Replacing a Screen - Difficulty and Time

Replacing a screen on a screen door is a simple do-it-yourself job and is inexpensive to complete.  If you have a torn screen or your screen is separating from the perimeter of your sliding door, you can make this repair yourself.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being very easy and 10 being very difficult, I would give this job a 2. 

From start to finish you can complete this screen repair job in less than one hour.

Tools Needed to Replace a Screen

Tear in Screen of Sliding Screen DoorBefore we get started replacing the screen in your sliding screen door, know that these instructions will work for other types of window screens as well.  Here we will focus specifically on a sliding screen door including how to remove that door from the track.

Before you get started you will want to have a small set of tools ready to go. 

  • a screen spline roller tool 1
  • a small flat screwdriver
  • a small phillips screwdriver
  • a new spline 2
  • some small clamps or tape

Spline Roller Tool to Fix a Sliding Screen Door1 Spline Roller Tool - The spline roller tool is what you use to press the spline into the track.  This is the most important tool you need that you probably don't have.  There are different sizes of spline rollers so you need to make sure you get the right one.  To be safe, get a tool with two ends so you will be covered not only for this project but for another screen repair project down the road.

2Spline - The spline is a long roll of rubbery material that holds the screen in place.  If your door is not very old you may find that your current spline is in fine shape and you can reuse it.  The probem is that it's hard to know until you remove it and you also may restretch it at a different rate and run short, so picking up a new spline is a good idea.

Step 1: Remove The Sliding Screen Door For Repair

To get started we need to remove the sliding screen door.  The good news is that this is a pretty simple thing to do once you understand how it works.

Tension Screws on Sliding Screen DoorA sliding screen door runs on a track on top of small wheels.  Most have only 2 wheels, one on each side.  These wheels are locked down with tension screws on each side of the screen door.  It is because of these tension screws that the wheels don't pop off the track often.  In fact, if you find that your screen door does come off the track often it may be due to these screws being too loose.  After this article, you will know how to fix that little problem too.

In the first picture here, the tension screws are highlighted in red.  Simply unscrew these most of the way but do leave them in the door so you don't lose them.  You won't have to remove them entirely.  Once they are loose you can continue to the next step.

Removing A Sliding Screen Door From The TrackAfter you have loosened the tension screws you can use a flat screwdriver to push up the wheels that the door is resting on.  They are spring-loaded so you will need to push them up with the screwdriver while pulling the bottom of the door out.  Start on one side and then do the same thing on the other.  Once both wheels are out of the track and the door is tilted you can simply pull it away from the frame.

Now that you have removed your sliding screen door from the door frame, it is time to get to work on removing the broken screen.

Step 2: Remove a Broken Screen From a Sliding Screen Door

Removing the Handle From a Sliding Screen DoorBefore you start pulling out the broken or torn screen from your sliding screen door you need to remove the handle.  Screen door handles come in different styles, so this step can be very easy or a bit tricky.  In the first picture here, you see an easy model where the only thing to do is remove two screws and remove the handle.  The other side of the handle can stay in place since the screen does not go on that side. 

Some handles need a slight twist to get them over the lock assembly.  If you have this type, just twist the handle around the locking knob (which will need to stay in place) to remove it.  Be careful not to force it.

Removing The Old Spline From a Sliding Screen Door to Replace the Screen

Now that your handle is out of the way it is time to start removing the spline.  That is the rubber cord that is pressed into a groove holding your screen in place.  Inspect the perimeter of the screen door until you find the cut ends of the spline which will be together.

Use a flat screwdriver to work one end out until you can get ahold of it with your hands.  Once you get to that point you should be able to simply pull the spline out and work your way around the door.

After the spline has been removed you can simply pick the old screen up and throw it away. 

Step 3: Install The New Screen to Your Sliding Screen Door

Clamp New Screen on Sliding Screen DoorNow it is time for the fun part.  To install your new screen to your sliding screen door, lay your door on a flat surface and then unroll your new screen and lay it on top of the door.  Take care at this time to get your screen straight on the door.  Look at the gridlines of the screen along the edges to get it as square as you can.

To keep it square while you are installing the screen, use some small clamps or tape to hold it in place.  Pull it somewhat tight but not too tight.  Having the screen too tight can actually warp your door in the end.  You just don't want movement, but a bit of movement is not going to ruin the job.  You will see that as you continue to work your way around the door the screen will want to move on you so just keep it in the best alignment you can and it will look fine.

Rolling the Spline on Sliding Screen DoorNow you are ready to start the new installation.  If your old spline is in good shape you can use it again in this step, but a new spline is not too expensive and is a good idea.

To install the new screen, start a few inches away from a corner and simply press the spline over the screen and into the groove of the door.  It is best not to start in a corner.  That way you will have a continuous spine over the corner since the corners are stress points.  Use your spline roller tool to push the spline down into the track.  You can go ahead and push it all the way down as you go.

Installing Spline to the Corner of a Sliding Screen DoorContinue to work your way around the door.  When you get to a corner you will find that the spline roller tool can only get you so far.  You can roll up to about an inch on either side.  Leave just enough spline to get around the corner and then use a flat head screwdriver to carefully push the spline into the corner.  A word or caution here - be very careful in this step.  If you press to hard and scrape against the screen with your screwdriver you can rip the screen, especially if you are using a fiberglass screen.  To avoid this, press with the screwdriver towards the outside of the track (the side that you will eventually cut off the excess screen) instead of the inside.

Step 4: Wrapping Up the Sliding Screen Door Repair Job

Cutting Excess Screen When Fixing a Sliding Screen DoorNow that your screen is completely locked into place with the spline, it is time for the finishing touch.  For this step, use a utility knife to work your way around the screen and cut away the excess material.  Be sure not to cut and damage your spline in this step.  It is better to leave a slight amount of screen material than to cut into the spline.

When you get to a corner, just cut at a 45 degree angle away from the corner and continue down the next side.

After you have removed all the excess screen you can replace the door handle.

Repairing the Screen on a Sliding Screen DoorOnce you have removed the excess screen material and reattached the handle you are almost done.  The only step left now is to replace the door.  You remember how to do that right?

Start by tilting the door into place to get the top into the track.  Then move the bottom of the door into place.  Get your flat screwdriver and press up on the wheels at the bottom of the door once again until you can slide the door all the way back and onto the track.  If you have done it right the door will move back and forth freely.

Once the door is back on the track, tighten the tension screws back to the point where the door wheels are securely on the track and you can't lift the door up and down too freely. 

That's it!  You're done.  I knew you could do it.