By James Dulley, Published December 04 2009
Determine leak source before repairing doorsDear Jim: Both my front and back doors are the original ones and are drafty. One is wood and one is steel. I would like to improve their efficiency without having to replace them. What should I do? – Maxwell F.
Dear Maxwell: Entry doors that were of reasonably good quality initially can often be repaired or even improved, but not always. Inspect each of the doors, particularly the wood door, carefully. Using a straight edge, check to see if the wood door is warped. If it is, it will probably have to be replaced.
Steel doors generally do not warp, but they can rust. Inspect the areas near the bottom where the weatherstripping attaches to the door. These areas tend to allow water to collect and are the first locations to rust. If you find rust, it can be repaired with automobile body filler, but replacing it is best.
Assuming your doors are not beyond repair, check for the sources of the air leakage. Often, the latch on the door is worn and it is not holding the door tightly enough against the weatherstripping. Push the door closed as tight as you can with your hand to see if the draft stops.
Check the condition on the latch plate to see if it is worn. If so, you can just replace it with a new one. If the deadbolt latch itself is worn, you may be able to reposition the latch plate in the frame. This requires using a chisel to remove some of the wood from the frame and then drilling two new holes to reattach it.
Another option is to purchase an adjustable latch plate. This allows you to adjust how tight the door closes against the weatherstripping in the door frame. Several designs are available, but Mag Security makes one that is easy to install. It has two pieces. One piece is attached to the door frame. An adjustable second piece, which catches the door latch, attaches to the first piece.
Another common spot for air leakage is the threshold area between the door and the floor. The seal there gets worn down or just loses its resiliency over time and allows air through. Most threshold seals can be adjusted higher to seal against the door bottom. The screw heads may be filled with dirt and difficult to find, so clean it with a wire brush to find them.
Replacement threshold seals are available and easy to install. If the door opens over carpet, consider installing an automatic retractable seal. When the door opens, it releases a pin and the seal raises to clear the carpet. When the door closes into the frame, the seal is forced down again.
Check the condition of the hinges. If they are worn, the door will not hang squarely in the frame. This may create gaps around weatherstripping that is still in good condition. Although air likely is not leaking through any glass in the door, cover it with a piece of clear acrylic to create an insulating air gap.
The following companies offer door improvement products: Mag Security, (800) 624-9942, www.magsecurity.com; M-D Building Products, (800) 654-8454, www.mdteam.com; Pemko Manufacturing, (800) 283-9988, www.pemko.com; and Thermwell, (800) 526-5265, www.frostking.com.
Dear Jim: I just installed a new flapper valve in the toilet tank because the old one did not seal properly. Now I have to hold the flush lever down for a while to make it flush properly. What did I do wrong? – Steve H.
Dear Steve: This is not uncommon, and you probably installed it properly. It sounds as though you bought a water-saving flapper valve (fits in the tank bottom). These often require a slightly longer hold for flushing.
Also, check to make sure the chain connecting the flush lever to the flapper does not have excessive slack. Tighten it up if necessary. If the flapper has adjustable drain hole sizes, try different settings.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com