Warmer weather is coming. Before it’s time to literally throw caution to the wind and open the windows, it’s time to repair those torn screens that have been picked apart by birds or damaged by winter weather. Letting the fresh air in and keeping the bugs out requires your screens to be in tip top shape, and luckily you can easily change out a torn or damaged one in your window or door with only a few tools, a little time, and not much money at all.
Tools needed to fix a torn or broken window screen
For this project, you’ll need replacement screen material and spline (a type of cord that attaches the screen material to the frame), a screwdriver, an awl, a drill, scissors, a utility knife, something heavy (my grandfather used to use a phone book), and a wooden block not much thicker than your screen frame. Make sure to measure your screen opening to determine the width of screen material you’ll need first. (Many hardware stores will also sell window screen repair kits for about $20.)
Pick a type of screen material
For screen material, you will have several options. Fibreglass screening is easier for beginners to work with because it is flexible and will bounce back if you need to remove and reapply your spline. Other alternatives include sun shade, which is stronger than fibreglass and also can help keep your home cooler; pollen-filtering screen; and aluminium. If you’re trying to match your existing screens, go with the same type of material. If you want to upgrade to sunshade or pollen filtering varieties, you can bring a swatch of the old screen to the store to choose the colour that’s the best match.
How to replace a window screen
Remove the old screen. To remove the old screen from the frame, place your awl in the end of the channel at the edge of the frame that holds the spline, and pry it out, which will loosen the screen. Once you’ve freed the material from the frame, keep working your way around until the old screen and spline has been removed. Discard the old screen and spline and leave your frame flat.
Cut and place your new screen. Next, use scissors to carefully cut your new screen material to size. It should measure about one inch larger than the opening of your frame all the way around. Cut a 45 degree angle in each corner, which will make wrapping the spline around the corner of the frame easier.
Place the screen over the opening, then begin pushing the spline into the groove along one side of the frame using the screen roller tool. For an easy way to pull it tight, secure your thin block of wood to your work surface with a screw and press the edge of the frame that has the spline and screen secured to it against the block.
To tighten the other side, make sure the screen remains taught as you continue to use the roller to push your spline into the groove, working your way around the perimeter of the frame. Once you’ve got two sides finished, put that heavy book or brick onto the middle of the screen. This will allow you to stretch the screen taught enough on the remaining sides without stretching it so tight that you’ll damage the frame.
As you round each corner of the frame with your spline, turn your screen so that you can use the block to push against. With your heavy object in the centre of the screen, pull the material taught and roll the spline into its groove with your tool. Repeat this step for the final side, then trim the spline just past the last corner. The final step is to trim away any excess screen material with your utility knife and hang your screen back in the window.
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