Sliding Screen Door Problems and How to Fix Them

Lead Image
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 35-50
What You'll Need
Spline roller
Razor blade/utility knife

It can be very frustrating when the sliding screen door to your patio doesn't work properly. When it sticks, drags, or consistently falls off, many homeowners voice their frustration by simply removing it and choosing to do without. This, of course, isn't the best option. The best solution is to get your sliding screen door to operate properly. There are a few common problems that result in the majority of people's frustration, and most of these are quite simple to fix.

Bad Rollers

The most common problem is that the rollers are bad. Generally, the rollers in your patio screen are made of inexpensive lightweight plastic. This keeps the manufacturing costs down, but doesn't make them very durable. In climates that have large temperature swings, the plastic can become brittle and break. In some cases, a twig or a stone may have gotten caught in the track, causing the roller to jamb and break. Regardless of the cause, if your roller is broken, then you are dragging the door open instead of allowing it to roll open as it was designed. This can be frustrating and can lead to all of the circumstances mentioned above, such as the door getting stuck or falling out.

Fortunately, these rollers are quite simple and inexpensive to replace. Begin by removing the sliding screen. Take a look at the top and bottom and remove the rollers from each location. You should find that they come out quite easily with a screwdriver. There are many different styles of brackets that the rollers come attached to. These are generally specific to the manufacturer of the door. When you go to the home improvement store to buy new rollers, make sure you take the old ones with you so you can match them correctly. Install the new rollers in the same way that you removed the old ones and you should find that the door operates much smoother.

Your Door is too Short

In some instances, the sliding screen door will fall out repeatedly because it is too small. If it fits too loosely in the tracks, any vertical movement of the door will cause it to come unseated and it will fall. Again, this is a fairly simple problem to fix. Almost all sliding patio doors are adjustable when it comes to height.

You should find the top and bottom rails of the door are attached with two screws that are located in slots about one inch long. Simply loosen those screws, without taking them all the way out, and extend the length of the door by sliding the slots along the screw. Once you've increased the length enough to allow the door to fit properly, re-tighten the screws. You can gain as much as 1 1/2" of height from your door by making this simple adjustment.

Damaged or Stretched Screen

Another common frustration with sliding patio screen doors is with the screen itself. If you have pets that are constantly pushing at the door, or kids who mistakenly walk through it, then you realize that having a screen door with the screen pushed out of it isn't really very helpful. While there are service shops where you can take the door to get the screen repaired, it may be worth it to you to make a minimal investment and purchase the tools necessary to fix it yourself. It isn't too difficult, and the tools are less than what you would pay for one repair job. You may already have some of the tools lying around the house.

If the screening material itself is not damaged, you can reuse it. Begin by removing the spline (the black rubber material that holds the screen cloth into the frame). When you have it out, lay the screen material back over the frame and then put the spline back in over the top of the screen. You can use a flat-headed screwdriver to remove the spline. While you can also use the screwdriver to re-install the spline, it's not recommended. If you make one small slip, the screwdriver will punch a hole in your screen. The best and safest way to install spline is with a spline roller. They are very inexpensive and should be available at any hardware store.

If you need to replace the screen because the cloth itself is damaged, make sure you buy enough material to cover the entire opening. Screening is generally sold in rolls and you should be able to get a roll fairly close to the size of your door. Begin by removing all of the old spline and screen. The new screen is installed the same way as the repaired screen would be, but with one additional step. The excess screening material must be cut away from the outside of the frame after the spline has been installed. This is best done with a razor blade or a very sharp utility knife. Take care to go slowly and make sure that you don't damage your new screen with the cutting tool.

As far as spline goes, many times it can be re-used. If, however, it appears brittle or is crumbling when you remove it, then it should be replaced. You can buy a new spline at the hardware store in rolls. Keep in mind that there are several different diameters, so you should take a piece of the old spline to the store with you to ensure that you get the right one.

By arming yourself with a basic knowledge of how your sliding patio screen door operates, you can reduce the amount of frustration that it causes you. Remember that it is not a mechanically complex item, so the solutions to fix problems should never be that complex either. Take the time to look at it closely, and you should be able to clearly diagnose the problem and then take the appropriate steps to solve it.