Home & Garden

Some ways to make doors less drafty

Q: Our doors are old, inefficient and drafty. One is made of solid wood and one is metal. I can’t afford new doors. What inexpensive improvements can I make to increase their efficiency?

Rick P.

A: People often don’t realize how leaky an old door has become. Chairs and sofas are typically not close to a door, so drafts aren’t noticed. Check doors for leaks by moving a stick of lighted incense around the edge on a windy day. Observe the smoke trail for signs of leaky spots.

Leaky doors cost money in two ways. First, the cold air leaking in makes your furnace run longer to keep your house warm. Second, the draft, even if you don’t notice it, makes you feel chilly. When feeling chilly, people often set the furnace thermostat higher, wasting even more energy.

Before beginning your door projects, consider installing insulated steel doors, particularly for your back door. They are efficient and easy to install, and prices on some returned items at home centers are deeply discounted.

Probe visually bad spots on the wood door with a screwdriver to check for rotten wood. If it is more than one-quarter inch deep, it will be difficult to repair with wood filler. Place a long straight edge on the door to check for warping. New weatherstripping won’t seal a badly warped wood door.

Most metal doors have steel skins, so rust is a common problem, but it can be repaired. Rainwater gets trapped at the bottom by the weatherstripping. Small rust holes can be filled with auto body compound. Poke a drain hole in the weatherstripping so no more water gets trapped.

If you have a problem finding leaky spots by watching the smoke from incense, have a helper shine a flashlight around the edge at night. Leaky spots also allow more road noise to come through. Listen for the loudest spots around the doors.

On the wood door, the weatherstripping might become compressed over time. Push the door tightly closed to see if this helps. Metal doors use magnetic weatherstripping, so this isn’t often a problem.

To fix a wood door, reposition the latch plate. Remove some wood in the door frame and move the plate back. Drill out the old screw holes and fill them with a dowel rod. Drill new screw holes to secure the latch plate in its new position. Installing a stepped latch plate is another option.

If the hinges are worn, a door can hang crooked in the frame. This also allows the door to move slightly away from the frame, so weatherstripping is not adequately compressed. Install new high-quality hinges.

The threshold seal at the bottom of an old door is usually worn or torn. A torn one must be replaced. If it’s just worn, the threshold on the floor can be adjusted upward with its screws. For an entryway with carpet, an automatic lifting threshold seal is a good fix and is easy to install.

The following companies offer door improvement products: Duck Brand, 800-321-0253, Duckbrand.com; M-D Building Products, 800-654-8454, mdbuildingproducts.com; Pemko Manufacturing, 800-283-9988, Pemko.com; and Thermwell, 800-526-5265, Frostking.com.

Q: We have sheet tile flooring in our kitchen. The kids dragged a chair across it and gouged it badly. What is the best way to fix this spot so it’s not noticeable?

Pat F.

A: Take a sharp utility knife and cut out an area along the tile pattern lines so it will be less noticeable. Heat this damaged piece with a hair dryer and carefully pry it out. Scrape out the old adhesive.

Use the damaged piece as a template to cut a new replacement piece. Apply floor tile adhesive with a notched trowel for even coverage. Wait until the adhesive becomes tacky, then press the new piece in place.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, Lexington Herald-Leader, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244 or go to Dulley.com.