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The window in my studio apartment is more than 40″ wide; not even the largest extendable screens I’ve found in hardware stores and online extended far enough to fit. I’ve kept the window open just as far as necessary for almost two months, and the weather’s only getting warmer. When he saw all the bug bites I’d gotten after a couple of unseasonably warm nights, my amazing dad put together a custom screen kit. He cut the four pieces of frame to size and included corner connectors, slide-in corner springs, lift tabs, a roll of fiberglass screen, serrated spline, and a spline roller tool.
All this, he rolled into a mailing tube almost as tall as I am and covered in the Met museum store logo; transporting it home on the subway, knowing no one would ever guess what was really inside, felt a little like fleeing a heist in a terrible disguise. And when I unrolled the loot at home, I imagined myself a spy stationed behind enemy lines, opening a dead letter box—or better yet—a package of inconspicuous materials that only I’d know how to assemble into some sort of escape vehicle, like a hang glider I’d use to fly safely back to home base.
I connected all four corners of the screen (then disconnected and reconnected two on one side so I could slide in the corner springs). Then I taped the frame to the floor to stabilize it. I trimmed screen from the roll to size, and then taped the screen to the frame and the floor on two adjacent sides. On the opposite two sides, I rolled the spline roller along the spline, over the edge of the screen, pressing both down into the groove in the frame. The serrated, rubbery plastic spline squeezes into the groove and holds the screen edge snug. Then I taped down the two completed sides and splined the other two. (I added lift tabs afterward, fitting them into the groove on the bottom side of the frame and re-splining over them.)
The 5/16″ screen frame fits into a channel on the outside of the window frame; the corner springs on one side make it easy to slide both sides of the screen in without bending the frame, and they hold the screen flat and snug while allowing it to glide up and down in the channel. Though the screen doesn’t stay up on its own, it’s easy to lift, opening the window for access to the fire escape.
It took about two hours to complete and install the screen, including the time I spent reading the instructions, measuring, clearing enough space to film the assembly video, re-reading the instructions, re-re-reading the instructions, eating an apple with peanut butter, and de-splining and re-splining a couple of times as I got the hang of the roller tool.
Thanks to my dad, I have a whole summer of muggy, dusty breezes and Brooklyn street noise ahead of me—insect-free!