Got Doggy Damage? Here's How to Fix Your Screen Door

by Team HomeServe
A residential screen door with a tear due to a dog

Repairing a Screen Door at a Glance

  • Tools & Materials: Replacement screen, spline, spline roller, needle-nose pliers, utility knife
  • Step 1: Remove screen
  • Step 2: Remove spline
  • Step 3: Clean doorframe
  • Step 4: Position new mesh
  • Step 5: Insert spline
  • Step 6: Trim extra mesh
  • Step 7: Replace screen

Dogs and screen doors are a notoriously bad mix. As a matter of fact, screen doors and anything with paws or claws (we’re looking at you, cat) seem to be a bad combination. If your four-legged friend has a vendetta against your screen door and has left the mesh screen torn or holey, you’ll want to repair it quickly.

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Follow the steps below to repair your screen door — hopefully in time to keep out swarms of mosquitos, gnats and flies.

Gather Supplies

Before delving into how to fix a screen door, a trip to the hardware store to get the supplies you need is in order. Be sure to pick up:

  • Replacement screen. Be aware that there are two types to choose from — fiberglass and wire — and that screens usually come in black, charcoal or white. For homes with pets, fiberglass is the best option because it is heavy-duty by design and more pet-friendly. Replacement screen material is generally sold in rolls.
  • Spline and spline roller. The spline is the flexible, tube-like material that runs around the perimeter of the screen to hold it in position in the frame. It is generally made from rubber or soft plastic. The spline roller helps you push the spline into the groove in the door frame to install the screen.
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Utility knife

How Do You Fix Screen Door Mesh?

You don’t have to be a DIY pro to fix a screen door. A little planning and forethought, plus the supplies mentioned above, are all that’s required. Fixing the mesh screen in your screen door takes less than 30 minutes. To repair your door, Bob Vila says to:

  1. Remove the screen from the door.
  2. Pry the screen’s existing spline from the groove in the door frame using the screwdriver or needle-nose pliers. Be extra careful removing the spline; you don’t want to bend the groove’s metal edges because this can cause the new screen and new spline to fail to seat correctly. Set the removed spline and the ripped screen to the side for disposal.
  3. Clean the door frame thoroughly using a mild cleanser and wet cloth.
  4. Unroll the new fiberglass or wire mesh screen over your door frame, being sure to allow overlap on each edge.
  5. Starting at a corner, use the spline roller to gently insert the spline (and screen beneath it) into the groove in the door frame. Check to see that the screen mesh goes in evenly as you work the spline into the groove. If it doesn't, simply pull it out, reseat the mesh on your door frame and give it another try. If you're struggling to get the mesh in the door frame evenly, consider using small clamps on each corner of the screen to hold the mesh in place.
  6. Using the utility knife, trim away any excess mesh material.
  7. Replace the screen in the frame.

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Can a Retractable Screen Door Be Repaired?

If your door is a retractable, rolling or sliding screen door, the repair steps mentioned above are the same with minimal exceptions. In the first step, you will lift the screen up from its spot in the door, carefully slide it over the bottom edge of the frame to clear the frame’s lip. Then, tilt the door, removing it from the bottom. When you’re finished with repairs, simply reverse the process you used to remove the door to put it back into its place in the frame.

How Do You Fix a Broken Screen Door?

If your actual door is broken (not just the screen), a little extra work is required. For example, if your sliding screen door is not sliding like it should, its tracks may be warped. In this case, use a hammer to pound them back into place. Or, you can buy new tracks and install them per the manufacturer’s instructions. The rollers on the door may also be to blame if the door isn't sliding smoothly or is sticking. Clean the rolling mechanism, then replace the rollers on the frame. New ones are generally available from the manufacturer.

Prevent Future Damage

Now, you understand how to fix a screen door — a skill that you’ll turn to over and over again as a pet owner. But do you really want to? There are some steps you can take to prevent future screen damage from your well-meaning but destructive pet:

  • Applying a scratch-deterrent solution to discourage your dog or cat from pawing at the screen
  • Keeping your pet’s nails trimmed to limit damage
  • Installing a doggy door so that your dog doesn’t need to scratch on your screen door to let you know he wants out