The Side Door Saga

Replacing the storm door on the side door was one of those projects that just keeps going. Like picking at a thread on a sweater and soon finding you’ve unraveled the whole thing. But it’s pretty much done now, and I’m mostly happy with how it turned out.

It all started when my cheap old aluminum storm door (similar to this, but older and cheaper) finally gave out. The latch had been broken for a while, and they don’t make replacements (or anything that would work as a replacement) anymore. After one too many times forgetting to latch the little bolt thing on it, resulting in the storm door getting thrown open by the wind, it finally warped to the point where I couldn’t jam it back into the frame to close it anymore. I had to take it off, which reminded me of why storm doors are essential in the Midwest:

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As a replacement, I decided on a Larson full-view where the top half slides down to become a screen. I picked it because it seemed sturdy, attractive, and streamlined. After much debate, I chose the cranberry color. I didn’t want white because there isn’t any white trim on the house (except some white aluminum drip edge on the front roof). Black didn’t seem like it would work either.The sandstone was in contention, but it was too similarly colored to the house. Although there wasn’t any red on the house before, I thought it would work with the light green trim. This ended up being a good decision because it looks nice, and I’m planning to add more similarly-colored trim to the rest of the house (more on this later).

After removing the frame for the old storm door, I saw that the brickmould (trim around the outside of the door) that the storm door was attached to hadn’t been primed when it was installed, and there were some early signs of rot at the tops of the vertical boards. If I’d known then what I know now, I would’ve probably tried to repair it instead of replacing it. Alas.

Based on a post on another blog and some Googling, I decided to use cellular PVC trim to prevent future rot issues. I special ordered some Azek because it seemed to be the highest quality, and the hardware store ripped it to the correct width. Again, not a choice I would repeat. It was easy to work with and definitely higher quality than the other cellular PVC trim I saw at the big box stores, but it doesn’t look as much like wood as I’d hoped. Not really a knock on the product, I just don’t think it was the best choice for my particular situation.

I removed the brickmould by scoring the caulk around it and using a pry bar to gently remove the boards. After removing the storm door and brick mould, I was left with this:

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I think the places where the stucco came off were actually stucco patch
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The string thing hanging down the middle of the door was part of the storm door opening mechanism

I sprayed foam insulation into the many cracks you can see in the picture, and then I covered it with self-adhering flashing. The spray foam is really sticky, so make sure you clean it up right away (unlike I did) and wear gloves and long sleeves. The flashing went on easily. Be sure to overlap things in a way that water can’t get behind the points where the different layers meet. In this case, that meant putting the vertical pieces on first and then the horizontal piece at the top. That way, when water runs down the top piece, it goes over the edge and onto the vertical pieces, instead of behind the vertical pieces.

Then I let it sit for a while until I got the motivation to work on it again.

Next, I cut the brickmould boards to the correct length and installed them with zinc-coated screws. Then caulked around the outside edges of the brickmould (should’ve caulked the screw holes, too, because the heads of the screws show) and painted. I should’ve separately measured the length and width of each board (at the top, middle, and bottom), because the opening ended up being too wide for the storm door, and I had to add an extra piece to one side of the brickmould to get the storm door to fit. Gotta love the irregularities of an old house. After installing an extra little board to narrow the opening, the storm door went in pretty easily. Just a lot of drilling, which I mostly supervised 😉

Another hiccup was that there was an extra board nailed to the left side of the door jamb, where the closers for the storm door are supposed to attach. It messed up the angle of the closers. I ripped it out and found that the wood behind it was rotten at the top (especially) and bottom. Hm, I wonder why someone put a board there?? It seemed like it would be too hard to get that part of the jamb out to replace it, especially with the storm door now up, so I repaired it with some wood repair stuff that’s intended for structural surfaces.

In the process of doing all of this, I realized that the exterior door was not even close to being level. It was an old wood door that wasn’t in great shape, and you could see daylight between the jamb and the handle side of the door when it was closed. I’d gone all out with the weatherstripping on it a couple times, but it didn’t help much. I’d hoped the storm door would fix the problem, and it helped, but the more I thought about it, the more I disliked that door. I didn’t dislike it enough to drop a bunch of money on replacing it at this point though.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. One morning, I woke up, and the storm door looked like this:

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The draft blocker was because the bottom of the storm door didn’t come down quite far enough. I was planning on patching the cement there.
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Top of the door. The main patch.

Fed up, I called a handyman I found on Angie’s List. He came out and measured the door, and I ordered a new door from Home Depot. He recommended fiberglass or steel because they insulate better than wood, and I liked the look of steel better. I wasn’t sure if the part that broke was part of the exterior door, but it was. It was part of the door jamb. I was also worried he’d have to uninstall the storm door to install the door, but the storm door (with the exception of the closing mechanism) is attached the the brickmould, not the door jamb. He said that having the storm door rip the jamb like that is fairly common and can be solved by using longer screws than the ones that come with the storm door (so they go into the wood behind the jamb). I think he said he used 3″ screws.

Our door jamb was wider than modern standard jambs, so I had a choice of either buying a jamb extender that he would nail onto the standard jamb or special ordering the door. The style I wanted was special order anyway, so I went with the non-standard jamb width. I got oil-rubbed bronze hardware to go with the storm door hardware. At some point, I’ll probably replace the hardware with more unique stuff. He also insulated behind the trim because there wasn’t any insulation there before. I have some windows that I suspect need the same treatment.

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Ignore the storm door trim sticking out at the top. That’s trimmed now. I still have a little cement patching I want to do.
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It’s just primed right now. Still needs to be painted.
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The stucco and trim need to be patched from installation.
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The new threshold covers the cement and brings the threshold up to the height of the storm door. I upgraded to bronze, which I think looks a lot nicer than the standard stainless steel.

And thus ends the side door saga (expect for painting and some touch-ups; shhh). The area is darker now without the window in the door, but it’s also much warmer.

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