Use this tutorial to restore a vintage screen door from used, rusty, and moldy to clean and fresh with hinges that work smoothly so you can hear that wonderful farmhouse screen door thump throughout the summer.
This article is sponsored by 3-IN-ONE® Multi-Purpose Oil.
Aren’t wooden vintage screen doors the best? They’re full of character like most vintage things, but they also hold the promise of warm weather and sweet breezes through the house. Plus, the sound that wood screen doors make when they shut – that gentle knock just sounds like summer in the country to me.
Old screen doors don’t have to be restored just for exterior doors, though – I’ve also used them complete with their vintage hardware inside our home, which is such a unique option for hiding closets and pantries. Here’s a room where I used a set of double screen doors for a pantry and a single screen door with chippy paint for a storage closet. I lined the screens with fabric to hide the not-so-pretty contents, but that’s optional if you have pretty storage areas.
Where to Find Vintage Screen Doors?
You can search on Craigslist for screen doors or regularly visit Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores or any local building recycle places to score your own old door. Garage sales or barn sales may also yield results. Like anything vintage, you’ll have to have patience to find just what you’re looking for. Our farmhouse fixer didn’t come with an old screen door, unfortunately, so we are on the lookout for one – and learning about that patience for sure!
In the meantime, my brother recently purchased an older cottage that did come with it’s own vintage screen door, complete with mold, holes in the screen, and rusty hinges. But like many of these old doors, it was sturdy and well-made and just needed sprucing up, a new screen, and some attention given to the sweet scalloped hinges.
Um, yeah, this screen definitely needed some love! Since I was partnering with 3-IN-ONE again to show you how their 3-IN-ONE Multipurpose Oil can work magic to lubricate and quiet old hinges, I volunteered to redo this door for my brother. I couldn’t wait to see it brought back to life.
This really is an easy DIY project, so if you find a vintage screen door that you fall in love with, grab it and follow this tutorial and you’ll have a special door unlike anyone else!
How to Restore a Vintage Screen Door
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One of the things that makes this project so doable is that it uses basic supplies found in most garages. If your screen needs to be replaced like this door, you’ll need to buy screening which is the only item that you probably don’t have hanging around.
- Exterior Paint in desired color (or interior if using your door inside)
- Paint brush(es) – I used a 2-inch brush for the door and a 1-inch brush for the smaller molding pieces.
- 3-IN-ONE® Multi-Purpose Oil. Because it’s been around since 1894, many people have a bottle of this somewhere and it’s unparalleled for getting anything metal to look great and work great again. It lubricates moving parts, penetrates rust, and cleans and protects tools. The easy-to-use drip spout allows precise application, making it perfect for restoring rusty hinges.
- Tool to pop off molding: I tried both a putty knife and a small wood chisel. The chisel worked better because it was stiffer. Basically any tool you have that is thin and stiff enough to pop off the molding will work.
- Replacement screening.
- Heavy-duty stapler, preferably electric to make it easiest.
- (not pictured) Needle-nose pliers, electric hand-held sander (or sanding block), medium-grit sandpaper, and cordless screwdriver or drill for removing and reattaching screen door (we used this one).
- Optional: wood filler.
- Hammer and finish nails.
- Lead safe respirator mask (we’ll just assume that all vintage screens have been painted with lead paint at some point – if your screen is newer than 1978 you’ll be safe without the mask).
Step 1: Remove, Disassemble, and Clean the Screen
- Use drill to remove screen from door. Lay out on a surface that’s easy to work on – I set it on two sawhorses to be at waist level.
- Pop off the molding pieces, being careful not to break them if you’re going to reuse them like I did.
- Pull off the old screening.
- Use pliers to remove any nails that remain. If they are rusty and break off (like many of these did), remove what you can and use a hammer to tap them flush. I hammered everything flat to be able to sand easily.
- Clean the dirt and grime off the screen with a scrubber sponge and water.
