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Do-it-yourself (DIY) Window Screens

Real Estate Agent

It is amazing how easy some home projects can be.  My husband and I have repairs on our own home and our rental homes.  We seem to go from one repair or improvement project to another.  The most recent DIY project was to make screens for the windows for one of our rentals.

Our rental did not have screens and the tenants wanted some.  With warm weather approaching, they wanted to open the windows and let the breeze blow through.  Sounded good to us, we didn’t have an issue with putting on screen windows.

My husband and I went to a window repair store that we had used before and asked the owner if he could make us some screens.  He couldn’t – he suggested that we go to the local DIY home improvement store and buy the kit for making screen windows.   We thought “Hmmm…we’ll try another window store.”  Same reply. 

So…after looking around a bit and not finding anyone from whom we could order pre-made window screens, we decided to tackle the project of making screen windows.  To be honest, we procrastinated a bit.  As the weather started to get warmer, we decided we better get on the project.  How hard could it be?

We got out the kits my husband had purchased a couple of months earlier.  The kits were two different sizes.  Each kit had four pieces for the frame and corner pieces.  One kit was for a window up to 48 inches (about $12) and the other two kits had pieces for windows up to 60 inches (about $14 each).   Based on the size of the windows, we thought we could get two windows out of the packages that had 60 inch frame pieces.

We read the directions on how to cut the frame pieces.  The directions said to cut the pieces 1.5 inches less than the window measurement.  If we were using springs on the top of the windows to provide for snugger fit, then subtract another 1/8 inch off the height.  My husband got out his hack saw (with fine teeth) and a yellow plastic miter box purchased at our DIY store for about $10 for both.

He used the 48 inch window pieces first to make the first frame.  All went well.  We did the math (I loved math in school!) and cut the window pieces.  (NOTE:  For a cleaner cut, my husband placed painters tape (or masking tape would work) around the frame piece where he was going to cut.  The tape also makes it easier to mark the frame piece for cutting.)  We put the frames together with the corner pieces provided in the kit and voila! we had a window screen frame.

Before we made all of the window frames, we thought it would be prudent to see how the first frame fit.  So, in to the car and off to the rental.  It was a tad loose in one window but fit well in another.  (Don’t know why – all of the windows measured the same.)

Back home we were set to cut the frames for the other windows.  We had our measurements and knew we could get two pieces out of the 60 inch piece from the kit.  First cut was made.  On to the second…the frame piece was not long enough.  What????  We read the package very carefully.  Note that above I said the kit was for windows up to 60 inches.  Well, the manufacturer had already subtracted the 1.5 inches.  The pieces we thought were 60 inches were actually only 58.5 inches.  Who would have figured …????  (We ended up exchanging one of the up to 60 inch window screen kits for an up to 48 inch window screen kit.)

The rest of the cutting went smoothly.  We had three frames.  Now to insert the actual screen material.  The material was from a roll we had purchased for about $14.  We cut the screen pieces a little bigger than the actual window according to the directions.   We removed the spline (a thin round flexible piece that was placed in the groove near the inside of the window frame piece.)

The directions said to hold the screen material taut and use the spline insertion tool (about $4) to put the spline back in to the groove to hold the screen material in place.   (The directions called it a screen repair tool; however, we called it a “rolly thing” because it was a handle with a wheel on each end – one wheel had a groove in it to go over the round spline.)  No definition of what “taut” meant.  No directions on whether to re-insert the splines around each side in order or to re-insert them across from each other while holding the screen material “taut”.

The first window screen went fairly smoothly.  The “rolly thing “worked really well. However, when we had inserted the last spline, the frame kind of buckled – it didn’t lay flat – one of the corners raised.  It would lay flight when we placed a slight pressure on the corner, so we thought “Oh well… seems to work pretty good for our first screen.”

On the next two frames, we experimented with the “tautness” and the order of inserting the spline to see if it made a difference in the “buckling” of the frame.  The only thing we discovered is that holding the screen a little looser seemed to work better – the frames didn’t buckle as much.

The last task we had to perform was to cut the excess screen around the outside next to the re-inserted spline.  Again no direction on what “excess” meant.  We thought perhaps ¼ inch would be reasonable.  We made a template so we could cut the screen evenly from the spline.  When we put the template next to the spline, we immediately saw that ¼ inch was too much material to leave.  We read the directions literally – we cut the screen material close to the spline using a plastic handled utility knife that we already had.  This meant that all of the screen outside of the spline was “excess”.  We continued cutting and removed all of the excess screen material.

All of the windows were completed.  Off to the rental to insert the screens.  Yeah!!  They fit!  Our tenants were happy and we had learned how to do another home do-it-yourself (DIY) repair/improvement project.  We made three window screens for a little less than $80 (without sales tax).

I can hardly wait to see what our next DIY repair/improvement project will be.

Prepared by Nancy Van Pelt

Van Pelt Properties