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This Old Screen - On The Mend

While screen doors can let in a breath of fresh air, accidents and old age lead to some rips and tears. CBS This Morning's home repair expert Bob Vila discusses how to keep the breezes coming and the bugs out.

Depending on the size and the location of the tears, you may have the option of patching the damage. Choose from two common types of screen cloth: metal or fiberglass. Metal screens are made of aluminum, bronze and copper, which are rustproof and last longer than traditional galvanized steel screens.

To patch a large rip or tear:

  • Place the screen on a flat surface and use an awl or another pointed tool to flatten wires into place.
  • Cut a square patch from scrap screening two inches larger than the hole, using tin snips. Make sure you use the same or similar type of screen for the patch as was used for the original screen.
  • Remove about 1/2 inch of cross threads from each side of the patch.
  • Bend the sides so that they are at a 90-degree angle to the patch.
  • Push the ends of the patch through the screen and press them flat.
  • Coat both sides of the screen with spray varnish, paint or enamel. (Now's a good time to paint the frame as well.)

Some damage calls for replacing the entire screen. It is not a difficult job. The real trick is getting the screen nice and taunt in the frame; you don't want it to sag. But there are a few tricks. When replacing an entire screen, buy mesh small enough to keep out the smallest insect common in your region.

You can buy screening at your local home center; it's packaged in different widths.

To replace a screen:

  • Remove the old screen by taking off the molding that covered the staples holding the screen in place.
  • Place a 1-inch-by-4-inch block under each end and clamp down the middle of the door to put a slight bow in the frame.
  • Attach the screen to one end of the frame with staples.
  • Move to the other end, pull the screen snug and flat - but not too tight - and fasten it.
  • Release the clamps; the door frame will pull the screen tight as it straightens.
  • Secure the screen sides to the frame and trim any excess material.
  • Finish by attaching the molding to cover the staples again.
Frames for screens in windows are commonly made from aluminum, so you cannot staple a new screen to the frame. The same is true for aluminum screen doors. Instead, the screen is held in place with a spline (pronounced "splyne"), a rubber strip that keeps it in the channel surrounding the opening in the door or window. You can buy splines where you buy your screening.

To replace an aluminum screen:

  • First remove the old screen spline by prying it out of the spline groove with an awl or similar tool. Then the old screen can now be removed.
  • Clean out any debris from the spline groove.
  • Cut a piece of aluminum screen cloth that will overlap the edges of the screen frame by about an inch. Onc you have it in position, place hand clamps on the top edge of the frame to hold the screen in place.
  • Using a spline tool - you can purchase one at a home center or hardware store - slowly begin to roll the cloth into the spline groove. Start gently and take your time so that you don't tear the screen.
  • Once you have the screen worked into the spline groove, press a new spline into the channel on each side. This will keep the screen locked in place.
  • Use the concave wheel on your spline tool to roll the spline fully into the channel.
  • Once you've done this on all four sides of the screen, use a sharp utility knife to trim the excess screen away.
For more on home improvement visit Bob Vila's Web site.

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