Replacement Window Screens
Replacing your window screens is a home improvement project that most homeowners can do themselves, as long as you have the right tools and a little knowledge. By following a few step-by-step instructions, you can have new screens on your home windows in a short time.
The first thing you'll need to do is to determine what type of new screens you'll want to use when you replace your window screens. Screens are differentiated by mesh fineness, and the fineness is measured by the strand counts in each direction per inch. Most household window screens have a mesh fineness of 18’ or 14’ or finer. You can visit your local hardware store to see the different types of screens available.
How to Replace Your Window Screens
While at the store, you may need to pick up a few tools that will make the job easier and that you may not already have in your toolbox. You'll need a hammer, staple gun, spline, a screen installation tool or putty knife, scissors or a utility knife, and some C-clamps. The exact tools you need may differ depending on the method you choose to install the screens. Since installing replacement window screens is different depending on whether you have wood or metal frames, the two methods are described below.
To remove a screen from a wood window frame, pry off the molding gently by starting in the middle of the span and moving towards the ends. Be careful not to break the molding. It is important when installing the new screens, to stretch the screen fabric very tight in order to make sure the new screen looks good and lasts long. To adequately stretch the screen tight, use some 1x2 wood that is longer than the width of the window, as well as some 1x4 wood to make into some wedges.
Next, lay the window frame on a horizontal surface and cut the replacement screen fabric at least an inch longer and wider than the frame, centering the screen over the frame. Staple one end of the screen to the top of the frame. Put a 1x2 just past the bottom of the frame and affix it firmly to the work surface. Then stretch the screen over the frame and the 1x2 and nail another 1x2 to the existing one, with the screen wedged between the two pieces of 1x2 wood.
The next step is to take the wedges made from the 1x4 wood and place them between the edge of the 1x2 wood and the bottom of the screen frame. Tap these wedges into the space until the screen is as taut as possible and then staple the screen to the bottom of the frame. Once this is done, you can continue stapling the screen along the sides of the frame, spacing each staple about an inch or two apart. Once the screen is secure, you can trim the excess screen fabric and reattach the moldings to the frame, using brads. To finish it off, countersink the brads and fill the holes with some wood putty.
If you are re-screening larger windows, such as picture windows, you may want to use sawhorses and C-clamps to secure the screen tautly instead of using the 1x2's and wood wedges. With this method, you use a set of sawhorses and some 2x4's that are the same length as the screen. Lay the 2x4's on the sawhorses to create a rough frame (you can use plywood instead of 2x4's to do this as well). Then, lay the frame on top of the boards, lay the screen across the frame, and use C-clamps in the middle of the frame to hold the screen tight.
To get the screen taught, lift each end of the frame and insert small blocks made from 2x4 wood so that the end of the frame bows upward slightly (be careful to do this gently so you don't break the frame). Then staple the screen in place, starting near the C-clamps in the middle, working your way towards the end and spacing the staples an inch or two apart. When you're done, remove the 2x4 blocks and replace the moldings as described above.
Installing replacement window screens on metal frames is a little different than wood frames. Metal frames contain a long strip of material, called spline, which helps to hold the screen in place in the frame. The first thing you need to do is remove the spline. This can be done by using a screwdriver to gently pry the spline out of the cavity in the edge of the frame. You may be able to re-use the spline, but if not, you can get rolls of vinyl splining in various widths.
Once the spline is removed, you need to make sure the frame is in good shape and is square (you can use a square to do this). Then roll out your replacement screen to the outside edges of the metal frame. Next, use an installation tool, a putty knife, or the edge of a piece of spline to force the screen's edges into the channel on the top and on one side of the frame, using short strokes.
After the first two sides are secure, use a utility knife to cut the screen material to fit the remaining two sides, lining it up with the outside edges of the channels. Then force the screen on these two edges into the channel.
The last step in this process is to insert the spline into the channels of the frame on top of the screen that has been forced into the channels. This can be done by using a spline tool or putty knife, and should be done in short strokes. As the spline goes into the channels, it will pull the screen taut. You may need to trim some excess screen material when you're done.
Replacing window screens is a home improvement project that can be done by most homeowners with just a few tools and a little patience. No matter what type of frame you have or what method you use to install the new screens, you will enjoy having new replacement screens in your windows for a long time after the project is completed.