Dear Jim: My house has an old wood front door and a steel back door. I cannot afford to replace them, but I want to make them more airtight and efficient. What things can I do myself to improve them? – Johnny W.
Dear Johnny: Before attempting any door improvements, inspect each one, especially the wood door. If the wood is warped, there really is not much you can do but replace it with a new one. Steel or fiberglass doors seldom warp, so they can be upgraded for better efficiency.
If you feel air leakage around the door, push on the door with your hand to force it to close tighter and check again for leaks. If you are lucky, the door is just not closing tightly enough to seal well.
The easiest solution is to install an adjustable latch plate. There are two basic designs. One design (Door-Tite) is a die cast plate with staggered teeth. When the door closes, the latch catches on the tooth which holds it most tightly closed.
Another design (Mag Security) uses a two-piece striker plate. One piece fits where your old striker plate was mounted. The second piece, into which the door latches, can be adjusted over the first piece to hold the door tightly closed.
Most threshold seals are adjustable. They usually have screws which allow you to move them up or down. The screw heads may be covered with packed dirt from years of use, so you may have to pick around to find them. Adjust the threshold up a little to see if this reduces the draft.
If the doors are old, replace the threshold seal or perhaps the entire threshold. Most newer doors have the weatherstripping attached to the door bottom, but some older ones have the seal in the threshold where it can get damaged.
If you install a new efficient threshold seal underneath the door, you will have to remove the door from the hinges. The new seal will be thicker, so saw a thin strip off the door (wood or fiberglass) bottom.
For a steel door, install an automatic door bottom seal which moves down to touch the threshold just as the door closes.
Old, worn hinges also can cause sealing problems. These allow the door to hang crooked so the weatherstripping will not seal well. Most home center stores carry an array of hinge sizes which fit almost any door.
The glass in doors is the lowest insulation component. Make a storm pane, using clear acrylic plastic, to cover the glass in the door. This will double the insulation value and protect any decorative door glass.
If you can easily remove the door molding, check to see if there is insulation in the gap around the door frame. If you find none, spray expanding foam insulation into the gap.
The following companies offer door improvement products: Door-Tite, (513) 891-0210, www.door-tite.com; Mag Security, (800) 950-9058, www.magsecurity.com; M-D Building Products, (800) 526-5265, www.mdteam.com; Pemko Manufacturing, (800) 283-9988, www.pemko.com; and Thermwell, (800) 526-5265, www.frostking.com.
Dear Jim: I installed central air-conditioning last summer. I just opened a second-floor storage closet door and found mold growing on the walls. It never happened before. Could this be related to the new A/C? – Brent B.
Dear Brent: Mold grows only in moist conditions. If the rest of the second-floor rooms are now cooled, the uninsulated closet walls are also colder. Moisture in the warm closet air may be condensing on its walls. Another potential problem in a second-floor room or closet is a roof leak which creates damp conditions. If a leaky roof is not the cause, install a small vent in the closet door so some room air circulates through it.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, Bangor Daily News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.