Replacing Window Screens in Wood and Metal Frames
If you need to replace your window screens, first visit your local hardware store to determine what type of new screen would be best. Mesh fineness is measured by the strand counts in each direction, per inch. Typical household screens are a mesh of 18" x 14" or finer.
You might also need to pick up a few tools that might be missing from your toolbox. Depending on the method you choose, you'll need a hammer, staple gun, some C-clamps, spline, a screen installation tool (or a putty knife), and scissors (or a utility knife) that can cut your screen from the frame.
Replacing Screens in Wood and Metal Frames
Wood and metal frames require different approaches. If you are removing a screen from a wood frame, pry off the molding by starting in the center of a strip and moving toward the ends. Don't break the molding! Additional information on wood replacement windows.
You will also need to stretch the new screen fabric tight first in order to make sure the new screen lasts and performs well. To stretch the screen, buy some 1x2 stock longer than the width of the window, and some 1x4 stock that you can use to saw out wedges. Lay the frame down on a horizontal surface. Cut your new replacement screening a minimum of 1 inch longer and wider than the frame, and center the screen width over the frame.
Staple one end of the screen to the top of the frame, then take one of the 1x2 lengths and affix it firmly to your work surface just beyond the bottom end of the window frame. Stretch the rest of the screen over this 1x2 and nail another 1x2 to it, with the new screen in between.
Take the wedges you've made and place them between the edge of the 1x2 cleats and the bottom of the screen frame. Tap the wedges in to this space until the screen is taut. Now, staple the screen at the bottom of the frame, and then up along the sides, spacing the staples about an inch or two apart. Trim off the excess screen, and use brads to reattach the moldings. Countersink the brads, the fill the holes with wood putty.
Another way to attach the new screen, aside from using wedges, is with clamps and sawhorses. This method works better with larger windows, such as picture windows.
Take a couple of sawhorses and saw some 2x4s the same length as the screen, then lay them end to end across the sawhorses to create a rough frame. (Or lay a sheet of plywood across the sawhorses instead of the 2x4s.) Lay the stripped frame across the boards, and use C- clamps to hold the screen tight in the middle.
Lift each end of the frame and insert small 2x4 blocks. The objective here is to bow the ends of the frame upward, although this needs to be done gently so that you don't accidentally snap the frame.
Staple the screen in place, starting at the C-clamps in the center. When you're done, remove the 2x4 blocks at the ends, and the screen will be very taut! Replace the screen moldings, and you're ready to go.
Metal frames have a long, thin strip of material, or spline, that is sort of like a slat and helps hold the screen in place. This has to be removed first, and without kinking the metal frame. You can use a screwdriver to pry up and remove the spline. Examine the spline to see if you need to replace it; if you do, vinyl splining is a great choice, and is available in rolls of various widths.
You can use a square to check and see if the frame is still in decent shape, and to help you reshape the frame if it needs adjustments. For your replacement screen, you don't need as big a 'buffer' margin for metal frames as you do with wood just cut your screen to the outside edges of the metal frame.
Next, take a screen installation tool (it looks like a pizza cutter and comes in various widths to match the frame channels) or the edge of a spline and force the screen's edges into the channel on the top and on one side, using short strokes. A putty knife will also do the job.
Now that two sides are attached, take a utility knife and cut the screening to fit the remaining two sides, using the outside edge of the channel as a guide. Then, using the same tool as before, force the screen into the channel on the last two sides.
Lastly, take your spline tool or putty knife to insert the spline into the channels, using short strokes. As the spline settles in, it will pull the screen taut. Trim any excess screening, if necessary.