This story is being updated / June 2020. Since it first ran in 2012, there has been flux in the markplace.
Super snaps to reader TappanTrailerTami for prompting today’s story by sending me the first find: A company in California that still manufacturers 1950s style “mill finish screen doors.” This style of door was ubiquitous throughout mid century America.
I guess that mill finish screen doors were … cheap, cheerful — and effective. Back in the day, folks didn’t have air conditioning, so the doors at the front and back of the house were kept open to promote cross-breezes. The decorative scrolls kept the kids from busting the screen along the bottom half.
We olden folk remember, too, that you could get custom letters to insert into a particular design of scroll panel. I see these old capital letters sometimes on ebay or etsy or at estate sales — salvaged from the door when it was finally tossed out.
Hey: I love mill finish screen doors — and have two vintage one salvaged from estate sales right now, in my basement hoard (ugh) just waiting for the right opportunity. I also have a “K” insert I picked up somewhere. My basement is a museum, I am not kidding you, oh yes, it is.
What is “mill finish”?
What is ‘mill finish’ exactly. I quick-like found this info on finishing.com, “the home page of the finishing industry”:
“Mill Finish” is the natural appearance of the aluminum as it comes from the rolling mill (Alcoa, Reynolds, Kaiser, or Alcan) or the extrusion mill. It is “as is” with no external mechanical or chemical finishing…
Where to buy a mill finish screen doors:
Not in any particular order:
- Check out Loxcreen — thanks to reader Chris for this tip!
- True Value stocks Croft screen doors, which come in a mill finish. This door brand also is sold by other retailers. Thanks to reader Heather for this tip!
- As of February 2016 we heard that Precision Screen discontinued their Expando mill finish screen door, which was the door find that started this story. That said: This company is a big maker of screen doors and have other screen doors in “satin anodized” and gray that may do the trick; for example, see the bottom of the page for this retailer which shows three door styles that certainly look aluminum (if not “mill-finish”). See Precision Screen and Security Products. Interestingly — but not surprisingly — this company got its start in California during the post World War II housing boom. Check out their history page.
- Lowes stocks the Comfort-Bilt mill finish screen door. I also see this at other retailers.
- IWC — which seems to be another large maker of doors — offers five screen door designs in a “clear anodized” finish — seems close to mill finish. Did that Yosemite! Honestly, searching for “anodized” aluminum vs. mill finish opens up more research doors. << pun!
- Go vintage — this one may not be easy: Measure your door opening and note which way each screen door would need to swing. Put this info in your smart phone. Start looking at estate sales and at ReStores and in dumpsters and the like. The Retro Decorating Gods may smile upon you and deliver you just what you “need” just when you “need” it.
I suspect there may be more suppliers. But, my eyes ’bout popped out of my head researching this one. Let me know — in the Comments — if you know of more companies who make these and I will add them to the list! Again, though: Must be the classic mill finish!