How to Replace the Screen in Your Windows – Before the Town Condemns You

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How many of you out there have let your screen go? I’m sure most of us have a small hole here or there. Like closets, our screen windows are usually the last thing we think about. What makes it worse, as least for me, is that we often think ‘Oh well it’s just a little hole’ and let it go until it’s big enough the feral neighborhood cats can pass through it like it’s a cat diner. To make matters even worse, my black lab goes a little nuts when cats or people walk by and he’s managed to knock several screens out with his enthusiasm. So with a little nudging from my wife, I went ahead and replaced the screens on all the front windows and the screen door. Yep, it had gotten that bad.

What You’ll Need for Your Window Screen Repair Project

New Screen


Spline Tool

Utility Knife

Sawhorses or workstation

How To Install Window Screen

Step 1: It should go without saying the first thing to do is take the old screen out of the window and lay it on a stable workstation. Of course, it should go without saying, that Preparation H is not to be taken orally, but yet it’s written on the box.

That little rubber rope separates you from the wilds my friends!

Step 2: Remove the old spline. If you are unsure what spline is, look around the outside edge of the screen. The spline is the the little rubber rope that holds the screen in place. At this point you have two options. You can do the prudent thing and use new spline. Or, you can be a cheap miser like me and save the old stuff for re-use. If you are contemplating using the old spline, check to make sure that it isn’t too cracked or UV damaged. Since the whole point of window screen repair is to get some additional life out of the new screen, we recommend new spline, despite what you may see here.

Seven, eight – Lay your screen out straight!
Step 3: Lay the new screen over the window and cut it. You should cut the screen so that there is about an inch around each side. I generally only worry about cutting the spool and wait to cut it all to length at the end of the rescreening process.

Step 4: Pick a corner, any corner, and push one end of the spline into the corner. Using your spline tool, (and trust me life is a lot easier with this four dollar tool), roll the screen back into the groove. It’s pretty easy going until you reach the corner.

This will save your life, no really literally it will!
Step 5: As you get to the corner you can do a couple of things. You can push the spline into the corner using your fingers or a screwdriver. You can also push it back and against the corner which usually feeds the spline into the groove, or you can try to use the tool to push it back into the corner. Personally, I like using a screwdriver because it ensures that I get the spline firmly into the corner. As you roll or push, feed some extra spline into the corners to make sure that there is enough to go into the groove tightly and that you don’t stretch the spline too much. Over-stretching it increases its chances of popping out of the corner.

That’s right work it into that groove!
Step 6: Continue working the spline into the groove down the adjacent side from where you started. As you approach the next corner, which should be exactly opposite of your first corner, your method will change. From here until the end you will want to pull the screen somewhat tightly as you roll the spline in. It’s not the easiest process, but its necessary unless you want your window screen repair looking more wrinkly than an old Shar Pei doggie. Diligence and a nicely tensioned screen pays off in the end.

Step 7: Work it baby, work it!!! Work that screen and spline into around the edge of the screen. Make sure you are pulling the screen taught as you work it all in.

Step 8: When you get to the end of the groove use your knife to cut any excess spline and push the very end into the groove. Don’t be a knucklehead and accidentally cut the screen when you cut the spline, otherwise you’ll be back at square one. Also, if you are using the original spline you theoretically shouldn’t have any left over. However, thanks to your diligent stretching, it can be pretty easy to reduce the spline diameter and wind up with leftover. Like we suggested before, stepping up and buying new material is advisable.

Cut the excess and then FIN!
Step 9: Using your utility knife, cut the excess screen off just on the outside of the screen groove. You may want to slip something thin behind the screen to protect the frame from your blade as you but, but that depends on how particular you are. Double check that everything is nicely in place, and voila, you’ve got yourself a screen that is oddly capable of keeping bugs outside (and is more dog resistant too).

It really can only take about 10 minutes to do each screen, and you can then enjoy a nice open-windowed porch in peace. One last closing thought. Screen material will affect your outcome, so plan accordingly. Aluminum wire screen is much more resistant to damage during installation while the fiberglass is lighter and easier to manipulate. However, you’ll need to keep in mind aluminum screens are thicker in diameter than fiberglass. As you install your screen pay close attention. Two of the screens I recently installed had the same thick aluminum and all I had was fiberglass screen in the garage. Everything went without a hitch, until about three minutes later. That’s when my son wanted to look out the window. He reached his hand toward the window and his whole hand went outside and he almost did as well. The cause: the two different types of material. The new screen was thinner and therefore the spline was not able to hold the new screen in properly allowing it to pop out easily, which necessitated buying a thicker spline. Regardless of these hiccups, the project itself is short and relatively easy in most cases, just make sure you pay attention to those pesky minor details. So, if you’re looking to spruce up the place a little, start with this simple how to install window screen tutorial and you too can keep insects, feral cats and maybe even dogs at bay!

Photo of author

About Leroy

LeRoy was born into a long line of contractors/carpenters/missing links which maybe why he fell naturally into tools and fishing with his paws, errr, bare hands. He has since punctured, stabbed or electrocuted every appendage that can be discussed in mixed company. Given his natural fur vest, he has never been cold. In his parallel life he is a mild mannered environmental scientist where he builds, destroys and builds again. Which let’s face it is much cooler than Superman’s parallel life.

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6 thoughts on “How to Replace the Screen in Your Windows – Before the Town Condemns You”

  1. We did it! Or, I should say, at my urging and showing him this piece John did it! Yay! Cats are disappointed that they can’t just walk through the screen door anymore, but I’m sure happy.

  2. As a screen repair business owner, I would like to point out that while it is fairly easy to repair a screen, it is very easy to make the screen to tight in the frame. When this happens the frame becomes bowed in the center allowing you to see light where you don’t want to. This will allow bugs and other critters (those pesky feral cats) to come back in (or out).
    To keep this from happening I will use strips of 1/4″ plywood secured to my workbench along the inside edge of the aluminum frame. This keeps my screen tight and keeps the frame from bowing.

    • I’ve heard that the spline is usually on the outside.
      This seems backwards. Shouldn’t it be inside to prevent weathering, UV embrittlement, etc.?
      Plus, the side without the spline is usually more finished and looks better than the spline which seems better especially for a screen that might be next to your front door.
      I’ll appreciate and watch for your email reply.


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