Once upon a time we had a wood framed screen door installed on a screened in porch. This door worked really well for ten years and then one day the nine dollar latching mechanism failed. This became instantly annoying because the door would bang in even the slightest of breezes. Within seconds the bugs were coming inside the porch as though we had opened a shelter for wayward pests.
This situation became unbearable within about ten minutes so I went in search of the same latch but the same type latch was no longer available. Once I saw all of the available options I decided to upgrade the latch to a more modern style and found a nice one at the local home center which sells such things. Looking down the row where they display the hardware for doors and windows I saw at least twenty different replacement door latches any of which would have easily worked on our wooden screen door.
After much mental debate and rumination over the various types and styles I finally settled for a twelve dollar door latch which is a one size fits many kind of device. The kit came with all the pieces required to attach this door latch to almost any screen door whether it is wood or aluminum. The one that I chose is pretty nice because you lift up on the handle from the outside and it uses leverage to actuate an internal push rod which presses on the release lever on the inside of the door.
In the kit with all of the universal hardware there was a template which is used to mark the holes that you will need to drill and this also helps you align the striking plate that the latch interfaces with on the door jamb. Marking the holes with a black marker made it easy to see where the new holes should go. On my installation there were no holes in the door because the old latch was a spring loaded flipper arm with rubber rollers that rested against the top edge of the door to hold it closed. Included in the door latch kit were three different length push rods and different length screws so that you can adapt this latch kit to almost any door providing the width is within typical standard door range.
The first thing I had to do was determine which parts fit my specific door width. Once I had that figured out I placed the template on the door and drilled the three holes near the middle of the door nearest the center cross brace for strength. Then I propped the door open so that I could hold the inside lever in my left hand and the outside in my right. The push rod goes into the outside handle and includes a spring which pushes the latch back out when you let go. This is complex because you have to then hold all this in place while you put the two screws into the holes without dropping anything. I find that a piece of duct tape applied to either side latch handle lets me have a free hand to hold the screws and a screwdriver.
The last thing I do before firmly tightening all of the hardware is to give the latch a quick test to make sure nothing hangs up. On this door the wood was one of those in between sizes so I had to file off about a sixteenth of an inch from the pusher rod before everything would mesh smoothly.
Once the latch handles are on the door you need to situate the striker device. This is usually a spring loaded bar in a small frame that has two slotted screw holes which allow for lateral adjustment of the striker when you slide it up or down on the screws. Typically you want to make the screws line up at the strongest location in the door jamb at the same time have it be centered onto the door latch when the two meet. If you hold this in place and do a dry run manually before you permanently install this striker you will save yourself some time and a headache.
What I wanted from this new door latch was to have something that will reliably close every time and stay shut even when the wind blows through the screened porch. This new latch works very smoothly and is adjustable so that if things come out of alignment later I can make some small adjustments to improve the way it latches.
With store time this project took about an hour and a half and the store is 15 minutes away.