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All Things Doors

Doors might be the things homeowners use the most but pay attention to the least. Security, energy efficiency, aesthetics…quality doors contribute to all of it and more. But upgrading and installing them is easier said than done, which is why you should consider hiring a pro to do the job.

ImproveNet can connect you with up to four door experts in your area for free! That will give you more time to consider your options, and there are a lot of them! Read on.

Exterior Door Types

Exterior doors fall into three primary categories: swinging, bypass sliding or surface sliding.

Swinging doors, the standard entry or interior door, are hinged on one side. Bypass sliding doors involve two doors that slide past each other. Both doors may move, as with closets, or one door only may move, as with patio doors. Surface sliding doors ride on wheels attached to the base or are suspended from overhead rails. The doors may be paneled, flush, or contain glass inserts.

Panels are raised or beveled inserts framed within the door. Apart from eye-appeal, the panels serve a real purpose. They are never glued or nailed in place, but instead are fitted into grooves in the stiles and rails that frame them. This allows the wood to expand and contract without damaging the door.

A flushed door is sheathed with a veneer that presents a smooth, unbroken cover. The veneer can range from inexpensive pine to costly exotic wood. Flush doors may be hollow core or solid core. Hollow core doors are commonly filled with compressed cardboard or other light filler and are used as interior doors. Solid core doors have a central core of laminated wood strips and provide more soundproofing qualities. They can be used as exterior doors but are primarily for interior use.

Glass inserts are placed within doors in a variety of styles, from multi-paned French doors to small, obscure panes in an entry door. Technically, the panes of glass are called lites. If there are several panes, they are divided and held in place by wooden strips called muntins. The door is identified by how many lights it has, such as an 8-light door. A door with a single large pane of glass is called an atrium or patio door.

Prehung Doors

Both exterior and interior doors are commonly sold as prehung units. This means the door is set within the side and head jambs, the hinges are mounted, and the door has been drilled for the lockset. It may or may not come with an adjustable threshold on the bottom.

A prehung door is shipped with temporary spacers between the door and the jambs and with temporary horizontal braces at the top and bottom to hold the door in place. The prehung door is then set in the rough opening and wooden shims are placed between the jambs and the doorframe to align it.

Prehung exterior doors generally have its exterior trim, called brick mold, attached to the jamb. The interior trim is installed after the door is in place and the interior wallboard has been installed. Interior doors usually require trim to be installed on both sides. One exception is with split jamb doors where the trim is already on the jambs. In this instance, the jamb with the door mounted on it is installed first. The second part of the jamb then is fitted to it, in a tongue and groove connection, from the opposite side of the doorway.

Left- & Right-Hand Doors

When ordering a door, you will be asked to specify if you want a left-hand or right-hand door. It refers to the location of the door handle and the way the door will swing. This is determined by facing a door on the side that will open toward you. If you want the door handle on the left, it is a left-hand door; a door with the handle on the right in this case is a right-hand door.

Weather Stripping

A standard entry door that is three feet wide and 80 inches high offers 232 inches around its edging as a way for wind and water to get into the house. That’s why you need good weather stripping. If the door is badly hung and you can see different sized gaps between the door and frame, then fix it if possible before adding weather stripping.

Weather stripping involves installing wind- and water-resistant material between the door edges and jamb. Weather stripping is commonly fastened to the doorstop, but some varieties attach to the edge of the door, some to the jamb, and others are applied outside the door. When sealed, the door may have to be pushed slightly to close, but this means a weather-tight seal exists.

Weather stripping material includes the following:

  • Adhesive-backed foam: stuck to the doorstop. These do not last more than a few years at best.
  • Spring metal clip: aluminum, bronze, or stainless steel, which is nailed to doorjambs. When the door closes, it compresses the clip to create the seal. These last for years.
  • V-strips of metal or vinyl: similar to the metal clips, nailed in place or with adhesive backing. They will last for years.
  • Tubular strips: either vinyl or rubber, sealing the gap from the outside and will effectively hide uneven gaps around the door.
  • Magnetic seals and gaskets: applied on metal doorjambs and doors.

Weather stripping also involves sealing the bottom edge of a door where it passes over the threshold. The seal may be on the threshold, on the bottom of the door, or a combination of both. Most houses have some form of threshold weather stripping, but it can wear out. Check it periodically.

One effective style includes a metal channel that slips over the bottom of the door. It contains a rubber or vinyl gasket that meets a similar gasket on the threshold for a tight seal. The shoe is adjustable to make it easier to get a perfect fit.

Storm Doors

Storm doors are fitted over exterior doors and designed to protect from weathering while providing additional protection against air infiltration.

Storm doors are most commonly constructed from aluminum, but other materials include steel, vinyl, and wood. They may also be wood with a vinyl or aluminum exterior cladding to match your home’s exterior finish. Storm doors are usually made with a choice of a single fixed window or a window that opens with a screen. A door with an operable window allows you to leave the front door open for fresh air. Because storm doors can be locked from the inside, you are still provided some security while leaving the front door open during mild weather.

When purchasing a storm door, make sure it has sufficient weather stripping around all edges so it does its job correctly and optimally. Additionally, see that the corner joints fit tightly together, particularly in wood doors. With aluminum storm doors, anodized aluminum or baked enamel finishes will last longer and look better than unfinished aluminum, which tends to oxidize quickly. Periodically applying car wax to anodized aluminum will extend its ability to resist oxidation.

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