How to Make and Install a Window Screen

Lead Image
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 120-220
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Metal framing
Sharp utility knife
Small flat end screwdriver or awl
Screen clips
Pull tabs
Screen roller
Screen spline

Like most parts of a house, eventually window screens need a little TLC. Maybe you’ve recently damaged one or the cat clawed into it. Or maybe one was missing when you took possession of the home. Regardless of how you ended up with a screen that needs to be repaired or replaced, it’s an easy process. You could look for prefabricated screens at your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore or home improvement store, but finding the right size can be frustrating and time-consuming. Instead, build your own. It’s quick and easy!

Step 1 - Measure Carefully

Because screens fit inside the runner of the window frame, you'll want to measure to the outer edges within the frame. If your tape measure doesn’t fit or is awkward to handle, try pulling a piece of string or yarn tight from corner to corner and then measure the length of the yarn. Take careful measurements for each side of the window.

Step 2 - Collect Supplies

The next step is to gather supplies. You will need enough mesh screening to do the job. There are several types with the most common being a standard fiberglass window screen. There are also aluminum varieties. You can find either near the window section of your home improvement center. Next, select lengths of metal frame, either by purchasing a kit or sourcing metal frames from a bulk section. If you do not purchase a kit, grab a package of spline. Look for corner connectors in the same department. These hold the frame together where they meet in the corner. Also pick up a spline tool, commonly a few dollars, and next to every screen display. You may also need a hacksaw and/or blades, clamps, a sharp knife or razor, spring clips, and pull tabs.

Step 3 - Cut the Frame

With your predetermined measurements, mark and cut the sides of the frame. This is usually fairly quick and easy with a hacksaw. Be sure to measure carefully and account for the width of the hacksaw blade so that your side doesn’t end up too short. Once cut, gently file off any rough edges.

Step 4 - Install the Corners

Next, you will complete the frame by connecting each side at the corner with corner inserts. These typically come in a bag with several inside. The corner connector slides into the metal frame on each side of it, offering strength and reinforcement while holding it together.

Step 5 - Stretch the Screen

Someone replacing the screen in a metal window frame.

Now that you’ve completed the frame, it’s time to add the mesh. First, unroll the screening material, putting the concave side facing down so that it doesn’t roll up while you are working. Lightly stretch the screen across the frame. You don’t want to pull it so tight that the tension warps the frame. Stretch the mesh to the edge of the frame rather than stopping at the groove. Use clamps to hold the screen in place.

Step 6 - Insert the Spline

Unroll your spline. Place it over the screening material and press down, forcing the spline and the screen beneath it into the groove of the frame. If you have a hard time getting the screen to stay in place, try running the spline tool across the screen in the groove several times before pressing the spline in on top of it. Then, use the spline tool to roll back and forth over the spline, completing the process. When you get to the corners, find a smaller tool, such as a screwdriver, to ensure that the spline and screening are firmly inserted into the corners. You don’t want to leave any gaps where the material can pull away.

Step 7 - Finish Up

Someone working on a window screen.

Next, use a sharp razor to trim off any extra length of spline and overhanging screen material. Add the spring clips to the outer groove of the screen frame. These apply pressure when you place them into the window frame, holding them in place. You can also add pull tabs to the outer edge of the screen surface. These tabs are helpful when removing the screen for cleaning or other window access.

At some time or another, it will be time to tackle one or many screens in your home. Creating your own window screens is not only fast and straightforward, but it allows you to customize the size to fit any window. It also eliminates a lot of frustration from trying to find the perfect size from premade options. As an added bonus, putting on your DIY hat typically saves you money, too!