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How To: Build a Combo Storm & Screen

Combo storm & screen window

Some of the most requested and heavily trafficked posts on my site are where I show readers the process to build their own wood storm windows and wood screens. And as soon as I released those posts, videos, and accompanying woodworking plans I got a ton of messages asking for plans on building combo storm and screen.

What is a combo storm and screen? At its simplest it is a wood frame that comes with interchangeable screen panels and glass panels which allows you to avoid the arduous seasonal process of taking storms down and putting screens up. With a combo storm and screen you can safely and easily change the panels from the interior of the house between seasons and avoid the ladder.

You get all the bug-free fresh air in the summer and keep the cold drafts at bay and save money during the cold winters, or if you live in a southern climate like me you can reverse things and install your storm panels for the summer to keep the heat out and put your screens in to enjoy your mild winters.

I have broken down the process step by step to show you how any DIYer with average skills and some power tools can build their own combo storm and screen. There is one issue you need to consider if you plan to make these. You need to have an operable window to swap out the panels and install them properly. If your old window is painted or caulked shut then you won’t have access to swap the panels out. I have a helpful post to get your windows cut free right here if you need it.

Watch the full video of the process below and follow along with the details in the post below. You can also purchase the set of woodworking plans right here, complete with cut lists and drawings of the project every step of the way to make your build even easier!

Building the Frame

The first step is building the wood frame that will house your screen and storm panels. You should pick a rot-resistant wood for this project since it will be exposed to the elements. I used Accoya for my frames, but you can choose whatever species works for you.

The storms should fit precisely on your window so you get the best performance, so here is how I measure and build my combo wood frame to fit.

All the tools and supplies you’ll need to build this project can be found in the links below.

Step 1 Determine the Thickness

Storms were meant to fit on the outside of a double-hung window and rest up against the blind stop in the screen/storm rebate. They are usually between 3/4” and 1 1/8” thick depending on the thickness of your window’s exterior trim. The 3/4” version is extremely simple to make since you can use standard 1x material , but this is the least strong frame because it is a very tight fit with the storm and screen panels.

I prefer making a 1″ or thicker frame, but you really need to make your frame to match the thickness of your trim which often means using a thicker stock wood that you’ll need to mill down on a planer to achieve the right thickness.

For my windows the thickness was 1 1/16″ thick so I milled down some 6/4 Accoya until I got it to the proper thickness.

Step 2 Measure the Opening

Measure the finished opening on the exterior trim of your window. You’ll need all the measurements below.

  1. Height
  2. Width
  3. Cross Bar Height

Keep in mind that on an old house just because the height on the left side of the window is 60″ doesn’t mean the height on the right side will be the same. Take a few measurements across the window to make sure you account for out of square windows on all our measurements.

After you have your measurements you’ll want to subtract 1/4″ from the outer dimensions to give the frame the necessary tolerances to fit. For example, if your window measures 32″ x 60″ you want to make your finished frame 31 3/4″ x 59 3/4″.

Step 3 Cut & Rip

If you’ve used my tutorials for DIY Storm Windows and DIY Window Screens you’ll notice that this is significantly different for the combo storm & screen. The wood frame needs to be more significant to support the glass and screen panels in this version.

Once you have a your materials milled to the proper thickness you’ll need to rip everything to 2 1/8″ wide except for the bottom rail which will be 3 1/2″ wide to maintain attractive proportions for the frame. In the past I have shown how to build these frames using a pocket hole system, but this time I wanted to use half-lap joints to simplify the measuring process for you. You can use whatever method of joinery you prefer and if you want instruction of the pocket hole assembly refer to my earlier posts above.

Using our example window above of 32″ x 60″ here is your cut list below. which is significantly easier than in the past.

  • 2 stiles @ 59 3/4″ long x 2 1/8″ wide
  • 1 top rail @ 31 3/4″ long x 2 1/8″ wide
  • 1 cross bar @ 31 3/4″ long x 2 1/8″ wide
  • 1 bottom rail @ 31 3/4″ long x 3 1/2″ wide

One note on cross bar placement: I prefer to have the cross bar centered on the height of the meeting rail of a double hung window. This will hide the meeting rail and make sure you have easy access to change out panels in the future.

Building storm window frame
Lining up and marking for half-lap joints

But I also like having the cross bar positioned so that the opening for the upper panel is the same size as the opening for the lower panel which allows the inserts to be interchangeable. If at all possible I recommend you keep the openings the same unless you have a window with a meeting rail that is significantly higher than the mid-point of the window.

Step 4 Cutting Half-Lap Joints

Half-lap joints provide a lot of gluing area and for this application are extremely strong, but far easier to accomplish than a traditional mortise and tenon joint which is not very DIY-friendly.

