The last line of defense between your interiors and pesky insects, airborne dirt, and flying debris, window screens are a necessity in most locations. They invite in sunlight and breezes while keeping unwanted elements outside.
Window screens, also known as insect screens, are created by stretching a mesh material across a metal or wooden frame; oftentimes the screening is held in place with flexible cord called spline that fits tightly into a groove around the frame's perimeter. Older homes may have wood-frame window screens that replace storm-window counterparts come spring; newer homes may be equipped with more permanent vertically sliding storm/screen track windows.
If the frame and track are in good shape and just the screen material needs repaired, even novice do-it-yourselfers can patch holes and replace damaged screening. Don't feel like tackling the tasks? Bring the window screen to your local hardware store and ask the staff to replace the screening. Take it in as early in the season as possible so you're at the head of the screen-replacement line.
Whether you're refurbishing existing window screens or buying new, review the different types of screening and frames available to find the combination that best fits your home and lifestyle.
Window Screen Materials
There is an array of screen types, many of which are manufactured to handle specific situations. When selecting a replacement, keep things simple by matching your existing window screen. If you're handy and your screen frame is simple, you can use the existing frame as a template and build a new frame from metal or wooden strips or a window-screen frame kit. Here's a look at the most common types of screening.
Aluminum and fiberglass screening are good choices for most window screens. Both materials are durable, easy to work with, and available in a light or charcoal finish.
Clear Advantage screening is a nearly invisible fiberglass mesh that amplifies light and airflow; it's available in a charcoal finish.
Pool and patio screening is an extra-sturdy fiberglass mesh that works well for porches with large openings or large windows; it's available in a silver-gray or charcoal finish.
Solar screening acts as an insect screen while blocking 65 percent or more of the sun's heat and glare; it's available in a silver-gray, gray, or charcoal finish.
Pet screening is up to seven times stronger than traditional insect screens and stands up to jumping pets and scratching paws; it's available in black and gray.
How to Replace Screening in a Wood Frame
Storm and screen windows made with wood frames may seem old-fashioned, but they can last many decades and seal effectively if properly maintained. To replace the screen, you'll first need to repair any rotted wood with two-part epoxy filler. Missing or broken pieces of screen mold are easy to replace. You may not be able to find an exact match for old screen mold, but you can probably find a pretty close substitute. Expect to spend 1 or 2 hours on most repairs.
What You Need
- Tape measure
- Putty knife
- Tin snips
- Flat pry bar
- Screening and glass as needed
- Exterior wood glue or polyurethane glue
- Finishing nails
Step 1: Remove Molding
Use a putty knife, then a flat pry bar to remove the screen molding. If you work carefully you can often do this without breaking the molding.
Step 2: Clamp and Bow Frame
Place the window on a table or a pair of sawhorses with 2x4s across them. Slip 2x2s under each end and clamp or weigh down the middle so the frame is bowed.
Step 3: Cut Screening
Use tin snips to cut screening about 2 inches wider and longer than the frame. Place the piece on top of the frame. Working from the center toward the ends, staple the screening to the wood, pulling it taut as you go.
Step 4: Finish and Trim
Remove the clamps or weights. When the frame straightens, the screening will be pulled taut. Replace the screen molding or install new molding. Drive nails through new holes or drive larger nails through the old holes. Trim excess screen.
Bonus: How to Strengthen a Wood Frame
If a wood storm or screen frame is coming apart at a corner, first repair rotted sections. Secure the joint with a long bar clamp or a pipe clamp to make sure it will go back together tightly; you may need to scrape out debris and built-up paint. Pull the joint apart slightly and squirt polyurethane glue onto both sides of the joint tongue.
Drill two 3/8-inch holes through the joint. Squirt a little glue into the holes, then tap 3/8-inch dowels into the holes. After the glue dries, trim the dowels flush to the frame with a handsaw, then sand smooth.