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In many parts of the world, window screens are an important necessity of comfortable living. While extremely helpful in keeping out unwanted intruders & letting fresh air flow in, screens are by nature delicate and often need repair or replacement. Particularly if you have a rambunctious dog and a sliding screen door, as my parents do. In their case, they have learned to keep a roll of fresh screening handy. In your case, hopefully this won't be quite as regular of a task!

On the "do-it-yourself" (DIY) scale, repairing or replacing screens is relatively easy and requires little elbow grease. The only materials required are:

  • new screening or screen patches
  • scissors
  • household cement
  • screen rolling tool
  • razor knife
  • square
  • 1x2 and 1x4 stock to stretch the new screening
  • stapler
  • brads
  • wood putty

Screen Repairs

If you have noticed a small hole in your window screen, less than about 3" in diameter, you can simply repair the hole. Plastic screens are difficult to patch and should probably replaced. Fiberglass screens can go either way, while metal screens are easy to patch.

Measure the hole(s) and purchase ready-made patches or cut them from new screening. For small holes, the patch should have a minimum diameter at least a half-inch larger than the hole. Larger holes require a full inch extra diameter of replacement screening.

To insert the patch into the screen, unravel quite a few strands almost the patch's edges. Interweave these strands with the screening and bent until the patch is held tightly in place. The stands can usually be bent by hand, but if the screening is heavier you can use long-nosed pliers. Plastic patches also require some household cement on the strand ends after they have been woven into the screen.

Small holes (less than 3/eight") with some household cement.

Screen Replacement

Replacing screens in metal and wooden frames can require different procedures. Because replacing screens in metal frames is easier, I'll discuss that process first and then move on to replacement of screens in wood frames.

Replace screening in a metal frame

Remove the screen from the window and lay on a hard, flat surface large enough to support the entire frame.

Remove rubber edging from the old screen. Set aside for reuse if it is in good shape. If not, discard it. Measure and cut new rubber edging.

Remove the old, damaged screening. The damaged screening and any scraps can be saved for future repairs.

Using the old screening as a pattern or measurements of the window, measure out the new screening from a replacement roll. Be sure to leave sufficient excess screening on all sides typically enough to reach the outsides of the frame and a bit more.

With a screen rolling tool, start in a corner of the frame to tighten the screening into place. Press the rubber edging into the groove and shielded the screening in the frame. Work your way slowly and with a steady hand around the screen. This helps avoid the errors of bending the screen frame, which is often made of thin aluminum, and ripping the screening with the screen rolling tool.

If you are finding the process difficult, try tacking the material to the frame first (recommended for fabric but not aluminum) or use a spreader to support long screens.

When the screening is pressed tightly into the frame, trim excess material with a razor knife.

Replace the screen in the window. Sit back and relax in your insect-free home!

Replace screening in a wood frame

Replacing the screening in a wood frame can be more challenging because of the care necessary in affixing the screening to the frame.

In the existing frame, start in the center of a strip of screen molding and work toward the ends, prying slowly along the way. Be careful not to vacation it.

For wood frames, the wedge method of stretching ensures tight screening for a quality finished product. For this method, have some 1x2 stock that is slightly wider than the frame handy. Also use 1x4 stocks to make the wedges.

Cut new screening from a replacement roll. Be certain to leave sufficient excess screening on all sides typically enough to reach the outsides of the frame and a bit more.

Staple screening across top edge. Nail the bottom cleat to a bench or flat surface and install the 1x2 cleats. Roll the new screening over the cleats and nail to the top cleat.

Between the cleats and screen frame, insert the wedges. Tap wedges until the screen is pulled taut.

Every few inches, put a staple in the screening along the bottom and then the sides.

Trim excess screening. Countersink brads to refit screen moldings and fill holes with wood putty.

Finally, staple the entire screen tightly in place working from the center brace outward. Remove the wedges and the screen should stay taut. Use a screen rolling tool or putty knife to replace the screen moldings. As with the metal-framed screen, relax and enjoy the peace and quiet your hard work has afforded you!