How to repair a sliding screen door

This article will show you how to replace the screen in a sliding screen door.

When the dog, kids, and others, try to walk through the screen door, here's what happens.

I'm not sure the cost to replace the whole door, as ours not only needed a new screen, but it had a bent frame as well from people going through it. Hey it happens to the best of us. Sure is startling too!

Step 1: Remove the sliding screen door

Most screen doors are removed by loosening the screws that adjust the height of the rollers on the bottom edge of the sliding screen door. Your adjustment screw might be in another close by location. Basically you loosen the screws (2 rollers on the bottom), and then you should be able to grab the screen door by the sides and lift up and then lift the bottom off of the track the bottom rollers are on. You may have to loosen the top rollers too.

Step 2: Place the screen door on a flat surface work surface and remove the handle.

Unscrew the 2 screws holding the sides of the handle together.

Push down on the inside part of the handle with the slider tab. The slider tab should pop off.

Remove the metal latch by sliding it out of the frame.

Step 3: Removing the screen and screen spline from the frame channel

Holding the screen in place is what's called a "spline". It's stuck down in a channel in the door frame and holds the screen in place. Use a screwdriver, awl, or nail to work a free end of the spline out of the spline channel.

Once you get an end free, go around the door frame pulling up the old spline. You can reuse the spline with your new screen if it's in good condition, but spline is cheap so it might be better to get new spline.

Step 4: Measure for your replacement sliding door screen

Measure both height and wide from the outer edges of the metal door frame. You'll need to buy a roll of replacement screen that is at least that size.

Step 5: Buy the replacement screen, new spline and other materials

Here's what you'll need from left to right: Paper towel (to clean the spline channel), Rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol (to clean the spline channel), a roll of replacement screen door screen, new spline (match your size or if your not sure by two sizes, and return the wrong one), a splining tool, an utility knife or razor blades, a screwdriver, scissors, a measuring tape, and duct tape or other tough tape.

The replacement screen and spline can be found at your hardware store, or home improvement store. Bring your screen measurements, and your old spline. On the spline package (upper right) they might have a "actual size" graphic that you can match your old spline to. If you are going to install a thicker screen, as I am (see below), you will have to use a spline that is one size smaller than your original thickness.

On right is a sample of the original screen. I've purchased a "pet proof" new screen, that as you can see is much thicker than the original. The package says it's 7 times stronger than typical screen. We have a dog and young kids, so I thought this might be a good replacement screen. It is much tougher, but the down-side is that it's also quite a bit darker and more noticeable. Also, If someone were to walk through the screen door, I'm thinking that rather than the screen ripping, the sliding door frame, or rollers will most likely take the brunt of the force. We'll see.

Step 6: Fix other issues with the sliding screen door

Now is a good time to replace or repair the screen door rollers. Mine were in fairly good shape, but this one was a bit rusted up, so I saturated it in a good dosing of WD-40 to loosen up the rust. You can also remove the rollers (each roller is different in it's removal) to really clean them up. Home improvement stores carry some of the major door name rollers, but they didn't have my version, otherwise I would have replaced this one. If you need to replace your rollers or the door latch for patio doors or sliding screen doors, Prime-Line seems to have many replacement parts.

A few healthy squirts and this roller was back in action. If all you want to do is lubricate the rollers and you don't need to remove rust, then it is recommended to use a silicon spray lub. rather than WD-40 as it doesn't attract and hold dust and dirt, which rollers done like. I didn't have any on hand, so I used WD-40 only (not as good).

Most likely if your screen door has been walked into a few time, it will also have some frame damage, like I had around the latch. With a flat screwdriver and a pair of pliers, I was able to straighten out most of the damage.

Step 7: Cleaning the spline channel and laying out the new screen.

You'll need a flat work surface, like this sheet of plywood on sawhorses, or you can work on floor area.

Clean out the channel where the spline goes, with denatured alcohol, or use rubbing alcohol (that's all I had, and I think it's a similar substitute to denatured alcohol).

Roll out the new screen and cut it to about the outer size of the sliding door frame. Be careful not to cut too much off. When you put the spline back in channel it will suck in quite a bit of the screen. I got close to cutting too much off (shown above).

A few articles I read before doing this job suggested using clamps to keep the screen in place, but the roll of replacement screen said to use "sturdy tape". I used duct tape dotted around the perimeter. I wasn't sure how tight I should have it, and perhaps it will differ for your screen as I was using a very tough screen material, but I found it best to just lay it and tape it, with little to no tension on it at this point. The screen will get much tighter when you put the spline back in the channel. I also thought the material would be difficult to work with to avoid uneven tension, pulls, sags, ect., but I found it to be very forgiving and it just seemed to go well into place all the way around the first time.

Step 8: Rolling in the new spline, with a spline tool

Here's a close up of the end you'll use, it has a concave channel on the white roller, that you'll use to roll in the spline. This is a must have tool for the job, and it cost under $3 at the hardware.

