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Take broad view when choosing screen doors


Screen doors have survived for many years as household accessories because of their simplicity and pure usefulness: They let fresh air into a home, and keep bugs out.

Today's homeowners have several newer choices when picking a screen for their doors.

A basic screen hangs like a drape over the door opening; just push it aside to go in or out. A version of this type of screen, which is attached to the top of the doorway with hook-and-loop fasteners, is available for about $20 from Improvements, at 800-642-2112 or www.improvementscatalog.com.

The polyethylene screen is easily removed and folds to about the size of a magazine for storage.

Hinged screen doors with wood or vinyl frames are also available at some home centers for less than $50. A "closer," a device to close the door automatically, generally costs extra. An old-fashioned coil-spring closer, which sometimes slams the door with a loud "thwack," is one option.

Better choices are spring-loaded hinges or a quiet, cylindrical closer of the type generally used on storm doors.

Hinged screen doors usually come in 30-inch, 32-inch and 36-inch widths, to fit openings 80 inches high.

Many homeowners prefer combination storm-screen doors, which are available in many styles and at prices ranging from about $70 to several hundred dollars each.

These doors not only have screens to provide ventilation and bug-protection in warm weather, but also have glass panels to provide extra energy efficiency and draft protection in winter. However, the glass-panel "storm" feature will add little protection if a home has a modern, insulated entrance door such as the tightly weather-stripped, metal-skinned doors featured on newer homes.

Many storm-screen or combination doors have aluminum or aluminum-clad frames with baked-on finishes, so little maintenance is needed.

So-called full-view doors are a popular choice. These have full-length, interchangeable screen and glass panels. A favorite combination door is the self-storing type. This has a large glass-screen area constructed much like a double-hung window. It is possible to switch from an all-glass area to a glass-screen area without removing any of the panels. Glass or screen panels are simply moved up or down to achieve the type of opening that is wanted.

Installing a combination door is not difficult and requires only simple tools. An electric drill is usually the only power tool needed, but a power screwdriver is also helpful. Other essential tools are a hacksaw and a tape measure.

Always measure the door opening carefully before buying any type of new door. Combination doors are sold in sizes to fit standard openings, but slight adjustments can be made to make a door fit an odd-sized opening. For example, a 32-inch door will fit an opening ranging from 31 7/8 inches to 32 3/8 inches wide. The height can be adjusted for openings 80 inches to 81 inches high.

Most combination doors also have reversible hinges, so that a door can be hinged on either the right or left side. To avoid awkward passages, it's best to hinge a screen door on the same side that the entrance door is hinged.

The door's frame has a flange on each side that is screwed to the outside of the door opening. A top rail and a bottom piece are installed after the door is mounted.

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