Building a Better (and Cat Proof!) RV Screen Door


This post may contain affiliate links.

Sure, our current RV – a Winnebago EKKO – is a Class C.  But before this, for more than a decade, we were van dwellers.  And while there are a lot of changes we like about the move to a Class C, we eventually found ourselves missing our van’s screen door solution more and more.  I finally decided to do something about it, and the result is this video:

 

The screen door in our last camper van was made by Rolef, and we loved it.  This style of screen door has just about become the standard for screen doors in vans.  And with the large sliding door space in most vans, a solution like the Rolef screen is almost required.

But Class A and C motorhomes, which have “normal” doors, always seem to come with a weird RV screen door.  It’s an approximation of a screen door on a house, but – as I point out in the video – it’s far from a perfect solution.  So remembering our van days, I set out to create a similar solution for our EKKO.

And I’ll just say right off the bat that while I can actually sew, I’m far from a pro at it.  This project was just about the upper limit for my skills, and I learned a lot while making it.  But since I’m still not super-confident with my sewing, we decided not to make this a “How To” video.

Benefits of This Door

I won’t repeat the whole video, but here are some of the highlights of this new screen door solution:

  • The “frame” of the new screen is insulated (with this stuff) – which makes it a nice way to deal with the too-cold metal door frame that always seemed to frost up in the winter.
  • The magnets on the screen are flat bar magnets (these, actually), which would make it difficult for a pet to push past.
  • There’s a bar on the bottom of the door that jams against the metal frame of the door.  This means you CANNOT open the screen door towards the outside.  This also means pets can’t possibly push their way through the door.
  • With 3 features designed to keep the cat inside, I’m thinking this may be a cat-proof screen door.  (More testing required. Mel considers this a challenge.)
  • The screen zips up and rolls completely out of the way if you don’t want it there.
  • Rather than straps or buckles at the top of the door, the rolled up screen secures by just dropping it down into some brackets.  Easier and faster than Velcro!
  • It’s quieter than the traditional RV screen door 100% of the time.

So – what do you think?  Is there something I forgot?  Is this a great idea?  A terrible idea?  Would you want one?  Never want one?  I’m kind of curious.

Like I said in the video, I’ve still got our old screen door (Bangy McRattleton) if we decide this new screen isn’t for us.  Or, realistically, not for Mel.  Because let’s be serious, if this doesn’t work for the cat, I doubt we’ll be keeping it long term…



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    91 thoughts on “Building a Better (and Cat Proof!) RV Screen Door

    1. Rebecca

      Hi! I am curious how you keep Mel from climbing the screen door? Our cat has completely destroyed our screen door climbing it going after the occasional unlucky bug that gets in. Thank you so much for your time.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        That’s not been much of an issue for us.
        In general, Mel is very compliant and respectful.
        I believe all it took was a couple stern verbal “NO!” when it was new, and he’s not tried to climb it since.

        So… we’re lucky. As far as RV cats go, Mel is a professional.

        Reply
    2. Kelly Dittmar

      Hey James! I’ve been gearing up to tackle this mod along with the window shades this year and wanted to pick your brain about them.

      My screen door leaks air like no one’s business and while I plan to work thru new weatherstripping – I’d also like to add a layer of insulation. Have you considered taking some of the concepts of the insulation from your window mods and applying it as a “second layer” to your screen door which could be deployed in the winter? Maybe with a velcro strip across the top so it could totally be removed in the summer rather than just being rolled up? Or maybe the zippers could end up like the ones on a jacket – where the “screen” panel could completely zip off and in it’s place an insulation panel could be installed for winter use?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        That’s an interesting idea, but it hasn’t been a problem for us. What you’re proposing sounds like it would make sense. Just a big, velcroed-up, reflective and insulating blanket. Seems simple enough.

        Did you catch the expanding insulation I put in the gap where the screen door was removed? That seems to have been enough to stop any cold infiltration for us. It expanded exactly right.

