How to Install a Storm Door

storm door
ntm1909 / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Installing a storm door is one of the smartest home fixes you can undertake prior to cold fall and winter months. It's a relatively simple project that requires only basic tools that you might already have on hand. Storm door installation is one of those remodel projects you can feel confident about, since the rewards far surpass the two hours of labor and the minimal cost of materials.

What Does a Storm Door Do?

Before you purchase a storm door, acquaint yourself with its features, since some homeowners have misconceptions about them.

In some cases, you may find that a storm door is unnecessary for your situation.

Storm doors are aptly named because their main purpose is to protect your exterior door against the effects of weather in general and storms in particular. Secondarily, they help preserve your heated interior environment by mitigating drafts.

Storm Doors Will:

  • Reduce drafts that pass through your exterior door's weatherstripping.
  • Protect your door from direct contact from rain and banked up snow.
  • Provide more light to your room during fair weather. With the front door open and storm door closed, the storm door acts as another window.

Storm Doors Will Not:

  • Prevent flood water from entering your home. Also, banked snow will eventually leak through the storm door's seals if left in place too long.
  • Act as a thermal barrier on par with other, more effective thermal barriers such as sealed-glass windows and insulated walls. The air pocket between the storm door and front door is only of minimal R-value.

    Storm doors are not a panacea for all winter-related woes. If you have a covered porch that reliably prevents moisture of all types from reaching your front door, adding a storm door will add no value. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a storm door will provide minimal benefits if you already have a newer, insulated front door.

    Your energy savings may not offset the cost of the storm door.

    How to Install

    With no complicated shimming required, storm door installation is a less exacting process than slab door or pre-hung door installation. Most install within two hours. An assistant is always helpful for a second hand. Most storm doors weigh less than 60 pounds.

    Tools and Supplies

    Door Measurement and Orientation

    1. With a tape measure, find the height and width of your finished door opening. This is the space defined by the inside of your door casing. Most storm doors are reversible, but generally you should install your door so that its hinges are on the same side as the front door.
    2. If the storm door has a screen and if the glass is removable, take both out now. This will lighten your load, making installation easier. Both can be easily put back into place.

    Install the Hinge Plate

    The hinge plate, also called a hinge rail, is the long metal section from which the door will hang.

    1. With the hacksaw, cut the hinge plate so that it is as long as the vertical inside measurement of your door opening.
    2. Attach the hinge plate to the storm door with the included fasteners.

      Attach to Door Opening

      1. Place the storm door in the door opening.
      2. Attach the hinge plate side of the storm door to the front of the door casing (not inside the casing). This is where it is great to have a helper because that person can hold the door while you screw it into place.
      3. Use your level to ensure that the door is plumb (vertical). Even if your door casing is not perfectly plumb, your storm door should be plumb.

      Install the Drip Cap

      The drip cap, or rail, is a short metal section that goes above the storm door to prevent rain from leaking behind the storm door frame.

      1. Run a bead of caulk on the drip cap, then screw it into the front of the door casing.

      Install Jamb on Other Side

      The jamb is the vertical section of metal where the storm door latch will engage.

      1. Screw this jamb into place with the provided screws.
      1. Make sure that the door opens and closes correctly.  

      Attach Door Closers, Handle, and Strike Plate

      1. If your door came with closers, attach them now. Usually you will install one at the top and another at the bottom.
      2. Install the door handle, latch and strike plate.
      3. Test the door to make sure that it opens and closes, latches shut and does not conflict with the exterior door itself.