How to repair sliding screen doors and keep them working
A sliding screen door is very practical, allowing fresh air into your home while keeping bugs and other unwanted critters out. However, sliding screen doors must hold up against significant wear and tear. Especially in the summer months, they withstand frequent pushing and pulling from people going in and out, rough handling by kids and pawing from pets.
This can take a toll not only on the delicate screen material but also on the door rollers and track that allow the door to easily slide open and closed. To ensure the integrity of the door and maintain functionality, you may have to fix or replace these parts. There are also steps you can take to help prevent damage in the first place.
Read on for a comprehensive guide to sliding screen door repair and maintenance.
How to replace the screen on a screen door
The screen on your sliding door can develop rips, frays and tears or simply come detached from the frame at the sides. When this happens, you may need to replace the screen. Luckily, it’s not costly, time-consuming or complicated to do this yourself. A few DIY tricks make it easy. Follow the below steps to replace a screen on your sliding door.
Remove the door from its track
Replacing the screen will be easier if you take the entire door off its tracks first. You can then work on a horizontal surface instead of trying to replace the screen vertically. To remove the screen door, you should be able to lift it up to take the rollers off the track. Then, pull the door out. Screen doors generally aren’t heavy, but if you’re worried about the weight, have someone on standby to help you lift and maneuver the door out.
Purchase a new roll of screen in the proper size
You can buy the replacement screen you need at a local home improvement or hardware store — or online, if you prefer. Before making your purchase, take measurements to determine what minimum height and width you need. It doesn’t have to be a perfect fit, as you can always trim down oversized screens to fit your precise needs. Having some extra screen on hand is also useful for unexpected repairs in the future.
You may also need a new screen spline. This is the flexible piece of tubing (usually made of rubber) that secures the screen in its place in the door frame. Also, purchase the following tools if you don’t already own them: a spline roller, screwdriver, pliers, clamps and a utility knife. Make sure the knife’s blade is adequately sharp. Your local hardware store can likely sharpen the blade for you if you don’t have a knife sharpening block.
Remove the spline from the groove around the door
The spline is the malleable piece of tubing that holds the screen in place in the door frame, fitting it snugly into the small groove that goes all around the frame’s interior. The first step in replacing any door or window screen is to remove the old spline.
You can use the tip of a screwdriver (a flat-head screwdriver is best) to carefully pry the old spline out of the frame. Once you have a piece of it extracted, use the pliers to gently pull it out. You should be able to pull the entire screen out with the spline. Take care not to bend or warp the metal frame in the process.
Note that you may also need to remove the door handle to access the portion of the frame and spline underneath. The handle is usually held in place with screws, and you should be able to detach the handle with the fitting screwdriver. Storm doors generally latch into place using a slider. To remove this, first pop off the plastic cover and then slip out the metal latch beneath it via the side of the frame.
Apply the new screen and reinstall the spline
With the old screen removed, you can use the spline roller to install the new screen. Lay the new screen over the frame. It should overlap the edges of the frame (you’ll trim it later). To push the screen into the groove of the frame, use the spline roller. Work your way around the frame, pushing the screen and the spline that holds it into place into the groove of the frame bit by bit.
This process is usually easiest if you start in one corner of the frame and utilize the concave part of the spline roller. To simplify the process further, you may want to use clamps to hold the screen in place at each corner of the frame. This will keep the screen from shifting as you push it into place, helping ensure it goes in evenly on all sides.
Trim excess screen and reinstall the door
Once the new screen is held in place by the spline, you can trim the excess screen from around the frame using the utility knife. The new screen should now be securely in place, with no excess material showing at the frame’s edges. All you have to do now is reinstall the door. Lift it up and reinsert it into the door frame so that the screen door rollers are clicked into the track.
Sliding screen door maintenance to keep yours working properly
Insect screen replacement is just one of the tasks you may have to undertake to keep your patio door working optimally. There are a few other general maintenance steps you can take to help extend your door’s life span. Luckily, you can likely handle these small jobs yourself so there’s no need to hire a handyman in most cases.
Lubricate the door rollers
A silicone-based lubricant is ideal because it won’t attract dust, dirt and other gritty buildup, which can then get stuck in the wheels. Steer clear of petroleum-based lubricants like WD-40. Further, opt for a spray-on lubricant, which will be easier and cleaner to use thanks to the targeted application. A few spritzes should be enough to keep the wheels rolling smoothly.
If the wheels are badly damaged, you may have to replace them. For example, metal wheels can become corroded, while plastic wheels can become brittle and cracked. You can buy these replacement parts at your local hardware store. Make sure to buy the same size (it’s easiest to simply bring an old one with you to compare).
Don’t lubricate the track
While you should lubricate the rollers that the screen door moves on, you should never lubricate the track it slides through. Any oil, grease or similar lubricating material will trap dirt, pollen and other gritty debris, mixing to create a gunky substance. This buildup will then get stuck on the door roller wheels, making it harder for them to run smoothly on the screen door track.
Nothing is more frustrating than a sliding door that sticks instead of sliding smoothly. Another step you can take to help prevent this is to keep the sliding door track clear and free of dirt and debris. You can use a small wire-bristle brush to remove grit if you notice the door sticking. A wire brush has sufficiently stiff bristles that can cut through any gunk.
Tighten corner screws
Some screen doors have small screws at the corners of the frame, which can be loosened or tightened to loosen or tighten the frame. If your screen door has screws, inspect them regularly for signs of corrosion and replace rusted screws as needed. Also, make sure the screws are sufficiently tightened to prevent the screen and spline from slipping and sliding.
Replace the spline if necessary
Spline is usually made of rubber. Over time, the rubber may become brittle, cracked or otherwise damaged. In this case, you may need to replace the spline — or the screen will sag or slip out of the frame. To replace the spline, simply follow the steps for replacing a screen as outlined in the previous section but keep the same screen and use a replacement spline.
Protect your home appliances and systems with Cinch
With the above repair and maintenance tips, you can help ensure the functionality and longevity of your sliding screen door. As a homeowner, this is just one of the many elements of your property that may require upkeep over the years. From major appliances like your refrigerator to built-in systems like your plumbing and electrical, your house has many components to care for.
Cinch Home Services offers several home protection plans to help cover the cost of repairs and replacements for covered appliances and systems. As a homeowner, having this kind of protection in place can be a big relief. When mishaps or breakdowns occur, you’ll be spared unexpected expenses and can rely on your home warranty instead.