See everything you need to know to repair or replace your damaged window and door screens and let fresh air into your home—sans pesky bugs—once again.
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Window and door screens are the most effective way to let fresh air into your home while keeping pests out—until the screens get damaged, that is. Unfortunately, the thin screen material commonly used on windows and doors is particularly delicate and can be ripped and easily worn out over time, leaving homes looking dated and in disrepair. Luckily, though, it's relatively easy to learn (and even master) the art of repairing window and door screens—and even replace them.

dog sitting at front door of home red door
Credit: Kevin Miyazaki Photography

For most window and door screens, the process of replacing the entire screen is surprisingly simple. All you need are a few simple tools, a large work surface, and this step-by-step guide. While we'll also offer quick solutions for repairing and patching torn screens, once you see how easy it can be, you'll probably opt to replace the screen over repairing it.

Consider the Current Screens and Windows or Doors

There are three questions you should ask yourself before repairing or replacing your damaged screens.

Is the frame salvageable? Aluminum door and window screen frames are prone to bending and, once they're bent, they're nearly always compromised. If you attempt to bend the frame back, it will only further damage it. Some frames, especially door frames, feature wheels that roll on tracks. Oftentimes, these wheels can get stuck or broken, leaving the frame unusable. If the frame isn't salvageable, you likely have a larger project on your hands, as you'll need to fix or repair the frame in addition to working on the screen.

Should I repair or replace the screen? To get your screen looking brand new again, it's nearly always a good idea to simply replace the screen. If done properly, repairing screens can be effective, but you're often left with an unattractive patch on the screen.

Is the screen aluminum or cloth? This will determine the best method for repairing a screen, as the process will differ between the two materials.

Person replacing ripped old door screen
Credit: ozgurcoskun / Getty Images

How to Replace a Window or Door Screen

If the screen you're replacing is on an old-style wooden screen door, the process for replacement will vary from the steps below. This guide applies to newer frames on both windows and doors.

What You'll Need

  • 36-inch fiberglass screen material roll
  • Screen spline
  • Screen roller tool
  • Small screwdriver
  • Utility knife

Step 1: Remove the Frame and the Damaged Screen

To simplify the process of replacing the screen, remove the screen frame from the window and place it on a large work surface.

Along the edges of the screen, you'll find a groove with a spline that holds the screen in place. Use a small screwdriver to pry the spline out at its end. Once you've fished the end out of the groove, pull the remainder of the spline out from around the perimeter of the frame. Once the spline is out, remove the damaged screen and discard.

Step 2: Clean the Frame

While the screen is out, it's a good time to thoroughly clean the frame with soap and water, ensuring the groove is totally clean and free of debris. Let dry.

Step 3: Roll out the Screen Material

Unroll the screen material and place it over the top of the frame. Cut the material so that each side has at least one inch of excess.

Step 4: Press the Screen into the Groove

Working one side at a time, use the concave side of your roller tool to press the screen into the groove in the frame, using your free hand to hold the screen taut to prevent bunching. Once the screen is in the groove, place the spline in the groove over the screen. Flip the roller tool over and use the convex side to press the spline into the groove. Once you get to the corner, repeat the process on the next side.

Repeat the entire process until you reach the beginning of the spline, then trim off the excess spline using a utility knife.

Pro tip: If you find it hard to hold the screen taut while rolling, temporarily taping the screen in place on the opposite side of the frame may help.

Step 5: Trim the Excess Screen Material

To trim the excess screen material sitting on the outside of the spline, use a utility knife with a new, sharp blade. Run the blade along the outside of the spline to cut the screen material away, being careful not to cut the spline or the screen on the inside of the spline.

Step 6: Replace the Frame

Once all the excess material is cut away, replace the frame in the window and enjoy the fresh air.

How to Repair a Window or Door Screen

Over time, window and door screens can get ripped, snagged, and worn out. While most large damage justifies a full screen replacement, a small hole may call for a quick patch. Here are popular types of screen repair products and their intended uses.

  • Screen repair patch. A screen repair patch is likely the most popular screen repair product. These patches are intended for fiberglass screen material and typically feature an adhesive that is activated by heat. To apply, you simply cut the patch to size, press it onto the screen, and secure it in place by activating the adhesive with a hair dryer or heat gun.
  • Screen repair tape. Screen repair tape is exactly what it sounds like: a small roll of screen material with an adhesive backing. This product is best used on long tears or to secure the edge of screen material to the frame should it start to pull away.
  • Aluminum screen patch. An aluminum screen patch is a small square of aluminum screen material made for patching aluminum screens. The patch features longer wire strands on the edge that can be tucked through the screen material and bent over to hold the patch in place.

How to Maintain Your New Screen

To keep your new screen in top shape, refrain from pushing on the screen material, such as when sliding the screen frame or when removing for cleaning. Prevent children and pets from touching the screen materials, as this will loosen and potentially rip the material and even pose a risk of them falling through the screen. Lastly, regularly clean the screen by wiping it with a dry cloth and gently vacuuming.   

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