Step 2: Sand Screen Frame & Prep for Paint
- Use a putty knife to remove any flaking paint.
- Use medium-grit sandpaper with your electric sander or sanding block to smooth out any rough spots. NOTE: If you aren’t sure about lead-based paint, err on the side of safety and use a lead safe respirator mask for this step.
- Apply optional wood fill to areas that need it and let dry. I used it where some smaller pieces of wood were added to extend the bottom of the screen.
Step 3: Paint
- Paint all the small molding pieces you will reuse.
- Paint front of screen, let dry and then paint the back. Do as many coats as needed. I kept the white color, so only one coat was needed after cleaning and sanding.
Step 4: Restore Vintage Hardware
- Clean the hinges as best you can with a heavy-duty scrubber or steel wool (aren’t these scalloped hinges great?). One of the hinges was a lot more rusted than the other – I used steel wool on the super rusted hinge pictured first above. You want to make sure rough rust spots are removed as much as possible and any flaking paint as well.
- To really penetrate the rust, apply a bit of 3-IN-ONE® Multi-Purpose Oil to base plates of the hinges and use the scrubber to work it in. I found this really helped to even out the surface.
- Use the precision nozzle to apply 3-IN-ONE Multi-Purpose Oil to the spring, working the hinge back and forth to get the oil all through the workings. You will love the results – it makes the stiffest hinges work smoothly again!
- Clean oil residue off hinge fronts and backs with a soft cloth to prepare for painting.
- Using a small brush, dip it into your paint and then remove most of it on the edge of your can or by dabbing onto a paper towel. You want more of a dry brush to lightly coat the hinges, not gum up the workings with running paint. Repeat until the hinge is coated to your liking, using soft, light coats.
- I also reused the painted handle, so I cleaned and sanded it before repainting.
Step 5: Attach New Screening
- Lay out your new screening, trimming about an inch from the inside edge (as pictured above).
- Staple the screening all around, starting at the middle of one side, going to the middle of the opposite side and repeating for the top and bottom, gently pulling taunt as you go. Then finish up the edges, pulling as you go to create the flattest screen that you can.
- Replace the molding pieces all around the edge and the center molding using a hammer and finish nails (or a brad nailer). This door included a lot of moldings for all the cross-braces that I thought looked better without them, so I didn’t add them all back.
Step 6: Attach Hardware & Reinstall Screen Door
- Attach the refurbished hinges and handle using new screws. On this screen, the old hinge screws were standard head and completely rusted. We replaced them with Philips head screws to make it easier to remove the screen if my brother would like to in the winter.
- Use the almost-dry brush technique again to touch up the shiny new screw heads so they don’t stand out.
- Reinstall the screen door, again using new Phillips head screws.
- Stand back and enjoy your handiwork (always the best part!).
Vintage Screen Door After
What a difference, right? I just love how it turned out and I’m so glad my brother wanted to keep this and not just throw it away like some do!
You may have noticed in the before picture that the screen also had two additional hinges in the center (you can see the marks left in the black molding). These were just cupboard door hinges and weren’t needed for a sturdy door like this so we left them off.
While I think this door looks great now, my brother has plans to paint his little cottage this summer, redoing the molding to look more classic. Won’t this restored vintage screen door go even more perfectly, then?
Having a restored and unique classic old wooden screen door is great way to welcome guests – or just make you smile every time you enter and hear that satisfying “thwack” of a wood screen door.
Are you inspired to search for your own old screen door?
For more handy tips, don’t forget to follow 3-IN-ONE on Facebook and Instagram. You can find 3-IN-ONE Multi-Purpose Oil at most big box stores and hardware stores, including Walmart. To find it at a store near you or online.
Disclosure: I received product and/or compensation for this post. As always, the opinions, thoughts, and projects are all mine and I will NEVER promote something I don’t love and think you will find helpful – promise! This post also uses affiliate links that earn commission based on sales, but doesn’t change your price. Click here to read my full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.
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