There are alternatives to the traditional screen door

Posted6/6/2020 6:00 AM

Q: We want ventilation during mild weather and more light from our front door but don't like the appearance of screen doors. What are other options to add screening to the door?

A: Fresh air gently flowing into your house in the spring and fall is refreshing and healthier for most people who don't have allergies. Indoor air can often be more polluted from synthetic building materials, furniture, carpeting, paint, cleaning chemicals, etc., and less healthy than outdoor air.


If your budget is somewhat flexible, don't write off installing a screened storm door. Some attractive, decorative screen doors are available, but they will cost more than the typical low-cost, flimsy ones you see on sale at home center stores. These high-quality, wrought iron storm doors also increase energy efficiency and security.

There are several alternative methods to add screening to your front door. One is a retractable screen. I installed a Dreamscreens retractable kit on my own front door about five years ago and it still works well.

When this screen is retracted into a small box, it almost looks like part of the door frame and is barely noticeable.

For a single door, the Dreamscreens kit costs about $300. It is not difficult to install a kit yourself, but professional installation is available and typically costs about another $100. Some manufacturers sell only through local dealers and not for do-it-yourself installation, so make sure to research the installation options from each.

Most retractable door screens are similar in design. They use a vertical, 1.75-inch square box that is attached to one side of the door opening on the outside. The lightweight box is made of rust-free aluminum and is available in many common colors. I painted mine to match the door moldings and house trim.

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When the durable screen is retracted for someone to walk through the door, it rolls up inside of this box. An adjustable torsion spring built inside of the box pulls the screen in when open. The spring tension also keeps it smooth and taut when the screen is closed over the door. A magnetic strip is attached to the screen metal edge strip.

Another narrow aluminum channel is mounted vertically on the other side of the door opening. There is a matching magnetic strip in this channel so the screen edge sticks securely to it when the screen is pulled over the door. A simple tool is used to adjust the spring tension to make it easy to operate, yet taut.

Horizontal thin-track channels are mounted top and bottom in which the screen edges slide. Even though these kits use very durable screening, look for ones with a reinforcing vinyl strip molded into the top and bottom screen edges to reduce wear. This is where the screen edges slide in the channels when the screen is opened and closed.

A lower-cost (about $40) screening option is a removable Bug Off Screen. It has two screen panels that hang from a spring-loaded rod. Adhesive-backed, hook-and-loop strips attach the sides to the door frame. Magnetic pieces hold the center edges together. It is easy to open and walk through, but it does not seal as completely as a retractable screen.


The following companies offer retractable screens: Alco Ventures, (855) 488-7655,; Bug Off Screen, (888) 342-5270,; Dreamscreens, (888) 757-0929,; and Phantom Screens, (888) 742-6866,

Q: I have trouble getting enough heated air to a back bedroom. I plan to install a fan in that duct to force more air to that room. What is the easiest method to get the fan to switch on and off?

A: Your problem is a common one. Before installing a duct fan, try to adjust all the duct dampers to get more heat in that room. You may have to close the dampers to other rooms quite a lot to feel the effect.

Use a sail switch to get electricity to the duct fan. It installs in the duct near the furnace and is plugged into an electric wall outlet. When the furnace blower starts, the air flow moves the sail, which switches on the fan.

• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

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