Should You Replace Your Aging Exterior Door?

As an exterior door ages, problems with it opening and closing, weather-stripping and drafts can take effect-especially when they are poorly maintained over the previous years. But it’s not just natural wear and tear that can make an exterior door drafty-it may have a lower R-value due to improper insulation.

There are numerous ways to improve your doors energy efficiency and lower your overall energy bill each month, however, they sometimes outweigh the costs of installing a new exterior door, considering the costs of simple steel or fiberglass exterior prehung door can cost very little. The question is: should you replace your aging exterior door?

Inspect your Old Exterior Door

Before you decide to buy a new door or simply repair your existing door, first it’s a good idea to inspect it for any visible damages. Wood rotting around the edges, soft spots, and rusting are all good indicators that it might be time to install a new door.

Minor troubles due to rot or rust can easily be dealt with and repaired-if it’s caught on time, removed and repainted immediately. Problems where rust or rot are bigger than the size of a quarter and have been ongoing for some time are best off totally removed and replaced.

Last but not least, check for air leaks around the door. Close the door as tight as it will go, close all windows and doors and then turn on your bathroom fan and kitchen ventilation. Light an incense stick and waft the smoke around the door. You’ll see the smoke waft and curl when there is an air leak present.

Fixing Air Leaks

It’s not always the door and the weather-stripping that’s the air leak problem-sometimes it’s the door’s striker plate itself. That’s the metal clip on the door frame that holds the door latch in place when the door is closed. You can make the door fit tighter against the weather-stripping by moving the striker plate closer to the door jamb.

Remove the striker plate and fill the two screw holes in the door frame with some toothpicks. Cut them off flush to the jamb and chisel out a small portion (about ¼-inch) of the striker pocket in the door frame to allow the striker plate to slide closer to the door jamb. In some rarer cases, you may also need to replace the old hinges to achieve a tighter fit between door and frame.

It’s also a good idea to buy some new weather-stripping for around the door jamb to replace the old. It’s called compression weather-stripping and after time, it tends to lose its compression. If you have steel doors, you may want to consider installing magnetic weather-stripping. It works excellent for steel doors and can easily be installed to replace old and worn weather-stripping.

More often than not, the weather-stripping on your old exterior door’s threshold is damaged and if that’s the case, then it should be replaced. If it doesn’t appear worn, you may simply need to turn the adjustment screws to raise the thresholds weather-stripping closer to the bottom of the door if there’s an air leak under the door.


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