The Roll Away Screen Door

The Roll away screen door or retractable bug mesh pulls out just like a roller blind from a spring loaded roll. This roll is usually mounted in a white painted aluminum housing to protect the retractable screen door from the elements when it is not in use. 

To close the mesh across the doorway, you just pull on a vertical bar which rides in top and bottom guides. The vertical bar pulls the roll away mesh across the opening. 

The vertical bar locks closed on the opposite side of the opening with a magnetic catch so you can leave your main door open and have the mesh across the opening to allow fresh air to come in but no bugs.

The roll away screen door is held tight by spring pressure on the roll so when a person or a pet walks into it the mesh it gives a little. There is enough screen on the roll so that the retractable bug mesh just unrolls a bit more if someone walks into it.

Well most of the time. So long as fido does not blast clean through it like an express train the roll away screen door will spring back into place. Usually the retractable door has upper and lower guides rails with channels in them for the screen to fit in. Once the screen snaps back tight, it automatically jumps back into these channels to prevent bugs getting in above and under the mesh.

All roll up mesh doors use fiberglass cloth screening, so there is a limit to their strength. They can still get ripped or torn. With normal use and care however, they are quite durable.


Roll up screen doors are held on by usually 7 or 8 screws. They are not a difficult project to install by the do-it-your-selfer. Detailed instructions are provided by the manufacturer in the packaging. 

The roll up screen door vertical tube is installed first. You put 3 Screws into the door jamb at the locations specified. Some designs allow you to just clip the tube onto the screws you have just installed. Take time to make sure the vertical tube is level and plumb. 

The roll up door has upper and lower guide rails which have to be cut to length and installed. One on the door sill and the other at the top of the door frame. It is very important that these bars are perpendicular or 90 degrees to the main vertical tube. If they are not, the roll up door wont open and close smoothly.

Repairing retractable storm mesh

Retractable storm door screens have become quite popular. You can slide the glass up to the top and have a glass door from top to bottom. Slide the glass down and the mesh pulls out so you have ventilation at the top and glass at the bottom.

Storm door retractable screen 1

But I get quite a few inquiries from buyers though who have a broken roll away door and do not know who to turn to to repair them. All to often the place they bought them from wont help.

Here are some pictures detailing the repair of one of these screens, they are not all the same but with luck you can get some help by looking at how I repaired this one so that you can repair your own.

On this screen the cloth had come loose from the moveable sash or window it was attached to. There was a removable bar that hooked onto the the top of the sash with a spline channel that held the cloth.

Storm door retractable screen 2

Because the cloth was not ripped and there was extra cloth still on the roll at the top, I was still able to roll new spline into the spline channel and reattach the mesh to the removable channel.

The only hard part was finding the right size spline. After experimenting with a few sizes I found 0.155 T Spline locked the cloth in just nicely. It's possible that many other companies use this size in their retractable storm designs.

Storm door retractable  3

The picture above shows the cloth installed in the horizontal bar ready to be put back in the door. One thing I had to be careful with is the orientation of the bar. I had to flip the rollscreen over before installing the horizontal bar so that it would install properly. Get it the wrong way around and the bar wont hook back on to the window sash.

Storm door retractable

Heres the mesh back in the door and working properly again. If you have to repair your own please share your experience with me, I would be happy to post any pictures you might have to.

Types of entrances

So long as you have an entrance for which the roll away entrance was designed, you will be fine. Most main entrances on houses are ok so long as the bottom sill has some vertical face to mount the lower guide.

The vertical face has to be in line or flush with the front edge of the side jambs where the vertical tube is mounted.

If its not you will need a sill adapter from the manufacturer to make your sill flush. The top channel guide is not usually a problem. Most of the time the top of the door is flush with the side jambs.

As well as the roll away there are also retractable window models. With these, the rolled up cloth sits just like a window blind on the window top casing.

You simply pull the retractable mesh down out of its housing like a blind.

These are great if you dont like the idea of having mesh blocking your view through the glass all the time. Most modern windows cover the entire glass with screening.

These are very popular in europe where there are a lot more windows which were built without any mesh. Retractable mesh windows also come with solar sunshade screen which helps keep harmful UV radiation away from your furniture.

So long as you have a flat surface to mount them, these retractables are easy to install yourself.

One drawback to these roll away types is that if the cloth ever does get ripped, you generally have to return it to the manufacturers premises to get it repaired.

This could be a problem if the manufacturer is not local or worse, goes out of business. Not too many glass shops can repair these yet, unlike regular doors and windows.

Bear this in mind if you think the screen might be likely to get damaged.

Also there are some installation challenges with disappearing panels when it comes to patio doors and doors that swing out. Bring a photograph of the door you want to cover with a disappearing screen so you make sure that you get any special adapter that may be required for your door. It's probably best to let a professional installer deal with the special requirements.

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