Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 57 - Repairing a Broken Screen

I have never repaired a broken screen. Now, I realize this "I have never..." event can easily be seen as dull and unimaginative, but myeffort to fix a screen for the first time serves several purposes.First, when planning my "I have never..." journey I decided I wantedto start working more with my hands. As someone with little-to-noexperience with such skills, I wanted to start with a relativelysimple project during my "I have never..." journey. Given my frontdoor had a broken screen insert since I bought the home, this littleproject served to eliminate a long standing point of procrastinationin my home maintenance. Second, today was a hot, rainy, andunbelievably humid day I knew would cause our house, which has nocentral air, to heat up like an oven. As such, fixing the screen onthe front door would provide some much needed circulation as thingscooled down tonight. Finally, fixing the broken screen on my frontdoor provided a simple "I have never..." event following a very fullweekend. In turn, I decided this morning today would be the day Iwould fix a screen for the first time in my life, which set intomotion my new experience for the day.

My effort to repair a screen began with a post-workday visit to anearby hardware store to put up the supplies I thought I would need tocomplete the project. Given the idea of replacing a screen seemedsimple enough, I entered the store with no preplanned list ofmaterials and limited knowledge about what the replacement processentailed. Following a brief discussion with a representative in thestore, I loaded up on a roll of screen, tubing to hold the screen inplace, and a small tool designed specifically for the process. With mymaterials in hand, I headed to the front of the store, made mypurchase, and headed home to get the screen replacement processunderway.

Upon arriving home I was struck with a wall of stale, humid airhanging inside the house. As I took a few brief actions to get myselfprepared for my project my skin turned clammy and sweat started tobead at my brow. It was hot and uncomfortable, and I knew the only wayI would be able to address the oppressive conditions would be to getthe evening air flowing through the house. Needless to say, if therewas a day the screen door project needed to be completed, today wasthe day.

The setup
Resolved to fix the screen, I hastily set up a work station in mybasement using a few chairs as supports for the now horizontal doorand set to work with some simple tools. I began with an assessment ofthe screen, noticing the majority of the screen running along thebottom of the door had been pulled out of the wooden window frameresting in the interior of the door. In turn, I began slowly prying upthe small piece of wood intended to hold the screen in place. Withcareful twists of a flathead screwdriver, I worked the piece of woodloose until I could remove it entirely. Once it was removed, I took alook at the gnarled edge of the metal mesh surface. I was surprised tofind the end of the material was largely intact and maintained a highdegree of elasticity. These findings prompted me to test the strengthof the material by stretching it downward toward the base of the door.The more I tested the give in the screen, the more I realized thematerial maintained enough length to cover the expanse of the window.I worked over the screen a little more before I paused to think aboutmy approach. “Do I try to replace the whole screen or work with theexisting material?” I thought as I stared at the pieced apart doorlying in front of me. After a few moments of contemplation I came tothe conclusion that attempting to work with the existing screen madethe most sense, which initiated my planning efforts for reattachingthe wire mesh to the wooden window frame.

Getting to work
A quick review of the previous method used for attaching the screenrevealed no rope or tubing was used to hold the screen in placepreviously. This discovery caused me to investigate the staplesrunning through the strip of wood I had removed minutes earlier, whichshowed the screen was previously held by placement between the twopieces of wood as the staples we applied. Given the age of the door,it appeared this approach of piercing the screen with the staplesworked for some time. As such, I determined I would use a similarapproach to reattach the screen; however, I decided I would place aseries of staples through the screen prior to replacing the wood stripon the window frame, thus providing duplicate points of attachmentthrough the wire mesh. Although I realized this was likely not apermanent fix for the screen, I knew the approach would likely save metime, save me money, and act as a fix for the screen for severalyears. Settled on my method, I lined up my tools and began to reattachthe screen.

Over the next few minutes I stretched sections of the screen tight andplaced staples along the edge of the material as it rested over thewood surface. The process moved quickly as I found a rhythm in myapproach, and I was pleasantly surprised as I moved closer to oppositeedge of the window frame. With the screen tightening up in an evenpattern as approached the end of the material, I placed two finalstaples nearest the corners of the screen and stepped back from mywork. Although it was clear the screen was worn with age, the surfaceof the material seemed tight over the opening in the door. To supportthis observation I gave the screen a few taps to test its strength andfound that the screen was secured tightly to the wooden door.Satisfied the screen would hold, I began preparing to reattach thestrip of wood that act as the cap on the window frame. I assessed thedurability of the old steel staples sticking out of the back of thenarrow stretch of wood before rotating the piece of wood and lining itup over the top of the reconnected screen. With gentle taps of ahammer I slowly drove the piece of wood back into its place along theedge of the window. Eventually, the wooden strip fit tightly againstthe door, leading me to run my hand along the reconstructed windowframe in a final check of my work. With everything checking out, Ilifted the screen door and set it on the ground against the basementwall. After several years of procrastination my screen door wasfinally fixed and ready to let in the cool evening air after a hotsummer day.

Open air!
After a brief evaluation of my work, I carried the screen panelupstairs and swung open the front door of my house. I carefully removethe glass panel occupying the space the screen would soon rest andreplaced it with the newly repaired screen panel. Upon locking thepanel in place I stepped back from the door and took a moment to feelthe evening breeze rolling into the house. Delighted by the change inthe environment, my dogs Buddy and Baxter immediately ran to the doorand peered out into the front lawn. I took a seat on the floor next tothem as we relaxed in the noticeably cooler pocket of air rushingthrough the screen. In that moment I knew my effort to repair thescreen, as dull and unimaginative as it may be, was a great choice fortoday’s “I have never…” event. As my first effort to work with myhands during the journey, I’m pleased with the results and more thanpleased with the still cooling temperature in my home made possible bymy repair efforts. Sure, this was a simple task, but I learned a newprocess, gained experience with a previously foreign task, andimproved the comfort of my home. All in all, I think those takeawaysmake this experience a success. Now I just need to figure out my next“I have never…” project that will put my hands to work.

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