Every day I run into people that have a simple problem with their storm door that is causing a lot of frustration. If you are one of those people struggling with how to fix your storm door, or don’t know why it is doing what it is doing, then this page is for you. Here I address some of the common problems people experience with their doors and simple solutions to fix them. And if it’s not really a problem, I’ll tell you that too.
This is one of a storm door’s most common problems. I can’t tell you have many people have argued with me about doors closing and latching on their own when the primary (or entry) door is closed before the storm door closes.
From an attorney threatening to sue, builders and general contractors asking me if I’ve ever installed a storm door, to a scientist who actually installed 6 (yes, 6!) door closer pistons on his door in an effort to get the storm door to close and latch on it’s own, this problem drives type A personalities insane.
But it’s really not a problem at all … in fact it’s simple physics.
Here’s how the problem starts. You leave through the front door and pull it shut behind you. You hold the storm door open; maybe with your foot or back while you lock the entry door. When done, you get out of the way and let the storm door close on it’s own. But it when it closes, it doesn’t latch. It’s stays open slightly. Now the Type A personality spends the next 4 days adjusting the speed of the door closer(s), trying to find the scientifically accurate balance to make the door close and latch on it’s own. If this is you … stop. Just stop. You’re going to give yourself a heart attack or a stroke. There are bigger things to worry about in life.
Here’s whats going on.
Assuming you have an all glass door (or the screen is not down), as the storm door closes it begins to build pressure between the glass and the entry door. Normally, a storm door will close about halfway, the closers (or pistons) then kick in and slow the door down a bit, and then it closes the rest of the way. But it won’t latch at the end.
As the storm door is closing, it forces the air that’s trapped between the two doors out. But there comes a point when the air can’t escape fast enough, so it builds up pressure and pushes back on the storm door and the glass, and that pressure build up forces the storm door to stay open. In the end, the air pressure wins and the storm door remains unlocked.
That’s why a storm door won’t latch if the entry door is closed first, and the reason you have to push it shut in order to get it to latch.
Want to fix that? Well, you have 3 options (ranked in order from hardest to easiest):
- Change physics. Sounds absurd, but in my experience people have demanded it.
- Put a screen in the storm door or open the window. This will break the pressure seal and allow the door to close and latch on its own. How much you have to leave the window open depends on the storm door, layout of your house, wind direction, how plumb and level your entry door is, what day of the week it is, what season, and a myriad of other factors you don’t control.
- Just remember to push the storm door shut when you leave. I mean really? If that’s the biggest problem you have to deal with every day, you’re doing great!