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In this article we discuss the frame types for exterior doors and the energy efficiency ratings of exterior doors. We review the proper installation details for windows and doors, and we compare the durability of different window and door materials and types. In this article series we discuss the selection and installation of windows and doors, following best construction and design practices for building lighting and ventilation, with attention to the impact on building heating and cooling costs, indoor air quality, and comfort of occupants.
See WINDOWS & DOORS our home page for window and door information, and also see WINDOW TYPES - Photo Guide for a photographic guide to window and door types and architectural styles. Ourlinks listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article provide in-depth articles on window and door selection, inspection, installation, problem diagnosis, and repair.
In new construction, most exterior doors are purchased
pre hung in a frame complete with adjustable thresholds,
sidelites or transoms, and, in some cases, high-tech electronics,
such as motion-sensor lighting and keyless ignition
systems. The frames come in a variety of materials
from basic finger-jointed pine to low-maintenance frames
clad in vinyl or aluminum.
The most critical piece of the frame is the sill and
threshold. Most today are extruded aluminum, often with
a treated wood or composite subsill (Figure 3-24).
Some have built-in channels with weeps to safely
drain away water and many have an adjustable sill step, a
helpful option since few of today’s doors can be planed or
When purchasing a complete entry system, make sure
that the components all come from the same manufacturer,
since many distributors mix and match door slabs from one
company with more economical frames, hardware, or glazing
systems from another, potentially voiding the warranty
should some components fail.
Insulation values for entry doors range from about R-2 for
solid wood to about R-5 for a fiberglass or steel door filled
with polystyrene foam. Doors with polyurethane foam
average about R-8. The values are lower than for a solid
slab of foam insulation due to internal blocking and frame
materials. In doors with glazing, the numbers drop
However, because of a door’s relatively small area,
conductive heat loss has little effect on annual fuel bills.
Thermal breaks are important with steel doors since they
help eliminate condensation around the door’s perimeter.
Air leakage has the biggest energy impact since it can contribute
to condensation, increased fuel bills, and discomfort
due to drafts.
Weather-Stripping Advice for Exterior Doors
Look for air tightness ratings similar
to windows, preferably below .10 cfm/sq ft. Equally
important as the rating, however, is how the weather stripping
holds up over time. Magnetic weather-stripping
generally performs well but is only available on steel
Compression bulbs form a tight seal, but some materials
lose flexibility in the cold or take on a permanent
“compression set.” Silicone and EPDM both resist compression
set and stay flexible in the cold. Neoprene and
vinyl are less durable and less flexible in the cold.
widely used weather-stripping material with a proven track
record is Schlegel’s proprietary Q-Lon, a thermoset plastic
that outperforms thermoplastics, such as vinyl, TPE, and
Exterior Door Sweeps
Also look for a durable seal at the door
There are many approaches to sealing at the
threshold, including bulbs, sweeps, and interlocks that
work in conjunction with the threshold to seal out water
and air leakage (Figure 3-25 at left).
One of the most effective approaches is an automatic
sweep that retracts into a dado cut in the bottom of the door
and drops down only when the door is closed. These are
available as retrofits for wood doors and will even work
without a threshold.
Window and Door Resources: where to buy window and door products
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