Buying Storm Door? The Ultimate Guide from Purchase to Installation!
First Things First
Let me lay out my credentials so you may have faith, that the information you are about to receive comes from a professional with many years experience.
I am a self employed full time private contractor. A storm door expert!
I make my living installing storm doors exclusively. I have averaged more than 500 Storm Door installations every year for the last 10 years. There isn't anything I haven't seen before in the realm of storm door installations.
This article is going to assume you have some skill with hand tools and terminology. Storm Door installation and replacement is not a novice project. All Storm Door projects actually fall in the intermediate category of difficulty. Many storm door projects can also can fall into the more difficult category, and then there are some that can be very difficult, and require custom size storm doors and custom trim work. If you are considering hiring a professional, there is only one recommendation I would be comfortable making.
Go to the nearest Lowe's Home Improvement Store, they have the best installation services in the home improvement business. If you purchase your new storm door at Lowe's, they will assign one of their professional contractors to your project. Their installation professionals are highly rated and all work is Guaranteed. Very reasonable prices, and great selection. Everything is prepaid at the store, so when the installation is done at your home no money changes hands, it's all been paid for in advance. No surprise costs!
If you are not interested in the installation aspects of storm doors and would like to get right to the Recommendations on Purchasing, such as styles and options and cost, jump to (E).
With that being said, if your going to do this yourself, I think it's wise to take a walk over and have a good look at the storm door your thinking about replacing. Take a few moments to notice where you might have trouble.
Notice if the house siding butts up to the brick molding. Usually there is a thick bead of caulk joining the siding to the brick molding. If your going to replace that piece of molding you will have to deal with that caulk first.*
Maybe your house was newly re-sided a few years back. Sometimes the new siding may cover parts of or all of the old storm door frame. This may force you to have to cut away some siding before you can get the old storm door removed. Surprises like this give even the most experienced contractors like myself quite the challenge!*
If you don't already have a storm door there, you may find it necessary to modify the jamb before you can get the new storm door installed.
I mention the above examples so you might judge the difficulty of your particular project accurately. Often times our mental expectation of difficulty when doing a project like this may dictate our success. In other words, If we jump into a project assuming it will be easy and then it becomes difficult, we tend to get frustrated and angry. If we have the proper expectations we are more likely going to succeed.
Please read on. This article will give you some tips and things to consider as you begin to evaluate what it's going to take to get your storm door project completed successfully.
Size up. Where Is It Going?
We must first determine where your starting from. Meaning, what is the condition of the door jamb currently? Read each option and decide which best fits your situation, then start at A B or C. Please read through the info. as it applies to your situation. When finished you will have a very good idea what to expect when installing and or replacing your storm door.
Why are you purchasing a new storm door?
Option 1: There is already a storm door on the location now that works "OK" and you are just looking to replace the old one for a new style or color, and your going to do the new installation yourself? Go to (A)
Option 2: There is already a storm door on the location and it's damaged or broken and you must replace it because it's just not working well, if at all, and your going to do the new installation yourself? Go to (B)
Option 3: There is not a storm door on the location now and you will not have to remove an old storm door before you install the new one for yourself. Go to (C)
A) Old Door works OK (installing new storm door yourself)
If this is the case, there is likely no damage to the existing brick moldings. However there still may be some rotting happening, so go ahead and remove the old storm door. If your old storm door is aluminum you may be able to recycle it. After you have the old storm door and all it's components removed from the jamb, check the condition or the molding pieces, see (b1). If you determine one or more need to be replaced, see (b3). If everything feels solid and stable, the next step is to prepare the surfaces for the new Storm Door. Remove old and cracked caulk, also check for any left over nails or screws.
Before installing the new storm door, now is the time to repaint, stain, or generally clean up the door jamb and trim pieces. It's likely your new storm door will not cover up all evidence of the old storm door frame, such as paint lines and left over caulk. When your satisfied the jamb is ready to receive the new storm door, it's time to make your measurements to confirm what size the new storm door will need to be. Jump to Making Measurements (b4)
B) Broken/Damaged (Installing new storm door yourself)
No sense having a busted up storm door hanging off you home, so go ahead and remove it before you go shopping for a new one. Remove all parts including "door closer brackets", "rain cap" and "latch side Z bar". If your old storm door is aluminum you may be able to recycle it. Often times storm doors become damaged by Wind. If your storm door has been wind damaged you must check the jamb boards for cracking and splitting. With the storm door removed you will be able to clearly see the mounting surfaces.
