How To Repair A Screen Door

Learn how to repair metal and wooden screen doors safely by patching holes or replacing screens with a few tools and materials.

When buzzing insects invade your home, it's time to repair your door screens. This is a moderate level project you can do yourself with a few tools, materials and the right technique. Follow these guidelines and repairs can be quickly done to keep the critters out.

Check for broken hardware or corrosion in metal frames, and rot, cracks or broken members in wood. If the frame is solid, take a look at the screening material. Damaged screens can be repaired with a screen patch or replacement. The screen must be solid enough to hold a patch and have no long, gaping tears or rips along the frame. If the material is weak or extensively damaged, the screens will have to be replaced.

Small holes less than 1/4 inch can be repaired quickly. A small dab of household glue, superglue or nail polish remover can fill the hole. Slightly larger holes or rips can be mended with a weave of two-pound test monofilament fishing line topped off with a dab of glue. Larger holes or tears will need a patch.

Cut a small sample of screening material to your local home center for color and mesh density matches. Metal screens require the same replacement material to prevent chemical oxidation. For plastic screens, you can buy a roll of screening material or a patch kit containing double-sided adhesive. This is the quickest fix because all you need do is stick both sides together. Buy some spreadable or spray clear adhesive.

Repairs will be easier if you take the door off its hinges and support it on a flat work surface.

Clean the screen. For plastic, cut a patch about 2" wider than the hole. Trim the edges of the hole with scissors for a neater repair. Spray or apply adhesive in a thin layer on the patch and on the screen around the hole. Align the mesh and press in place. Let dry.

For metal screen patches, use tin snips or shears to trim around the edges of the hole. Wear gloves to prevent cuts or scratches. Flatten wires around the hole or tear with a small stick of wood or the blade of a screwdriver. Use an awl, thin nail or small screwdriver to align the mesh around the hole and close any gaps. Trim lose strands. Cut a patch about two inches wider than the hole. Remove about 1/4" of wire strands from the patch and bend the edges down 90 degrees using a scrap wood stick working over a flat board. Apply some adhesive to both patch and damage area. Align the patch over the hole. Make sure the direction of the mesh patch matches the screen. Push the patch down over the hole so the ends of the bent wires project through. Crimp the ends. Trim excess.

If the damage to your screen is more extensive, you'll need to replace it.

Use a putty knife or small flat screwdriver to pry the spline out of the channel. Remove the screen and clean the channel with a soft wire brush. Clean the frame of any corrosion, stains or dirt. Measure the screen opening. Cut a replacement from the new screening material two inches wider then the opening to overlap all sides by one inch. Stretch the new screen tightly over the frame.

Take a putty knife or the convex wheel of a spline roller tool and push the screen into the channel. Start on one side and work your way around.

Measure the perimeter of the screen opening, cut a piece of replacement spline six inches longer than this measurement. Use the spline roller's concave wheel to push the spline into the channel on top of the screen. Work around the opening. This is a little tricky and you may have to start over a few times. Once installed, trim any excess. To avoid screen wrinkles, be sure to maintain tension as you secure the spline into the channel. Trim excess screen material outside the spline with a utility knife. Reinstall the door.

Wooden metal screens are a little harder to replace. First, use a putty knife and break the paint seal along the molding. Remove nails or staples with a flat-edged screwdriver and long-nosed pliers. Carefully remove the molding and set aside. Pull the old screen from the frame.

Examine the frame for any wood rot, holes, gouges or scrapes. Dig out rot and fill damaged areas with an exterior grade plastic wood filler. Let dry. Sand the filled areas smooth. Seal any exposed bare wood with matching paint.

Carefully measure the frame opening. Use a pair of tin snips to cut a replacement, making sure to add three inches to each side.

To prevent sags, the frame must be bent or bowed before installing the replacement screen.

Set wood blocks of the same thickness under the short sides of the wooden frame. Attach four C-clamps to the frame and flat work surface. Tighten the clamps to pull the centers of the long sides down, slightly bending or bowing the frame. Center the replacement screen on the frame. Starting on one short side, use a staple gun to staple it to the frame. Repeat this process on the opposite short side. Release the C-clamps and let the frame relax. This will stretch the screen material taut. Pull the material tight and make sure the screen has no wrinkles. Staple the screen along one long side of the frame. Repeat on the opposite side.

Replace old or install new molding. Secure with wire brads or staples. Trim excess material with a utility knife. Repaint the frame. Reinstall the door.

Enjoy the satisfaction of a good repair you did yourself to keep the buzzing critters excluded outside where they belong.

© High Speed Ventures 2011