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The Workbench: Rescreening your windows


There's more to screens than meets the eyes. If your window screens are tattered, it's an easy process to replace and simultaneously upgrade.

If your home has an incredible vista, consider using "invisible screen," with brand names such as UltraVue, ClearView and BetterVue.

"Invisible" screen isn't literally transparent, but it will increase the perceived optical clarity by as much as 25 percent. Even though the cost per square foot is double that of standard screen, it can be a wise investment.

Alternately, if your screens have been ripped and torn by cat claws, consider using Phifer brand Pet Screen, specifically designed to resist cat attacks.

I was skeptical when first introduced to Pet Screen by a client frustrated by her Bengal cat Rio's ongoing screen destruction derby. The manufacturer claims that the product is "seven times stronger than regular insect screens and resists damage by cats."

But I soon became a believer. Six months after the project was finished, every window screen remains showroom fresh. Meanwhile, Rio regularly sulks and plots revenge.

Many older homes feature vintage wood-frame window screens, often aluminum and sometimes copper. If you wish to maintain a home's architectural authenticity, aluminum screen is still readily available, while copper usually must be special ordered.

<b>Rescreening aluminum frames</b>

Tools required:

Flat-head screw driver

Spline roller (in a pinch, you can use a pizza cutter)

Duct tape

Razor knife

Tape measure

Screen material*

Rubber splines**

*Measure each window and determine the largest dimension. Screen material is available in widths ranging from 2 to 4 feet, and a variety of lengths from 36 inches to 100 feet. Only rescreening one or two windows? Home improvement stores sell screen by the linear foot.

**Inspect the old rubber splines and replace if they are brittle. Rolls of screen are available as kits that include a spline-roller tool and rubber spline material.

Find a comfortable platform, such as a picnic table or workbench and lay the screen on top. Attach a piece of duct tape to each edge of the frame. This will keep it from slip sliding. Once you get the hang of rescreening, you probably won't need the duct tape any more.

Remove the rubber spline by using a screwdriver to pick out a loose end. That will free the old screen. Remove it and use it as a template. Cut the new screen 1 inch larger than the old screen perimeter. Set new screen over the frame, leaving an equilateral border.

Semi-firmly press the spline into the groove on the left side and cut the spline to fit. Then roll out enough spline to cover the right side as well as the top and bottom. Continue with the right side as you clasp the edge of the screen.

Press in the spline on the right side. Then continue with top and bottom. Now make a pass over it with the spline roller, pressing firmly, and the screen will tauten up. Use the screwdriver to press in the spline at each corner.

Trim off excess screen by running a razor knife at a 45-degree angle along the outside edge of the spline. Voila! You're ready to reinstall.

<b>Rescreening wood-frame units</b>

Tools required:

Two chisels

Hammer

Stapler

Razor knife

1-inch galvanized finish nails

Typically, old wood sash screens are trimmed with pine screen-moulding (1/2-inch x 1-inch wide).

Remove the old moulding. Insert a chisel and gently pry up moulding. Remove the old screen. Remove staples with flathead screwdriver. This is a good time to sand, prime and repaint the old wood frame.

Using the old screen as a template, add 1 inch to each dimension. Staple the new screen onto the frame. Trim excess screen using a razor knife. Reinstall moulding using finish nails.

<b>Letters to The Workbench</b>

Terry writes: Regarding galvanized planters, I'm picking one up today that's been waiting for me at a friend's house. Question: Base of rock is under if the planter is on the ground or inside under planting medium or both?

Answer: Place 2 inches of drain rock inside the bottom of your galvanized planter.

David writes regarding yeast for plumbing drains: Is this just for toilets? Can you use it for everything you would for Liquid Plumber?

Answer: The yeast solution is used to prevent clogging in drains of all kinds. If you need Liquid Plumber, it's too late.

Rich writes regarding LCD lighting: I, too, like the technology but think you may have gotten the facts wrong ... The power supplies are quite wasteful, and when I looked at a LED display at Home Depot a couple years ago, the power supply around the base of the bulb was quite hot, indicating it was wasting a lot of energy.

You can get much better bang for the buck by buying CFLs. When I looked, they were about $3 each while LED bulbs were in the $40 range.

Answer: LED technology is progressing by the month. Heat generation in the base of the LEDs has been substantially mitigated in the past couple of years. Also, CFLs are loaded with mercury. Too many people just heave them in the trash. Average price today for LEDs ranges from $10 to $20 per bulb.

(Tom Wilmer has been a licensed general contractor since 1986. Contact him with questions or comments at tomwilmer@aol.com.)