How to Replace a Window Screen

Replacing a screen is easy. This is gonna take you a few minutes and cost around $10.

Windowbox with nasturtiums under window.

When I first moved into my house and looked into doing a few window screen repairs, I very distinctly remember thinking … a spline roller?? What is a spline roller and why would ANYONE just happen to own one?

It seemed like a mystical & expensive tool only owned by the very handiest of DIYers. I needed to buy one immediately of course and it’s now on my list of tools that any homeowner should have.

As it turns out, a spline roller looks like a glorified pizza cutter and costs about $5. BUT if you want to replace your screens, that little specialty tool is going to save you a lot of heartache.

With it, a utility knife, some spline and some screen mesh I started replacing all the ripped screens in my 1840 brick cottage.

It takes a total of about 10 minutes and 5 tools to replace one window screen.

BASIC STEPS: Remove the old screen & 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 using the spline roller, locking the screening into place.

Done.  That’s it.

Here we go.

How to Replace a Window Screen

Materials you’ll need

Spline roller

Spline (the rubbery rope used to hold the screen in place)

Screening

Utility knife

Scissors

STEP 1. Remove the old screen by pulling out the old spline and then the screen. If it’s in good shape you can reuse your old spline.

TIP: MAKE SURE YOU BUY SCREENING THAT’S WIDE ENOUGH TO COVER THE WINDOW YOU’RE WORKING ON.

STEP 2. Unroll your screen to estimate how much you need.  Cut it off so you have a couple of extra inches all around the window.

STEP 3. Grab your new spline and cut it a few inches longer than the spline you removed. The spline will be pushed into the channel when you push it in place with the spline roller.

STEP 4. Hold your screen up to the window and stick the end of your spline into the corner of a channel at the edge of the frame. Push it in tight with the tool.  Holding your screen tight WITHOUT stretching and then roll the spline roller’s grooved side along the spline, pushing it into the channel.

Here I’ve started with the upper right corner of the window.

Continue to push the spline in with the roller all around the window until you end where you started. Trim the spline.

Rolling spline roller into channel.

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.

Rolling spline roller up channel to lock window screen in place.

TIP: 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.

STEP 5. Using the box cutter, trim the excess screening away.

YOU’RE DONE.

Newly replaced fibreglass window screen.

The Materials

Screening

Window screening is either aluminum or fibreglass.

Aluminum screen is visually more noticeable and stronger however it’s a little harder to work with and you only get one shot at installing it because once you push the spline in, it bends the screen which can’t be flattened again.

Fibreglass screening is black, almost invisible but cuts and tears more easily. You can redo and replace the screen as many times as you like until it’s perfect.

Spline

Spline is the ribbed, rubber rope that holds the screen in the window. It’s about $5 for enough to do 2 windows. It comes in different sizes, but I’ve honestly never paid attention to the size. It squishes so there’s very little chance if you got the wrong width that you won’t be able to make it work.

The 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 can get it any hardware store. 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 $5.

Spline roller on concrete windowsill.
Spline roller

Why do I need a box cutter?

The box cutter is used to cut the excess screen away from the window when you’re done. You can try to use scissors but you won’t get a nice close cut.

Box cutter on cement windowsill.
Box cutter

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.


The same principal works for all window screens, old or new.  This is also the method you would use to fix a ripped 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.

Now that you’re feeling pretty good about your DIY self, I’d like to direct you to this post that explains how to use a plunger and how to identify the difference between a sink plunger and a toilet one.


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

57 Comments

  1. L says:

    Thank you for inspiring me to give this a shot. I am fairly handy, but never would have attempted this before seeing your article. I was just going to take some screens to the hardware store to have them re-screened and you saved me almost $200. My only additional suggestion is to place the screen on cement or a wood floor when working on it. My old screen shed a lot of tiny, sharp metal fibers when I removed it and you don’t want that getting in your carpet. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi L! My window screens don’t come out so I have to do them in the frame. At least, it’s easier to do them in the frame than to remove them, but yes taking them out is what most people like to do. Congrats on doing it yourself! ~ karen

  2. Audrey says:

    Great post, Karen. I’ve done this many times but have just come upon a new problem. The old spline has petrified and refuses to come out without brute force using a small screw driver. I’ve tried soaking it in WD-40, and leaving it in the sun in hopes that it will become pliable, but the spline just comes out in tiny pieces. It’s an integral part of the storm door, which is still perfectly good. It would totally tick me off if I had to replace a whole door because of a stupid screen ;-(

    Anyone know what would dissolve the rubber, but not mess with the aluminum frame? I’m about to try Goo-Gone in one corner. If that works, I’ll post here.

    • Audrey says:

      Update – Goo-Gone seems to help a bit in dissolving the rubber but it still pulls apart into little pieces (1/4″ – 1/2″ long) and still refuses to come out of the track without a lot of work. Will have to get some fine point tweezers as the track is too wide for most of them. Side benefit – the Goo-Gone takes a lot of the city grime off the aluminum frame ;-)

      • Karen says:

        Yikes! That sounds like an awful job. I wish I had some advice for you, lol. It sounds like you have it under control. ~ karen!

  3. Randy P says:

    In this post you have provided the ULTIMATE secret to any and all DIY work.

    “It’s a lot easier to do any job if you have the right tools”. If life has taught me anything, it is that reality. I often shop at Harbor Freight or other discount tool sources for my ‘one time use’ items, but nothing will ever beat a tool designed for the task at hand. With the understanding that ANY tool can be a hammer, if the need arises.

  4. Robin Schienle says:

    I wish there was a video!

  5. Sherrill says:

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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 *@!**#

  12. 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!

  13. 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?

  14. mary says:

    Read this…

  15. 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).

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

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