HOW TO INSTALL A STORM DOOR
A quick word of advice about installing your door before you begin. I have installed literally thousands of doors over the years and as I talk to homeowners and do-it-yourselfers after the fact, I get the essentially the same stories. They always begin with “I thought installing a storm door was easy but . . . “
When installing your new door remember this: it is more art than science.
Throw away the level, square, and plumb bob because they will only cause you grief. It does you no good to have a perfectly level door in an opening that is completely out of level, plumb, and otherwise, because the door looks crooked in the opening. You must find a balance between perfection and reality, and a balance between the door looking square and being square.
This is where I try to talk you out of how to install a storm door. While it’s not rocket science, there is a definite art form to it. What may seem like a half day project can quickly eat an entire weekend and then some.
Okay, I have said my peace. Still ready to tackle it yourself? Then let’s get this done! First, here’s a quick video that I think gives you a good overview:
Step 1: Measure the opening.
Step 2: Attach the hinge side rail.
After measuring the right size, how to install a storm door correctly depends a lot on which way you want it to open. Once you have determined it will fit where you want to put it, the next most important step is to attach the hinge frame to the door. To do this, lean the door on it’s side against a wall or tree or bush, with the hinge side facing up. Most directions say lay it flat on a sawhorse it on a sawhorse, but we’ll do it the easy way and let gravity work for us not against us. Make sure you determine which side is the top of it and align the top hole of the top hinge of the frame with the pilot hole on the side of the door. Essentially, the top of the hinge frame will stick about 1/8″ to 3/8″ above the top of the door. Screw the frame to the door. Next, pre-drill pilot holes in all the other hinges and secure them to the door as well.
Step 3: Put the door into the opening.
Once the hinge frame is attached to the door, set the entire unit into the opening. Push the door and hinge frame up snug against the brick molding or exterior trim. Now you should see 4-6 pre-drilled holes in the hinge frame on the outside. Pre-drill and put a screw into the topmost hole. This will prevent the it from falling on your head. Next, shift the bottom of the hinge frame over if the door doesn’t look like it’s square in the opening. When you have it where you want it, put a screw into the bottom most hole of the hinge frame. This will secure the door for now.
As a matter of experience, it’s a good thing to put a ladder or toolbox or something in the path of the door so it doesn’t accidentally blow open and cause damage. Open the door completely, then put something large by the bottom corner so it can’t open any further.
Step 4: Attach top rail
Now the hard part is over. The rest is easy. Take the top piece of the door frame and put it at the top of the door itself. Close it and make sure the reveal (the space between the top of the door and the frame) is even all the way across the top of the door. Pre-drill where needed and screw it down.
Step 5: Attach the latch rail.
Now, open the door and put the latch frame on the other side. Hold it into place and close the door on it. If it’s too long, you’ll have to cut the BOTTOM part of the frame (unless the directions indicate otherwise). Close the door and make sure the storm door makes good contact with the latch frame. Pre-drill and put a screw in the top hole, shift the bottom part of the frame where it needs to be, then pre-drill, screw, and secure the bottom part of the frame. Next, adjust the middle of the latch frame where the door handle is going to roughly be. make sure you leave enough space to clear the strike plate, pre-drill, and screw down the middle part of the latch frame.
Now, everywhere there is a place to put a screw in the frame rails on the exterior, pre-drill, and put a screw in.
Also, open the door completely, and pre-drill and screw the inside jamb of the hinge frame. Typically there’s 6-8 holes hiding.
Step 6: Put on the bottom expander.
Now, you should see about a 1/2″ to 2″ gap at the bottom of the door. Don’t worry, we’re going to work on closing it. Now you’ll have one piece of the frame left. If it doesn’t have weather stripping already in it, slide the weather stripping (black rubber piece) into the track and cut off the excess. Put the expander on the bottom of the door but DO NOT SECURE IT. You want it to move up and down for now, i.e., you want it to be adjustable.
Step 7: Drill out and install the door handle
Read the directions that came with your door handle and using the template mark drill, and install the door handle. WORD OF ADVICE: Before you drill, make sure that the door handle will not hit your entry door handle. Also, DO NOT install the strike plate on the latch z-bar frame. This will be the last step.
Step 8: NOW attach expander.
Now get on the inside, close and lock the door, and adjust the bottom expander to close up as much of the gap as you can. When you have it as good as it’s going to get, pre-drill 1 hole on the left and right sides and secure the expander into place.
Step 9: Attach the door closers
Using the instructions provided, attach the door closer(s) at the top (and bottom if you have 2). Open and close the the door and adjust the pressure in the door closers as needed ( there’s a screw in the tip of each closer that adjusts the speed.)
Step 10: Install the strike plate
Now, working closer to the answer of how to install a storm door correctly we come to the strike plate. To install the strike plate perfectly every time, here’s a trade secret. Open the door and lock the lock, now close it and where the door latch and lock hit the door frame, take a pencil and mark the top and bottom. Open the door and trace those lines horizontally around the frame. Now, that’s where your latch and lock are going to hit. Line up the holes (if you have holes pre-punched in the frame) or put the bracket there. Secure the strike plate and close the door again. You may have to adjust it a little to get it as close to perfect as possible, but that’s the concept.
You have successfully answered the question of how to install a storm door by doing it! Have a beer and relax!
In fact, I'll join you! If my directions helped you install your door correctly, then buy me a beer too!
Now what if you installed it, but it’s not working right. Or maybe it has been a few years and it’s having problems. Not to fear, just move to our next step: