Ideas About Screen Doors Swing Both Ways

SATURDAY'S HERO

May 25, 1991|By Rob Kasper

The bugs are a-buzzing, and that means it is the season to repair the screen door.

For me it is a job that lasts for months. No matter how many times I plug up the holes, new openings appear within days and the bugs are back.

Fixing a screen door is like trying to fix campaign-finance laws, or the federal deficit. You could make a career out of it.

I have worked both sides of the screen door.

As an adult, I am now a defender of the door. I am the one who scolds anyone who threatens it. Who instinctively yells "Watch the door," when baseball bats or lacrosse sticks or broom handles venture near it. Maybe that is why one of our kids used to call it the "scream" door.

I am the one who has put a push bar on the screen door. The bar, simply a piece of painted wood nailed to the door frame, stretches horizontally across the door and protects it from attack.

The attacks can come in a variety of forms. A bicycle being rolled past the door can turn its handles, catch the screen and, in a twinkling, knock loose a section it took you 40 minutes to "secure" to the door frame. I have seen it happen.

And then there is the tendency of kids to push the screen, and for that matter their parents, to the limit. To see how far things can bend without breaking.

I remember that as a kid I used to stand inside the back door watching bugs hover on the other side of the screen. The big bugs, like June bugs, would crawl on the outside of the screen with no hope of entry. They tried and tried. But like a 40-year-old trying to squeeze into a pair of athletic cut jeans, the hard facts of geometry wouldn't allow it.

When, hornets, wasps, bumble bees approached the screen door, I stood back in fright. This was "danger" on the horizon, the wolf at the door. And one by one, as the bees were turned away, I felt a rush of relief. There was security behind the screen.

But when a friendly critter landed on the screen, a lady bug or a lightning bug, I would try to let them in. I would stretch the screen, prying wider the small square openings in the screen that allowed the summer breezes through.

I would try to coax the bug over to an opening -- a spot along the edge of the frame where the screen had come loose.

Or, I would put myself in the "screen lean" position, standing next to door and leaning on the screen with my belly, forcing the screen loose from its moorings. I am told cattle do the same thing to fences. They lean on them until the fencing gives way, and they are free to feed in greener pastures.

I don't know if we as a species inherit the "screen lean" from cattle. I do know that every kid knows this position. It is instinctive.

All these recollections came to mind recently as I was fixing a door where the screen had come loose from a side of the frame.

Previously I had fixed a smaller hole in the middle of the screen with

a patch. Pulling a strand of wire from the square patch, I used the strand to weave the patch to the rest of the screen door.

But this hole was bigger, and unsightly. To me it looked like a run in a stocking. To a mosquito, it looked like an invitation to a free lunch.

So I took the door off its hinges and set it down flat. Then with a screwdriver I pried loose the wooden molding that once held the screen to the frame. The screen had sagged. I figured if I pulled the screen tight, it would just fit on the frame. I figured right. The edge of the screen just met the frame. I held it there with the piece of molding, then tacked them both down.

The repair books say the best way to make this repair is to make sure you have an extra inch of screen overlapping the frame. The idea is that by holding on to the overlap you keep the screen taut. Then you nail down the molding and trim off the excess screen.

I guess that is how you perform the repair if all members of your household are in firm agreement about what the screen door should do. That is should separate us from them. That it should let in some of the wonders of nature, like the summer breeze, while keeping others, like the bugs, out.

But in our family, some of us are still not sure which side of the screen door we want to be on. Some of us are leaning.

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