To layout your half-lap joints lay the wood pieces on top of each other and mark the pieces where they overlap. You’ll then cut half the thickness off one piece and the same off the mating piece so they overlap. I laid out my joints so that they would only be visible from the interior, leaving the exterior so it looks like a true mortise and tenon design.

It’s imperative that the depth of your cut be precisely half the thickness of the wood to avoid one piece sticking up proud of the other. If you find your joints to be slightly off you can use a sanding block to smooth them out and level them up until they mate perfectly.

To cut my joints I used a radial arm saw with a dado blade on it, but you can use lots of other options like below. If I didn’t have the radial arm saw setup my preference would probably have been the hand saw because you can get quick results and be very precise.

  • Cut by hand using a handsaw
  • Cut using a multi-tool
  • Cut on the table saw (add a dado blade to make it faster)
  • Use a router

Step 5 Assembly

Once all your joints are cut, dry fit the frame and make sure everything fits tightly. Measure your diagonals to make sure your frame is square. If so then you are ready to glue and nail the members in place. Using either a quality PVA glue like Titebond III or a polyurethane glue like Loctite UR10 glue the full surface area in your half-lap joints then clamp and nail the joints. I used two 3/4″ 18 ga. stainless steel nails driven at an angle to hold the joint. Let the glue cure and then you can remove the clamps and fill any nail holes or gaps in your joinery.

Sand all the sides smooth and make sure it is completely level at each joint before moving onto the next step. I prefer sanding with one pass at 80-grit and then a final sand at 120-grit.

Step 6 Route the Rabbet

The next step is using a router to cut out the rabbet that the screen and storm panels will fit into. I prefer a small laminate router with a 1/4″ shank since they are easier to handle than the larger routers. The size of the rabbet is important to keep the panels hidden and securely in place.

  • Rabbet Size: 3/4″ wide X 5/16” deep
routing storm frame
Routing out the rabbets for the inserts to fit inside

I wasn’t able to find a 3/4” wide rabbeting bit so what I decided to do to get the right size rabbet was to make a 1/2” X 5/16” rabbet and apply a small piece of 1/4” glass bead onto the frame for a little extra dimensionality. I cut the glass bead into mitered joints and nailed it onto the frame using 3/4” 18 ga nails.

You can use any kind of applied molding for this that you prefer. Shoe molding, quarter round, screen mold, ogee, etc. Whatever strikes your fancy.

Step 7 Prime and Paint

Once everything was assembled I applied a coat of wood primer (water based or oil-based to your preference). I like to give my primer a light sanding with a fine sanding sponge before painting to ensure a smooth paint job.

Then it was time for two coats of paint. I used Pratt & Lambert Aquanamel paint because I’ve used it previously to refinish my front door and it gave a nice hard finish and laid down nicely avoiding brush marks.

painting storm window
Painting the wood frame

Building the Inserts

Since this is a combo storm and screen I made one of each, but this is really designed so that you could build two screen inserts or two storm inserts and swap them out seasonally in whatever combination you want. There are a couple options for how to build these inserts and I will show you two different ways that you can choose from based on your comfort level and personal tastes.

Building Glass Inserts

I prefer using a pre-made aluminum product from CR Laurence called their Universal Storm Frame. This frame comes in 12’ lengths in three colors (white, bronze, and mill) and can be cut to fit your needs.

Measure the openings in the frame and subtract 1/4” from the measurements to get the size of the frame you need. Then it’s time to cut your frame pieces to size and for that there are two options.

Miter Corner Assembly

I prefer the appearance of mitered joints since it gives a consistent appearance to the frame and the measuring process is simplified. Using your measurements cut 45º corners using a hand hack saw or a mitre saw with the blade turned backwards and you’re ready for assembly.

Reversing the blade on a mitre saw is a common practice for cutting aluminum products. Never cut the frame on regular mitre saw without reversing the blade or the aluminum may go flying and injuring you. A hack saw is a safer and relatively easy option.

storm window inserts
Marking the screen and glass aluminum frames

Joining the corners on a mitered fit frame requires a special crimping tool that costs more than I think it should honestly which is why I think fewer people choose this option. As you assemble the frame around the glass below you’ll be inserting a small zinc corner piece into the frame and once the frame is fully assembled with glass and all you will need to crimp each corner tightly which locks everything into place.

Why did I choose this method? I feel that the connection using the zinc corners and crimping tool is stronger than the plastic corners, has a simpler measuring process, and is more attractive. Is that worth the price of crimping tool? That’s up to you.

Square Corner Assembly

Making square cuts is often easier than mitered joints and this doesn’t require a special crimping tool, so many people choose this option. For the square corner assembly cut your frame with square ends using a hand hack saw or the reversed mitre saw blade I mentioned above in the last section.

