Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to make wood window screens 2: Measuring

In my first post on this topic here, I covered materials and tools needed to make wooden window screens. In this post, I will show how to measure the window, to determine the size of the screen, and thus the amount of lumber needed. I'm going to have to use some jargon for window parts, but will try to show with photos what is going on, so that you don't have to know the names of the parts. I didn't know the names when I did the work, I only learned them since then, because I'm trying to write about it.

In any case, here is the window I am looking to measure for a screen, first, with the screen installed. Note that my screen covers only the bottom half of the window. There are pros and cons to having half-size screens, but since that is what we inherited, that is what we decided to replicate.

And now, a shot of the same window, without a screen or storm. Look at the beautifully shiny, wavy glass!

In any case, there are four or five basic measurements to make.

Measurement number one: Take the bottom measurement of the screen, horizontally from the inside of the trim that surrounds the window (where the end of my measuring tape is here), along the sill, to the same spot on the other side of the window:

Measurement number two: Take the same measurement for what will be the top of the screen, horizontally across the window at its middle, where the two window sashes meet--what is called the "meeting rails." With an old house, it's worth measuring both top and bottom, because they might differ. So then, since your screens will be (more-or-less) square, use the smaller of the top and bottom measurements as the final measurement for the width of the screen.

Here is the same measurement, just from another angle:

Measurement number three and four:  Measure the height of the screen, vertically, on both the left and right sides of the window (because, again, with an old house, the two sides might differ). You want to measure from the top of the meeting rails (where my left index finger is pinched on the top of the measuring tape here), down to the top of the sill (where the thumb of my right hand is):

This time, take an average of the two vertical measurements, and use that as the final measurement for the height of the screen. You don't want it to be too high or too low, so an average is probably best.

Measurement number five is the depth of the frame for the screen.

If you have existing wooden storms or screens, measure the depth of the lumber used for the frame and just use that size. Otherwise, you need to figure out what your screen will rest against (usually against what is called the "blind stop"--that is, the little strip of wood inside the casing that keeps the outer window from falling out onto the porch).

In the photos above, the ugly black weatherstripping is stuck to the outside of the stops on all four sides of the window. My storms snug up against the weatherstripping. But every window seems to be made a bit differently. Not a surprise -- we're talking pre- or early-industrial age here. None of the manuals I've consulted show windows that are made quite like mine, so I assume yours too might be slightly different. But every double hung window has a "blind stop" that holds the sash in place, so it can run up and down inside the frame without falling out. The outside of the stop is most likely what the storm or screen would be placed up against.

You need to measure the depth of your trim or casing from the outer edge of the blind stop to the outer edge of the trim or casing, so that the screen, when it is put in place, will be flush with the casing. I'll take a couple photos of the storm that's in place now, to illustrate. I can't take a photo of the screen in place--it's winter ...

Bottom line is, as you can see, the face of the storm is flush with the face of the casing. You want the screen to be the right depth to end up flush, as this storm is.

And that's how to measure. 

In the next post, here, I will show the model I'm using for construction. To go straight to construction, go here.

For the entire series on making wooden window screens, click on the category "How to Make Wood Window Screens Series", in the Topics list along the right-hand side of the home page. There is also now an index tab at the top of the home page, listing all the posts in sequential order, with a link to each one.


  1. Thanks for showing us the things we need to consider to get the proper measurements for our window project. Some people may think that just getting the actual length and width of the window is enough, but in reality, you have to consider a lot of dimensions, especially if you want the more stylish ones.

  2. I've just installed iStripper, so I can watch the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.

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