Storm doors block drafts in the winter, helping to minimize energy loss. Many have clip-on tempered glass panels that you can remove and replace with summer screens. Additionally, storm doors protect your front door from inclement weather, and the newer models are so attractive that they can add to the curb appeal of your home.
The following are the key factors to consider before purchasing a new storm door.
Both storm and screen doors come in standard door widths of 30, 32, 34 and 36 inches and can be hinged on either side. (When buying one, make sure you get the correct size – measure the door opening between the door jambs, not the door itself.)
Most storm doors are sold as pre-hung units. They can be hinged on either side and double door kits are available. These prefabricated modules are relatively easy to screw into existing door jambs; a DIYer with reasonable skills can usually install one in an afternoon.
Major manufacturers also offer design-your-own-door programs, where you can mix and match components. Larson’s Designer Door Series allows consumers to choose the frame and its color and then choose from six styles of glass and six styles of designer hardware. He leaves the store with three boxes: door frame, glass, and hardware.
Combination storm and screen doors are often made of metal or vinyl and sometimes wood. In severe climates, a screen door is installed in the summer and replaced with a glass storm door in the winter; Some secondary exterior doors come with removable panels that can be changed seasonally.
In cold winter regions, storm doors minimize energy loss, block drafts and add a small measure of security. They protect the front door and, when that door is open, allow for more climate control, ventilation, and light. They can also be helpful in keeping pests and pets out. They may have two glass panes or a top glass pane and a bottom metal pane with a crossbar dividing them. Screen doors can also have a top screen panel and a bottom metal panel.
Storm and screen doors connect to their frames with hinges and have hydraulic or pneumatic latches that gently close the door. They may also have springs and chain stops that prevent them from slamming shut or opening with too much force.
But beyond practicality, the new combination of storm and screen doors have plenty of curb appeal.
The evolution of storm doors began several years ago, when the familiar factory finish of aluminum gave way to white and dark brown. Then other colors (sand, almond, green) slipped onto the market.
After manufacturers took a big step forward in offering colors, they began looking for ways to improve the overall look of storm doors, leading to major changes in construction and decoration.
Visible screws are disappearing, materials are becoming more sophisticated, and a variety of options are entering the market. Now you can choose durable and attractive doors with solid brass hardware, key deadbolt locks and full-size glass panels with etched, tinted, beveled or leaded glass, among other offerings.
When choosing a storm door, one of your first choices will be the type and size of the window and screen system. Many are made so you can swap the clip-on glass panels with mosquito nets. Some have panels that overlap each other on tracks. Still others are made so that the unused panel is stored in the door.
A full-height glass panel is best if you want to show off your front door or maximize light and views through your storm door. More common is the mid-view type of door which has a solid panel in the lower third of the door; This gives you more ventilation control because you can open or close each section independently. A high view door is similar, but the glazed section only extends to about half the height of the door.
Another key consideration is the construction of the door. All major storm door manufacturers produce doors that have a solid wood core encased in a permanently bonded aluminum skin that has been given a baked enamel finish. The wood core makes these doors feel sturdy; they won’t twist, rattle or dent. The aluminum surface requires almost no maintenance, but it can be scratched.
Newer technology is a composite door called Forever Ultra-Core. The material is very resistant, with a molded color, so if the door is scratched, the color remains. The door is also waterproof. The price of this door ranges from $155 to $190.
Larson also makes a 1 1/2-inch heavy-gauge foam-filled aluminum door called Classic View that is lighter in weight and allows for a full-frame glass panel—a good option if you want to show off your front door. If you want the storm door to be the main focus, it is offered in eight colors. You can get it with any of several glazing and fitted with solid brass levers and key locks. These doors cost between $200 and $250.
Vinyl-clad doors tend to be less expensive, in the $75 to $150 range. Some people like the fact that vinyl doesn’t rust and scratches are barely visible. On the other hand, vinyl doesn’t have the durable feel of aluminum siding, and vinyl-clad doors are often warranted for only five years or less.
If security is an important issue, you’ll want to opt for substance over style. Security doors typically have a high-strength aluminum frame with foam or solid wood core. Choose heavy-gauge aluminum bars designed to withstand pull forces in excess of 250 pounds, or better yet, steel bars that have been welded in place. Hinges and latches must be tamper-proof.
It is important that you know where to go whenever you need any kind of door, so let’s start by mentioning that Storm doors and windows are sold through home centers, lumberyards, and major home improvement chains. You can also lookup window and door companies online or in the phone book. In the warmest regions, the big chains typically have a wide selection, often 20-25 models on display and then additional offers through catalogs. Larson offers its entire line at one point of sale and promises special order delivery in two weeks or less.
First, feel the door and feel how it opens and closes. A quality door will carry more weight, close more smoothly, and you will see the quality of the construction. Corners and trim will be tight and finished looking. Also pay attention to the warranty; the best doors have a limited lifetime warranty.
If you know the brand of the exterior door at your home, check to see if the manufacturer also provides a storm door kit and screens. This is an especially good idea if you have a sliding or French door. The kit will match the design of the door and will fit correctly over the sill.