Step 1: Overview
You no longer have to put up with a
rusty old storm door that bangs shut
every time the kids go out. Modern
storm doors are stronger, smoother and a heck
of a lot more handsome than the doors we grew
up with. In fact, installing a new one is one of
the least expensive ways to dress up an entry.
Replacing an old one is easier than you
might think. Manufacturers have made installation
more DIY friendly by providing standard
sizes that'll fit almost any door opening
and simpler installation kits. Still, you'll find
some sticking points. The following step-by-step
directions walk you through some tricks
and techniques you won't find in any instruction
If you have a hacksaw, screw gun, a short
level and a pair of side cutters and two to three
hours, you're on your way to saving the cost of a professional installation.
Replacing an old storm door or installing a
new one is a perfect Saturday morning project,
even if you have limited carpentry skills.
Step 2: Selecting the door
To find the size of the storm door you
need, simply measure the height and
width of the main door. Most front entry
doors are 36 in.
wide and require a
36-in. storm door.
For this article, we
chose a “full-view”
storm door. The
one we show has
and glass panels
that you change
The other common type, a “ventilating”
storm door, has glass panels that slide
open or closed over the screen, much like
a double-hung window.
Nearly every storm door sold is
reversible. That is, you can install it with
the hinge on either side. The manufacturer's
directions tell you how to do it.
When you buy it, you don't have to specify
which way the door must swing.
mount storm doors
to the exterior door
trim using “Z-bars.”
The hinge-side Z-bar
may already be
screwed to the door
(ours was), or you may have to mount it once you determine
the door swing direction. On some
doors, you'll also have to drill holes for
Step 3: Getting started
Begin the project by folding open the
box and removing the glass storm panel.
Set it and the screen panel in a safe place
out of the wind. Then check for damaged
or missing parts by comparing the
contents with the parts list in the
instruction manual. (Ours had been
returned, repackaged and sold as new.
One of the parts had already been cut to
length and the mounting screws were
missing.) Use the cardboard as a work
surface to prevent scratching the parts
while you work on the door. Your door may come with a protective
plastic film. Only peel off those areas
needed for installing hardware during
way the door will be protected from
scratches. After installation is
complete, peel away the plastic.
Determine the door swing. In
general, hinge the storm door on the
same side as the main door. However,
consider these exceptions:
- Adjoining walls. If there's an adjoining
wall or rail, it's best to have the door
swing against it;
otherwise entry can
be awkward, especially
if you're carrying
- Electrical. Will
the door open
against any light fixtures?
doorbell or light
switch wind up on
the latch side where
- Wind. If there's a strong prevailing
wind, it's best to have the door hinge side
face the wind direction. That way, sudden
gusts can't fling it open and break it.
Why a storm door?
A traditional storm door was a
real workhorse. It protected the
handsome but vulnerable wooden
main door from harsh weather
and helped to insulate it.
Today's better insulated and
protected main doors have little
need for a storm door and are
often eliminated from new
homes, showing off fancy front
doors. However, the “full-view”
storm door (like the one we're
installing here) still showcases
the main door and, when
screened, allows you to take
advantage of those cooling
summer breezes too.
Step 4: Out with the old storm door
Taking off an old aluminum door is usually
just a case of unscrewing the mounting
screws on the door, closer and safety
chain. But sometimes there's caulk
around the frame. You can usually cut
through the caulk with a utility knife.
But worse yet, you could find old caulk
between the frame and the door casing.
If so, you'll have to pry the frame away
with an old chisel and scrape the trim
surfaces clean. A heat gun may help soften the caulk. Get rid of an old door by
throwing the glass panel in the trash, and
then cut up the aluminum frame and
door with a circular saw and a carbide-tipped
blade. Toss the pieces into the
Wooden storm doors generally have
hinges that are mortised (notched into
the wood) and screwed to the door casing.
Don't worry about the hinge or latch
recesses. When you install your new
storm door, they'll be hidden behind the
new door frame.
Step 5: Prep the opening
Storm doors hang from the door trim,
technically called “exterior casing.” If the
door has never had a storm door (as in
our situation), you may have to extend
the trim between the door and a sidelight
(Photo 2). This is the most difficult
situation you're likely to encounter. You
have to rip a new trim piece to match the
thickness of the other trim (usually 1-1/8
If your entry
door trim needs
paint, do it now.
It's a pain in the
around a new
door, and you'll
have a crisper-looking
Manufacturers make storm doors a
bit narrower than standard openings to
make sure they'll fit. If your opening is
typical, you'll have to “fur out” the sides
to center the storm door in the opening. You'll nearly always need to install at
least one 1/4-in. furring strip (screen molding usually works fine) on the
hinge side (Photo 6) and possibly even
have to add another one to the latch side
(Photo 11). To figure this out, measure
the exact width of the opening, that is, the
distance between the inside edges of the
trim. (Measure at the middle, top and
bottom.) The manufacturer's instructions
will usually list the minimum width
required. Subtract that width from your
measurement and make the furring strip
thickness along the hinge side about half
Back to Top
Step 6: Install the door
It's important to mount the door tightly
to the hinge-side trim. Pry against the
latch side to make sure it snugs up tight
Follow the photos with your instructions
for the rest of the installation steps.
Door latch and Z-bar systems vary.
Cutting the latch-side Z-bar is a bit fussy.
The idea is to center it on the latch and
lock (Photo 10). Observe where it strikes
the sill and cut the bottom at an angle that
matches the sill. Then cut the top so it fits
against the top Z-bar. Don't worry if the
latch and lock bolt end up a bit off-center,
as long as they work smoothly.
You may need to chisel out the latch or
deadbolt pocket as we show (Photo 11).
It all depends on the door latch style.
After installing the door sweep and
closers, adjust the closer tension. Begin
with the window panel rather than the
screen in place. The closers should be set
with the door at its heaviest. You may
want to reset a gentler setting for the
Finally, it's a good idea to save the
boxes for the window and screen panel
for off-season storage. Under a bed is a
great safe storage location.
Dealing With Warped Doors
Storm doors often appear to
be warped because they don't
rest evenly against the weatherstripping
at all corners.
However, it's usually the entry
door trim that's a bit out of
whack. Small gaps may disappear
when you install the door
closers, especially if your door
comes with one for the top
and one for the bottom. If that
doesn't do the trick, try prying
out the Z-bar slightly and slip
in a shim to close the gap.
Bigger gaps call for more
drastic measures. First loosen
all the Z-bar screws and
remove the screws at opposite
corners of the door. Then
slip a shim behind the corner
screws, opposite the gap.
Tighten the corner screws to
see if the gap closes. Try varying
sizes of shims until the
door closes well. Then slip in
progressively smaller shims
behind the rest of the screws
as you tighten them to taper
the gap between the Z-bar
and the door casing. Cut off
the shims, then caulk the gap
and paint it to match.