The obvious place to start is what kind of door would you like to add insect protection to when it is open?
On the surface, it might seem like a simple question to answer, but humor me and let’s see what the functional options are?
All doors fall into three main functional categories: swing doors, sliding doors, and pivoting/folding doors.
For swing doors, the first thing that comes to mind is a swinging screen door.
If the primary door swings in, the screen door should swing out and most likely have the hinge jambs in common. The shortcoming of this configuration is that you need to open two doors every time you enter or exit.
If the swing doors are French style with two operable panels meeting at the center, there is also an option to put a sliding screen door over the opening. With this option, you could leave both screen panels stacked over the inactive leaf most of the time avoiding the awkwardness of having to open two doors all the time.
- 1 For sliding doors, the first choice is a sliding screen.
- 2 What you have read so far is the bad news about insect screens.
- 3 Retractable screens offer the most logical solution for screening doors regardless if they are swinging, sliding, or folding.
- 4 Retrofitting insect screens to already installed doors is a problem.
For sliding doors, the first choice is a sliding screen.
Sliding screen doors work well and can stack over each other when not in use. If the sliding doors are pocketed, where the panels retire into a hidden pocket in the wall when opened , the sliding screen panels can do the same. Unfortunately, the screen door stack is always visible through even the closed glass panel where they reside when not in use. Swinging screen doors are not an option here.
One other downfall to the sliding screen door is that for each sliding screen panel they need a separate, extra track to slide on making the total in/out depth of the door system huge, beyond the typical wall thickness. Of course, then there are also the bottom tracks that need to be embedded into the floor or remain on top as potential trip hazards. In either case, they are collectors of dirt and debris.
Pivoting/folding doors have no obvious choice of screen.
Pivoting doors have the pivots located either at the end of the door panel in a location similar to a common butt hinge or have the pivots “offset” at some position toward the center of the glass panel. With offset pivot doors, there is no easy insect screen option, or any option at all. Neither the interior or exterior faces of the door offer an opportunity to slide or swing a screen into action and otherwise be stored. Sorry about your luck here.
Folding, bi-folding, or accordion doors are a special case of pivoting doors. The first stacking panel has a pivot on one jamb and a hinge connecting it to a second panel. The first and second panels act as a pair where the hinge between them houses a lock to hold them in position and the hinge can push either out or in so that they can fold over each other. In order for this to work the second panel’s farthest jamb needs to be fitted with a trolley that keeps it in line with the closed door so that the pair of panels can open like an accordion.
Folding door assemblies can keep adding panels with trolleys on every far end of every pair of panels. If the final trolley only has a single panel added to it, you end up with a swing door. These pivoted stacks of panels can be created on the left, right or both jambs creating openings up to 60 feet in width of clear opening when fully opened. Screening them is not easy.
One could imagine a second parallel system of screen door panels that fold in or out but opposite to the way the glass door swings with the same combination of pivots and trolleys. This is an awkward and expensive solution.
What you have read so far is the bad news about insect screens.
I personally hate all of the earlier so-called solutions. Swinging and sliding screen doors both mean that the insect screen is visible 24/7. Looking through an insect screen is not as satisfactory a solution as looking through glass. When the door is open, you need to look through the screen fabric in order to keep the insects out. However, for most people and businesses, there is only a small amount of time that the doors are actually left open. Either way, you pay the visual penalty All of the time.
Retractable screens offer the most logical solution for screening doors regardless if they are swinging, sliding, or folding.
All insect screens work with a mesh of woven fabric which creates a grid that is large enough for air to flow through, yet small enough that flying critters cannot pass through. With retractable screens, this fabric rolls up into a canister or drum a few inches in diameter and stores out of sight when not on duty keeping the insects out. Ah, once again, a solution that allows you to have your cake and eat it too.
The canisters can be located either at the head or at the jamb(s). Head canisters can cover very wide openings with a single piece of uninterrupted screen mesh. Their downside is that in order to enter or exit the opening you have to fully retract and then close the screen . . . they suck at egress.
Canisters at the jambs are the most practical. The canister is usually located at the hinge or pivot jamb of the door. If French of folding doors are involved there would usually be two canisters with two pull rails that meet at the center. They can be opened
momentarily while a person enters or exits and can immediately be brought back to the screen-active position. This is very cool and advantageous.
A screen fabric option on jamb canister retractable screens is the pleated screen fabric. This mini-accordion screen has folds ever inch or so. The pleated design offers a little visual distortion when deployed, but is more resistant to blowing out of the track when wind gusts occur. Some flat retractable screen fabrics offer top and bottom “windlocks” that retain the fabric in the tracks that guide the pull rails from open to closed positions.
Retrofitting insect screens to already installed doors is a problem.
We are asked often about screen door solutions especially for steel doors, folding doors and doors within window walls. In several cases, we have designed “only way possible” solutions for customers who made a mistake by not planning for insect screens. Since we are in the steel window and door industry, the question comes up, because steel frames screen doors offered by my brethren are awkward and extraordinarily expensive. Not only that, but they are almost impossible to retrofit.
There are solutions for existing door systems that we employ, and they center around retractable screens. Yes, retractable screens are the ultimate solution for your insect screening problems.