Wire screens accumulate plenty of wear, tear, and punctures throughout their lives, but repairing the damage is a simple task you can learn to do yourself.
Sharon and David Bowers have written The Useful Book (Workman Publishing, 2016), a veritable encyclopedia of do-it-yourself — whatever “it” is, learn to cook it, build it, sew it, clean it, or repair it. Not only do the authors walk you step-by-step through handy repairs and projects, but they include illustrations, charts, and lists to keep their explanations simple and accessible. Like a shop teacher and a home economics teacher combined in print form, this book will have you prepared for anything!
You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Useful Book.
Some things seem to happen in slow motion — the first time you rode a bike without training wheels, the kiss at your wedding ... all the way to watching a toddler smash through your screen door. Even if you don’t have a blundering kid, pet, or spouse, your screen door is likely to accumulate nicks and punctures. You can patch tiny holes, and if you do so when you first see them, you might be able to stop them from getting bigger. But a screen is easy to replace, so as soon as bugs start to find passage through the holes or you’re sick of unsightly rips, pull the old and install the new. Here’s how to repair or replace a wire screen.
• Measuring tape
• Screwdriver or awl
• Spline installation tool
• Utility knife
• Replacement screen
• Replacement spline (optional)
1. Make the patch. Use scissors to cut a piece of screen a couple of inches wider on all sides than the hole from a roll of extra screen or use a patch from a repair kit.
2. Bend the wires. Screen is made of wire woven horizontally and vertically. Pull out the horizontal wires for 1/2 inch around the edges of the patch, leaving the vertical wires poking free. Bend these free wires directly backward at a 90-degree angle.
3. Attach the patch. Push the patch onto the screen so that the bent wires go through to the other side of the screen (most people choose to patch from the outside, with the bent wires pushed inside, but the choice is yours). Bend these wires down on the other side of the screen to hold the patch in place — use your fingers or needlenose pliers. Push the wires down completely so they won’t snag.
Vinyl doesn’t bend like wire, so you’ll need to glue or sew vinyl patches. Cut a patch from material that matches the screen — unlike wire, it need only be 1/2 inch wider on all sides than the hole. Once you cut the vinyl, paint the edges with clear nail polish to keep them from fraying. Use rubber cement to hold the patch in place. For a more aesthetically appealing patch, sew the patch in place with thread that matches the color of the vinyl.
1. Remove the screen from the window or door. Remove any hardware that intrudes on the face of the screen — most will come free easily with a screwdriver. Evaluate screen hardware for dings and discoloration and replace if damaged. If you’re working on a sliding screen, check the frame’s rollers while you’re at it. If they are worn or tend to stick, consider replacing them. Most rollers are held in place with clips that you can pop free with a flathead screwdriver. If there is a latch, check its attachment point and replace if needed. If you are repairing a sliding door, take this opportunity to thoroughly clean the track on which it runs.
2. Remove the spline. The screen’s edges are almost certainly held in place by a thin line of rubber called the spline. This piece presses on top of the screen into a tight groove, and the friction of the spline in the groove holds the screen taught. To remove the screen, you’ll have to remove the spline first. Use a thin screwdriver or awl to pick at the spline near one of the screen corners, trying to lift it free without breaking it. If possible, pull the spline free in one long strip. Repeat this procedure to remove all four sides of the spline, checking to see if there might be spline on both sides of the screen.
3. Lay the new screen across the frame. Start with a piece of replacement screen at least 2 inches larger than the opening — later you’ll trim it to size. For now, align one edge of the new screen along the corresponding edge of the frame to make sure you don’t start installing the screen cockeyed.
4. Install the screen. A spline installation tool should have small, pizza-cutter-like circles on each end. One circle has a convex edge (it bulges outward), and the other circle has a concave edge (it is grooved inward). Run the convex edge of the spline installation tool on top of the screen to push it into the groove that runs along the frame edge. Press the screen firmly into the groove without ripping it.
5. Reinstall the spline. Use the concave side of the spline installation tool to push old or new spline into the groove on top of the screen. Pushing too firmly can make the tool’s wheel run against the screen and potentially damage it. Slightly angle the tool away from the inside of the screen so that any rips occur on the overhang rather than inside the spline. As you push the spline into the groove with the roller, use your other hand to pull the screen tight in front of the area you’re seating. However, be careful not to pull so hard that you tilt the screen in the frame.
6. Use a utility knife to trim the excess screen. To avoid scratching the frame, you can cut directly into the outside gap created by the spline.
7. Replace any needed hardware, including rollers or the handle of the door. Most rollers clip in place and most handles attach with screws. Reinstall the screen with the hardware you removed in Step 1.
By the 1950s, screen doors and windows were common in the US, and were so useful in keeping bugs out of the house that parasitic diseases were almost eradicated.
Reprinted with permission from The Useful Book: 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop by Sharon and David Bowers, published by Workman Publishing Co., 2016. Buy this book from our store: The Useful Book.
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