Dear James: My window and door screens are an absolute mess from the kids and the dog. Some are on metal and others on wood frames. How can I repair these screens myself to keep the mosquitoes out this summer? -- Cari F.
Dear Cari: It is amazing how the mosquitoes can find even a tiny hole in a screen and come indoors for a feast. Damaged old screens also detract from the appearance of your house no matter how clean and neat your primary windows are kept.
You can take your window and door panel screens to most hardware and home center stores to have the screening replaced. If you want to save a few dollars, repair or replace them yourself. Screening can be repaired with special kits or just an old piece of matching screening.
For screens with just a small hole, dab on a blob of clear epoxy, which is invisible when cured. For holes two inches or less, purchasing a ready-made patch is the simplest repair method. The patch piece should be about one-half to one inch larger than the hole to be repaired.
A square screen patch has a screen center section with open strands sticking out on the sides. You can make your own screen patch by unweaving a few rows on the outside edges to get the open strands. Bend the strands at 90 degrees and push them through the screening over the hole. Bend then back out and the patch is fixed to the screen.
If you have a dog, the screens are probably well beyond repair with a patch and they must be replaced. This is also true of old steel screens that have become rusty. Once rust is present, you will just waste your time trying to clean and repaint it. If will just rust through again quickly.
The key to a professional-looking rescreening job is to make the screen very taut. It should be as taut a drum so a penny will bounce if you drop it on the rescreened frames. With medium-size wooden window and doorframes, the wedge-and-cleat method is best to use. For larger doors, the bow method is most effective.
To use the wedge-and-cleat method, first cut a piece of screening one inch wider than the frame and one-foot longer. Standard household screening with a mesh of 18x14 will work well. Staple the screen in place along the bottom of the frame.
Make two cleats with 1x2-inch wood slightly wider than the window frame. Put the one-foot overlap of screen between them and nail them together through the screen. This overlap and cleat will be cut off later. Using 1x4 wood, cut two long triangular wedge pieces to the width of the frame.
Place the frame, with the screen stapled to it, and the cleats on a flat surface. Place the wedges, from either side, between the cleats and the frame. As you side the wedges in across one another, they will push the cleats away from the frame drawing the screen taut. Staple it in place.
For larger frames, place 2x4s on top of two sawhorses. Clamp the frame, in the middle of each long side, to the 2x4s. Gently push 2x4 blocks under each end of the frame to bow it. Staple the screen to each end of the frame. Release the clamps. When the frame straighten again, it will stretch the screen taut
It is simple to rescreen metal frames. Pry out the old spline (fits in a groove) and buy a replacement one. Also buy an inexpensive spline tool to match the spline width. Lay the new piece of screen over the frame and push it into the groove. When the spline is forced in, it will pull the screen taut
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.