Country Traditions

September 13, 2010

How to Repair or Replace a Screen

Filed under: screen repair — Tags: , , — dmacc502 @ 12:40 am

  • You can easily patch most small holes. It’s only when a hole exceeds about 3″ in diameter that the screening itself needs to be replaced.
  • Measure hole sizes and purchase ready-made, snap-on repair patches or cut them from new screening. A patch should be at least 1/2″ larger in diameter than the hole. For bigger holes, the patch should be as much as 1″ larger.
  • For metal and most fiberglass screen patches, use this procedure: Unravel a number of strands around the edges of the patch one or two rows back from the edges, depending on the patch size. Then weave the strands through the screening and bend them tight. You can usually bend the strands with your fingers, but if the patch is heavy duty, you may need long-nosed pliers. Plastic patches need a touch of household cement on the ends of the strands after they’ve been woven through.
  • You can patch small holes–1/4″ to 3/8″–with a small amount of household cement. This glue patch will be next to invisible.
  • Fiberglass and plastic screens are tough to patch and should probably be replaced.

Unravel several strands from the patching material or use a ready-made, snap-on patch.

Slip the bent strands of the patch through the screening, then bend them back to hold the patch in.

Close holes up to 3/8 inch with household cement.


  • To remove the old screening, pry off the screen molding, starting in the center of a strip and working toward the ends. Try not to break it.
  • Your local retailer can help you decide what type of new screening to use. For general household screening, you need a mesh of 18″ x 14″ or finer (these are the stand counts in each direction, per inch).
  • With wooden window and door screens, it is important to stretch the screen fabric drum-tight for a neat and long-lasting job. For the wedge method of stretching, you’ll need some 1×2 stock in a length slightly wider than the window or door and some 1×4 stock from which to saw out the wedges.
  • Cut your new screening at least 1′ longer and 1′ wider than the unit to be recovered.
  • Staple the screening across the top edge. Then install the 1×2 cleats with the bottom cleat nailed to a bench or other flat surface. Roll the screening over it, then nail on the top cleat.
  • Insert the wedges between the cleats and screen frame, tapping the wedges in until the screen has been pulled taut. Figure shows the procedure.
  • Staple the screening at the bottom, then along the sides. Put a staple in every few inches.
  • Snip off any excess screening, and use brads to refit the screen moldings. Countersink the brads and fill the holes with wood putty.
  • The cleat-and-wedge method works well with window screens and halves of doors, but there’s a better method of stretching screen material on larger units, such as doors. You’ll need a pair of sawhorses with two 2x4s about the same length as the screen placed across them (or use a sheet of plywood). Place the stripped fame on the boards, holding the center with C-clamps. Then lift each end and insert short 2×4 blocks to bow them. Bowing needs to be done slowly and gently to keep from snapping the frame.
  • Now staple the screen in place tightly, starting at the center brace. Remove the 2×4 blocks and the screen will be quite taut as you replace the screen moldings.

For the cleat-and-wedge method of stretching a new screen, first staple the screening across the top of the frame.

Then nail down the longer end between two cleats.

Insert wedges between the cleats and frame, tapping them in gently until the screen pulls taut.

Now you can staple the screening along the bottom and both sides.

For longer frames, place the unit on sawhorses over 2x4s or plywood. The center is clamped and the ends are gently raised on 2x4 blocks.


  • Aluminum screens or screen doors require a different technique.
  • Without kinking the metal frame, remove the splines that hold the old screen in place. Check to see if new splines are needed. For replacement, vinyl splining is excellent. It comes in rolls of various widths.
  • Use a square to make sure the frame is still in decent shape. Reshape it if not.
  • Cut new screening to the frame’s outside measurements.
  • Next, force the screen’s edges into the channel on the top and one side using the convex-edged wheel of a spline or screen installation tool. These tools are available with different-width rollers–use one that matches the channels in your screen frame. Use short strokes for the best results. A putty knife will work, too.
  • With a sharp utility knife, cut the screening to fit the two remaining sides. Use the outside edge of the retaining channel as a guide. Use the spline tool to roll the screening into the remaining grooves.
  • Use the concave-edged wheel of the spline tool to roll the retaining strips or splines into the channels. As before, make short strokes. As the spline goes in, it will pull the screening taut. To complete the installation, cut off any excess screening around all four sides.

To replace screening in a metal frame, carefully pry out the splines with a screwdriver that's slightly smaller than the spline.

Click on drawing above to view animation.

Cut the screening to the exterior frame size.

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