Installing a Storm Door
Assuming your exterior door is standard 80 inches tall and 3 feet wide or narrower, you can choose standard-size prehung storm doors. A combination storm door features interchangeable glass panels for winter and screen panels for summer. Some have both upper and lower interchangeable panels. These maximize solar gain during the winter and allow ventilation during the summer. Others have solid lower panels, which are more practical if you have children and/or animals that constantly push against and damage the lower screen unit.
Don’t be too frugal when it comes to doors that handle a lot of traffic. Only the highest-quality door will withstand children running in and out, and adults carrying grocery bags in both arms. A storm/screen security door has an attractive grate and a sturdy lock, so you can leave the door open to summer breezes. A combination door typically attaches to the brick molding. Measure the inside dimensions of the molding and purchase a door designed to fit.
Tools: Hacksaw, drill, screwdriver or screwdriver bit, caulking gun, hammer, level, and tape measure.
1. Temporarily attach the drip cap. Unpack all the parts and remove the storm and screen panels from the door. Position the drip cap in the center of the top brick molding with the fuzzy gasket pointing out. Drill pilot holes and attach the drip cap with two screws.
2. Cut the hinge flange. Make sure you know which side of the hinge flange (also called a Z-bar) is up. Measure the opening height on the hinge side, from the bottom of the drip cap to the door sill. Set the hinge flange on a scrap of wood and cut it to the measured length, minus 1/8 inch.
3. Attach top of the hinge flange. Apply a bead of caulk to the back of the hinge flange. Have a helper hold the door in position while you work. Align the hinge flange according to the manufacturer’s directions. At the top screw hole, drill a pilot hole and drive a screw.
4. Plumb and attach the door. Check that the hinge flange is plumb. If it is not, loosen the top screw to reposition the flange. Drill pilot holes and drive screws to attach the door.
5. Install the drip cap. Remove the drip cap. Apply a bead of latex/silicone caulk to its back and reinstall it so that the gap between the top of the door and the cap is even. Drill pilot holes and drive the screws.
6. Install the latching flange. Install the storm or screen panels in the door. Check that the door swings freely. Measure, cut, caulk, and install the latching flange (or Z-bar) so that the gap between the door and the flange is even.
7. Install the sweep. Peel off any protective film from the bottom of the door and the sweep. Slide the rubber gasket onto the bottom of the sweep. Slip the sweep onto the bottom of the door. Slowly close the door and adjust the position of the sweep so it seals at the sill without binding. Drive screws to secure the sweep.
8. Install and adjust the latch. Assemble and install the latch as instructed by the manufacturer. If the latch does not close easily and latch snugly, loosen the screws and adjust the latching pin.
9. Install the closer. Install and adjust the pneumatic door closer. Hold the closer in place and drill holes in the door (some units will have predrilled holes). Fasten the closer to the door and mark for the bracket that attaches to the stop. Drill holes and fasten the bracket in place.
Storm/Screen Door Options - Those flimsy aluminum combination doors of yesteryear are still sold, but more substantial units are available. A door with a foam or wood core is difficult to dent. Scratch-resistant surfaces withstand the attentions of pets wanting to come in. Better doors have gaskets that seal storm sashes tight to keep out the cold. Many sweeps have rubber flanges at the bottom that seal just like a standard door threshold.
Framing for a Door
Doors require special framing to provide structural support to the floor or roof above, and a sturdy framework to anchor the door in place. The door manufacturer will specify the rough opening needed. Measure and assemble carefully so the door will fit. The framing for a door consists of a header that’s supported by king studs and jack studs on both sides of the door. These studs transfer the weight of the home’s structure to the sole plate below. Headers are built from two 2x8s, 2x10s, or 2x12s that sandwich a 1/2 inch-thick piece of plywood. Windows have a similar framing, but they also have cripple studs below to support the windowsill.
If you are framing and installing a new exterior door (rather than replacing an existing door), consult with your local building department. They may require you to apply for a permit and have the installation inspected. Framing for a sliding door is shown here; the framing for a standard hinged door is similar. The opening for a hinged door may have only one cripple stud above the header because the opening is narrower. If you are working on an existing wall (rather than a new addition), first remove the drywall or plaster from the area where the door will go, then remove the exterior siding. If you find any electrical or plumbing lines, hire a pro to have them moved.
Before you remove more than one stud, provide temporary support for the ceiling, or you may damage your home. Build a temporary stud wall and wedge it under the ceiling, less than 2 feet from the wall that is being demolished. Keep the temporary wall in place until the new framing is completed. Usually, 2x4s are used for framing, but some exterior walls use 2x6s to allow for extra insulation. If you use wood studs, check that the lumber is straight and free of cracks. “Construction-grade” is often good enough, but “No. 2” or better lumber is straighter and stronger, and well worth the small extra cost. Assemble the framing. Metal studs are economical and perfectly straight. While they are less pleasant to work with than wood, it takes only an hour or so of practice to learn to install them.