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Replacing lost porthole screens on an Ingrid!

This blog entry is a way of saying thanks to all the Ingrid readers and owners of other older boats.

This is a gift.

Necessity is the mother of invention!

If any of you have boats that have missing porthole screens, we have found a way to replace them that is effective, aesthetic, and inexpensive.  It uses readily available materials to ‘make’ a new screen.

We have spent five years looking all over the net and through old boat yards, trying to find five missing screens for our portholes.  A porthole without a screen looks like this.

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We call these bug holes … and in the tropics, all you can do is shut it to keep out the bugs.

After looking at this hole for two years … I figured out the solution.

The necessary supplies for this project are as follows:

(1) non-metalic screen material (Home Depot)

(2) wax paper (commercial quality–like Reynolds Wrap Wax Paper (generally used for baking or crafts’ projects)

(3) one actual screen from your boat–(this will become your template)

(4) razor knife for trimming

(5)  one tube DAP black silicon caulk

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The process uses a method similar to how the hoops that are used for embroidery.  You use the old porthole screen as the inner hoop.  (Ask someone who sews, if you have never seen embroidery hoops.)

First lay out the new screen material as follows.  Lay down a piece of screen material cut into a simple rectangle.  Then lay a piece of wax paper  of same size.  Finally, put the old screen down on top, so it is on the waxed paper.

This shows how much screen and waxed paper to cut to fit screen.  Image does not show waxed paper.  Cut same size as screen material and place between old screen and new cut screen material.

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Pick up the entire screen assembly (screen, wax paper, and template); then, simply fit it into the open porthole that has no screen.  The bulk of the materials will hold it in place.  Do this from the inside of the boat.  Adjust it so it sits where you want the screen to be.

It will look like this.  The old screen is wedged into the opening by the bulk of the waxed paper and new screen material.  It will stay in place as you use the silicon.  It is tight but you can still adjust it to position the ‘new’ screen.

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Take the caulk, insert into caulk gun and go outside.  Use the caulk gun to apply the DAP silicon to the corners of the ‘new’ screen.  Take your time here because the final “look” of the finished product will depend on how steady your hand is and how well you can lay down a bead.  BUT, if you mess up, do not despair, as the dry silicon can be pried off the bronze porthole with a pocket knife, and you can just try again.

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Finished bead will look somewhat like this depending on your patience and skills with the caulk gun.  Remember, the bead has to have enough calk to grab the screen material and to adhere to the brass housing around the new screen.

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Go back inside the boat.  Next part is a little tricky.  Feel silicon bead occasionally.  At the proper moment of hardness, but before completely set, you can remove the old screen, which will leave the new screen and the wax paper in the porthole.  Carefully, remove the waxed paper from the back of the ‘new’ screen.  All that is now left is the bead of silicon on the outside and the untrimmed screen material.

Let it cure.  A few hours is fine.

Take a razor knife and trim the excess against the brass porthole housing.  Trim to your aesthetic satisfaction.

Here is the original screen on a porthole.

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Here is the replacement screen.

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Regarding durability:  We have had the screens in place for three months in the tropics.  They are as tight and good as day one.  We have smashed bugs against them.  No damage.  We have taken waves over the gunnels and had seawater running over the closed hatches, including the screens.  No damage.  We have even had water over an open screen (don’t ask).  No damage to screen, just wet everywhere.

From the dock, the deck, or inside of the boat, you will not notice that you have fixed them.  They just look more or less the same as the originals.  At a fraction of the cost and headache.

Let me know if you use this info and find it helpful.

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