Handyman Tip - DIY Porch Screen Repair

Updated: Sep 14, 2019

Hurricane Dorian ripped my side screen apart, including my neighbors. We worked together to make repairs saving both time and money from someone else having to do it. We'll show you how you can do it yourself and learn a number of handy tips that will save you time and heartache.



What You'll Need:

  • Screen Mesh - Phifer BetterVue 8-ft x 25-ft Black Fiberglass Screen Mesh (Lowe's | $56.98 | Item #779274)

  • Screen Spline - Phifer 5/16" x 100-ft Black Vinyl Screen Spline (Lowe's | $7.49 | Item #42406)

  • Screen Rolling Tool - Screen Tight Plastic Screen Rolling Tool (Lowe's | $8.58 | Item #202)

  • Optional Screen Installer Clips - Patio, Lanai and Garage Window Screen Installer Clips (Amazon | $15.95 | 20 clips)

  • Small flat head screwdriver

  • Utility knife

  • Extension Ladder

  • A helper (It isn't recommended you attempt to do this job alone.)


What You Should Know:


The Screen - I chose the particular screen mesh because it provides a sharper view where it matters most; looking out onto the beautiful marsh and Folly River. When comparing the installed BetterVue panel to the existing porch screen, it is like wiping away a slightly fogged window. It provides for excellent airflow, light transmission and protection from insects.


The Spline - The screen spline used is called a flat spline. DO NOT use the round spline (see below). It simply will not provide the grabbing power to hold the screen in the channel. It is far more likely to cause the porch screen to pop out of the channel on a windy day. Evidence was found after the hurricane as to porch screens that held up and those that didn't. Click ( > ) below to see the difference between round spline and flat spline.



Screen Rolling Tool - The screen rolling tool mentioned is a two-in-one tool. The fewer tools you have in your pocket, the better. One side has roller to roll the screen into the channel, and on the other end has a retractable blade to cut the screen or spline.


Screen Installer Clips - I didn't have time to order these off of Amazon, but had I time, this would have been very handy. I will explain more about why these clips are a good investment.




Installation Tips:


Preparation - There isn't a lot of prep work needed to do this job. There may be pieces of screen and screen spline in place you'll need to remove before beginning. You should be able to grab hold of screen to help coax the spline out of the channel. If necessary, use a small flat head screwdriver to wedge the spline from out of the channel. If you find any debris in the channel (such as adhesive), you may need to clean it out of the channel.


Time on Task - The first panel installed took about four hours. Phew! That had everything to do with "learning on the job" and why I've undertaken the effort to share these tips. The second panel took only one-and-half hours; what a big difference!


Cut Screen to Length - There is a reason why I purchased 8-ft x 25-ft screen mesh. Although you always want to measure, each of our porch screen panels was 7' 4" x 7' 4". Initially, I started with the straight end and allowed the screen roll to drop to the ground. However, the weight of the screen hanging kept pulling the screen out of the channel making this job nearly impossible from the outset.

Tip #1 - Cut the mesh to length with six inches of extra screen on each side.

Temporary Clips - Okay, I wish I had purchased those clips mentioned above. It is so important to be able to tack the screen up in the channel and have it hold in place so you can focus only on working the spline into the channel. Make sure you are working out any slack or wrinkles in the screen as you insert the clips or spacers.

Tip #2 - Not having had clips, I used some of the round spline strewn around the property. I cut one-inch pieces and pushed it into the channel as makeshift installer clips. It helped!


Tip #3 - Be sure when you tack the screen in place temporarily that you are leaving 6" of extra screen so that it is roughly even around all sides of your opening.

Here is a slideshow showing how an installer used the screen install clips:



Installing Spline - Now that you have used your clips (or makeshift clips) holding your screen in place, you are ready to install the spline into the channel.


If you look closely at the flat spline you will see one side of it is rounded. The flat side goes into the channel and the rounded side faces you at all times.


Now take a moment to look at the profile view of the screen channel. Notice that there is a beveled notch (the top edge in this image). One edge of the spline is placed into this edge first. Use the spline tool to push and roll the other edge into the channel.


If for any reason you are encountering trouble, try placing the edge into the opposite side of the channel and repeat the process. You should not have to use a lot of force to work the spline into the channel. And once it gets started, it will roll in smoothly. If you have spacers, you'll want to remove them or change their position as you go. This 90-second video helps to demonstrate the process.



Tip #4 - Start with the top channel and then work the spline into the bottom channel. Do the left and right sides next.


Tip #5 - Have only the tool you need in hand and use it with care. Too much force with the spline tool in the channel can rip the screen. A careless poke of the utility knife or flat head screwdriver can put a gash in the screen. You want to avoid this at all cost so think ahead.

Cutting Excess Screen - This is the easiest part of the job. Although, you want to be sure to use care in wielding a utility knife around your nearly finished porch screen masterpiece. Leave at least a quarter of an inch of excess. While holding the excess screen away from the channel, score a line down removing the excess. Follow around all edges until you the job is complete.

Tip #6 - Use care when removing the extension ladder that it doesn't accidentally brush against the finished porch screen. What a bad time it would be to put a gash in the new screen.

Summary:


I thought both the craftsmanship and the product provided a better result than a previous installer. Replacing just the one panel could range in price from $300 - $400. Yes, that is just the one panel. The cost to replace the whole porch screen could cost you upward of $1,000 or more.


There is a right way and a wrong way to install the screen. Make sure an installer uses flat spline.


The total cost of supplies my neighbor and I paid each for materials was $65 and we have a whole roll of porch screen left over in reserve.


Have a question? I'm glad to help. Leave a comment below or view my profile for contact information.

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