Dan is a licensed electrician and has been a homeowner for 40 years. He has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks.
Before Installing a Storm Door
Installing a new storm door can not only add considerably to the appearance of your home but is one of the best ways to save energy at home. Storm door installation is one of the easier home improvement projects a homeowner can undertake - on a scale of one to five it is about a two.
A correctly fitted and installed storm door will reduce air infiltration into the home as well as provide ventilation as desired. Most storm doors come with a movable glass pane and a screen (hence the term "screen door") that will allow air to flow. In some higher end doors the screen is hidden inside the frame when the glass pane is in place and thereby improves the appearance and view through the storm door.
Choosing a new storm door to install is not difficult. Most storm doors are aluminum or a mixture of wood and aluminum, such as the one pictured below. Measure the size of the door opening (not the door, but the actual opening) in both height and width. Most entrance doors are 36" wide by 80" high, but many secondary entrances are narrower. Choose a new storm door that will fit into the opening.
Second on the list of considerations is left or right opening. The hinges on the storm door need to be on the same side of the door as the regular door; if from the outside the door has the lock on the right side the storm also needs the lock on the right side even though it will open out instead of in. With both doors closed the handles should nearly touch each other.
It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the huge range of styles, pricing and quality of the various storm doors - choose what fits your budget and aesthetic tastes. A door with a built in screen is strongly suggested and purchasers should, in general, stay away from the cheapest storm doors except for little used secondary entrances as such doors usually won't last long in high traffic doorways.
Storm Door Installation
With the door at home you are ready be begin installing your new storm door. Make sure that all the parts are included and that you have the following tools:
- Drill, with drill bits
- Power screwdriver; a phillips tip in the drill is fine, or an impact driver (preferable)
- Tape measure
- Metal file
Most of the tools necessary are in a homeowners tool set, but if not they must be bought, begged or borrowed for a couple of hours. Don't try to install a new door with nothing but a screwdriver and a hammer.
Basic installation consists of three steps, plus some final touches and adjustments:
- Temporarily attach the drip cap (the shorter of the three frame pieces, or Z channel) to the top of the door opening by driving one screw at the hinge side of the door. The channel fits across the opening; one side on the outside of the brick mold around the door and the other side on the bottom of the brick mold.
- Measure from the door sill (sloped threshold at the bottom of the door) up to the drip cap. This will be length needed of the side Z channel. Transfer the measurement to the Z channel, measuring from the top of the channel. Note that the threshold is sloped; this slope should be transferred to the Z channel so that it will rest of the threshold. A piece of paper can be stood on the threshold and folded at the same angle as the door stop, then traced onto the Z channel. Using a hacksaw, cut off the bottom of the Z channel on the hinge side. Check fit the channel between the threshold and drip cap. Smooth the cut with a metal file and attach the channel to the storm door per the manufacturers instructions. Hold the door in place (use help if needed) and screw the Z channel to the hinge side brick mold.
- Adjust the height of the drip cap so that there is an even gap all the way across the storm door and fasten to the brick mold with the necessary screws. Measure and cut the latch side Z channel in the same manner the hinge side was cut. Attach the latch side channel to the brick mold at the top, adjust the bottom width as necessary and complete the attachment of the channel.
The basic installation is complete; all that is left is to attach and adjust the accessories.
Installing a Storm Door
Finish Installing Your Storm Door
There are several steps to actually finishing your installation.
- Attach bottom spacer and sweep. Attach the sweep, if necessary, to the bottom spacer per the manufactures instructions. Slide the spacer over the bottom of the door and, from the inside with the storm door closed and with the sweep just touching the threshold, drill holes in the door as necessary. Attach the spacer with screws provided.
- Attach latch hardware as per instructions. Every door will be different, but this is normally a simple task and easily accomplished.
- Attach the pneumatic door closer per instructions. Again, every door will be slightly different, with different placements. A note of caution here; older homes (and some newer ones) have the door jamb a distance away from the wall studding behind it, and door jambs can be made of cheap, weak lumber. Make sure that the screws that come with the storm door reach clear through to the stud behind. The photo below is of a door frame that was torn apart when wind caught the storm door while open - several nails have been driven to reinforce the door frame and longer screws installed to the closer (including one 3" long lag bolt). Check the closing rate of the storm door with the closer attached; the rate is changeable by turning the phillips screw in the end of the closer.
Congratulations! You have installed your new storm door! What's next on your to-do list? A new floor perhaps, or simply a new light fixture or light switch? Whatever it is, there is little beyond the capabilities of a homeowner willing to try to do a little work. Give it a shot!
© 2010 Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 20, 2011:
Jo ann, it really should slope down and away from the house to drain rain water away from the entrance door.
Storm doors are not constructed to seal with the care that an entrance door is and there will be some small amount of water that gets through the door; this should be drained away, not into the house. Even sanding the new threshold down 1/4 inch or so on the exterior side should be enough; just enough to channel that water away from the main door.
In no case should the storm door threshold be higher than the regular threshold as this will absolutely channel water into the regular door. Even if it doesn't come inside until you open the main door it will still puddle and rot out the new threshold, particularly if it isn't used regularly (perhaps you usually enter through a garage or other door?).
Jo ann pinyan on February 20, 2011:
I need to build up a threshold to install a storm door. Can I just extend the threshold straight out for the storm door
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 08, 2010:
I'm glad you found it of value. I have been very happy with our storm door as I have been unable to train my grandchildren (or even my grown children) to shut the door. The storm door at least closes automatically! I am also convinced that it saves considerable energy, creating a kind of mini-airlock at the entrance.
Jed Fisher from Oklahoma on October 08, 2010:
Excellent article. I found it very useful, thank you for sharing this knowledge!