How to repair a torn window or patio door screen

Updated: April 10, 2019

ripped-patio-screen-door-with-woman-and-dog Photo by Ozgur Coskun/Shutterstock

We’ve probably all had the experience of waking up at the cottage to discover that the mosquitoes found their way into the building through a torn screen and spent the night feasting on you while you slept. Here’s how to repair damaged window and patio door screens so you can sleep soundly.

Minor repairs

If your screen has just a minor tear in it, there are a few different options for repairing it. For one, you can slather both sides of the hole with clear nail polish. Once it hardens it will seal up the tear, but you won’t get airflow through that section. You can also buy a roll of self-adhesive fiberglass screen repair tape. With this product you simply cut off a piece big enough to cover the hole and stick it on.

Replacement screening

If the screen has multiple tears or is so old that it has become brittle, it’s time to replace the whole thing. Head to the local hardware store and pick up some replacement screening. It’s sold in rolls, or in a kit complete with spline—the rubber material that holds the screen in place—and replacement aluminum frames.

You’ll want to buy replacement screening that’s at least an inch or so wider and taller than the screens you’re replacing. There are also larger rolls available for patio doors.

The kits usually come with a cheap, plastic rolling tool. If you’re going to be repairing more than one screen, it’s worth investing in a better sturdier roller with a wooden handle. You’ll find them in the same aisle as the repair kits.

Step-by-step instructions

You’ll want to find a solid surface you can work comfortably from. Next, gather a few tools for the job: a pair of scissors, a flathead screwdriver, and a utility knife.

Start by laying the screen you’re going to repair on your work table. Use the screwdriver to pry up the old spline and remove it from the grove around the frame. With that out of the way the old screen will lift out. Toss both in the trash as they get brittle with age and trying to reuse them will only lead to problems down the road.

Next, lay the replacement screen over the frame and cut it to size, leaving an inch or so of overlap around all four sides. Line it up so that the grids are even in the frame and use the screwdriver to push the end of the spline into one corner.

Then, use the spline-rolling tool to push the spline and screen into the gap around the frame. Go slowly and carefully so the tool doesn’t jump out and accidentally slice the new screen. (Trust me, I’ve done it and you’ll have to start from scratch.)

As you work your way around the frame, make sure you aren’t causing the frame to buckle inwards. When you get back to the place where you started, use the knife to cut off the spline and push the end into the frame.

Using your utility knife, very carefully cut away the excess screen. Now, get that repaired screen back in place before the bugs come out to feast again.

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