        Reply
    3. Scott K.

      Hey James…love the custom door! Just wondering what type of fabric it’s made from? Looks like 500d or 1000d Cordura maybe? Thanks!

      Reply
    4. Rob H Royse

      Any way to subscribe for updates? I would definitely want to buy a commercial version, or commission you to build one for me!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I don’t have an update page for the screen the way I did for the Americanizer, sorry.
        But I am still tinkering with it. Nothing definite yet though.

        Reply
      2. Louise Vignoul

        We got an Ekko about a month ago and hated the screen door from the beginning. Instead of creating something like James did, we bought a magnetic screen door from Flyscreendoor.shop. you can even order made to measure. We wanted our screen quickly stop we ordered standard and hemmed it ourselves. It works great. We recommend it.

        Reply
    5. Kathi Fischer

      We have a 2018 Pleasure Way Plateau XLTD with a screen door like yours. We hate it and would love to replace it. Our old van had a Rolef screen door which we loved. Have you contacted Rolef or other company about producing your idea? Please keep us posted as we would love to change out the metal screen door.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I’m working on something in the background with Organized Obie. We’re trying to come up with something that’s not so EKKO-specific, and could fit multiple RVs, like yours.
        We’ll post something here if and when we get that all worked out.

        Reply
        1. Kathi Fischer

          Great. Was your old screen door part of the whole door assembly? In looking at ours it seems to be combined. Was yours like that? Any tips in removing it?

        2. James - Post author

          You didn’t say what kind of an RV you have, but in our EKKO, the hinges are all combined, yes. I left the hinge for the screen door mounted where it was, and have just taped it out of the way. It’s still there, but it doesn’t move. The door itself is easily removed by just unscrewing it from the hinges.

    6. George Z

      Did this stop the rattling of the door on rough roads? I was under the impression it was more of the outside door that rattles. Putting Electric tape or duct tape on the bolt seemed to help (even though you have to change it out frequently as the door bites through it). Thanks

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I wouldn’t expect this mod to have any effect at all on the exterior door. Fortunately, our exterior door doesn’t rattle, and didn’t before this mod either.
        We slam the daylights out of our door before driving the EKKO. If you don’t slam it, it only latches loosely, and will rattle. We’ve never had to resort to the tape thing.

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          I’d have to charge way too much to make them profitable. BUT –

          We are working on a collaboration with a manufacturer who wants to take the idea further. Nothing concrete yet, but I’ll announce it here on The Fit RV.com if it comes to fruition.

    7. Michele S

      please please post again telling us if Mel outsmarted the door. One could see a light gap up the lower right side of your new door that looks inviting. We have a 16lb cat that can slide open the little access hatch in our aluminum screen door (with his nose) and climb out.The other plus of your full screen door is that it lets in a lot more light than the standard rv screen door.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We’ve since taken Mel out with us in the RV, and – even though there were lizards – he hasn’t managed to escape. He got his claw stuck in the screen once, and that was about it.
        AFAIK, there is no gap. I think you may have seen the white-ish floor poking through between the pieces of the door.
        We do have to get a new entry rug though. The one we have is a bit too tall, and it interferes with the door closing properly. (Too bad, because we really like that rug…)

        Reply
    8. John Guth

      Your videos back when you had a Travato led to me having a Travato – did a number of your projects.
      Now I’ve followed your footsteps over to the EKKO, thank you for what you and Stef do. I’ve been modifying and using ideas from your posts and videos.

      The screen door replacement is great – if you can’t get it produced, could you sell the pattern with a list of materials?

      Loved the windows on the Travato – the EKKO outer door is made by PTL Engineering. I wanted to install a window in it, wanted to match up windows w the style in he EKKO.
      Only one that fits is the size that is in the bathroom, which is too small and would be +$550 w me doing the work.
      Prob don’t need an opening style window in a door.

