same procedure at the bottom. Once it’s all done, I do one more layer on top of all the edges, just to be sure. This whole project only took 1/4 of the PVC cement. If I was using RTV, I would expect to use a whole tube, maybe a tube and a half, depending on how thick you put it on.

As you can see, some parts of my cutting were straighter than others…I had a five-year-old who was alternately trying to help and wrestling with his sister…it was so helpful…but it did impact the straightness of the screen. Which I now have to live with.  Forever.

Since these screens are not removable, I usually just use a stiff-bristled brush like with a dust pan and brush them clean. Try to make sure the wind is blowing through the house going out, not in. A fan is helpful.

Admittedly, I haven’t tried this on anti-corrosion paint. I’m not sure how that would work, but bare metal or regular painted metal should both work.

Also, I have no suggestions for getting your children to actually close the door behind them. You’re on your own there.

Hang in there, mamas! And while you’re at it, hang some screens. You’ve got this.

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