May 02, 2023

Kits made to add screens over front, patio door openings

Retractable screen door over the opening half of a sliding glass patio door. The screen uses magnetic latches to keep it in the closed position and retracts into a small roll on the side of the door when open. Courtesy of James Dulley

Q: I don't like the appearance of a screen door over my front door, but want ventilation and light from it. What options are there other than a screen door?

A: Bringing fresh air into your house in the spring and fall is refreshing and actually healthy for most people. Indoor air is often more polluted from synthetic building materials, furniture, carpeting, paint, cleaning chemicals, etc., and less healthy than outdoor air.

Depending upon your budget, don't write off installing a screen or storm door. There are some attractive, decorative screen doors available, but they cost more than low-cost, flimsy ones you see on sale at home center stores. These high-quality screen and storm doors also increase 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 the screen is retracted, no one notices it is even installed on the door.

For a single door, the Dreamscreens kit costs about $250. It is not difficult to install a kit yourself, but professional installation is available and typically costs about $100. Some manufacturers sell only through local dealers and not for do-it-yourself installation.

A retractable screen consists of a tall, 1.75-inch vertical square box that is attached to the side of the door opening on the outside. The box is made of rust-free aluminum and is available in many common colors.

The durable screening rolls up inside of this box when the screen is retracted. There is a torsion spring inside of the box that pulls the screen in and 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.

A narrow aluminum channel is mounted 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.

Horizontal thin channels are mounted top and bottom in which the screen edges slide. Even though these 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.

A lower-cost (about $40) screening option is the 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.

The following companies offer retractable screens: Alco Ventures, (855) 488-7655,; Bug Off Screen, (888) 342-5270,; Dreamscreens, (888) 757-0929,; and Phantom Screens, (855) 583-5280,

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.

• Send questions to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit