How to Replace a Window Screen

tear in window screen

Learning how to replace a window screen is a piece of cake, and the actual project takes under an hour for one window. All you need is a roll of screen material and spline, some basic handyman tools, a spacious work table, and a bit of attention.

Although professional window screen replacement isn’t as expensive as other home improvement projects – costing on average between $120 and $460 – many homeowners take this on as DIY projects. You can do it too and save some money! We’re taking you through the entire process, step by step, in this guide.

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Tools and Materials

Here are all the necessary tools and materials for replacing a window screen in a standard vinyl frame:

  • Screen material
  • Clamps or duct tape
  • Flathead screwdriver or nail punch
  • Scissors
  • Screen roller (also known as spline tool or rolling tool)
  • Splines
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Claw hammer
  • Brick

If you have a wooden window screen without a spline, you’ll need these materials instead:

  • Screen material
  • Clamps
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Claw hammer
  • Brick
  • Staple gun with staples or nails

These materials and the steps outlined below are for a rescreening. If your screen’s frame is incredibly worn and needs changing, consider hiring a professional to replace your window screen or do it yourself with a prefabricated one if possible. 

Without further ado, here is the step-by-step guide to replacing your window screen.

Step 1: Decide Your Screen Material

There are many screening materials to choose from. Fiberglass is affordable and very forgiving when it comes to installation mistakes, but it’s not as durable. Aluminum is slightly more expensive and stronger, but it dents and crinkles easily; if you make a mistake while working with this material, you’ll need to cut a new piece. 

You can also choose specialty materials like pet screens and heavy-duty screens, but fiberglass and aluminum are the most common.

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Step 2: Remove the Old Spline and Screen

Man holding up a window screen to a window
Photo Credit: Bill Oxford / Canva Pro / License

Take your window screen out of your window. If your window screen is hinged to a casement window or other type of hinged window, unscrew it from its hinges.

Flip it around so you can see the spline of the window screen. The spline is a wire or tube-like material that fits into the groove around the screen frame and keeps the screen mesh securely in place. 

You’ll be removing the spline first. Use a flat-head screwdriver, nail punch, or similar object to lift the spline out of the channel of the frame (also called the spline track). Keep the old screen spline for when you go buy your materials.

If your window screen’s frame is made out of wood, then you might not have a spline to remove; instead, the window screen mesh may be attached with staples or nails. Your window screen may also have molding on it. Carefully remove the molding with the claw of a hammer so you can reuse it later, and then pry off the staples or nails.

Once the screen material has been removed, you can clean your window frame if you need to.

Measure your window screen’s width and height. Bring these measurements with you when you buy your materials. 

Step 3: Buy Your Materials

Next, it’s time to run to the hardware store to buy your materials. Why is this step down here? If this is your first window screen replacement, you may not know how big your spline and screen are. 

The spline size is important because a thinner spline may not keep your window screen material in place, while a thicker spline may not fit into the channel.

Bring your old spline as a guide when buying a new spline. If you’re replacing the window screen with thicker material, you may need to buy a thinner spline to fit the frame channel. Choose a spline that matches your new screen the best. After this, you can throw away the old spline. You can’t reuse spline as it gets brittle over time.

Then, buy your preferred window screen material. Choose a roll that’s slightly larger than your screen’s dimensions measured in the previous step.

Step 4: Measure and Cut the New Screen Material

Once you’re back home, unroll your new screen material on a flat surface; for the best experience, pick a spacious work surface. Roll out the material with the curved side down; it makes it easier to work with.

You can measure your screen material in two ways. You can take the width and height measured earlier and add 2 inches on all four sides to get your final size. For the other method, you can lay the frame on the new window screen material and measure out two inches from the edge of the frame. 

Cut out your window screen mesh to size with scissors.

Step 5: Place the New Screen Over the Frame

Place the mesh on the side with the spline track or where it was previously stapled or nailed on. Pull the screen taut and make sure the material overlaps the frame on all sides. Then, use clamps or tape to secure the mesh on two sides.

Cut the corners of the material at 45-degree angles for clean edges and to prevent it from bunching up once installed.

Step 6: Install the New Screen and Spline

Man using a spline roller on a window screen
Photo Credit: Ri Fotoproducto / Canva Pro / License

Use the convex wheel of your screen roller to push the screen material into the spline track of the frame. The convex wheel is the wheel with a pointed edge. Keep the material taut as you’re doing this.

