With the coming of summer, there’s also the coming of all those pesky little annoyances — outdoor insects, not the neighbor’s kids. If you like to keep the doors open for fresh air and you have screen doors to keep out the bugs, some simple maintenance will keep those doors working properly and doing their job all summer long.


The first thing to check is that the door operates smoothly and seals completely. Start by opening it a few times and watching its automatic closing operation. If the door is stiff to open or makes any kind of noise, the hinges are usually at fault. This can typically be remedied by applying a lightweight oil such as 3-in-1 or by using a spray lubricant such as WD-40. Work the door open and closed a few times to let the lubricant work, and you should be fine. If the door is the type that has removable hinge pins, remove and clean the pins prior to oiling.

Most screen doors utilize a cylinder at the top or near the center of the door to pull it closed. Most cylinders have two adjustment screws that regulate their operation. One adjusts how quickly the door pulls itself closed from its fully open position to about three-quarters of the way closed, and the second for how much force it uses to slow its closure and apply pressure against the latch during the final one quarter of the closing arc. The door should be adjusted so that it closes quickly enough to not allow a lot of time for the bugs to come in, but not so quickly that it swings back against someone before they are comfortably clear of the opening. It should also close with enough force at the end to firmly engage the latch mechanism. By simply turning the two adjustment screws in and out (some cylinders only have one adjustment screw for both operations), you can adjust the door’s operation to your liking.

If the cylinder is not operating correctly no matter what adjustments you make to it, it’s probably time for a replacement. Most home centers and hardware stores offer replacement cylinder kits, with complete hardware and instructions for replacement. Take your old cylinder with you when you go shopping for a replacement.

The other operational problem you may encounter is a door that is out of alignment and will not close correctly. Some screen doors are prehung in a frame, similar to a standard door, and adjusting them requires that all of the screws that hold the screen door frame to the regular door frame be removed and the screen door frame be reset in the opening and then reattached.

Other types of screen doors slip into an aluminum channel, and the channel is attached to the regular door frame with screws through the hinges. To adjust this type of door, remove the screws that hold the screen door in the channel, and slide the door in or out of the channel as needed to adjust. When it’s right, reinstall the screws into new holes.


Once you’ve gotten everything operating properly, the next step is to clean the door and the screen, and make any necessary repairs. Aluminum door frames can be cleaned with a mild, nonabrasive soap and warm water. Mild solvents can also be used to clean grease and oil stains off the aluminum. Painted wooden door frames can also be cleaned with soap and water, but if the paint is peeling it needs to be sanded, primed and repainted as soon as possible to prevent damage to the wood.

The screen itself can be cleaned with a light spray from a garden hose, avoiding high pressure that can damage the screen material. A soft bristle brush with a little soapy water will also do wonders for dirty screens, but here again go lightly to avoid damage.

If the screen material is torn or has come loose, its time for a rescreening. For most aluminum and steel screen doors, rescreening is a fairly straightforward procedure. Most home centers and hardware stores sell rescreening kits, which consist of new screen, a new vinyl spline and a splining tool (these are all available separately as well). If you’d rather not tackle it yourself, most glass shops offer reasonably priced rescreening services.

Take the door out of the frame and lay it on a table or sawhorses. Remove the old spline from the groove in the frame, and remove the screen. Lay the new screen material on the door so that it overlaps the door frame on all sides. Start in one corner, and using the spline tool push the new spline over the screen and into the groove. Work your way around the door, lightly stretching the screen as you push the spline into place. Finish by trimming off the excess screen material.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@hughes.net.

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