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Do It Yourself: Storm doors can boost energy efficiency

Sun., Nov. 3, 2013

Q. Do storm doors really help keep out drafts and save energy? My two entrance doors are drafty and I haven’t been able to improve them much. Also, are storm doors difficult to install?

A. If you have entry doors that are not well sealed and insulated, storm doors will definitely save some energy – though how much energy can be saved depends on a number of factors, including the quality of the storm door and quality of the installation.

Houses with well-sealed, insulated entry doors won’t gain much in energy savings from storm doors. But storm doors have some additional assets – they’ll improve comfort, admit light if the entry door is left open on fair days, and serve as screen doors to improve ventilation and keep out insects.

Good-quality storm doors are attractive, and some have security features such as deadbolt locks. Most doors come with installation instructions, and some manufacturers have toll-free lines to answer questions. Also, many dealers offer installation services. The cost for a “basic” installation is often about $100; if the installer has to do extra work, you’ll be charged more.

Do-it-yourself installation is not difficult if you carefully measure the openings before buying doors and have the needed tools.

The main tool required is a power drill-screwdriver with an assortment of bits. If you choose doors that have deadbolt-type latches, you will also need to chisel a mortise in the door jamb to accept the bolt.

Before ordering the door, measure the width of the opening, jamb to jamb, near the top, middle and bottom. Measure the depth of the opening from the top to the sill or threshold. Entrance door openings usually measure from 30 to 36 inches wide and from 80 to 85 inches deep. Most storm doors can be adjusted at installation for small variations in depth.

The storm door, which normally will swing out, should be hinged on the same side as the entrance door, which usually swings inward. Many storm doors can be hinged on either side, but discuss this with the dealer to make sure.

Most modern doors also have self-storing screens. The door should also include a device that will automatically close it, or hold it open when necessary to carry items through.

A good-quality storm door can be bought for $250 or less.

Q. I want to put some small shelves on my bathroom wall, but I have no experience in this kind of thing. What is the easiest, fastest way to put up two or three shelves to hold towels, shower supplies and so forth?

A. A simple shelf system requires only that you fasten two vertical, slotted metal strips to the wall.

The strips are one-half to three-quarter inch wide and come in varying lengths. Some strips have a row of single slots; others have pairs of slots.

Once the strips are in place, all you need to do is hook matching shelf supports in the slots and put a pre-finished shelf on top.

For very light loads, you might be able to insert the screws that hold the vertical strips directly into the drywall, but the best bet is to mark the screw-hole locations and drill small holes for plastic anchors, which will give a much stronger installation. If there is a wall stud behind one or both of the strips, so much the better; screw into the studs for a very strong installation.

It is important to get the two supporting strips level and plumb, so that the shelves will be level. You can measure from the floor to get matching bottom points for the strips, then use a level to make sure the strips are perfectly vertical. If you don’t have a level, measure from the nearest wall to make the strips vertical.

The brackets that hook into the wall strips are available in several lengths to suit different widths of shelves. Shelves are finished with melamine, a plastic coating that is easy to keep clean.

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