DIY, Again

This DIY project was about replacing a screen on a patio door. The screen door was on the bedroom slider. Long ago, Quinn, the gorgeous and sweet long-haired floof who shared our domicile, decided stretching out and scratching his claws on it was wonderful. Quinn was smart. He quickly discovered that we didn’t like it. Therefore, he restrained himself from scratching when we were around. Once in a while, he’d start, then jerk to a stop with a look at us that said, “Oh, sorry, didn’t know you were here. I’ll come back later.”

When Papi, the current ginger-in-residence, joined the household, Quinn thoughtfully taught Papi how to use the screen. Papi then came to understand that plucking on the screen when we were in bed at night and he was outside would bring us to the door and open it for him.

Naturally, all this scratching and plucking damaged the screen. Damaged is such a simple word it feels dishonest. They tore that booger up. So I watched some videos and replaced it. Hardest part was getting the door off the tracks. This was one recalcitrant door. Years ago, my wife said, “Can we take that off?”

“Sure,” I replied, flexing. “Normally you can lift up, clear the bottom tracks, and slide the door away.” As I mansplained this, I attempted to demonstrate. The door would not go. “Sometimes you need to loosen the screws.” I found the screws and loosened them, then tried again.

Wouldn’t clear. I couldn’t even see the bottom wheels so I couldn’t push them up with a flat blade. Frustration set in.

I’d try to remove the screen door every other year or so. Nothing, nothing, nothing. This is the year, I decided. 2023 was the year for freeing the door and replacing the screen.

It was a battle. I completely removed the adjusting screws and lifted. The theory was, raise the door as high as you can, expose the wheels, and use something to press them up into their recess so they clear the track. A putty knife is normally recommended.

It wasn’t working. The putty knife wouldn’t work — couldn’t see the wheels enough to press them in. They just weren’t being exposed, no matter how high I lifted the door, which, of course, was limited by the frame. Eventually, after searching through my possessions, I found a plastic square that’s used for edging when I’m painting. It’s actually a very shallow wedge. By lifting up one end of the door, I made enough space where I could shove the wedge in. Um, wedge it in, as it were. Then I fiercely dragged the door with the wedge under it, gently tugging the door outward, along the track until one part of the bottom wheel assembly cleared the track. Next, I used my putty knife to hold that up while continuing to tug and drag.

Sweaty job, but it worked. After that end was done, I did the other in the opposite direction. With the bottom wheels out of the tracks, removing the door was ease itself.

The screen door was set flat on the patio dining table, spline pulled away, then the screen remains were torn off. Phase one done.

I’d already measured the screen and purchased new screening at Ace Hardware downtown. I could have replaced the entire door rather than the screen. That would have presented some challenges but would have likely been easier and less time consuming. But the current door and wheels were in good shape, so that seemed wasteful. I don’t like to waste. Besides, the new screen material was less than ten dollars compared to some larger price for a completely new door.

Working methodically, I laid out the screen, strung the spline along the groove, and set to work. Beginning on the bottom, I set up the screen to match the opening, providing some overlap, and then inserted some spline on the bottom edge as a place holder. Next, I worked one side, doing the same, pulling the screen tight. So it went, around the entire door. As I worked, I’d pulled the screen tight across the door and push the spline into the groove to hold it until I was satisfied.

My spline tool was a bottle cap remover. Narrow, curved, it wouldn’t damage the spline as a screw driver would. A spline roller would have been ideal but I didn’t have a spline roller and didn’t buy one. I just didn’t want more stuff, especially when I didn’t believe I’d replace another screen. I’m sixty-seven years old and this was my first. I don’t really see another one in my future.

Also, I’d been through my tools recently. In there I found tools for removing car oil filters, oil plugs, and doors for setting points, and gapping spark plugs. As I’d had American, Japanese, and European cars through my lifetime, I’d had to buy tools to account for differences. However, you know how long it’s been since I changed my own oil and filter, or sparkplugs. My last several cars didn’t even have points in that sense, having been replaced by electronic devices. I just didn’t want to add another special tool along them and the Koehler facet tool which I needed to buy to replace their ‘washers’.

So the spline roller was nixed but the bottle cap remover worked well. After I’d done my initial placement of the spline and wanted to push it in deeper, I brought in some diluted dish soap. Dribbling as I went, I lubricated the channel, making it easy to put the spline fully and uniformly into the channel. After that, I trimmed the overlap screen, cleaned off the tracks and window, and re-installed the screen door.

Huzzah. Felt good to get another thing done. On to other matters, like the sprinkler heads.


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