How can I eliminate a draft under my front door?
January 1, 2013 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Getting a draft despite having weather stripping and a door sweep. How can I fix this?

In an effort to better insulate our home and keep our heating costs down, I've been installing weather stripping around the doors.

The front door already has fairly new weather stripping that is in good shape. It's also got a door sweep to prevent drafts from the bottom. Despite this, I am still getting a noticeable draft when I put my hand near the bottom corner of the door (on the side opposite the hinges).

Why might this be happening, despite already having two stop gaps in place to prevent it and what else can I do to eliminate the draft?
posted by asnider to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wait until dark. Turn off all the lights in the house. Send someone outside with a strong flashlight and have them shine it all the way around the door -- holding it close to the cracks in the top, sides, and bottom. You should see where the light is leaking on the inside. That's where you need to adjust your weather stripping.
posted by JackFlash at 3:36 PM on January 1, 2013

Why might this be happening, despite already having two stop gaps in place to prevent it and what else can I do to eliminate the draft?

This can be difficult, depending on the construction, but you can pull off the trim around the door and insulate between the door jamb and the wall. Then when you replace the trim, run a bead of caulk down it between the trim and the wall.

Expanding foam insulation works pretty well, but can be messy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:39 PM on January 1, 2013

I know my grandparents solved this problem by using some sort of long thick fabric roll (with the decorative touch that it had a fabric head and tail that made it look like a long skinny cat) they put against the bottom of their doors in the winter (it would get pushed back when you opened the door, and you were expected to put it back in place after you closed the door). No idea what this thing was called, or if it was handmade or store-bought.
posted by erst at 4:08 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know my grandparents solved this problem by using some sort of long thick fabric roll they put against the bottom of their doors in the winter.

It's a door snake or draft stopper. They are traditional, low tech and very effective.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:15 PM on January 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Weather stripping is as much art as science. You might feel you want to buy just one product and use it all the way around the door, but if your house has aged and settled at all, you probably don't have a perfectly rectangular door. You've already identified the location, so you probably need to change your materials.

You don't say what type of weather stripping you used. For an irregular frame (see below) you may want a type with more spring in it than you have, or maybe you need a layer of felt or something before attaching a spring-type chrome seal. A rubber seal may be best made snug with a thin wood shim under it on the attached side.

I will say that heavy front doors tend to sag on their hinges if not regularly adjusted, and this can mean especially at the top, so it's not at all surprising that the top is more snug on the latch side. You may want to make sure the hinges are as snug as you can make them before making final adjustments to any weather protection.

Door snakes are great unless you use the door a lot. I don't think they would do much for a gap that's on the vertical, though.
posted by dhartung at 4:39 PM on January 1, 2013

Another thought: Is your threshold adjustable? If it screws in from the top, it probably is. Try backing off on the screw that's nearest the gap.
posted by dhartung at 4:41 PM on January 1, 2013

We have family in New England, and Mr. gudrun grew up there, so have lots of experience with stopping cold. Aside from the other advice above, you can definitely use something like a door snake at night, once people stop coming and going. Also an option for use at night - door curtain.
posted by gudrun at 5:02 PM on January 1, 2013

First, check all your weatherstripping. Look at it from both inside and outside the door. You may see a larger gap (along the bottom edge) at the handle side of the door from the outside. If that's the case, you need to adjust the threshold (if it's adjustable). You'll see screws in the top of the threshold if it's adjustable. You can use them to adjust the threshold up and down. If the threshold isn't adjustable, you'll have to adjust the door sweep.

Like Pogo said, it's also possible your door is weatherstripped correctly and the draft is coming in around the frame. If you are handy, you can pry off the interior casing around the door (be patient and gentle - a stiff putty knife and small pry bar will help). Once it's off, see if there is insulation around the door between the door frame and the rough framing. If it's empty, you need to insulate that space. Even though it will work, I WOULD NOT recommend using expanding foam. If you aren't practiced with foam, it's very easy to use too much. That can bow the frame and cause even more headaches. The best way is to tear small pieces from a batt of fiberglass insulation and poke them in the space with a putty knife. You don't have to be neat - just loosely pack the gap. Don't overfill it; you just want to loosely fill the area. Reattach the casing back in place, and you're good to go.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:10 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The stripping currently in place is the screw on kind, similar to what is pictured here. I'll take a picture when I get home tonight so you can get a better picture of what I'm actually looking at.
posted by asnider at 10:53 AM on January 2, 2013

You might need to shim your hinges.

I suspect this because you specified that the draft is coming from the bottom corner of the door on the side opposite the hinges. Look at the gap between the door and the jamb on the side opposite the hinges. Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom. Does the width of the gap increase as you go downwards? If so, then your bottom hinge may need shimming. Essentially, the top hinge sticks farther out from the jamb than the middle and bottom hinge, so the top of the door is pivoted away from the hinge side and the bottom is pivoted towards the hinge side. This means the bottom of the door isn't making contact with the weatherstripping.

You can fix this by unscrewing the hinge, using the hinge as a stencil to cut a few layers of cardboard (shims), then putting the shims between the hinge and jamb and screwing the hinge back in. You might also need to shim the middle hinge. This will straighten out the door. You'll need a power screwdriver or power drill with screwdriver bits, some thin cardboard or playing cards, and a utility knife to cut the shims.

Here's a video from This Old House showing how to shim hinges. (The video also visually shows what I tried to explain above, about how the door isn't hanging straight.)
posted by snowmentality at 1:05 PM on January 2, 2013

Response by poster: As promised, here are a few photos, in case that helps. I'm starting to think that I may need to shim the hinges, though.
posted by asnider at 6:04 PM on January 2, 2013

I'm having a hard time making heads or tails from the photos.

The compressible weatherstripping looks bad at the bottom, though (some gouges, and it looks fairly flattened). It's usually easily remedied, though. That type of weatherstripping is usually applied by slipping an extruded plastic leg on the back of the strip into a slot in the door stop - the wood piece directly behind the weatherstripping. If you tug on the weatherstrip at the top or bottom, it should slide out. Replacement strips are usually sold in 7' pieces at home improvement/hardware stores. You just cut a new piece to length with a sharp knife and slide it in like the old piece came out. I think a new, resilient piece with no gouges might fix you right up.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:37 AM on January 3, 2013

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