How I Saved Money: I Made an Old Door Energy Efficient

Save money by sealing your exterior door with aluminum and vinyl weatherstripping.

Sealing an exterior door

Cut the strips to length with a hacksaw. Then press the vinyl bulb against the door while you drive in the screws.

A lot of people with a 100-year-old back door like mine would replace it with a new, energy-efficient one. But I like to save money when I can, plus I like to avoid tearing out parts that are original to the house. So I decided to restore the old door rather than replace it. This approach saved me several hundred dollars and all of the extra work associated with installing a new door. And in the end, my old door is almost as energy efficient as a new one.

First I added a new door bottom to seal against the threshold. The existing threshold has a rubber bulb on top that should seal against the door, but this type of threshold never seems to work very well. I noticed that new doors often have a weatherstrip attached to the bottom of the door that consists of a flexible bead and one or two flaps. This seems like a good system, so I decided to duplicate it on my old door. I found a Frost King Slide-on Door Bottom (W79/36H) for $9.47 that was just what I was looking for. I had to saw about ¼ in. off the bottom of the door—just enough to allow the door bottom to fit tightly between the door and the old threshold. The Frost King door bottom has a U-shape channel that fits over the door and allows it to be adjusted up or down for a tight fit.

The next step was to improve the seal between the door and the door frame or jamb. Last year I replaced the old brass weatherstripping with new brass, but since the door fits poorly in the frame, this didn’t seal the door as well as I would like. The best solution for doors that don’t fit tight to the jamb is a type of weatherstripping that attaches on the exterior side of the jamb and can be slid tight to the door before tightening the screws (see photo). I used Frost King Aluminum and Vinyl Door Set (VA17W, $12.37 at Home Depot). It’s easy to install. With the door shut and working from outside, I cut the strips to length. Then with the vinyl bulb facing the door, I applied a little pressure to the weatherstrip to compress the bulb slightly against the door before driving in one of the screws. The only drawback to this system is that the strips are visible from the outside, but I figured this is a small price to pay for keeping the old door and saving a bunch of money.

— Jeff Gorton, Associate Editor

Here’s how to install a similar type of weatherstripping.