I'm rolling in the new spline here. I'm also removing the tape before I get to it to relieve uneven tension right at the tape. My other hand was shooting the photo here, but with your other hand you can hold the edge of the screen and ensure a nice even fit. You'll find you'll have to do a few runs around the entire channel to really snug in the spine to the channel.

When you gone all the way around, you can cut the remaining spline of with a utility knife.

It's difficult to push the corners in with the splining tool. I gentle convinced the spline down in these areas with a flat head screwdriver.

The screen is in place, nice and tight and everything looks great! But wait, I've made the mistake that I'm sure most rookies (like me) do. I put so much tension on the screen, that I've actually bowed the side of the sliding screen door frame in. It's hard to see in the photo, but I've put the measuring tape next to it, to show you have bow it got. It's easy to make this mistake, as quite a bit of screen material goes into the channel when you put in the spline, which really tightens up the screen. It's easy enough to fix though. I removed the spine from that side and a bit on the top and bottom, released the tension, and rolled it in again. This time the frame didn't have tension on it, and the screen was also nice and snug.

Step 9: Trimming off the extra screen

I tried to trim the extra off with a utility knife, without much luck with this thick screen I was using, but found it much easier to use a new razor blade. But be very careful, see my mistake below!

Just as I was rounding the last corner, and was ready to be done with this project, I went too fast and cut into a bit of the screen with the razor blade!!! Take your time... A little bit of super glue and everything was patched.

Step 10: Reinstall the sliding screen door latch.

But the metal slider back in, then but the two sides back in place, then you'll notice with the tap piece you have to move the metal slider around a bit so that the tap can slide into a channel. Hard to explain, but you'll get it.

Replace the latch screws once it's all assembled and your are done!

Step 11: Installing the sliding screen door back into place
I couldn't shoot this and do it at the same time, but it goes back in just like you took it out. Put the top roller back onto their track, press up and you might need a flat head screwdriver to push the bottom wheels up and onto their bottom track. The last step is to adjust the roller adjustment screws until the door glides well in it's track and is firmly in place as well. If you want to lubricate the rollers and track, use a silicon spray, as it doesn't attract and hold dust and dirt. I used WD-40 (not recommended), as it was all I had.

Also now is a good time to clean up the tracks for the sliding screen and the sliding door. Again, denatured alcohol, or rubbing alcohol is a good choice for this. Paraffin wax can be used on the sliding door track as well as a good lubricant.

Back in place, and ready for another summer of abuse!

Popular Mechanics: Repairing A Screen Door Is Easier Than You Think
Prime-Line: Removing Sliding Screen Door Rollers
Prime-Line: Replacement rollers and latches for patio doors and screen doors

My Standard Disclaimer: This is what I did. This does not mean this is the best way, the right way, to building code, or even safe for your needs. So you are on your own with your project. I make no promises about the information presented here. I'm just a do-it-yourselfer, not a professional at all, sharing my story. So if something goes wrong with your project, you are on your own. Good luck, and have fun!

All content and photos, copyright 2009, Dover Projects
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  1. Thanks man, this was really helpful.

  2. Joe, Good deal. Glad it was useful.--Peter

  3. Here's a 5 months of usage update: We've just been through our first summer of kids, dogs, cats and a few summer parties complete with not so "with it" adults. So far no rips, tears, etc. This thicker screen material is really living up to it promise.

    The only other thing I must add is that at Home Depot anyway, it seems that brand new sliding screen doors are very cheap! I think I saw my model for $46. So that's a route you could take. Of course you'll be adding one more old door to the recycling center. I prefer to fix old stuff if I can. Full-disclosure though that you can buy new ones cheaply, which might be just the ticket if your door's frame is bent badly as well.

  4. I did a screen door for my parents' house when I was in high school. It was about 10 years ago now and I used that pet screen stuff. It has been through two dogs and still is as good as new. That pet screening stuff really does work! Highly recommended!

  5. anonymous: I agree, so far no issues. It looks just as great as the day I installed it!

  6. NEW!!! DOVER PROJECTS ON FACEBOOK! Join in with your DIY spirit! Click on the BIG blue box for "Facebook, Dover Projects" in the right column above! See you there!--Peter

  7. George,
    Any idea where I can purchase upper track?

  8. No sorry George, and my apologies for not seeing your question sooner—Peter

  9. Thanks for all of the information! Very helpful!

  10. Thank you! Exactly the information I needed and you presented it very clearly.

  11. IMPORTANT. i Never comment, but for this i will. WD 40 his a degreaser. Never add degreaser ok grease on the wheel, or the shaft that it slide on. Replace the 1$ wheel.

    Adding grease will make the wheel slide instead of rolling. Other reason its a bad idear: grease will take dust and use up the well and the shaft. also making a goo that will make it hard to slide the patio door afer a month. just clean it real good.


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