How to Replace a Window Screen.

You do NOT need to hire someone to replace a window screen for you. I mean, sure if you want to blow money, wait around for a handyman to eventually return your call, not show up, then finally show up at 10 o’clock at night, then by all means – hire someone. But you can do this yourself. For about $10.

When I first moved into my house, I very distinctly remember thinking … A SPLINE ROLLER???  I MEAN SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?? WHO THE HELL WOULD HAPPEN TO OWN A SPLINE ROLLER??

It seemed like a mystical tool only held in the golden palm of someone who was on the highest plain of handiness. Then I saw one, held it in my hand and recognized that it’s a glorified pizza cutter.

I bought one, some window screening and started replacing all the ripped screens in my 1840 brick cottage.

It takes a total of about 5 minutes and 5 tools to replace a window screen.

Here we go!

Replacing a window screen yourself

 

What you’ll need:

A roll of fibreglass window screen, some spline, a spline roller, scissors and a box cutter.

What’s spline?

Spline is the ribbed, rubber rope that holds the screen in the window. It’s about $5 for enough to do 2 windows. 

What’s a spline roller?

The spline roller is just a gadget with one grooved end and one smooth end that’s used for pushing the spline into the window frame.  You roll it like a pizza cutter. Do yourself a favour and get one of these because even though you may have never heard of it and therefore it kind of scares you, it’s a lot easier to do any job if you have the right tools.  They’re $6 or $7.

Spline roller.

 

The box cutter is used to cut the excess screen away from the window when you’re done.

Box cutter

 

 

What are scissors?

If you don’t know what scissors are it’s probably because you’re a danger to yourself or others. It’s best you keep away from them and windows in general.

 

Unroll your screen to estimate how much you need.  Cut it off so you have a couple inches extra all around the window.

 

Grab your spline.

 

The spline will fit over the screen, into this channel around your window.

The basic steps (printable how-to at the end of the post) are to remove the old screen and spline, lay new screen over the window, stick one end of the spline in the channel and then run the spline around the whole channel, locking the screening into place.

Done.  That’s it.

 

Hold your screen up to the window and stick the end of your spline into the corner of a channel.

Push it in tight with the tool.  Holding your screen tight, roll the spline roller along the spline, pushing it into the channel.

 

Continue to push the spline in with the roller all around the window.

Make sure you’re always holding the screen tightly so your finished product will be tight.  Not loosey goosey.  This is a window screen, not a caftan. You want it tight.

Be careful when using the tool.  It is sharp and if you aren’t careful with it you’ll cut your screen and have to start all over again.

 

Within no time at all your screen will be in.

 

Now all you have to do is cut the edges off with your boxcutter.

 

5 – 10 minutes later … the screen is in.

The same principal works for all window screens, old or new.  This also works for a screen door.  Technically you’re supposed to take the screen out and lay it on the floor to do this job, but my screens don’t come out and frankly, it’s just as easy to do it while it’s up.

How to Replace a Window Screen.

How to Replace a Window Screen.

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

What you need and how to replace a window screen.

Materials

  • Window screening
  • Spline
  • Spline roller
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter

Instructions

  1. Pull the old spline (rubber string basically) out of your window then remove the old screen.
  2. Cut your window screening so that it's a couple of inches larger than the opening you need to cover.
  3. Lay the screen over the window making sure it's straight then push a couple of inches of the spline into the channel starting at a corner.
  4. Holding the screen tight, run the spline roller across the spline to push it into the channel and lock the screen in place.
  5. When you get back to your original corner, cut the spline and push the last bit in.
  6. Using a box cutter, cut the excess screen off. You're done.

This is the perfect example of a job that’s really easy to do but only if you have the proper tools.  You NEED to get the spline tool.  You only need to buy it once and you’ll use it over and over again.  My cat for instance lays in a window and is constantly pushing the screen out at the bottom with her enormous cat feet.  Every once in a while I just go outside with my spline tool and push the spline back in.

All without needing to call anyone, wait for anyone or pay anyone. And you can do the same.

Unless you live in a high rise.

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How to Replace a Window Screen.

51 Comments

  1. Robin Schienle says:

    I wish there was a video!

  2. Sherrill says:

    Can this work for a ripped screen on a wooden summer porch screen door?

  3. s says:

    Hi, sorry for the off-topic question but what is the plant with flat leaves on the edges of your window box? I’ve been seeing them in municipal planters all over town but can’t find an ID. Thanks!

  4. ALIA says:

    that’s it? omg. my dogs have turned a sliding screen door into a doggie door at my dude’s place. that he rents. we had no idea how to put it back in so this is fantastic.

