Replacing window screen takes right frame of mind

18 Mar.,2023


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Gene Gary, Copley News Service

Q. We recently moved into a home where the previous owners with children abused the window screens. Many of the screens are torn or bulging in the frames. The aluminum frames are in need of cleaning, but otherwise in fair condition. I contacted a professional window service for replacement screens. The price estimate is more than I want to pay at this time. Can I refurbish and replace the screening myself? Any tips you have would be helpful.

A. With patience and a few simple tools you can fix tattered window and door screens yourself. To remove the old screen from an aluminum frame, simply pry the spline (the rubberized cording that fits into the perimeter groove and holds the screening in place) from its groove using an awl or small screwdriver.

Undamaged spline that's still pliable can be reused. Take a sample of the original spline, along with the exact dimensions of your window frame, with you when you shop for supplies. Hardware stores and home centers carry screening which comes in prepackaged rolls. Some well-stocked outlets will also carry large bolts of screening which will allow you to buy the exact amount needed from the roll. This can be a savings when you have numerous window replacements, as prepackaged screening is usually more expensive and will often leave you with unusable excesses at the end of the roll.

When shopping for replacement screening you have several choices. Plain fiberglass screen is the least expensive replacement material. It doesn't corrode and is easier to install than aluminum screen. Somewhat more expensive is aluminum screening, which is more resistant to tears and punctures. Solar-reflecting fiberglass is the most expensive replacement screening, but has the added advantage of reflecting heat and saving on cooling costs.

When figuring out how much screening to buy, measure the inside length and width of each frame and add about 2 inches to both measurements. The extra amount will make fitting easier and provide you with some margin for error.

When installing aluminum screening use a heavy-duty pair of scissors or a sharp utility knife for cutting. Working on a flat surface, align the two long sides of the replacement screen section to the frame (make sure that the weave in the screen is parallel with the frame edges). Overlap the screening by l/8-inch past the spline groove (trim excess on each edge to this dimension just before installing the spline).

Start installation on one long side, aligning the screen with the l/8-inch clearance. Begin by cutting the screen at the starting corner in a 45-degree angle. The angled screen corner should align symmetrically with the spline groove corner. Removal of this small corner triangle prevents the screen from crimping or overloading the spline groove at the corner.

Use the rounded (convex) edge of a screen rolling tool (available where you buy screening) to roll one side of the screen down into the spline groove. One hand rolls while the other hand holds the screen in place. To avoid cutting the screen, hold the roller at a slight angle toward the outside frame edge.

Next, use the concave side of the screen roller to roll the spline into the groove and over the screen edge you have just inserted. Feed and align the spline with one hand and roll with the other. Don't stretch the spline. Use firm pressure with the roller, but take care not to let it jump out of the groove and damage the screen. Stop rolling the spline just short of the corner and cut a 45-degree piece of screen at the corner, just as your did when starting out. Then use a utility knife to cut the spline at a 45-degree angle to create a mitered corner where the adjoining spline will meet. Finish rolling the spline all the way into the corner. If you haven't done so already, trim the screen along the opposite side of the frame; then repeat the procedure.

While installing the spline, keep the screen as taut as possible without distorting it. Inserting the spline into the grooves in the frame should effectively stretch the screen taut across the opening. Finally, trim the two remaining edges of the screen to overlap the spline groove by l/8-inch. Repeat the spline insertion steps for these two remaining sides.

Installing fiberglass (either solar or nonsolar) screens is much easier because the screen and spline go in simultaneously. Lay the screen over the frame so that it overlaps all spline grooves at least one inch. There's no need to trim the corners. Using the concave side of the roller, roll the spline over the screen and into the groove, pulling the material taut on the final two sides. If any wrinkles or bulges appear, simply remove the spline and reroll. Trim the excess screen from the sides using a utility knife. To avoid accidentally cutting and ruining the new screen and spline, cut on top of the spline with the knife aiming toward the outside of the frame.Send e-mail to — or write to Here's How, , P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0191. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.

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