Important: To allow for the size of the plastic corners you have to subtract 1 7/16” from your height and width measurements.

Once inserted the square plastic corners will lock the frame into place with moderate strength, though they can be pulled apart if necessary at a later date.

Glass Fitting

You have a few options when it comes to glass selection. The frame will accept either single strength (3/32” thick) or double strength (1/8” thick) glass or acrylic or polycarbonate, but anything thicker will not work. You can also select Low-E glass as long as it’s 1/8” thick or less.

I used double strength glass and even that needs the frames opened up a bit with a 5-in-1 to allow for a better fit because it is a very snug fit.

crimping tool for storm windows
Using the crimping tool for mitered assembly of glass insert

Once you have your frame pieces cut and dry fit you’ll need to cut your glass to fit the frame. The glass size needs to be cut 5/8” smaller than the frame size. You can cut your own glass using this tutorial post and video or you can have a local glass supplier or Ace Hardware cut you a piece of glass to fit.

Begin by pressing one side of the frame onto the glass until it seats securely into the frame and then working around the glass press each side onto the glass until you have a snug fit for the whole assembly.

Building Screen Inserts

Building the screen inserts is done using a similar aluminum frame to the glass above, but in a slightly different style to accommodate screening and spline. For the screens you also have the option of a square corner assembly or a mitered corner assembly. Fortunately, for the mitered assembly you don’t need the special crimping tool.

Mitered Corner Assembly

Measure the opening size and using your measurements, cut 45º corners using a hand hack saw or a mitre saw with the blade turned backwards and you’re ready for assembly. You can them simply press the frame together one side at a time using a plastic mitered corner on each joint.

Square Corner Assembly

For the square corner assembly cut your frame with square ends using a hand hack saw or the reversed mitre saw blade I mentioned above, but like with the storm insert you’ll need to subtract 1 7/16” from each measurement to accommodate the plastic corner pieces.

Screen Installation

You can use whichever screening you prefer for your panels bronze, aluminum, or fiberglass. Fiberglass is simplest to work with on this frame so that’s what I used an recommend. Set your screen frame down flat on a work table and roll your screening out over top of the frame leaving at least 2” of extra screen hanging over the frame.

Orient the screen straight with the frame and using .150 spline and a roller tool start in one corner and roll the spline in one continuous piece into the channel being sure to take up any slack in the screen as you go. Once you finish, the screen should have been pulled tight by the installation of the spline.

Trim the excess screening off using a razor knife and you’re ready for installation.

Retaining Clip Installation

You’ve got your glass inserts and screen inserts ready to go and you’ve test fit them into their respective openings and everything fits great. Now you need a way to hold them in the frame. There are a multitude of retaining clips you can use, and I will include links below, but the important thing is to get a retaining clip that is setup for flush installation. You really just need to find the style you like best.

retaining clip installation
Installing retaining clamps for the inserts

For me, I wanted something a little fancy so I went with something called a Granny Catch Turn Button Latch (link is in the tools & supplies above) in solid brass. I liked the upgraded look and the solid metal construction. I pre-drilled and installed in the below pattern.

  • Two on the bottom/top of each opening
  • Two on the sides of each opening
  • Two on the cross bar that reach across and secure both the top panel and bottom panel

Install them so you have a healthy overlap onto the insert, and tighten the screws down so that they can turn but with some resistance. This will allow them to securely hold the panel in place.

Final Installation

Finally, your combo storm and screen is ready for installation. Take the inserts out to make installation easier. Then set the frame into the window opening and hang the frame using a set of Stainless Steel Storm Hangers. Screw the male portions of the hanger into the trim above the window opening and the female portion is screwed into your frame.

These hangers allow you to remove the frame by swinging it out away from the building and lifting it off should you need.

Then to secure the bottom in place, attach two hook and eyes at each side at the bottom. Go to the inside of the window and open the bottom sash. Screw one hook into the backside of the bottom rail of the frame on the right and left side. Then pull the frame tight and mark where you need to install the eye into the sill. Screw one eye into the sill on the left side and the other on the right side.

storm window installation
Installing the frame in the opening

When installed properly the hook and eyes should pull the frame tight against the window trim and hold it securely in place.

Using a Combo Storm and Screen

You no longer need to climb a ladder to change out your storms and screens with the seasons. It’s a simple process of opening your top or bottom sash and swapping one kind of panel for another by turning your retaining clips to free up the insert and placing the new insert into place.

Combo storm & Screen installed
The finished product!

Less storage, less work and more fresh air or energy savings in the seasons with your new combo storm and screen in place!

If you’re considering other types of storms or screens check out these other tutorials I have below.

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