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How to Repair a Window Screen

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A neighborhood cat damaged  several of our window screens. I honestly thought I would just buy replacements at Home Depot. I found out that they stock very few sizes, and custom ordering new ones is costly and time-consuming.

Torn Window Screen
Credit: gibbon

What You'll Need:

Fortunately, unless there is damage to the outer frame, replacing just the screen material is cheap and easy. Here are the tools you’ll need: Window screen material (not shown), spline material, and a spline roller, along with a utility knife and screwdriver I already had. Together, the materials cost about $21, which includes enough screen and spline to do several windows.

Window Screen Repair Tools
Credit: gibbon

1. Remove the Old Screen Material

The screen material is held into a channel with a rubber gasket (the spline).  This will be a continuous piece going all the way around, and both ends will meet at one corner. Using any small pointed tool, like a pocket knife or even a ballpoint pen, pry one of the ends up out of the frame. Once you get an end started, the entire length should pull out easily. With the gasket gone, you can remove the old screen material. This is also a good time to wipe out the channel with a cloth and clean up the frame.

Removing the Spline
Credit: gibbon

2. Cut the New Material

Place the empty screen frame on a flat surface, and roll out the new screen material over it.  Cut it to fit the outside of the frame using scissors or a utility knife.  This cut does not need to be especially straight or pretty, because you’ll be trimming it later on. At each corner, trim the corner at a 45 degree angle that comes just to the outside of the channel that the gasket will go in. If you don’t do this, the screen material will bunch up here when you push the new gasket in, leaving you with an ugly corner.

3. Tape Everything Down

Using masking tape, tape down each edge of the frame to your working surface. Then tape 2 adjacent edges of the screen down. This will hold everything in place while you put the gasket in. Finally, do a little trick you won’t see on most package instructions: Place a weight on the middle of the screen. Doing this keeps you from starting with the screen too tight.  If you start with the screen tight, as you push the gasket in, you will be using up a small amount of screen material in the channel. This extra material will pull the screen tight enough to noticeably bow the frame inward. The weight keeps this from happening.

Screen Taped down
Credit: gibbon

4. Roll the Spline in Place

The package instructions may say to use the convex end of your spline roller tool to roll the screen in place before you come back to add the spline material. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but I’ve had good results just pushing the spline in and letting it pull the screen with it. Start at the corner where a taped side and an untapped side of the screen meet. Use the concave end of the spline tool to push the spline into the channel, moving toward the other untapped side of the screen. Take your time, and use one hand to lay the spline in place ahead of the spline tool. While you are doing this, try to remove any twist you see in the spline, because if you put it in twisted, the twist will eventually try to force the tool off track. When you reach the corner, just keep going and do the next side. When you reach the second corner, stop to remove the tape from the screen side that you are about to do, and then continue rolling. When you get back to where you started, roll up to the corner, and then cut off the excess spline with a knife.

5. Trim the Screen

Now that the screen is in place, cut off the extra material with a sharp knife. You can run the knife-edge along the inside of the spline channel, above the spline, to get a close trim.

Trimming Excess Screen
Credit: gibbon

And you’re done! Put the screen back in place and enjoy your handiwork. It takes a bit of practice. Your first one will be pretty good, but by the third one you’ll be an expert.

Repaired Window Screen
Credit: gibbon


Jul 18, 2014 7:57pm
Very useful article. My insects screens got damaged a few times and always called a handyman to replace them, next time I'll try to do that myself.
Jul 22, 2014 6:08am
Thanks for the feedback. Good luck with the repairs. As long as the frame itself isn't damaged, replacing the screen material is really surprisingly easy.
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