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Installing a storm door

MATERIALS: Storm door unit, wood spacer strips, casing nails

TOOLS: Hacksaw, hammer, level, tape measure, masking tape, marker, drill and bits, screwdrivers

A storm door, as simple as it is, provides many benefits to your home. It can add years to the outward finish and surface of your entry door, it helps to insulate and weatherproof your entry door, it provides additional security, and it improves the appearance of your house, all at the same time. When you buy your storm door, look for a model that has a solid inner core, low-maintenance finish, and a seamless outer shell. You can find a storm door to complement just about any house style. Look closely at your current door, however. If it juts out beyond the trim by even the slightest amount, you’ll have a bit of extra carpentry to do. Take off the trim and replace it with a new layer of wood thick enough so that the door no longer juts out. Nail the trim to the new layer of wood.

Storm door frames allow for a small degree of accommodation to your existing door opening, but it is important to measure the opening carefully. Find the dimensions from the inside edges of the entry door’s brick molding. Subtract approximately 1/4 inch from the width of the opening to arrive at a suitable storm door size. Any difference in opening size can easily be adjusted and compensated for when you install the storm door frame. Most storm doors are made so that you can install the same door with the hinge on either the left or the right. Some manufacturers require you to choose either a left- or right-handed door when you order. When you install your storm door, install it so the hinge is on the same side as those on the entry door. It makes getting through the door a lot easier—especially if you have groceries in your arms.

Storm doors, because of the large amount of glass combined with weather stripping, can cause sunlight to produce considerable heat buildup in the space between the storm door and the entry door. In the winter, this additional heat can be beneficial. But not all storm doors have screens, and the summer heat buildup from a glass storm door can actually damage the plastic trim on entry doors. As a result, some manufacturers recommend avoiding certain types of storm doors. Check with the maker of your entry door to verify it is compatible with the storm door that you have in mind. Ask the salesperson for advice when you buy your new storm door.

1 INSTALLATION VARIES SLIGHTLY FROM ONE MANUFACTURER TO ANOTHER. Some brands require installing the drip cap (the top part of the storm door frame) first; others install the cap later. Install the drip cap now if the directions that came with your door say to. If not, follow the manufacturer’s directions.

2 FIND THE FRAME PIECE, CALLED AZ-CHANNEL BECAUSE IT REMOTELY RESEMBLES A "Z," THAT’S MARKED FOR THE HINGES. Most doors are made so you can hang them with the hinges on either the left or right, using the same channel. Put the channel against the opening on the hinge side, and mark the top with tape.

3 SUBTRACT 1/8 INCH FROM THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE DOORSILL AND THE TOP OF THE OPENING. Draw a cutoff line this distance from the top of the Z-channel. If the sill slants, follow the manufacturer's directions. Cut along the line with a hacksaw.

4 POSITION THE CHANNEL AGAINST THE HINGE SIDE OF THE DOOR so that it extends about 1/8 inch above the top of the door, (This ensures that when closing, the top of the door will clear the drip cap.) Screw the Z-channel to the door hinges, which usually come installed on the door.

5 SET THE DOOR IN THE DOORWAY WITH THE Z-CHANNEL TIGHT AGAINST THE TOP. Check with a level to make sure it’s plumb. Have a helper drive a couple of screws to hold the channel; check to make sure that the door opens and closes freely. Adjust if necessary, and install the remaining screws.

6 INSTALL THE DRIP CAP, IF YOU HAVEN’T YET. Position it so that there’s an even 1/8-inch gap between it and the top of the door. If the door seats against the weather stripping and closes without hitting the drip cap, drive the remaining screws. If not, make the necessary adjustments before driving the screws.

7 CUT THE LATCH-SIDE Z-CHANNEL AS IN STEP 3. Put it in the opening, tight against the drip cap. Adjust it so there’s a gap between the channel and the door’s edge; the amount varies between brands. Screw it in place. For a gap of more than 1/4 inch, the directions may require you to cut a filler strip to close it.

8 ATTACH THE SWEEP TO THE DOOR’S BOTTOM. A sweep is either a wide strip or a U-channel with weather stripping across the bottom. Read your door’s directions carefully: Some require installation of the strip before you hang the door. Position the sweep so its weather stripping touches the sill; screw it in place.

9 MOUNT THE DOOR HANDLE FOLLOWING THE MANUFACTURER’S DIRECTIONS. Depending on the model, the holes may be predrilled, or you may have to drill them yourself. Mount a hydraulic door closer on the door. Most are adjustable so that you can control how quickly the door closes. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to make any adjustments.

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