Often times where the door closer bracket attaches to the "stop" on the hinge side, there may be stress damage or even total bust out where the screws once held the door closer bracket. This may happen when the storm door is forced to over expand because of a sudden gust of wind. The "brick molding" must also be checked. The "brick molding" are the pieces of trim boards that the old storm door was screwed into. Notice the holes in these trim pieces left behind by the screws you removed when the old storm door came down. This hinge side piece of brick molding has had the burden of holding your old storm door upright all these years, and over time or because of wind damage this piece of molding can wiggle loose or become cracked. This is the piece of molding into which the new storm door hinge will be screwed, it is the backbone of the project and must be stable and strong if you want your installation to stand the test of time!
b1)Grab hold of the brick moldings with your bare hands and try to wiggle them, try to rock it back and forth to determine how well attached it really is. Do this to all mounting surfaces and use your own good judgement to determine their stability. The pieces of brick molding should not wobble or be separated from the "casing". The "casing" are the boards that the brick mold pieces attach to. If you find any nails that have begun to back out, go around and hammer those back into place. About those nails, Those nails are hammered through the "face" of the brick molding and into the "casing" board hidden behind. By locating the nail heads in your brick molding, you can also locate the hidden "casing" board. If stabilizing or installing the brick mold with wood screws, you will want to pre-drill your pilot holes through the brick mold face and into that unseen casing board. When mounting and stabilizing brick molding, I recommend using 3" inch flat head wood screws. These are often referred to as Deck Screws. They are protected from corrosion and have tremendous holding strength necessary for today's heavy storm doors.
b2) If securing brick moldings with wood screws, be sure to pre-drill a pilot hole of at least 1/8" inch dia. and at least 3" inches deep. Drill your pilot holes straight through the face of the brick molding and into the casing. Five screws should be enough on either side, that makes ten screws if you secure both the hinge and the latch side moldings. Countersink pilot holes and insert screws until they are flush(flat) with the face of the molding. Do not over tighten screws or you may crack the molding. Screws only need to be "snug" . You should now have stable and strong surfaces for mounting your new storm door.
Now is also the time to repaint, stain or generally clean up the jamb. Your new storm door frame may not cover up all evidence of your old storm door frame, such as paint lines and left over caulk.
b2a) Also check the stop boards and brick molding for rotting. It is not uncommon for this to happen where the brick molding meets the threshold down at ground level. Probe any questionable spots with a thick nail. If you can push a the nail into the wood more than 1/4" inch with your bare hands, you have got a rotten board and it should be replaced. If you have a rotten or visibly damaged board, see Moulding Replacement (b3).
If the stop board is damaged where the door closer bracket was attached, and you're just not sure if it will hold up, I recommend having it evaluated by a professional. Some kinds of damage to stop boards can be dealt with easily, others cannot. I cannot pretend to know how you should deal with this kind of damage without seeing it up close for myself. Consult a professional if there is serious damage to stop boards and/or casing.
If all surfaces are stable and undamaged, jump to Making Measurements (b4)
b3) Brick Molding Replacement
Remember to make some measurements before removing old molding. It is likely you will want to install the new pieces to the same dimensions. Almost all storm doors are standard sizes. Front entry door are commonly 36" inches wide. Back doors and garage access doors are commonly 32" inches wide. Standard height is 80" to 81" inches.
If one or more brick mold pieces are damaged or rotten they can usually be replaced without much hassle. To start the removal of any pieces of brick mold, use sharp knife to cut any and all seams of caulk away from brick mold. Most pieces of molding are attached with only nails or brads, but before prying brick mold away from casing, be sure there are no screws holding the molding to the casing. Remove any screws before prying begins.
Using a pry bar and hammer, start at the bottom near the threshold. Work at prying the brick mold loose from the bottom up. Save a portion of the molding you have just removed, you may want to take it to the store with you when buying the new molding. Some styles of molding are standard and you can purchase new pieces with the same dimensions right off the shelf. If you find your pieces are not standard, you will have to make your own or improvise with something very similar.