      In watching your screen vid – saw where you covered your power switch w a red protector – you buy that or print it?

      What make printer do you have or prefer?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, I don’t have a pattern or a list of materials for the screen door. I made it up as I went… I don’t have anything I could sell. I’d have to run through it again to make a pattern.

        As far as the red cover – that’s covering a switch I installed to kill the step motor. Sometimes we don’t want the steps going out if we’re in a crowded parking lot.
        I don’t have a power switch at that location – I removed it because it was redundant, confusing, and incompletely shut off the power.
        But I just printed the cover and installed some magnets in it that I had laying around. That way, it sticks to the panel.
        My 3D Printer is the Flash Forge Creator Pro. I have no complaints with it!

        Reply
        1. John and Nancy Guth

          Thank you for the response – I think the flexible, hanging screen door checks all the boxes. I’d take your lead, and comments, to sew one up, but…..

          I would like to share two two things I “had” to do to our EKKO.
          1.Not due to any abuse, mis-use, I had to replace a broken screw in one of the window regulators at the frame end. They are thin, weak and it “appears to me”, they were overtightened at install. After seeing that potential future problem, replaced the 4 screws in every window with slightly larger stainless screws.
          2. The very rear cargo door cylinder, frame mount was bending w regular use.(we are road cyclists and find that door to be the easiest one to place in, and remove our bikes from). The frames were bending “and” when I noticed it, I also saw that the cylinder base/frame utilized rivets which were also stretching.
          Installed longer reinforcement plate between the cylinder base and frame to spread load and stiffen. Used round-head, slotted head (heads are in the frame on the door side in the recess) and the nuts to the exposed interior; which, I ground/files smooth, to eliminate snagging clothes or cutting the back of my arms.

          Both repairs took about an hour each and cost about $5.
          I can send some brief pictures. You have a remarkable forum to share if you chose to do so.

    9. Lorene

      Very Cool! And quite a lot of hard work! but I vote for Team Mel. Our cat would at some point stand at the door and reach up and hook his claws in the screen to stretch. Then in the process of getting his claws unhooked, pulling really hard as he started panicking, he or the 2nd cat would discover the door was open and they were free!!!!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Mel never really tried to scratch our previous van screen, so we’re hoping that doesn’t happen. But the scenario you describe is certainly a possibility.

        Reply
    10. Dean

      How about a hinged bar across the top to make ducking unnecessary?

      I am thinking a flat bar through the top of the screen part with a hinge on the same side of the door hinge, adding magnets along the top. When you pull the screen open, the hinge will pivot open also giving you a clear doorway. Then when you are outside, the power from the magnets on the hinge will pull it back to the closed position. And if they are not powerful enough, maybe a spring in the hinge to give it a little nudge in the right direction.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Addressed this in a response to a comment from Stew.
        By the time you have hinges, a solid top, a solid bottom, and a semi-rigid side… why not just install a traditional screen door (that opens inwards).

        The ducking is slight, and momentary. We aren’t finding it to be a problem.

        Reply
    11. Stew

      Like the idea. Just wondering if might make sense to put more of a handle instead of a loop on the inside. Also might be nice to make that part a little wider on the material to frame the handle area to re-enforce with material instead of screen material. Lastly, how about attaching the top to a pole with a hedge on one side to allow the screen door to open fully, but use magnets on the wall to allow it to close. Think this might make it easier when going in and out, but you could still roll it up to get it out of the way and the material around the bar would keep the bar from rattling as well.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The loop is working just fine for us. A “handle” to me implies something rigid, and that’s not someplace I wanted to go.
        Putting a hinge on the top of the door would change the installation from a simple peel-and-stick affair to measuring, drilling, etc. Not only that, allowing the top to move would change how it drapes. Basically, at that point, I’d need to construct an entire rigid frame with auto-closing mechanism to ensure it closed.

        For the simplicity it provides, we’re OK with the minimal amount of ducking required as it is.

