Screen doors take a beating as they open and close. Add children or pets to the mix, and you end up with a sure-fire recipe for damage. An over-exuberant dog, especially, can cause a screen tear that will need to be fixed. Fortunately, repairing a screen door and getting professional-looking results is fairly easy.
Screen Door Construction
Metal storm doors vary in their construction. Some doors are screen-only panels, and here the entire door is taken down off it's hinges to replace the screen fabric. That is the process shown in our demonstration.
Yet another style of storm door has interchangeable inserts—glass inserts for winter and insect screens for the warm seasons. For these storm doors, it's possible to remove the insert and replace the screen as though you are working with a large window panel. Finally, there are combination storm doors that use sliding panels in which window panes slide up and down to expose or cover the insect screen panels. If you have this kind of door, replacing a screen requires that you remove just the screen insert to work on it.
For all three types of doors, the actual screen replacement is largely the same. Screen fabric can be made of either aluminum or fiberglass and is held in place within the window frame using a simple, flexible gasket called a retainer spline that fits into a retainer groove that pinches the screen fabric in place. The plastic retainer spline is installed using a specialty tool, called a spline roller or screen installation tool. Most people find fiberglass screens to be easier to work with.
- NOTE: Replacing screens on a wooden screen door uses a slightly different process. With these doors, the screen may be held in place with staples and screen moldings that are tacked over the edges of the screen opening.
Equipment / Tools
- Phillips-head screwdriver
- 2 sawhorses or work table
- Spine installation tool
- Razor blade
- Fiberglass screen fabric (1 roll)
- Screen spline
Remove the Screen Door From the Frame
Removing the screen door so you can work on it can be more complicated than you expect. There can be many screws on an aluminum door frame, and removing the door is sometimes tricky.
To start, disconnect any door closers or safety chains on the door. Then, remove the screws holding the aluminum frame to the door jamb on the hinge side of the door. Some doors have individual hinges that each must be unscrewed, while other metal doors have a long continuous hinge with screws spaced at even intervals along a metal strip. Once the screws are removed, the door should easily remove from the frame. Carefully move the door (or screen insert) into the work area for the next step.
Again, if you have a storm door with removable glass and screen inserts, then you do not need to remove the entire door; rather, just remove the screen insert from the door.
Prepare a Work Surface
When repairing a screen door, you will need a large flat surface on which to work. In this example, we used an old flush door placed on top of a pair of sawhorses, but you can also use a sheet of smooth plywood placed on sawhorses, or a workbench. It is important that the work surface is at a convenient working height and is flat and large enough to hold the entire screen door.
Remove the Old Screen Fabric
Using a small screwdriver (or a nail), pry up and remove the old spline from the groove around the frame. If it is in good shape (not brittle, dried out, or broken) and comes out intact, it may be carefully reused. Usually, though, you'll replace it with new spline. If the spline needs replacement, use new vinyl spline material that is the proper width for use with the frame. Screen spline comes in either black or shades of gray; use whichever blends in most effectively. Once the spline is removed, remove the old screen fabric from the frame.
Cut the Screen Fabric to Working Size
Next, roll out the replacement screen fabric down the length of the screen door frame and cut it to about the length of the door. Then trim the screen fabric so it extends about two inches further past the spline groove in the frame on all sides. The screen will be further trimmed once the retainer spline is installed.
Begin Installing the Screen Fabric
With the screen positioned loosely over the frame and overlapping the spline groove all around, begin at a top corner and press the retainer spline down over the screen fabric and into the spline groove on the frame. (There should be 1 to 2 inches of excess screen fabric extending past the groove.) Use the spline installation tool to set the spline into the groove partially, but do not fully embed it yet—this allows you to easily remove the spline if you need to reposition the screen fabric.
Work your way down one long side of the screen, pulling gently on the screen fabric to make it taut as you install the spline and use the spline roller to press it partially into the groove.
Repeat this process at the top of the frame. You now have two sides loosely installed. Do not fully press the spline into the track at this time.
The spline installation tool will have two rollers, one on each end; one is concave and the other convex. Metal screen installation will use both ends—the convex roller end to press metal screen fabric into the frame groove and the concave roller end to press the plastic spline into the groove to secure the screen fabric. But with fiberglass screens, as we are using here, you use only the concave roller end to press the spline into the groove.
Finish Screen Installation
With these two sides installed, move to the long opposite side and, starting at the top again, gently pull the screen fabric so it is slightly taut across the frame, and secure it with spline embedded loosely into the spline grooves. You should see the screen take on a nice smooth appearance as you work your way down the side of the frame.
If you see a pucker or slack area appear, it is because you are changing the tension or tautness of the screen as you are rolling the spline into place. If a pucker appears, gently lift the offending section of the spline out of the track and reinstall.
Complete the Installation
Complete the initial installation by repeating the process on the bottom of the screen.
Once all sides are complete, and the screen is smooth, press the retaining spline fully into place, using the spline installation tool. This will cause the screen to tighten across the frame a little bit more. Be careful not to cut the screen when rolling the spline into position.
Trim off Excess Spline
You will have some extra spline at the final corner as you wrap your way around the screen door frame. Trim this extra portion away with a razor blade.
Trim off Extra Screen Fabric
Trim the extra screen material right at the edge of the retaining spline with the razor blade, creating a neat appearance.
Inspect the Screen Installation
Once the screen is properly installed, it will look smooth and fairly taut, without wrinkles or sags.
Reinstall the Screen Door
Once the screen is repaired, reinstall the door reversing the process of Step 2. Your job is done, and the screen door looks great—ready for another assault by kids or dogs.