Cleaning & Repairing Window Screens
Newer, more energy-efficient homes don’t allow for the passive exchange of air through cracks, gaps and penetrations as older homes did. Thick insulation, caulking at windows and doors and gaskets at lights and plugs are a few of the improvements that make today’s homes more energy efficient. Unfortunately, this condition creates stale trapped air within the home. In addition, some of the components used in the fabrication of construction materials emit gases that cause health problems, which can range from a minor case of the sniffles to a full-blown allergic reaction. Air in the home must be continually exchanged with a fresh supply from the outside. Think screens aren’t important, think again.
Sadly, a dirty screen doesn’t “breathe” as well as a clean one. And a dirty screen is an eyesore too. There are many advantages to keeping screens clean. First, you’ll be able to see out of your windows a whole lot easier. And remember grit and grime can hasten deterioration, thereby diminishing the life of a window screen. Dirty screens also prevent light from making its way into your home. Moreover, a gust of wind can blow dust from a screen straight into your home aggravating allergies and increasing housekeeping chores.
Each spring we remove our screens and scrub them down. One of the best means of cleaning window screens is to lay them flat on a smooth, cloth-covered surface, such as an old sheet on a picnic table. Scrub them gently with a soft nylon brush, rinse with a hose, and shake off excess water. They can look as new today as when they were originally installed. Pressure washing with detergent is another alternative.
Patching A Screen
Once clean, the screen may look more like Swiss cheese than the fine mesh designed to keep pests out of your home. Like anything, screens eventually fail. When this happens they can often be patched. Screen patch kits are available at hardware stores and home centers everywhere. They are inexpensive and easy to install (the process takes less than a minute). A small repair will work best until such time as you see fit to replace the screen. There are several good methods that can be used to repair window screens depending upon the type of screen material being repaired.
- For instance, when the lady of the house finishes painting her nails, have her apply a small amount of clear nail polish to a small hole or tear in a vinyl or fiberglass screen. The polish will act as an adhesive sealing the damaged area.
- Small tears in metal or fiberglass screens can be mended with a dab of clear silicone adhesive. If necessary, dab it on in successive layers until the tear is completely filled.
- You can “darn” small holes in metal screening. Simply unravel a strand or two from a piece of scrap screening and sew the hole shut, weaving the strands through the sound fabric with a needle.
- Large holes in metal screen material are repaired with a bit more effort. Start by neatly trimming the damaged area to a ravel-free square or rectangle using tin snips. Next, cut a piece of patch screen material that measures about an inch larger (in both directions) than the damaged area. Unravel a couple of strands of material around the entire perimeter of the patch. Bend the unraveled ends at each side of the patch 90-degrees. Place the patch over the damaged area and carefully thread the bent wires through the sound fabric. Then bend the wires flat again to hold the patch in place.
- For fiberglass screening, simply cut a patch of similar material and affix it to the good material using transparent silicone glue.
If the window screen is beyond repair, re-screening is the best, most cost-efficient alternative. Re-screening is a project that most do-it-yourselfers can tackle with ease. All that is generally required is:
- New screen material.
- Screening spline (rubber piping that is used to hold the screen in place in the frame).
- A spline roller.
- An ice pick or screwdriver.
- A utility knife.
Unless the frames are bent or damaged they can be reused. Simply remove the existing spline and the screen material can be lifted away. Wedge an ice pick or the blade of a screwdriver into the grove of the frame where the spline exists. Then, simply pull the spline out by hand. The screen will literally fall off the frame. Next, cut a piece of screen material slightly larger than the frame and lay the screen onto the frame. Use the spline roller (looks like a pizza cutter) to force the new spline (and the screen) into the retainer groove of the frame. Cut the excess screen off by running the razor knife down the groove between the outside of the spline and the outside of the retainer groove. That’s all there is to it. Save the excess for patches.
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