Sliding screen doors get a lot of use—and abuse. From kids leaning on them to pets hanging from them (you know who you are, Mittens) and adults walking into them—not to mention sliding them endlessly back and forth—they need a little TLC every now and then. Good news for you: simple repairs aren’t that hard to do yourself.
Cleaning/replacing rollers (and removing the door)
Your screen door runs on its track with little rollers. In places with large swings in temperatures (that is, all of cottage country anywhere in Canada), the plastic on the rollers can break down, causing your door to stick and not slide smoothly. Debris such as dirt and twigs can also get stuck in the roller mechanism. Fortunately, these wheels are easy to clean or replace.
Your first step is to remove the door. Start by releasing the tension on the rollers and lower the door. Turn the adjustment screws at the bottom of the screen frame counter-clockwise to loosen them, then lift one wheel out of the track with your finger or a screwdriver. Pull that corner of the frame out of the track, then do the same for the other side. Lift the door out from there.
Remove the adjustment screw, then take out the wheel assembly. If the roller is broken or degraded, you’ll have to replace it. Handy tip—take the old wheel assembly to the hardware store when you go to get new ones. If the roller is just dirty or stuck on debris, clean it out, vacuum the tracks, and re-install it.
It’s not a good idea to lubricate the track, since oil or grease will trap dirt and gunk.
Replacing the tracks
Sometimes, a sliding screen door won’t slide because the tracks are warped. If they’re not terribly crooked, use a small hammer to bang them back into place. You can also buy and install new tracks.
Patching a screen
If you’ve got a small tear or hole in your screen, you can patch it, rather than replace the whole screen. Patch kits in different screen colours are available at hardware stores, and patches are usually as simple as cutting a piece of fibreglass or aluminum screening to size, then securing it in place with adhesive. If you’re working with aluminum screen, there’s a way to patch a hole without adhesive—check out this video to see how. Just be aware—your repair job is going to be visible, no matter how well you’ve matched the colour of the replacement screen. If you don’t want to see a patch—or you want a more long-term solution—you can replace the screen completely.
Replacing a screen
Believe it or not, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. No, really. You’ll be working with two main components: replacement screen, and, potentially, replacement spline—the flexible rubber tubing that holds the screen in place around the frame. Spline has a tendency to break down when it’s exposed to light and temperature fluctuations, so check yours before you make a trip to the hardware store. If you remove it (use an awl or something else that’s pointy) and it comes off in pieces, or it looks degraded and crumbly, you’ll need new spline.
You’ll also need a spline roller, which will ensure that you’ll be able to insert the screen into the spline without poking through it. It looks a little like a pizza roller, and will make your job a whole lot easier. Finally, buy enough screen to overlap the door frame by about two inches.
Remove the door, then remove the door handle. (If it’s broken, replace it.) Use an awl to remove the spline, being careful not to damage it if you’re planning to reuse it. Lay the new screening over the door, and use the convex roller on the spline tool to push the screen into the groove. Lay the spline on top of the groove, then use the concave roller to push it into the groove on top of the screen. (There are some good illustrations in this article.) Make sure to pull the screen tight as you’re inserting the spline—you can also use clamps to hold it taut. Once the spline is re-installed, use a knife or razor blade to trim the excess screen.
While the door is off, check to make sure nothing else needs fixing—handles and latches are fairly easily replaced, and will make sure your screen door remains secure. Once the door is off, you might as well make the most of it!