While you have the brick molding removed, now is the best time to scrape away any old caulk and pull any remaining nails. You want the surfaces to be smooth and clean before you apply the new pieces of molding on top of them. When you have purchased the new molding pieces, pre-determine how you are going to fit them together before making any cuts. What kind of joint do you need? A 45 degree cut? Or a Straight Cut? Or some sort of overlap. When your confident you have thought it out properly, measure twice and cut once. Attach using wood screws and caulk, see (b2). Caulk seams as needed with exterior grade window and door caulk. Caulk is not always necessary, use caulk however you see fit, it is recommended however. Confirm measurements, on to (b4)
b4 Making Measurements
Use tape measure to determine the width and height of the prepared opening. Measure from the inside edge of the brick mold on one side to the inside edge of the brick mold on the other. This will usually be close to 36" or 32" inches. When I say close, I mean not more than 3/16th's of an inch either way. The measurement for the height of the prepared opening is taken from the top of the threshold where it meets the brick moldings, to the underside of the mounting surface across the top. The top mounting surface is usually a piece of brick mold too, just like the pieces running up the left and right sides. This measurement should fall between a minimum of 80" and a maximum of 81" inches high. If your dimensions fall into the above parameters, when you go to the store tell the sales person you will need either a "standard size storm door for a 36 inch opening", or a "standard size storm door for a 32 inch opening", which ever pertains to you. The sales person there will know just what your looking for. The style and color is all up to you. Jump to (D), Doing the Install.
If your dimensions do not fall into the limits described above, you may require a special fit custom size storm door. Consult a professional for custom installations, it could actually save you money! Existing jambs can sometimes be modified and save you the cost of a custom size storm door. The pros have the knowledge.
C) There is No Storm Door Now
First thing to do is to determine if the spot where you would like your new storm door is actually built to accept a new storm door. There are several reasons your front or back doors may not already be set up to accept a storm door. Most of the time it has to do with depth. For example, front entry door systems with side-lite windows often times do not have brick molding across the transom, or on the hinge and latch sides of the door jamb that separates the side-lite windows from the door. Therefore they lack the depth to account for the hardware. It's often necessary to build out these jambs 1" to 3" before installing a new storm door. This is done to add depth, and prevent the hardware from the storm door coming into contact with the entry door, and vice versa.
If you are not sure about your situation, I recommend having a look at a neighbors storm door. It's very likely one of your neighbors has an entry door very similar to yours. If they have had a storm door installed or did it themselves, you should compare your entry door system to theirs. Catch them outside one day and ask them about it. If your still not sure, I would recommend consulting a professional.
When your sure the mounting surfaces have the right dimensions, including depth, and is ready to accept a new storm door, it is time to choose the new storm door. There are many options. Jump to (D), Doing the Install.
D) Doing the Install
Regardless of which style or manufacturer you choose, you must take the time to -
READ THROUGH INSTRUCTIONS FROM START TO FINISH BEFORE YOU GET STARTED!
Every storm door will come with instructions in some form or another. Reading over the instructions thoroughly before you start will help you to understand what the next step will be and why. Instructions can be confusing if you don't take the time to read through the information first. As your reading over the instructions, identify the parts that came in the box with your new storm door. Make sure you've got everything the instructions say you should have. You never know if a crucial part is missing or damaged. It's a real bummer when you get a door half installed only to realize you cannot finish because of a missing or damaged part.
Best advice I can give you is to follow the instructions step by step. The manufactures try very hard to make the instructions as clear as possible, and if you take the time to get an understanding of the overall project before you start you will have few problems if any.
Most common Complications when installing the storm door are usually related to the mounting surfaces being "out of square" with each other, or "out of plumb". Out of square refers to the spacing of your mounting surfaces left to right and top to bottom. Out of plumb refers to the mounting surfaces being in the same "plane". Getting your storm door to fit level, flush and squarely in all four corners will usually require some amount of shimming it in one or two spots. There are so many variables when it comes to fine tuning your storm door install, I won't attempt to list them here, just take your time and have fun, most problems can be worked out with old fashion common sense(and shims). Then when your finished you can enjoy your new strom door for many years.
E) Styles, Options and Cost
All Storm Doors are made one of three ways:
1) Extruded Aluminum Frame : These types of storm doors will generally be the most expensive models. Pricing from $200 - $400. The options on extruded aluminum storm doors are many.
1a)"True Full View" This model has full pane of glass top to bottom. There is not any cross-members to obstruct view of entry door. The entire glass insert must be removed when changing it for the full length screen insert. These doors are either all glass or all screen, depending on how you choose to use it. When the glass is in use, these true full view models are the best at insulating and therefore the most energy efficient. If you have a cat or dog at home that is known to scratch or push through screens, or young children using it regularly, the full size screens on these models are very vulnerable to damage. Remember, the screen is optional, you can leave the glass in the frame year round if your want. The locking "dead bolt" style hardware on these models provide modest security when glass insert is in use. When full size screen is in use there is really no security value. Manufacturers such as Larson and Pella, offer several options in color, hardware finish and glass styling. High "curb appeal"!
