Our Roadtrek came with aluminum framed screens for the side cargo door windows and the big rear door window. They were made by Bug Barrier, an Ohio company that went defunct a few years ago. They made screens for many makes of Class Bs. These screens are screwed to the inside frames of the original vehicle windows and had a zipped flap to access the latch (or latches for the rear window) to open and close the window.
After 19 years of use our aluminum screens had a few repairs and some dog toenail marks from the time Abby, the Poodle, spotted a squirrel at eye level on the tree outside the window. Another window screen showed the repeated marks of Tate's enthusiastic pawing at the window when he spotted us returning to the camper. And the zippered sections to open the window were soiled. There were a few tears in the screen where it joined the frame, which were troublesome in mosquito infested campsites.
It was time to do something about it. We were worried that an excited dog would leave toenail marks in new screens, so we went on the search for “pet proof screens”. It turns out that there were many sellers. And it is even available in colors! We got a piece big enough for a sliding screen door – in black. Black is the easiest to see through and the gray zipper panels will look okay on black. But if you really want lime green…
We recently had some window tint added to the screened windows and the screens had to be removed. So now was time do the screen replacement. We ordered the “pet screen”, measured the screens installed so we could make a jig to hold them in correct alignment when the new screens were installed.
The zipper flaps were easily removed with thread ripper through the stitching that holds them in the screen. The flaps all cleaned up nicely with some water and dish soap. The zippers were all still in excellent condition.
We wanted to complete one window before we dismantled the others. Cut the screen about two inches bigger all around, but make the opening for the flap as small as possible (five inches wide x six high in ours.)
We used pieces of duct tape to hold the flap in place for sewing. Pins leave permanent holes in the flap material. We were concerned that sewing the flap into the screen would be difficult, but this heavy duty fiberglass “pet screen” was easy to sew. Look carefully at the original screen so you cut away only the notch that is needed at the bottom of the flap.
We used a piece of plywood and some screws to hold the metal frame in the correct shape. The metal frame will change shape easily with no screen in place. Measure carefully!
You will have to open the ends of the spline track in the metal frame that were squeezed shut and also open the slot in the frame to grip the bottom of the flap. Make sure you have the zippers facing down, since the spline is on the rear, and the zipper pull must be on the in side.) We were pleasantly surprised to find that we did not have to change the size of the spline because of the heavy duty screens. The original 0.125″ spline worked.
We started installing the spline at one side of the flap and worked our way around the frame. A special spline tool has a blunt wheel on one end for inserting and a grooved wheel on the other end for compressing. Screen tools are available inexpensively at hardware stores. This job was much easier than re-screening the rear side windows with their flimsy screens and special size spline. The pet screen seems to be bombproof. The screen nicely pulled tight in the process with no special effort on our part. We learned to put a piece of the old spline into the opposite side of the flap to keep the screen from pulling to the side while running the spline.
Don't forget to squeeze the spline track closed at the end like the original. The original had a few drops of glue on the spline in several places. We don't know if it is needed, but we thought Bug Barrier must know something we didn't and added a few drops of Crystal cement also. We then trimmed the excess screen material around the edges.
The result looked good. But would they fit?
We took the first screen and installed it in the Roadtrek to test. it Hey, this looks good – better than our original metal screens. So we tackled the other two windows. It went quite smoothly. We thought it would be a harder job than it actually turned out to be, about five hours.
So if your screens have seen better days (or you need to dog proof them), here is a good project. It will make your camper look better and provide better mosquito protection. And it did not take long. We put the last screen in this morning and hit the road two hours later.