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How to repair and replace window screens

Window screens can let fresh air into a home while preventing insects and outdoor critters from making their way inside. But screens are far less effective at keeping critters out of a home when they're damaged.

Addressing such damage is typically an easy do-it-yourself project, one that begins with gathering the right materials, including:

* new screening, either synthetic or aluminum

* a rubber spline

* a screen rolling tool

* a razor knife or sharp scissor

* measuring tape

* masking tape

* a screwdriver or an awl

Once those materials have been gathered, the process of replacing or repairing damaged screens is rather simple.

1. Measure the area of the window to determine how much replacement screening you will need. Remember to leave extra room in your measurements so you have slack to make the new screen fit taut. The measurement will also help you determine how much spline you will need.

2. Remove the screen from the window frame. Some windows do not have removable screen frames, and you will have to work on the screen in its upright position.

3. Use the screwdriver or awl to pry the edge of the existing spline that holds the screening material in the frame. Pull out the old spline and remove the damaged screening.

4. Measure the new screening from a replacement roll. Lay the screening down on the frame, ensuring there is overhang on all sides. If necessary, use masking tape to temporarily secure the screening to the frame while freeing up your hands. This also works if you must replace screening vertically and cannot remove the window frame and make repairs on a flat surface.

5. Take a new piece of rubber spline and push it into the edge of the screen frame, securing a corner of the new screening to the frame. Continue to press the spline around the perimeter of the screen frame firmly into the groove with the screen rolling tool, which looks like a small pizza cutter. This effectively secures the screen into the frame.

6. Continue around the edge of the frame, pulling the new screening taut as you go. This helps to keep it free of wrinkles.

7. Once you have inserted the spline all the way around, cut it off from the spline spool and push in the edge.

8. Use a razor knife or sharp scissor to cut off the excess screening, being careful not to dislodge it from behind the spline when cutting.

9. Replace the screen in the window.

In the case of small tears in a screen, a complete replacement may not be necessary. Home improvement stores sell screen patch kits. Some work by cutting out a piece of patch that is attached to an adhesive backing and sticking it over the hole. Other patches are small, woven wires that can be threaded through the hole in the screen. A really small hole can be mended with a drop of clear-drying glue.

The same method of screen replacement can be used to replace screens on screened-in porches, aluminum doors or sliding patio doors. Just be sure to purchase replacement screening that will fit the dimensions.