  5. Debra Johnston says:

    This is an easy (if at times painful after innumerable windows) job but I will add one point. After doing more windows than I care to count when we got our cottage, I learned that you have to be careful when you do aluminum screens. If the screen is too tight you can ‘hourglass’ the screen and it will no longer fill the opening. And it is almost impossible to fix. I found a piece of cardboard or wood the width of the screen interior helped prevent this. I’m guessing the pros have a jig but with pretty much every screen we had a different size I didn’t find it worth making one.
    Keep helping us ‘do stuff’ Karen. I have referenced you or shared your posts many many times.

  6. I second the statement that the spline tool is worth getting. I’ve ruined enough new screens with the blade of a screwdriver to know that, haha. What struck me about this post was that your screens don’t come out. Do you have storm windows as well?

  7. Karen Ann Bourdon says:

    Perfect timing for this re-post.
    Our little house used to be a cottage so the attached sunroom is a kit, the screens are not removeable. Each summer we’ve been leaving more and more windows closed as squirrels make new rips. No more excuses for putting off this chore. I have the roller, not quite like yours, a roll of screening and will reuse the original splines.
    Thank you for realizing what we need and when we need it.

  8. Katherine says:

    Assistance pls my Lovelies!
    I know this is an older post but…
    After we bought our home, we realize the window screens left in the basement didn’t match the # of windows. Our windows are vinyl pop out & have removable screens. I have fixed screens/doors before but I do need the channel piece/ frame to do so, (typically the screens come as a package deal w/the windows.) I checked w/our handyman, our local Ace & a couple other large box chain hardware store, who all state, they don’t sell/make these, either individually or as kits. I need at least 4 more screens, 3 of which are for oversized windows. Unfortunately even those 1/2 window pop-in screen that are sold in stores won’t work w/this size. Any suggestions on where to buy either the finished pop-in vinyl window screens or complete kits (Outer channel mostly) to make them? Thank you!

    • Lynn says:

      Unless I am mistaken as it’s been awhile since I have been to Rona they carried pieces of straight pieces and elbows to make pretty much any size of window. You just needed to buy big enough straight pieces to fit your windows.
      I would think any place like Rona would likely have said pieces.
      Hope this helps.

      • Katherine says:

        Thank you Lynn!!
        I’d never heard of Rona before. (I’m located in the Northeastern US). I did locate them easily online w/ur much appreciated help! -Love ‘our’ resourceful group!

    • Leslie Russell says:

      I just finished making new screens because there weren’t any at all when I moved in. I bought the channel, screen, corners, spline and spline roller at home depot. You can buy a kit too, but it’s more expensive than buying a roll of screen and the frames separately if you have a lot of them to make. If you’re going to take them out to clean them you’ll need these little “springs” too, so it’s easier to pop them in and out. They’re a pain in the ass otherwise. Lots of angling just so…I bent a few frames that way *@!**#

  9. Laura Bee says:

    I had to do mine recently and went to look for the spline tool I KNOW I have. Gone who knows where. I refused to pay $9.49 for a new one, even with my staff discount lol. Found one for a quarter at a thrift store. Always check the kitchen tools bins!

  10. Agnes Boisvert says:

    I used the new word today!!!!
    “Sh*%!!!!!!! My spline roller gave me a %#@&*$% blood blister! OOOOUUUCCCHHH!”

    Regrettably, it was in front of children…but they watch Blue Planet too so, circle of life lesson?

  11. mary says:

    Read this…

  12. Roxanne says:

    For those of you with pets — I recommend Petscreen. I got really tired of repairing/replacing the screen on my screen door after the cats had used it like a piece of exercise equipment. Someone recommended this product to me. I put it into my screen door early last spring — and the screen door is still perfect (even after being used like a piece of feline exercise equipment — by five cats).

  13. ellen says:

    Spline tool – of course! My family of origin was kind of a rough n ready bunch so I always shove the spline in with a screwdriver, my fingers, and a round of curses! Next trip to the hardware store I will have the proper tool.

  14. hayley says:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m in the UK and I’ve never seen window screens here. What is the purpose? So you can open a window and the bugs don’t come in? I guess we just don’t open windows at this time of the year because it’s getting too cold!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Hayley – Really? There are no window screens?! Yes, that’s exactly what they’re for. So you can open the windows and no bugs come in. In the summer if our windows were opened without screens the house would be filled with bees, wasps, mosquitos and flies. Among other things! :) ~ karen

      • hayley says:

        Seriously, never seen a window screen. I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, and I always wonder about stuff like this! We don’t have storm doors either, whatever they are.

        But we also don’t have many bugs, certainly none that are harmful like mosquitos or poisionous spiders. We get the odd fly. Not as many as I’d like though since I’m dying to try out your ‘how to catch a fly’ technique!

  15. Bri says:

    Does it count if I use “spline” to mean a curve defined by a polynomial? Cause I do that every day at work. My geekery knows no bounds.

  16. Amy says:

    When we had a house like this, my parents just left the window a/c units in all year. Of course, that was until my dad found out that in the winter my sister would crank the unit in her room up to freezing cold and the electric blanket up to ultra hot! He swore he would heat her room or cool the room but he be darned if he would do both at the same time! (but he did teach us how to use the spline tool, too!)