Then, flip your spline roller around so you’re now wielding the concave side – the wheel with the grooved edge. Place the spline into the channel and push it from corner to corner using the concave wheel. Do this until you’ve installed two sides. 

Once you’ve installed two sides, put a brick or an object with a similar weight in the center of the screen to create some slack. You don’t want the screen material to be too taut when installing it, as it can actually bow and deform the window screen frame. Continue installing the screen and frame on the other two sides. 

If large wrinkles appear or if the material starts to bulge, remove the spline and screen material and reinstall. If you’re using an aluminum screen, you’ll need to cut a new piece of screen material. 

Once the entire screen has been installed, push in the spline corners with your screwdriver. Cut the excess spline.

If your window screen material was nailed or stapled in, start nailing or stapling at a corner. Make sure to cover part of the side joining the margin you are working on to keep it in place. Nail or staple in 1-inch intervals. Once you’ve secured two sides, put a brick in the center of the material and continue. If your screen uses molding, then nail it back in place. If your molding broke, glue it back together or replace it with new molding.

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Step 7: Trim Excess Screen Material

Once you’re done installing the screen material, use a utility knife to trim away the excess material. Use the spline as your guide. Cut as close to the spline as possible without damaging the tube. Angle the knife away from the spline and toward the outside of the frame.

Make sure your knife’s blade is sharp for this DIY project. Sharp blades make for quick, clean cuts, while dull blades can pull on the screen material.

Step 8: Put Your Window Screen Back in Place

Put your window screen back in place and pat yourself on the back. Congratulations, you’ve successfully replaced your window screen and saved the price of a professional window screen replacement! Enjoy fresh air and your newfound relief from annoying mosquitoes and flies.

FAQ About Replacing Window Screens

What should you do if your spline is too large?

If the spline you bought is slightly too large, you can gently pull on it from one end while installing it into the spline track to stretch it a little thinner. It will return to its original shape, but that’s not necessarily bad; the spline will be tighter around the track, keeping your screen material firmly in place.

Do window screens come in standard sizes?

Yes, they do. If your old window screen or the window it’s paired with is a standard size, then you can use those measurements and skip the measuring process.

How do you repair a window screen?

For a DIY window screen repair, scissors, screen material, wax paper, a popsicle stick, and rubber-based glue are needed. 

Step 1: Cut a square or rectangle around the small hole in the damaged screen.

Step 2: Cut out a screen patch about ½ inch larger than the square you cut out.

Step 3: Put some wax paper underneath the frame to catch glue that will fall from the screen when you apply the glue.

Step 4: Apply a thin layer of glue to the outer edges of the patch with a popsicle stick and glue it onto the hole. Wipe away any excess glue before it hardens. You don’t need to apply glue if you’re using a self-adhesive patch. Just stick the patch on the hole.

If the hole ends within ½ inch of the frame, then replacing the whole screen is better. Getting a pro to repair the window screen can cost between $90 to $200.

How do you replace a window screen frame?

You can buy a prefabricated window screen to replace your current one or build a new one from scratch. You’ll need four screen corners, aluminum frame pieces, top-tension springs, and a hacksaw.

Step 1: Measure your existing screen and subtract about 1 and ⅝ inches from the width and height you measured.

Step 2: Cut the frame pieces to length with the hacksaw.

Step 3: Assemble your frame.

Then, follow the steps for installing the window screen material above.

How do you rescreen a screen door?

Replacing the mesh of a screen door is the same as replacing a window screen, except on a larger scale. It takes longer, but it’s not much more difficult than rescreening a window screen.

DIY Window Screen Replacement or Professional Window Screen Replacement?

Replacing your window screen DIY is an easy and affordable home improvement project that doesn’t take much time. However, if you don’t want to go through the hassle or simply don’t have the time, you can hire a window screen professional to fix it for you.

Note: Window Gnome may get a referral fee for matching you with contractors in your area.

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Main Photo Credit: Yusuke Ide / Canva Pro / License

Janine Caayao

Janine Caayao has always been fascinated with growing plants, from fruits and veggies to bonsai trees and orchids. Now, she’s interested in urban gardening with her family. She loves finding new tips and tricks to keep their plants thriving.