Turn a Screen Door into a Trellis

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With their gingerbread trim, Victorian screen doors are lovely additions to late 19th-century houses. But doors that have ended up in the salvage yard also can be deployed to charming effect in the garden. The twining path of climbing vines harmonizes with delicate woodwork when an old screen door is turned into a trellis, as in this project by homeowner Kirk Willis.

Screen door trellis

How To Make It

1. Remove the old screen
If the door still has the original screen stapled on, use a flat-head screwdriver and needle-nose pliers to pry up the staples and remove the screen. You also can use a screwdriver to remove the old hinges, since you won’t need them. Finally, decide whether you want to paint the door—Kirk left his as he found it because he liked the weathered patina, but if you want uniform color, use a good-quality exterior paint that can stand up to the elements.

2. Attach chicken wire
Once the old screen has been removed, it’s time to attach a new one of chicken wire that the vines can latch onto. Working on the back side of the door and wearing gloves to protect your hands, line the edge of the chicken wire up with the edge of the opening closest to you, and staple it in place using a staple gun. Unroll the wire across the door opening, pulling it taut, and staple along the top, bottom, and other side of the opening. Then use wire cutters to trim off any excess.

3. Make a stand
To keep the door trellis standing securely upright, Kirk inserted a piece of rebar into each stile. Using a ½" bit, drill a 5"-deep hole into the bottom center of each stile, then carefully “screw” in a 1'-long piece of rebar, leaving about 7" exposed at the bottom of the door. Install the trellis in your garden by pushing the excess rebar into the ground. (It helps to place it where there’s some wind protection.)

Screen door trellis

4. Train your vine
Once the trellis is in place, plant your vine a few inches in front of it. Kirk used fast-growing Virginia creeper, but other options include clematis, honeysuckle, passionflower, or sweet pea. Check the vine regularly; as it grows, train it by weaving it through the chicken wire. (Kirk says he did this about once a week until the vine reached the top of the trellis; he now prunes it once a year to keep it under control.)