All of us are looking for ways to save on energy bills and also make our homes more comfortable. Luckily there’s a way to do both, and it doesn’t take much in the way of time or expense. Just check out the condition of the weatherstripping around and under your exterior doors, and if it’s not all it should be, then take a day and make things right.
You have a number of different types of weatherstripping to choose from to tighten up those doors. Some are more effective than others, and not every type will work with every door. What follows are some of the more common types and where they work best.
Foam kerf strip: Foam kerf strips can be found on most doors manufactured in the last couple of decades, and they’re both simple and very effective. This type of weatherstripping is made from a long strip of soft, flexible foam with a tear-resistant cover. Integrated into the foam is a barbed, PVC plastic strip that’s inserted into a saw kerf cut into the door frame. Foam kerf strips are available in 7-foot lengths, typically in your choice of brown, black or white.
To use this type of weatherstripping, your door frame has to have a kerf already cut into the door stops on the frame. It’s also possible to kerf the door yourself, or, depending on the frame, to replace the stops with ones that are kerfed. Realistically, however, this type of weatherstripping is intended as a replacement for damaged or ill-fitting weatherstripping on doors that already have it.
Replacement is simple. Just pull the old material out of the kerf in the door. Cut the new material to the right length, start at the top of the door, and work your way down, pressing the plastic strip firmly into the kerf.
Vinyl bulb: If your door lacks weatherstripping, a vinyl bulb style of weatherstripping is a great retrofit option. It’s a little more time-consuming to install than the kerf style, but it forms an effective seal against drafts on a variety of different door types. Because it’s adjustable, it can also cover gaps on doors that are warped or don’t fit well in their frames.
As the name implies, this type of weatherstripping is a round vinyl bulb, attached to a long metal strip. The bulb is hollow inside, so it can compress against the door to form a seal. A vinyl bulb weatherstripping kit typically contains two 7-foot pieces and one 3-foot piece, along with a packet of small screws or nails for attaching it. Screws work better, and if the kit comes with nails, I’d recommend also buying some small screws and using those instead.
To install this type of weatherstripping, start with the horizontal piece on the top of the frame. Cut the weatherstripping to length, and place it on the frame so the vinyl bulb is firmly in contact with the door and slightly compressed. Insert the screws through the slots in the metal portion of the weatherstripping to fasten it to the door frame. Repeat this process for the two side pieces.
When you’re all done, you can loosen the screws — that’s the reason screws are better than nails — and slide the weatherstripping forward or back as needed to form a good tight seal against the door. You’ll be able to do this periodically in the future as well, if the door ever warps or changes how it fits in the frame.
Other types of door weatherstripping: You have a couple of other choices as well. I don’t consider them to be as effective as the first two, but they’re certainly better than nothing. One choice is felt strips, which are similar to the bulb weatherstripping. It’s simply a long strip of metal with a strip of felt attached, and it attaches to the face of the door stop so that the felt is in contact with the door. Because the felt is more rigid than the vinyl bulb, it doesn’t compress and seal as well, and it wears out faster.
There are also folded vinyl strips and foam tape. Both of these types of weatherstripping are self-adhesive, and attach to the inside of the door stop so that the door contacts them when closed. The folded vinyl style makes a reasonably good seal, but it’s prone to damage, especially in cold temperatures. The foam tape is probably the least effective, since it’s prone to both wear and damage, and doesn’t fill gaps very effectively.
Door bottoms: At the bottom of the door, your best retrofit option is a combination of a door sill and a door shoe. The sill is attached to the floor under the door, and is slightly curved. Sills are available in both unfinished wood and silver or bronze aluminum. The sill is cut to fit snugly between the two sides of the door frame, and is attached to the floor with screws.
The door shoe fits on the bottom of the door itself. Shoes are available in both L-shaped and U-shaped styles; the L-shape fits over the bottom and one face of the door, while the U-shape fits the bottom and both faces of the door. Both styles have a strip of rubber of vinyl weatherstripping on the bottom that contacts the upper curve of the door sill.
Installation is a matter of attaching the shoe to the bottom of the door with the provided screws. It may be necessary to remove the door and cut off the bottom in order to provide enough height for both the sill and shoe. After the door’s been cut and the shoe’s been installed, it’s then simply a matter of sliding the shoe up and down on the door until the bottom weatherstripping makes good contact with the sill, then tightening the screws.
All of these types of weatherstripping are available from any home center or hardware store, and — with the possible exception of the kerf style — come with complete installation instructions.