  17. Amy in StL says:

    I learned how to do this when I had a 1920’s era house in Iowa. However, my husband and I just used an old pizza cutter. (We’d consolidated stuff and we had two.) It wasn’t perfect but we were in our early 20s and had bought a house that needed more work than we knew. Which should be a lesson; when buying a house that needs work you should always assume it needs at least twice as much work as you think.

  18. Nicole says:

    Man, thanks for that! Some years ago, I paid a fat, greasy dude $50 to rescreen our screen door, the kind of dude whose pants hung too low and you could see his coin slot in the back…Gaaah, I still have nightmares about it, so much so that I would rather live with a hole in my screens, but now I don’t have to!

  19. Brenda says:

    Thanks for the info but off topic….I love your haircut!

  20. Brilliant! I would have never known how to do this. I’m so excited to replace the screens at my house so we can use our attic fan! (We are old fashioned too!)

  21. Deb J. says:

    I used the word ‘nuthouse’ – as in I am going to end up in one – two summers ago when we took over an old cottage and nearly every screen in the place had a hole in it. I became very intimate with spline and its tool. I mean blisters-on-my-fingers intimate. But worth the effort – no black flies, mosquitoes or larger creatures in the cottage. But one warning – if you are replacing a screen in an aluminum frame, be careful with your tension ‘cos you can end up with an hour glass instead of a rectangle. I found a sort of jig could help the frame keep its shape.

  22. Rachel says:

    This screen concept is weird to me. We just push the whole screen out and pop the whole thing back in, there’s no cutting or trimming and all that.

    On another note, I can’t read your log at my house- it says I’ve been blocked becomes I’m a spammer. Strange, huh?

    • Karen says:

      Rachel – That is odd. I have a feeling it has something to do with my server, which I am working on. People have been having weird problems with not being about to view it etc. etc. so you’re not the only one! Hopefully it’ll be fixed within the next week. ~ karen

  23. Jean says:

    I think I love you… we can’t even open some of our windows because I couldn’t find the old alum screens that fit! I am going to try this right away! Also, working on my abs still. Thanks for the motivation.

  24. KatMoss says:

    I can easily use the word “nuthouse” in my conversation today…i.e., “my husband’s ex-wife should be committed to the nuthouse.” See? I’ve already met your demands and it’s only 7:49am CST. Go me! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  25. Britt says:

    Hahahah oh my goodness, my mother has had that spline tool in her sewing goodies box for soooo long and none of us knew what it was and where it came from! Now I know, and now I can go steal it because I need to replace the screen in my sliding door…
    And I know this MUST be easy to do because you didn’t swear once!!

    • SamiJ says:

      Britt-Make sure it’s really a spline tool — if it’s in her sewing box it could be a Marker’s Wheel for use with dressmaker’s carbon. Or it could be a rotary cutting tool for quiltmaking.

  26. Jacqui says:

    How did you know that this is a job that I need to do and that I am reminded of every time I go in my screen door??? Its a little scary! Does this mean you know ALL my thoughts? If you do, its the nut house for both of us.

    “Spline, spline, spline” – it fairly rolls off the tongue. I will get my tool today. Thanks, Karen

  27. Grace says:

    Karen,

    Once again perfect timing. My screen door was torn up by a dog that I was sitting. I was just going to buy a whole new screen. Thanks for the tutorial.

  28. margie says:

    Hi,
    i am putting in new screens in that are wooden… that will fit right in the window frame and I want to secure them with a ???? a little butterfly like clip that will allow me to secure the screen in and yet be able to remove it when I swerve it around. My question is what are this butterfly like clips called. i live in South American and need to order them from my native canada.
    Thank you so much
    Margie
    ps. they do not exist in Uruguay…[people screw their screen in right on the frames.

  29. Jamieson says:

    Lucy, you got some splining to do!
    I haven’t done this in a few years since we replaced all of our windows (the cost of which would make you think that I live in a house made entirely of windows). I miss using that little tool! Replacing the screens (after cat/raccoon shredding) was fun!

  30. magali says:

    At this time of the year my screens come out of most of my windows. I love how the outdoors looks a lot brighter without them, makes the darker months feel more joyous!

  31. Jen says:

    Well….it’s official. I’m going to have to get my husband to start reading your blog. I’m positive he would learn a thing or two. You’re one talented chick. Who has chicks. ;)

  32. Farquist says:

    I teach in a junior high and there’s a full moon. I will definitely use the word “nuthouse” today.

  33. Dieu says:

    that’s it? omg. my dogs have turned a sliding screen door into a doggie door at my dude’s place. that he rents. we had no idea how to put it back in so this is fantastic.

  34. JR says:

    Thank you so much for this information. My patio screen door needs new screen and I thought I was going to have to hire someone to do it. This is invaluable to me!

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