Can I seal up my windy interior door frames?
January 2, 2021 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Can I seal off the holes in my interior door jambs while still allowing the door to properly latch?

I live in an older apartment building (built 1942), but my unit is recently renovated and seemingly pretty well-insulated/airtight, and I only share one wall with a neighbor. So I had been mystified (and driven mildly insane) by random food/garbage smells concentrated in certain areas of the apartment when the front door and all the windows were shut tight.

Mystery solved one stormy night about a week ago when we had extremely high winds, and there was air GUSHING out of the holes in my INTERIOR door jambs (from the little opening where the doorknob latches when the door is closed) and violently shaking the doors. The entire door jambs/frames appear to be hollow and providing air circulation (via those little holes) from other apartments and/or the bowels of the building. The next time the random smells appeared, I sniffed those holes and yep, that's where they were coming from.

SO, can I seal these up somehow while still allowing the doorknob doohickey to properly latch? Googling this has proved difficult; all I get are results for weatherstripping exterior doors.

The door jambs in question belong to 4 closet doors (I know, I know, I am a sultan), bathroom door, and bedroom door. They look like this.
posted by leeloo minai to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: To me, the main question is why are food and garbage smells, plus wind coming through a closet door.

But since that's not your question, you could try spraying in some Great Stuff to fill the space. It expands, so some might come out the hole and/or block the latch. But you could easily cut/scrape that away.
posted by jonathanhughes at 12:01 PM on January 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What I'd do (and it's not my deposit, but this isn't terribly destructive) is pull that hardware off, get a big piece of foam insulation, cut it so that it juuust fits in the hole in the door and carve out the notches for the door latches, glue it to the back of the hardware, and stick it all back in. Foam insulation is cheap and you could get one slab and do all the doors from it.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:38 PM on January 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If it's JUST coming through those holes near and behind the latch plate, I would do this: go to the hardware store and buy a can of Great Stuff Cracks and Gaps spray foam insulation. Or something similar if they don't have that. Back home, remove those latch plates, and let loose with that foam into the opening. (Do all four of them at once, because the can usually can't be re-used once the nozzle dries up.) There may be a large hollow space in there, so you might be able to keep pumping stuff in forever, but be careful to just spray enough to fill up the immediate area. As it dries, it will expand and might bubble back out of the holes, but once it's all dried up you can cut off the excess, and use a knife to carve out whatever space is needed for the door to latch properly again.

That's going to stop the air pouring out of those holes. If you're lucky, sealing those holes will do the job.
But the problem is, it won't stop the source of the air, and so the air might just find its way into your place some other way, like from behind the baseboards or something. In that case, you'll need to go after those spots with silicone caulk.

It would be nice to know the root cause, and whether something can be done. What could be happening, for example, is that somewhere in the walls there is an exhaust duct for the kitchens of other units, and the duct is a little leaky here and there. Despite the leaks, normally that air exhausts properly. But on a dark and stormy night, as you describe, the outside wind pushes back against the exhaust vent (probably on the roof), forcing air to come out of those leaks, through the walls, and out through your door latch holes. If this is the case, the situation might be rectified completely if the duct can be reached and the leaks sealed, or if the outside exhaust vent is adjusted in some way. It might just have to be turned to face another way.
posted by beagle at 1:14 PM on January 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you go with spray foam make sure to use a window and door version; the regular versions can blow your door jamb right off the wall or otherwise warp things enought hat you can't close the door.
posted by Mitheral at 3:04 PM on January 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you want to go a little farther you can take off the door moldings (casings) and caulk or foam between the drywall or plaster and the jamb. Don't forget to slice the paint between the wall and the casing. Get under the casing with a putty knife and continue with a pry bar if necessary.
Maybe take the strike plate off and fill that hole.
Back the casing nails out and replace the casings, better with new nails.
posted by H21 at 4:01 AM on January 3, 2021

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