How to Repair Screens

Fixing rips and tears in window screens and screen doors is easy and requires only a few simple tools.

  • quick screen repair
    To prevent a ripped screen from further damage, cover the hole with clear tape on both side of the screen.
  • face against screen
    Screen doors improve natural ventilation, but also take a lot of abuse.
  • screen repair with thread
    You can sew a patch onto a screen with a needle and thread.
  • sliding screen door repair
    Cleaning, oiling and adjusting rollers helps sliding screen doors function smoothly.
  • screen roller
    To replace an entire screen in a door, use a screen repair tool and a utility knife.

  • quick screen repair
  • face against screen
  • screen repair with thread
  • sliding screen door repair
  • screen roller

A well-mounted screen door pleasantly ventilates your living space and keeps out the bugs. It closes smoothly without catching anywhere on the jamb (the frame around the door), into which it fits perfectly with no bug-sized gaps. The screening should be tight as a drumhead, but that’s where problems usually start, because screen material is fragile.

Eventually a rip will appear, or even a large hole. Whether the damage was caused by children at play, enthusiastic dogs, cats playing Spider-Man or an adult accidentally poking a hole with a tool handle, it must be fixed, and soon. Flies and other insects know exactly how to find a hole in a screen, and they tell all their friends. Furthermore, any break in a screen invites curious fingers to probe it, so the rip or hole will quickly grow in size.

If you can’t tackle the job right away, put a wide piece of clear tape over both sides of the hole. (The Image Gallery includes several illustrations to further explain concepts presented in this article.) It can be done without dismounting the door and takes less than a minute. This only postpones the job, but it will buy you some time.

There are two basic types of types of screen doors — sliding and hinged. But there are variations: wood, aluminum and different sizes. Make a note of what type of door you have, and take measurements before you leave for the hardware store.

Next, get ready for the repair. There are two ways to approach this task:

  1. slowly and carefully or
  2. slapdash and fast.

Choose No. 1. Set aside a large block of uninterrupted time and make a preliminary list of tools and materials: scissors, utility knife, thread, replacement screen and a screen-door tool called a “roller.” (See Image Gallery.) Keep the list handy, because you may be adding to it. For instance, you won’t know if the spline (the rubber gasket that secures the screen to the frame) needs replacing until you remove it. And you may need some replacement screws if any of the old ones are discombobulated or missing.

Gina Bisaillon
7/25/2012 5:03:24 PM

I change screens regularly, and I'd like to add this: 1. Cut your screen a few inches bigger than you think. 2. As you roll the rubber spline with your tool (I used to just push it with a screwdriver and it was just fine), don't forget to keep stretching the material on the opposite side or you'll find yourself with a very floppy result. 3. I always replace the rubber because the new one is more flexible and easier to install.

Geoffrey Taylor
11/7/2008 7:16:39 PM

Many thanks for the kind words, Erik. Bob and I are close friends of 20+ years, introduced when my dad (who worked with Bob) said, "I have a cartoonist friend you've GOT to meet." He was right. Bob and I live about 30 miles apart, and meet weekly. Both of us have 24-year-old only daughters, and the resultant white hairs. Our combined experience as handymen/carpenters/builders is astounding in scope, even when we think about it and abandon false modesty, plus both of us have been reading MEN since Issue #1. We're both delighted to be in the online edition of the magazine, and would be happy to answer any questions that might come up if you ever tackle a screen-door repair. Aside from being a manic genius with blank paper and colors, Bob forges Claymores and builds flintlocks from scratch; he's teaching me Russian and I'm teaching him Tagalog. We're also working on a book. Best regards, Jeff

Erik Larson
11/6/2008 7:55:18 PM

Thank you for such a wonderfully simple way to repair screens. These are solutions that are so simple, I found myself thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?" I'm glad someone did and shared them. I also appreciate the image gallery. Too often there is only one picture and it is of no use. Thank you for providing so much useful information.



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