        Reply
    12. Ed Delaney

      Love your videos, and like everyone else I never ceased to be amazed by your creativity! Thanks for all your inspiration, I’ve now ordered an EKKO, and I would definitely be interested in making this modification. It does strike me that 7″ solid piece at the bottom should be raised. We humans can make do with the top 60 – 70% being screen to get plenty of fresh air, while if the lower 30 – 40% were solid canvas, Mel wouldn’t even be able to see what’s outside, even if he were to stretch up on his back paws. If there’s nothing to see, I doubt he would even show much interest in the door.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I don’t doubt that you’re right.
        But Mel loves “Cat TV” so much! I didn’t want to take that away from him completely.

        Reply
    13. Gary Thomas

      I like the idea but ducking each time to go in or out might get bothersome to some people.
      Question for Steph: Do you great tried of James modifying the RV? Lol

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        That’s the one negative. But the door was only 70 inches tall to begin with, so anyone near 6 foot or over was going to be ducking anyway.

        If Stef does git tired of me modifying the RV, she keeps quiet about it, because she knows how much fun it is for me!

        Reply
    14. Lisa

      Very clever, I hate my screen door (Winnebago Class A) it never stays closed among other things…. Have you thought about putting a full sheet of clear plastic on the outside (maybe velcro) to have a true screen door when it’s cold? You’re definitely on to something here. 🙂

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hmmm. Maybe clear plastic that zips out in place of the screen for the winter?
        Hadn’t thought of that, but not a bad idea.

        Reply
    15. Jane ODell

      Brilliant! Keeping the pups in is a consideration for us…this addresses every concern I have in a screen door. I love it! We have a Class C Winnebago as well (an Ekko is my dream), but I would love to have a screen like this. I hope you are planning on marketing these. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
    16. Beav

      Surprised you didn’t go similar in method to a Camco 43953 (but definitely not as cheesy.) Print a better interior lever (similar to what a normal screen door would have) that attaches with screws to door frame and probably another support for the rod end that works a finger against the existing lever to eliminate having to use the sliding panel (which could be totally eliminated.) Rattles can be eliminated, my door is ten years old and has no rattles at all. I’m 6’4″ and have tried magnetic screens at home and found them to be a pain, especially when hands are full. USing an elbow against a button or lever is much easier.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Lol! We have a Camco 43953! You can see it on the removed door in the beginning of the video.
        It was an improvement, but we still hated the door.
        Glad your door doesn’t rattle, but there was no helping Bangy McRattleton. Believe me, I tried.

        Reply
    17. Keith Nowlin

      Absolutely love it. I have a class B plus and I hate the screen door. Would love to have what you designed and built. Just do t have the talent to build it myself. You could market that door and I think it would be a big hit. I would buy it. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The magnet strips are too stiff to roll up. They stay stuck to the door frame when you unzip.
        I played around with the idea of rolling the whole thing up, but to do that, I had to put magnets only in spots, and that left room (I thought) for bugs to get in.

        Reply
    18. Joe McGuire

      Yeah.. almost every ‘maker’ creation I’ve built for my van gets a v2. Just like the stock parts made for the van, there’s always ways to improve. I’d probably struggle with the screen only going in one direction. Seems like I’m often carrying something out and want to just push through it. I’ve thought about just stitching on some quick ties on my Rolef that would allow me to tie it off and prevent my dogs from pushing through. Newer Rolef screens have a velcro flip tab that inhibits the easy push, but still not going to stop my prey driven dogs. If I had a door like that I might be tempted to 3d print some kind of lightly spring loaded pivoting bar at the top that’d allow the screen to fully swing open like a door. Not sure if you could have stronger ‘locking magnets’ that would make it too hard to push through when in position.

      Reply
    19. Brenda

      I’d love to know where you get your materials — the screening, the heavy fabric, the zippers ….. And I’m so jealous of your industrial sewing machine. Well done! It looks very professional.

