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Shutting The Door On Air Leaks

My front door is wood with a window and the back door is metal. They are the original ones and neither is very efficient nor airtight. I cannot afford new ones. How can I improve their efficiency myself?—Al R.

Energy losses from inefficient entry doors can account for a significant portion of your monthly utility bills. When leaky doors create drafts, people tend to set the furnace thermostat higher. This wastes even more energy.

There are several ways to improve the efficiency of old doors that are not rotted or warped without replacing them completely.

A common problem is simply that the latch plate is not holding the door tightly closed against the weatherstripping. One solution is to reposition the latch plate. This will require filling in the old screw holes and drilling new ones. Another option is to install an adjustable latch plate. You may want to reposition it for summer and winter as the door and frame expand and contract from seasonal temperature and humidity changes.

Another problem area may be the door hinges. If the hinges and pins are worn, the door will not hang square in the opening, and therefore will not seal properly. Take one of your old hinges along to the store to get an exact match.

Finding air leaks
Check your metal door’s lower edge for rust. If you find small holes, try to correct whatever is causing rainwater to collect there. To fix the door, clean out as much rust as possible, then repair with car body filler and paint.

The threshold weatherstripping on each of your doors may need replacement or adjustment to stop air leaks. After years of use, the height adjustment screws across the threshold may be hidden under dirt. Poke around to find them, and then see if raising the threshold strip slightly will close the gap. If the seal is still bad, there are many generic replacement seals you can install.

If one of your doors opens across carpet you can try an add-on retractable threshold seal. It mounts on the inside surface of the lower door edge. As the door opens, a pin against the doorframe is released and the seal automatically lifts to clear the carpeting. It is easy to install and adjust.

Finding the biggest air losers
Before choosing what improvements to make, you’ll need to find out where air is leaking. At night have someone outdoors shine a flashlight around the seals while you check for light indoors for major leaks. Then on a windy day, move a stick of lighted incense around the seals indoors and watch the trail of the smoke to find minor air leaks.


Mail requests and questions to JAMES DULLEY, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit

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