Why fiberglass is the preferred choice
by Paul Bianchina
It’s getting to be that time again. The windows are open, and the bugs are clamoring at the window screens, trying to come in and join the party.
If a few too many of these uninvited guests are getting in, it’s probably time to get that damaged screening replaced.
Luckily, this is a great do-it-yourself project that you can take care of in no time.
To do your own window screen replacement, all you’ll need is some new screening material and a simple re-screening tool, both of which are available at home centers and hardware stores.
Screening is available in both fiberglass and aluminum, but the fiberglass is much easier to work with and is the preferred choice for most applications. It’s available in different widths, so purchase one that’s a minimum of 2 inches wider than the screen frame itself.
Remove the window screen frame from the window, and set it on a workbench or work table. You’ll notice that one side has a groove running around all the way around it that the screen is tucked into that. Place that side face up.
Look closely at the groove. What you’ll notice is a gray or black vinyl spline that’s tucked down into the groove, holding the screening in place. Look for the end of the spline, which is usually in one corner. With a small screwdriver or a utility knife, carefully pry up the end of the spline until you can get a hold of it. Lift the spline out of the groove all the way around, and then remove the old screening. Clean the groove with a screwdriver tip or some compressed air to remove any dirt and debris.
Now examine the spline. If it looks fairly flexible and seems undamaged, you can clean and reuse it. If it’s worn, stiff or cracked, you’ll want to replace it with a new one. Splines are available at the same place where you purchased the screening — take the old one into the store with you to be sure you get the same size.
With the screen frame lying flat on the workbench, unroll the new screening over it. Make sure that you have minimum of 1 inch of overlap on all sides, and then cut the screening off the roll.
You’ll be installing the new screen into two adjacent sides of the frame, then stretching it across the frame and installing it into the other two sides. Make sure that the new screening material is lying straight on top of the frame before you start. Begin at one corner, and press about an inch of the spline part way into the groove with your fingers, trapping the screening in the groove.
Next, you’ll be using the screen roller tool. The roller has a wooden or plastic handle, with a plastic roller at each end. Using the roller with the concave (inward-curving) edge, set the roller on top of the spline. Pressing down with moderate pressure, use the roller to press the spline about halfway down into the groove. Continue across the entire first side of the frame, rolling the screen and the spline into the groove.
With the first side in, check again to be sure that the screening material is sitting square on the frame. If it gets off, the screening will appear to run diagonally across the screen frame, rather than vertically and horizontally. Turn the corner with the spline, and use the roller to set the screening into the second side, adjacent to the first. Try not to stretch the spline too much as you set it.
With the first two sides set, lightly stretch the screening material across the frame with one hand while continuing to set the spline in place with the roller. Don’t worry about stretching the screening too tight or if you have some minor wrinkles” those will come out in the next step. However, if the screening is really loose or is crooked in the frame, simply pull out as much of the spline as necessary, reposition the screening, and try again.
When you get to the final corner, you may find that you have more spline then you need, even though you’re reusing the original spline. That’s the result of stretching the spline as you install it, so simply cut off the excess with a utility knife.
You now have all the screening and spline installed, with the spline about halfway down into the groove in the frame. Using the roller tool, carefully work your way around the entire frame again, rolling and pressing the spline the rest of the way into the groove. This will finish stretching the screening, and should leave you with a tight, smooth installation.
The final step is to cut off the excess screening. Use a sharp utility knife, and place the tip of the knife between the spline and the outer edge of the groove. Hold the knife relatively flat in relation to the screen, and work your way around the entire frame, slicing off the excess.