      Reply
    20. LD Delano

      Well done!

      You might consider a trough style holder (think rain gutter shape) at the top instead of brackets. This would allow the fabric to be contained but look tidy even if the user wasn’t patient with the rolling process. It would also minimize the number of sharp corners rubbing on the screen.
      V1.1 perhaps.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I actually thought about a trough! And for the exact reason that it would look tidier.
        It was just quicker for me to print a couple brackets instead of build a trough. Ultimately, I’ll probably wind up with a trough.

        Reply
        1. LD Delano

          It could even be made of scraps the screen fabric and either hang from thin brackets at each end, or have a solid piece (dowel perhaps) sewn in each end to form the top of the “U”.

          Again, impressive solution all-around!

    21. Tev

      Absolutely brilliant and such a simple design. No fuss just common sense. However, I can see a very smart kitty getting his naughty paw around the bottom and pulling it open! We’ll see.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        That’s the only concern I have is him tunneling under. If that gets to be an issue, I thought about somehow magnetizing the bottom of that door sweep so it’s more difficult.

        But I can’t make it too difficult, because then it’s no fun for the humans!

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Awesome. Maybe we’ll figure out a way to make them available.
        (Me sewing them one at a time, at my snail’s pace, isn’t going to cut it.)

        Reply
    22. Bjorn Gullholm

      Ridiculously cool! You are truly a master of invention. I have watched many of your videos and you are always looking to improve things. Very good job Sir!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks, Bjorn!
        It all usually starts with me being annoyed at something…. And it snowballs from there!

        Reply
    23. Rich Ambrose

      This is brilliant! It seems like a very clever way to keep the screen door from opening when pushed on from inside – we’ll just have to see if Mel is motivated enough to defeat that! That issue aside, it seems much more convenient and rattle-free than the original. Also, we mostly go to places where we don’t have to worry much about bugs and screens, so I really like the way this can roll up, and the brackets you made are very slick.

      Reply
    24. LynneDe

      I like it, it’s brilliant. I have 2 doors I need to use this for. First, in my home’s back door. The door opens out, not in and the cheap velcro screen door kit is in sad and sorry shape, so I need one there, and then my motor home. No pets anymore to keep in, I lot both my dogs to old age within the past year, but I hate the rattle and all the other things you described, my motor home is over 30 years old and the screen door has seen better days. I’m a DIYer, so yeah, I guess I need to get busy! Thank you so very much for sharing this.

      Reply
    25. Julie

      I think this is awesome! The only issue I see is the ducking in and out, but the pros outweigh the cons. If I had a Class C I’d be in line to get one for sure (I own a class B van with the same one you had on Lance. Thanks for posting – have used some of your ideas on my van and your ideas/execution has been generous and educational.

      Reply
    26. Joyce May

      I think Mel will do one or both of these:

      1. Stand on the kitchen counter and reach down for the loop and pull the door open.

      2. Go under the screen door. That bar might help him shove his nose under it to push it up and wriggle under the door.

      I think James is underestimating Mel’s ability to outsmart him, especially when squirrels are involved. The gauntlet has been thrown down, may the best cat or man win!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        More votes for team Mel!
        (I really think we should do an online poll or something. This could be fun!)

        Reply
        1. Joyce May

          How about a test! Mel inside the RV and you outside with his favorite treats or a fake squirrel.

        2. Don Wilson

          James, for the first try at a replacement to our Ekko screen doors I’ll give it a 90. It’s much better than what we had in our travato, and definitely eliminates the present screen door rattles. Might I suggest a solid top edge that is hinged so that it could be opened (swinging in) but still closing with the magnets. Maybe version 2. All else staying as this version.

        3. James - Post author

          I’ve actually thought about trying to open the top up a bit to allow for more opening of the door. The main problem I see with that, is that I’d have to figure a way to keep the top corner rigid, so that it would fall back onto proper placement when the door is just “let go”.

