Just in time for fall, another screen door

“Little and often make much.”

So says a Chinese fortune paper that I keep on my desk at work. This summer, I have done as little as I can, as often as possible, and I can’t figure out why I haven’t accomplished much! Maybe my pace will pick up once our scorching-hot summer is over.

One of my summer projects was to paint the back screen door, which still matched the previous color scheme. How hard can that be?

Half the summer slipped by before I laid the door out for rejuvenation in my side-porch paint lab. I had barely gotten busy sanding its grubby surface when I noticed that the glue joint above the handle had separated. We decided that the old door had come to the end of its useful life. Time for a fresh start.

At Lowe’s we chose a new pine screen door in the same style as the old one. This time, though, Eric wanted to install a real dog door instead of cutting a flap of screen fabric. We need to keep the fur kids in, yet still ventilate the house. Additionally, he wanted to upgrade the standard screen fabric to pet screen, which is a strong, coarser, vinyl-coated polyester mesh that resists claws. (I highly recommend it.)

Now—watch as a seemingly simple project (paint a freakin’ door!) balloons into a whole summer’s worth of mini projects!

On our old door, the screen was attached with a spline in a groove, making the screen impossible to removable without ruining it. The new door features a routered channel that holds a metal frame, into which the screen and spline is inserted. The whole framework and screen can be removed for painting the door, then reinstalled with screws. Eric says this system has been around for a long time … but what do I know? I was just glad I wouldn’t have to tape the screens when I painted. I hate taping!

Wood screen door without the screen

The door with the metal frame and screen removed.

In his basement shop, Eric customized the door to hold a large dog door, the same kind we have in the back door. He filled the space above the dog door with wood. (In the photos below, the wood door is laying on a plywood surface, making it hard to see details.)

He also had to buy new, larger metal framing for the screen, because the frame that came with the door was too small to accept the heavier pet screen fabric. The larger frame required routering a wider channel in the door. All that gluing, screwing, and tattooing took longer than I’d hoped, but finally our new, custom door made its way back upstairs to the paint lab.

My turn. Notice, I seldom paint alone. If Eric took a long time to customize the door, I probably took just as long to finish painting. I could only do one coat per day, and I didn’t paint every day.

We pin the door back against the house when it’s not in use because there’s only a top step to stand on—no landing and no place to get out of the way of an outward-opening door. When it’s pinned back, the inside of the door is visible from the street, so I painted it the trim color to help it blend with the trim around the back porch window. Initially I thought to paint it the gray-green siding color, but people only see the top of the door from the street, and the pale taupe looks better from the inside when the door’s closed.

At last, the door was cured and ready to be fitted out with the new screen and pet door. Eric did the work on the kitchen floor.

Finally—ready to install! But wait—let’s do some additional fiddling around. When Eric removed the old door, we found that the hinges had been screwed into a piece of shim inside the door jamb. No wonder it never fit right. Eric cut a new trim piece for the door jamb, and I, of course, painted it. Now we could proceed with measuring and jiggling it around until it fit just so, at the right height and depth … are we done yet? No!

To make the door fit flush with the exterior door frame, Eric added some clever bumpers. Can you tell what these are really for? (Hint: They are not rubber baby buggy bumpers.) If you can’t figure it out, go lift up your toilet seat …

Rubber bumper used to dampen screen door slam.

The door always closes quietly.

Door with hook and eye fastener

Interior hardware

Boxer stands before pet door

Duke quivers with excitement as Eric encourages him to try his new door.

View of plants outside screen door

The leafy view from inside.

Boxer peers under wooden gate

What people see from the sidewalk. Go ahead–stick your foot under the gate!

We started this easy project on July 7. We hung the screen door on August 28 … our normal, do-little-often pace. (But we’ve had a hot, fun summer!) Duke is still figuring out how to heft his hind legs through the new door, which is a higher step than the other door. Some of the cats are confused that the screen panel isn’t the way in anymore. Eric and I are on to our next project. We’ll all figure it out …

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

15 thoughts on “Just in time for fall, another screen door

  1. Jessica@CapeofDreams

    Nice improvement despite how long it took to complete. My animals are jealous of the doggy door, but we can’t fence our yard or put in an electric fence so in they stay. Kahlua is now fully blind so she couldn’t use it now anyway.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Oh no! How did I miss the fact that Kahlua’s blind?? Why can’t you fence your yard? I’m sure she like that, even though she can’t see, she would learn the territory. And your cats are whispering: “Catio … catio …” 🙂

  2. Tom & Judy Huppert

    You two have lots more patience than me or Tom. We probably would have bought a standard screen door, painted it and hung it. Forget the pet door. We don’t have animals that go in and out anyway so really don’t need one. You finished product is perfect s usual and your babies will love it when they get used to it.

  3. Karen B.

    I am always so impressed about how thorough Eric in his handy work. We would have bought the standard screen door, had difficulty hanging it straight and it would still be resting in the garage, with us trying to figure out what to do. Eric is a fading breed of men that seem to be able to do anything in the home improvement arena! Lucky you. However, I wouldn’t have made the deal as master painter. 🙂
    Happy autumn, almost. We’ve had a long stretch of above normal daytime temps and I’m over it. I am praying for cooler weather and a little rain on the side.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Karen! How are you doing? Yes, if it weren’t for Eric, I wouldn’t even have a blog! 🙂 We’ve had a burn-up summer, too (literally), and everyone is ready to cool down. Happy autumn to you, too! t will come one of these days!

  4. Cathy Lee

    It is a beautiful door with innovative customization and paint 🙂 Thinking of how it looks from the street is quite an interesting way to determine its style – and I love the thick screen! If I need help in Tucson can I borrow Eric? You can sit on my deck with me 🙂

  5. Nine Dark Moons

    Love the look of the new door – love the cream trim around the doggy door. Duke is such a funny guy! Love his spy strip under the fence. Great job! There must be something about this summer that just screams “be lazy” because I haven’t gotten much done either! I had such huge plans and ended up not doing much, which is ok with me 🙂 The house will still be here when I feel like upping the pace. Love the new color scheme of your house so much!

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Thanks, Alison! Yeah, I had big plans too, and suddenly it’d Sept and where has my summer gone? Well, it’s not quite over yet, and we’re busy with stuff again. Now I need to get into blog frame of mind!

  6. Jo

    Love that you’re still using the “old style” screen door. I totally get these projects that go on and on. Months turn into years. Every little thing turns into a major undertaking and yet we keep on. Good work, both of you. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music


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