Dear Jim: I’m thinking of adding storm/screen doors to save energy and for security. What designs and features should I consider?—Stu G.
Adding storm doors or combination storm/screen doors can save energy in almost any home. Most primary entry doors are efficient these days, but creating dead air space by adding a storm door will further reduce energy loss through the door.
Installing a storm door will also reduce the amount of outdoor air that leaks indoors. Even though the storm door may not have the same level of weatherstripping as the primary door, just breaking the direct force of the wind will reduce its pressure and leakage. Also, by protecting the primary door from harsh weather and direct sun, the primary door weatherstripping will hold up many years longer.
Before you buy storm doors, make sure your existing doors are in good condition. Installing a storm door over an uninsulated, leaky door will help some, but you would likely be better off just replacing the primary door.
Combination storm/screen doors are likely your best option for year-round energy savings. These will block the cold winds during winter and allow ventilation during summer. Some of the designs are very secure with deadbolt-type latches, so you need not be concerned about leaving your primary entry door open for ventilation.
Since combination storm/screen doors generally have quite a lot of glass/screen area, the insulation level of the core of the door is not as important as with storm doors with less glass. The primary features to look for in combination doors are strong construction materials and good-quality weatherstripping and workmanship. Check the corner construction design and how well the glass panels fit. Twist the door to get a sense of its rigidity under the force of the wind.
In order to be most efficient, the storm door should fit as close to the primary door as possible. Inspect the door entrance frame and trim, and determine the proper door size to fit in close. If the dead air space between the primary and storm door is too wide, it is no longer dead air space; air currents can form inside the wide gap.
For your front door, consider an ornate solid-wood combination door with decorative glass. The best and strongest ones use true mortise and tenon joints at the rails and stiles. Consider installing a heavy 23-gauge stainless steel screen in the back for durability and security.
Some ornate steel and wrought-iron doors would look good on the front, and these also provide substantial security. These come with deadbolt-type locks and double-vault pins that secure it into the frame.
Another decorative option for the front is a door made of a composite of crushed rock and fiberglass. The color and grained finish are molded into the door so scratches are not very noticeable.
Standard foam or particle board-filled aluminum skin doors are most common and reasonably priced, and they are easy to install yourself. Simple designs are generally the best option for back doors. A self-storing model with two sliding glass panes provides the best ventilation.
The following companies offer storm/screen doors: Cumberland Woodcraft, (800) 367-1884, www.cumberlandwoodcraft.com; Emco Specialties, (800) 933-3626, www. emcodoors.com; Homeguard Industries, (800) 525-1885, www.home-guard.net; Pella, (800) 328-6596, www.pella.com; and Sugarcreek Industries, (800) 669-4711, www.sugarcreekindustries.com.
Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com.