          If the top comes away, and the corner is not held rigidly in place, the corner would droop, and the whole screen door thing goes out the window.

          (Plus, it would be harder to sew. That would be pretty difficult for my beginner-level skills.)
          Still, maybe I’m imagining it wrong. If I do a V2, I might try it, just to see what happens.

    27. Jesse Revilla

      Absolutely love it. We hate the screen door. Not just awful sound when closing but not having access to our Window Door Shade when it’s closed. In order to adjust the shade we have to open the TT door, then step on the stairs and close the screen door behind us and do a balancing act on the stairs to adjust the window shade. Then open the screen door and smash it together with the TT door lol “DID YOU GET ALL THAT LOL ”

      We need it so it can open high enough from the inside with the TT door closed to adjust our door window shade and this screen also allows our dogs to come in but not back out only if we open it. Our small dogs have a corral fence outside. You have a good product here! It will fly off the shelf. Needs to be marketed correctly and trust a company that could move you forward.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Sounds like you get us!

        It would certainly need folks who can sew faster than me to turn this into a viable commercial product. But you’ve got me thinking….

        Reply
    28. Andy & Kim

      Having RV’d with cats for 40 years ……the term “Cat Proof” is a fantasy.
      The best you can ever hope for is that Mel will ALLOW it to function as intended!!!!

      Andy & Kim
      Mimi & Jojo our camping cats

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yeah, I probably doomed us to failure when I said “cat proof”.

        Maybe “cat resistant” would have been more accurate… lol!

        Reply
    29. charlotte schomet

      Hi, When Mel sits erect, he’s not 7″ tall? How about when he jumps on screen? He’ll be able to see prey & will try everything to get at it.

      Watching a cat or dog getting into/ out of somewhere they move the item front to back, back to front, side to side. Mel will work on this screen for awhile.

      My money is on Mel to get out eventually unless 1. he’s not prey drivin or 2. too old & not strong enough. In conclusion: Mel will get OUT!!!

      Best of luck with screen 2.0.

      Reply
    30. Koert DuBois

      Haha, thanks for taking us on that engineering journey, that went from “Yeah, great, having to walk through one of those hippie bead doors from the ’60’s to, “Yeah, that looks pretty good, to be able to get the screen completely out of the picture until it’s needed.”

      Here’s where I’m coming from… We had a 2007 Winnebago View that had a perfectly functional screen door, except it was a pain to use. Just as you describe, it got in the way when we wanted to use the coach door as a coach door.

      Now we have a 2021 View that has a roll-out door. It’s perfect in most ways. It is out of the way when we don’t need it, provides a screen when we do need it, is easy to open and close, and doesn’t sacrifice any space around the door frame.

      But, it’s not durable at all. One quick glance by the dogs, and it’s destroyed. Someone leans on it, and it’s destroyed. And, it doesn’t seal tightly at the top and bottom, so biting insects aren’t really kept out.

      Your screen door is bomb-proof. Our screen door is convenient to use. We need to find something in between!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I think this design is pretty convenient. But I’m waiting until we camp with it a few times before I render a final opinion.

        Reply
      2. Ian F

        I agree. This might be 12 lb cat-proof, but definitely not 40+ lb dog-going-after-a-squirrel-proof. It wouldn’t be a graceful exit, but I can pretty much guarantee a medium sized dog would get through the magnets.

        That said, it looks like a great solution to those of us unlikely to travel with pets.

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          Well, my design criteria was exactly 12 lb cat. lol!
          I’m sure there’s a practical limit where this idea loses steam. Those traveling with rambunctious labs may be better off sticking with the stock door, for sure.

    31. Ian F

      Looks great! I look forward to seeing how Mel-proof it turns out to be.

      Of course, now we know why you needed that industrial sewing machine…

      Reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Comment moderation is in use. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear once we have had the chance to review it.