Larson Storm Doors make one special model called "Secure Elegance" , this model does provide substantial security. It has a double claw locking system and shatter proof laminated glass. There is not an optional screen with this kind of storm door. Larson offers options in colors and hardware finishes. These are truly heavy duty storm doors and will cost $300 - $400. They offer the same great insulating qualities as mentioned above. I would also recommend professional installation for the security style storm door. You can find these special Secure Elegance models at the Lowe's Home Improvement Stores. High "curb appeal"!
1b)"Split Full View" These extruded aluminum models offer the most versatility. With sliding glass panels, it is not necessary to remove the glass or screens from one season to the next. These full view doors do have a cross-member at the center line where the sliding glass panels meet. This cross member may slightly obstruct the view of your entry door. The most popular feature now for these models is the "roll screen" option. This feature makes the screen material disappear when your not using the storm door for ventilation. This also means you will not have to remove any glass panels or screens to clean them. Insulating qualities are slightly less than the "true full view" models. There are a few "roll screen" styles to choose from. These models are good for pets and small children. Because the glass on the bottom half of these roll screen models is stationary and the screen material covers only the top half when in use, the screen is much less vulnerable to damage. These styles provide modest security when the glass is locked in place. When the screen is rolled down and windows are not locked there is no real security value. Keyed "dead bolt" locking hardware is standard on most models. Most manufacturers offer options in color and hardware finish. Modest to High "curb appeal" depending on style.
2) Solid Core Storm Doors: These doors are constructed out of a pressed wood pulp and glue. There are several styles to choose from. The prices on these models can be $85 - $200.
These solid core storm doors are generally considered only for the back doors and utility room doors and garage access doors. Why? The "curb appeal" for these doors is low, but not unacceptable. You will find solid core storm doors used in many ways, including screened porch and patio locations away from the house. The solid core storm doors are not available in "Full View" styles. All solid core storm doors are either "Mid-View" or "High View", meaning they have a solid panel at the bottom either knee high (mid-view) or waist high (high-view).
The solid core construction of these doors provides only a very modest insulation factor. Hardware and locking mechanisms on these storm doors will be less substantial than the extruded aluminum models and I would not recommend solid core doors where security is a concern! Manufacturers like Larson and Pella , offer some hardware finish and colors options for the more expensive solid core models. If you have considered a "pet door" into the yard or garage, these solid core models come in three standard sizes to perfectly fit your pets needs. The pet doors work well in these storm doors and do not cause any additional installation headaches.
These solid core models can last just as long as the more expensive aluminum models but tend not to. When installed well, a solid core storm door will operate well, and can be a good long lasting investment for a modest price.
3) Molded Plastic (PVC) and solid Wood Frame : These are what we call "screen doors". The most basic style swinging doors they have. These kinds of screen doors do not provide any insulating factor and not any security value. Very inexpensive from $20 - $100. Very limited colors or hardware options. They can be installed well enough to keep the bugs out, but seldom have any locking device. They operate sort of like the old swinging "saloon" doors. If you have a very busy garage door with kids and pets constantly going in and out, one of these PCV doors may be a good option. It's light weight and difficult to damage. They do not have any glass in them and the screens can be protected and or upgraded to keep from being destroyed by that army marching in and out of your house everyday.
Finally: What should it cost to have professionally installed?
The basic installation of any storm door should be very close to $100.00. A professional should be able to complete any basic installation in under two hours. This is a fair and competitive price in today's market.
If there is additional labor required including replacement of rotten molding, or building out the jamb to gain depth, or adding extension to threshold, or something else; your contractor should tell you in advance what the additional charges will be and exactly why. Additional labor can run $20 - $150 on top of the basic install fee depending on what's needed. This brings the total installation costs to between $100 and $200 most often. I have installed over 3000 storm doors and have very seldom charged a customer more than $100.00 for additional labor. If a contractor wants to charge you more than $200.00 total to install your storm door, you had better get a damn good explanation for the high price. Remember Lowe's Stores have the best installation services. Fair and fixed pricing for installation services will allow you to sleep at night knowing you got a great install for a great price!