Sturdy Wood Screen Door

13 Materials
5 Hours
My plan was to buy a wood screen door at a box store for $20 but when I looked at the quality, I knew it wouldn't last for a week with my kids! So I designed and built one with style that will last for years!

Prepare your door jam...replace trim, fill holes, sand, paint.... You don't want to install a nice door on a crappy looking frame. I had to tear off my old rotted trim, reinsulate the frame and add 2 layers of new trim. I filled holes in my existing door frame where my previous screen door was hung, sanded everything down, caulked seams with exterior paintable caulk and repainted.
Measure your door opening. Deduct 1/8" - 1/4" for hinges. The above plans are for a 35 1/2" screen door.
Cut all rails and stiles to length. Create 1 1/2" tenons on the rails and mortises on the stiles. For an easy way to create tenons, click here.
Rabbet the bottom inside of your top board and the top inside of your middle board (blade at 5/8 height and fence set at 5/8"). Use a chisel to line up the rabbets there the boards are joined. Cut a 3/4" wide dado 1" deep into the top of the bottom rail and the bottom of the middle rail. I did this by making several passes on the table saw or you can use a dado blade in your table saw. Use a jig saw to shape the grooved edges (as shown above). Dry fit the door together and mark the where you need to rabbet the the outside boards. The rabbeted edge should run through the top and bottom of the grooves as well as the top and bottom of the rabbeted edges of the top and middle rails. Measure middle panel and jot down the width and height.
Cut in your rabbets into the outside boards. I did mine by slowly and carefully lowing it onto the table saw blade. You cant cut it from end to end because the blade is round. Chisel or use an oscillating tool to square up the rabbets.
Cut 1 x 6 x 6's into 3 pieces each at panel height. Keep in mind that you need the panel to fit inside the grooves on the middle and bottom rails. Divide the bottom panel opening width by 6. Add a half inch for overlap. Rabbet 3/8" deep by 1/2" wide on front right edge and back left edge of 4 pieces and only 1 edge of the last 2. Stain and then glue together and clamp. Allow to dry. Trim edges to fit width.
Using exterior glue, apply glue to all tenons. Slide finished panel into the groove. DO NOT GLUE PANEL INTO PLACE!! Wood has to be able to expand and contract. Put door together and clamp tight. Allow to dry.
Set hinges on edge of door. Trace around them. Use a plunge router with a 1/4" upcut spiral bit to router out hinge space. The hinge should fit flush with the wood. Sand with 220 grit sandpaper. Wipe with lint free cloth dampened in mineral spirits. Apply stain of your choice. Allow to dry. Apply 2 coats of exterior grade polyurethane, sanding in between coats. Remember to stain and seal the 1/2" x 1/2" x 8 trim pieces as well.
Starting in the upper corner, staple your screen into the rabbeted edge stretching and pulling it toward the lower opposite corner as you go. Trim excess with a utility knife.
Cut and nail on trim pieces to cover your staples. Attach hinges to door and screw it into the frame. (Predrill first). Attach handle, latch, and spring. Enjoy!
Resources for this project:
(2) 5/4 x 4, 96", Board
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Lisa Laker Interior Design
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  2 questions
  • Xenia Ford Xenia Ford on Oct 13, 2017
    Where can you possibly find a screen door for $20. I don't have kids!😀 I'm not sure what a "box store" is.?

  • Joye R. Foster Joye R. Foster on Feb 23, 2019

    5/4 Do you mean 1-1/4"?

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2 of 37 comments
  • Kathy Kathy on Feb 23, 2019

    Love the bottom panel. My kids would have kicked the screening out in a day by using their feet to open the screen. Boys are always I a hurry.

  • Zeta McMillan Zeta McMillan on Jun 14, 2019

    I need a screen door and can afford this one-Great job-Thank you!