Size Up Your Leaky Door
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Photo 1: Tighten the hinges
Lift the door by the doorknob to check for loose hinges. If the door moves upward, tighten the top hinge screws. That might solve the draft problem!
Feeling a winter chill? If you run your hand around the perimeter of your closed door and feel a cool draft, your weatherstripping is probably worn, cracked or deformed.
Maintaining an airtight seal on your doors is essential for stopping cold drafts and keeping your home comfortable. Replacing weatherstripping on newer doors is fairly easy. You can usually slide out the old weatherstripping and push or slide new vinyl or foam into the grooves in the door or the surrounding frame. The biggest hassle is finding replacement weatherstripping that matches. However, older doors were made without integral weatherstripping and it must be added.
Installing new weatherstripping on older doors (and doors for which you can't find replacement weatherstripping) is fairly easy, and we'll show you how to do it in this article. Weatherstripping kits are available at most full service hardware stores and home centers. They include two side strips, a top strip and fasteners.
We decided not to replace the old, worn bronze weatherstripping on our door with new bronze because the project is difficult, especially around the latch plates. (You can still find several types of replacement bronze at full-service hardware stores.) The wrapped foam type shown here is easier to install and more effective. We later painted the wood flange to blend with the frame. Before you go out to buy your materials, check the door to make sure the draft isn't caused by loose hinge screws (Photo 1). If the screws no longer bite, you may have to glue wood plugs in the holes and re-drive the screws.
Common weatherstripping types
How to Buy Weatherstripping
You can usually find the types of weatherstripping shown here at well-stocked hardware stores and home centers. Many other types are available, but you'll probably have to order them from a catalog. Ask to see a catalog at your local hardware store and order through the store if possible.
We like the wrapped foam type (A and B below and shown in our story). It's durable, retains its shape, withstands abrasions and conforms to a wide range of gaps. The metal flange with slots for screws (B) is a bit more adjustable than the nail-on wood flange type (A). The vinyl or silicone bulb type (C) won't cover wide gaps as well as wrapped foam, but it has a smaller profile with a cleaner look.
Finding new weatherstripping to match the
exact profile of the old can be difficult. If you know the door manufacturer or where the door was purchased, try there first. (Check the door and frame for a label.) Otherwise, call a local door or window repair service. (Look under “Doors, Repair” or “Windows, Repair” in your Yellow Pages or online.) It may stock the materials or tell you where to call. Replacement kits for the wrapped foam and magnetic (for steel doors) types are sometimes available at hardware stores and home centers.
Cut and Nail the Weatherstripping
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Photo 2: Measure the jamb
Close the door and measure the top of the frame from side to side. Mark the length on the short section of your purchased weatherstripping with a clear, sharp line.
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Photo 3: Cut the top piece
Cut the foam part of the weatherstripping with a sharp scissors. Then cut the wood flange with a hacksaw or other fine-tooth saw.
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Photo 4: Nail the top piece
Tap 1-1/2 in. nails into the wood flange and position the weatherstripping so the entire length of the foam seals against the door. Tack the weatherstripping in place but don't drive the nails home yet. Then measure the length of the sides of the frame.
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Photo 5: Cut the side pieces
Cut one end of each side weatherstripping to fit the profile of the top piece. Mark the profile using a scrap for a guide, cut the foam with a scissors and cut the profile with a coping saw.
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Photo 6: Adjust the cut
File or sand your cut for a tight fit. Then measure and cut the bottom to length (Photo 3). Position the weatherstripping so that the entire length seals to the door and tack it in place.
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Photo 7: Test the fit
Open and close the door several times to make sure the weatherstripping seals against the door and the door latches and locks. Adjust the weatherstripping as needed. Drive the finish nails home.
The weatherstripping kit will come with two long pieces for the side jambs and a short piece for the top jamb. Begin with the top and follow Photos 2-7 for the basics. Make precise measurements and cuts so you get nice, airtight fits (Photos 2 and 3).
Position the nails about 2 in. in from each end (to avoid splitting), and space others about every 12 in.
The key to positioning the new weatherstripping is to shove it against the door so it compresses slightly along its entire length (Photo 4). If you compress it too much, the door won't latch when you close it, a common rookie mistake.
The “coped” cuts on the side jambs make a clean, tight joint (Photo 6). Make this cut first, leaving plenty of length for the bottom cut.
It's critical to make sure that the door shuts and latches easily before you drive the nails home (Photo 7). However, the weatherstripping also needs to fit snug to the door over its full length. For small adjustments, pull the nails and start them in a new spot, or loosen the screws if you’re using metal weatherstripping.
When you paint the wood flange, keep the paint off the foam.
Install a Door Sweep
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Photo 8: Measure for a door sweep
Measure the width of the door from inside and mark the length on your new sweep.
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Photo 9: Cut the door sweep
Cut the flexible flap with a sharp scissors or sharp utility knife. Then cut the flange with a hacksaw.
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Photo 10: Position and mark holes
Position the door sweep with the flexible portion lightly touching the top of the threshold. Then mark the screw positions and drill the pilot holes.
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Photo 11: Attach the sweep
Push the sweep down against the threshold and drive the screws. Open and close the door to test the seal.
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Photo 12: Seal the bottom corners
Cut two 2 x 1-3/4-in. pads from 1/8-in. thick felt. Nail the pads at the bottom of each side frame as shown. Open and shut the door and adjust the pads if necessary.
Shut the door, then look for daylight and feel for a draft coming under the door. If you see a lot of light or feel a draft, install a new door sweep.
Our door had old bulb-type weatherstripping attached to the threshold. While these types can be effective, you have to replace them every few years because foot traffic wears and crushes them.
Door sweeps last longer, but won't always work if they brush or rub against the floor or carpet when you open the door. If the floor, carpet or rug is even with or higher than your threshold (the bottom of the door frame; Photos 8 and 11), you can't use a sweep.
For a replacement, we chose a simple face-mount door sweep with a flexible vinyl flap because it's easy to mount and adjust. Photos 8 – 11 show you how to measure, cut and screw it to the door.
You'll be left with a pair of small gaps between the weatherstripping on the frame and the sweep, at the bottom corners of the door. Unless you want a perfectly airtight, draft-free door, don't worry about these gaps. However, Photo 12 shows one way to close them. It's not precise; use whatever thickness of felt (or combination of layers) fits between the door and frame without hindering the door operation.
Good work! You can look forward to a more comfortable winter.