How to Install a Storm Door
Installing a storm door is a DIY job that yields multiple benefits: It enhances your entryway, boosts home energy savings, and improves home security. Here's how to get the job done.
Installing a storm door might seem like a daunting, time-consuming task, but advances in manufacturing and design have made the process easy enough for the average homeowner to complete start-to-finish in a single afternoon. Our step-by-step guide on how to install a storm door is an easy DIY project that allows you to benefit from the numerous advantages of installing a storm door.
For homes with newer entry doors, installing a storm door can protect the finish and longevity; a storm door also can protect and extend the effective lifespan of an older entry door while improving your home’s energy efficiency. Modern storm doors are available in myriad materials, designs and colors, allowing you to customize the look to suit your style. In many cases, storm doors come with interchangeable combinations of glass panels and window screens, allowing you to adjust the storm door seasonally, using screens to let in fresh breezes in the spring and summer, for instance, and using glass panels to keep the chilly winds of winter at bay.
If you are concerned about home security, two doors are better than one when it comes to deterring break-ins: many modern storm doors are constructed using security bars cleverly disguised as decorative scrolls or grillwork. There are also a wide variety of specialized locksets suitable for storm doors that add an extra layer of protection from thieves. Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to install a storm door.
Before You Begin
Major home improvement chains and hardware stores offer prehung storm door kits in the most common door sizes—30, 32, 34 and 36 inches wide. If your door frame is larger, you can either order a custom-size door or purchase an extender kit to fill the extra space between door and frame.
Such kits are sold with installation and operating hardware, so that hanging a storm door is easier. Handles and locksets are often sold separately, however. The storm door connects to the frame with hinges and has either a hydraulic or pneumatic door closer that pulls the door closed automatically.
Today’s storm doors are much more stylish than the plain white, black, or brown styles of days past. A variety of fashionable colors and decorative effects are now offered—homeowners can easily pick a style that complements their exterior and enhances curb appeal.
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STEP 1: Measure your door frame and decide which door swing direction you want.
The first step in measuring for your new storm door is determining the door swing direction and where you will place the handle and lockset. Storm doors almost always swing outward because they are installed outside the regular entry door (and therefore cannot swing inward). However, storm doors might swing from the left or the right. Different suppliers may refer to this as the “handedness” of the door. To determine the handedness, view the unit from the outside of your home. A right-handed storm door will have a handle on the right side; a left-handed storm door will have a handle on the left side. The handle is on the opposite side from the hinges. A good rule of thumb is to position the handle of the storm door on the same side as the handle of the entry door.
Getting the proper measurements is critically important when it comes to installing a prehung storm door. First, use a level to be certain that your doorframe is square. If adjustments are necessary, you can use wood shims to improve the fit. Next, measure the height and width of the storm door frame from the inside of the exterior trim pieces. It is a good idea to measure the width at the top, middle, and bottom of the door; if there is any variation, use the narrowest width when selecting your storm door.
You also should measure the height of your door frame from the top to the threshold in three places: in the middle and on the left and right sides. Use the shortest measurement. One important factor to consider is that most storm doors require that you leave a space between the frame and the door panel to allow for seasonal expansion and contraction. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on the spacing. With the door in the closed position, stand it up in the opening and check the fit. You can use wood shims if needed to make the door level.
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STEP 2: Attach the rain cap and hinge-side Z-bar.
The next step is to attach the rain cap at the top of the frame. Also called a “drip cap,” this section is a narrow rail that installs across the top of the frame and above the door panel to keep the rain from leaking in between the storm door and the entry door. The rain cap typically attaches with screws.
Next, cut and install the hinge-side Z-bar: place the Z-bar against the opening on the hinge side of the door and mark the top. Measure the height of the door opening, from the underside of the rain cap to the top of the sill. Mark a cutoff line on the hinge side Z-bar and cut with a hand saw or hacksaw, with a slight slope to the outside to accommodate the slope of the door sill. Attach the hinge-side Z-bar to the door with screws.
STEP 3: Hang the storm door.
With the door in a closed position, place it in the opening and push the hinge side of the door tightly against the door jamb, making sure that the top of the hinge-side Z-bar is about a quarter-inch from the bottom edge of the drip cap. Check to make sure that the door is plumb and level and adjust if necessary. Secure the hinge side with screws.
Make sure that the door opens and closes properly, then measure and cut the handle-side Z-bar the same way you measured and cut the hinge-side Z-bar. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for how much of an expansion gap to leave between the Z-bar and the door (most recommend between ⅛ and ¼ inch to allow for expansion and contraction of the door).
Check door operation again and secure the handle-side Z-bar with screws.
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STEP 4: Attach the storm door hardware.
Some prehung storm doors will come with handles and locksets, although some require purchasing hardware separately. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly install the handle set and lockset, checking to make sure that the handle and lockset do not impede the door operation. The other hardware items that typically are included are the door sweep and the door closer.
Install the door sweep weatherstripping along the bottom of the door. Typically, this will slide onto the bottom of the door, although some may come with screws. Cut off any excess.
Install the door closer and adjust the speed of the door closing by loosening or tightening the closer. Some models of closers come with a safety chain; you should mount the safety chain so that it allows for a 90-degree opening of the door.
Adding a storm door to your home is one quick and easy DIY home improvement that can help you save on energy costs, add an extra level of security and extend the lifespan of your existing entry door. By carefully reading and following our guide on how to install a storm door, most homeowners can install a prehung storm door kit in about 4 hours—a relatively short investment in time and effort that can pay big benefits over the years.
FAQs About How To Install Storm Doors
Modern manufacturers have taken a lot of the guesswork out of installing storm doors by offering prehung doors in most popular door sizes, as well as special extender kits for those hard-to-fit spaces. But there are still a few handy tips that can help. See below for our answers to frequently asked questions about how to install storm doors.
Q. How long does it take to install a storm door?
A handy homeowner can install a prehung storm door in about 4 hours or less. If your door opening requires using an extender kit, you might want to plan on an additional 30 minutes to an hour. Many home centers also offer professional storm door installation for an additional fee.
Q. Do storm doors come with a frame?
Today’s prehung storm door kits come with a frame and are offered in popular and standard door widths, including 30-, 32-, 34-, and 36-inch sizes. There are also double-door kits available, as well as custom-order sizes.
Q. Is wood core or aluminum better for storm doors?
Storm doors come in three basic materials: vinyl, aluminum, and wood. Vinyl storm doors are the least expensive option and offer a combination of durability and insulation; they don’t rust and don’t show scratches, scuffs, or holes because the vinyl is the same color throughout. However, they typically don’t look as nice as aluminum or wood doors, and are not as sturdy.
Aluminum storm doors are popular because they last so long and are attractive; they also are typically stronger and therefore offer a higher degree of security. However, aluminum doors cost up to five times more than vinyl. Aluminum also can dent and show scratches.
Wood storm doors are visually appealing, provide good insulation, and are very strong and durable. Wood, however, is susceptible to moisture and the door might warp and swell over time; wood storm doors also are a more expensive option and require more maintenance, such as sealing and finishing.
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