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Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Replace the Mesh in a Torn Window Screen

Screen Repair Kit from Home Depot SRP $10
When we moved into our mid-century home it was in fixer-up condition, with a lot of work needed. One of the things pretty far at the bottom of the priority list was fixing the torn screens. Back when I was a novice home owner, I would have started pricing new window screens. But now I know how easy (and much less expensive) it is to simply replace the mesh, and yes, there is a kit for that. It comes with a roll of mesh, a length of rubber "spline", and a tool to push the spline into the frame.

I'll explain in more detail and take some photos as I go along. Ready to fix some screens? Let's go.

Tools:
  • Roll of mesh
  • Spline
  • Roller
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors
  • Small screw driver (to pry out the old spline)

Time: About 30 minutes each screen

Level of difficulty: Easy

Step 1: Remove your window screens.

In the cottage we have Andersen windows. At home I couldn't find a manufacturer label but they are a model that "tilt in" for easy cleaning for those of us who live in a multi-story building. The screens work the same way. The only difference is that the Andersen windows have a reusable metal spline. I'll address both types.

To remove the Andersen screens, standing inside with the windows open, locate the silver tabs on either side near the bottom and pull them both open, toward the middle. This frees the screen.

To remove the screens from tilt-in windows like we have in our apartment, you have to first tilt in the windows by freeing the pins on either side at the top.



Open the bottom sash first, about three inches. Just as you would if you wanted to get some air. Then push the sliders in with your fingers and it releases the pins that are tucked into the recess on either side.




With both sides pushed in at the same time, pull the top of the window toward you to tilt it in. Now bring down the top sash about three inches from the bottom one and repeat.




Now you have both sashes tilted in and you will be able to access the screen that has the the tear in it.




These screens tend have springs on the righthand side that hold them within metal gliders on the outside of the windows.  Standing on a stepladder so that you can reach out the window, push the screen firmly to the right while on the left you are pulling the screen out, away from the building. Be sure you are grasping it firmly in your left hand as you pull out (before it falls six stories to the garden). When you have it completely out, tilt it on its side to bring the screen in.

Step 2. Lay the screen flat and find a good corner to start prying out the spline.


Andersen windows metal spline

On the Andersen windows the spline is metal and reusable. Pry slowly and try not to bend or dent it.



On the other type screens the spline is rubbery black cord that is disposable. You replace this with the new spline from your kit. Using the tip of a screwdriver, pry it loose from one corner. The spline on these windows is so old and weathered, you can see the rubber starting to disintegrate into dust.


Pull all the spline out, all around.


Step 3: Roll out your mesh, place your empty screen frame over it, and weight down the middle with something heavy. I used a paperweight but if you are outdoors a rock will do. 


Step 4: Cut to fit. Cut slightly bigger than the inside frame of your screen.  You don't have to be particularly precise. Err on the side of too big because you will be able to trim it later.




Step 5: Keeping the new mesh taut, replace the spline by pressing it back in place with first your fingers, then the roller tool.


Step 6: Trim access mesh.


Step 7: Return the screen into your window, spring side first. For the Andersen screens this means putting the top in first. For the tilt-in window screens, you'll push firmly to the right until the pins are in the glider, then push firmly to the left until both sides of the screen are within the gliders.

Test the screen by raising it and lowering it to make sure it's in snugly but moves freely.


Step 8: Stand back and admire your handiwork. For $10 your window screen is just like new. And depending on the size of your windows, one kit can be used to replace multiple screens. 

This is an easy DIY and certainly less expensive than ordering new screens. You will be surprised how new screens freshen up the look of your windows - while keeping buzzing insects out, that is the main objective.