As the winter closes in and our windows and doors begin letting in the dreaded drafts of cold air, many of us are looking for ways to make things a little more weather tight. From storm windows to weather stripping, there are hundreds of little tips and tricks to get the most out of your home's energy efficiency, but what happens when the typical approach isn't sufficient?

Local Old Town resident and fellow old house owner Kate asks:

Our front door has a pretty big gap where it meets the threshold. Short of using a draft dodger, what can we do to help make it a tad bit more energy efficient (keeping in mind we are not the handiest of folks). The problem is that the door is not squared in the corners, and we're not sure the door sweeps you find at the hardware store will provide enough clearance. Any ideas, short of replacing the door (which would not be the best plan according to the BAR - Board of Architectural Review)? Thanks!

This question deals with a topic that affects many home owners, regardless of the home's age. Settling, adjustments, or original install can all leave gaps at the bottom of the front door that are hard to solve without throwing something in front of the door. Sure, there are the obvious answers to the problem, like a wiener dog door stop. 

If you don't like wiener dogs, there are always many other options that you may be a fan of, like this snake/dragon...

Photo Credit: Allison Gryski

...but there's got to be a better solution when you aren't interested in putting long stuffed animals in front of your door (no matter how much fun they can be to look at).

In Kate's situation, the various options are complicated by a few limiting factors. First, she's squarely in the historic district, so she can't do any alterations to the exterior of her house without getting Board of Architectural Review approval if the changes would affect how her door or house would look. This means no storm doors or a lengthy process to get a new door approved to replace the old one. Secondly, her front door opens right into the living space of her house, which makes the need for a less invasive approach more desirable. 

In our case, our front door opens to our entry hallway, and before you even get to the hallway, we have our entry vestibule. Though we have the same problem with a gap below our front door, it isn't as much of a concern since our outer French doors act as storm doors and stop the air movement, thus reducing drafts. Some cold air still sneaks in under the door, but since it's in our entry hallway we don't worry much about it as it doesn't really affect living space.

Kate's house has a beautiful wood front door that keeps with the style of her house. So any solution would be to make an alteration to her existing front door to integrate weather stripping that could block the worst of the cold weather drafts.

Depending on the inside clearance once the door opens, Kate could always apply a single interior weather sweep. This is available at any big box store and installs on the interior of the door. When the door shuts, the rubber acts as a sort of gasket to block drafts. Though it is easy to install, it is only marginally effective because it is one small piece of rubber and doesn't do any more than block than sit in front of the gap. To complicate matters, it is more easily damaged than it should be, and it may not work at all if the interior floor of the house is out of level, which would limit the ability to open the door inward.

The option I'd go with in this situation is a bit more difficult to install, but it works more effectively and will result in a much better seal without the potential for damage. The product I'd use is a weather stripping device called an "Automatic Door Bottom."

This cool energy saver is actually mortised into the bottom of the door. When the door is open, the weather stripping mechanism is retracted into the bottom of the door. 

However, as the door closes, the side of the door against the jamb has a small rod or button that is depressed by the door jamb. This button activates a lever that pushes the weather stripping gasket down towards the floor, creating a tight seal between the door and the threshold. 

This is all done using a multi-block rubber or felt gasket (not just a single piece), and it is forced into place rather than just sitting there. The hope is that the adjustable gasket can be set low enough to cover the entire gap.

As I said, it's a more difficult install as it requires routing the bottom of your door and embedding this item right into the door, but it is worth the effort to get weather blocking results without any noticeable interior or exterior modifications to your door.

It's also important to prime the routed area with an oil based primer prior to install to keep any water from infiltrating the door, otherwise you'd end up with potential rot issues over the years, which is far worse than any door drafts.

What do you think of my advice to our question? Do you have any preferred methods for dodging door drafts in your house? Have any experience installing or using the weather stripping gasket that deploys when you close your door? I've seen it a few times and it seems to really work, but I'd love some more first hand opinions on the matter.

Disclaimer: Ask Old Town Home is meant simply as a friendly bit of advice and is provided free of charge. It is your responsibility to fully research any and all items related to projects or suggestions to ensure proper safety and code precautions and regulations are fully followed. In other words, any advice we provide is just our opinion, and our opinion is only worth the price we charge for it. :-)

Comments 3


11/7/2012 at 1:38 PM
This is a great question!

We replaced the original front door on our house that was literally coming apart at the seams with a new mahogany door. In the summer the door swells so much that you have to give it a shoulder to open, and in the winter it shrinks up to the point that there's a noticeable draft underneath.

I think we need to replace the threshold with something shorter so the door opens properly in the summer but then the winter draft will be even worse (btw, we installed the door in springtime, and it was a perfect fit). The products you listed may be the perfect solution!

Thanks and best of luck to Kate!
11/7/2012 at 9:38 PM
Thanks, Alex. This is a great suggestion, but much more involved than I had hoped it would be! Oh the charm of old homes with crooked doors and floors! Looks like I will need to hire someone to do this.... Unless of course you're dying for a project (kidding, kidding)! But seriously, if you or your readers have any suggestions for a good carpenter-type to do this, please let us know. I probably should have thought about this a few weeks ago! For now, a draft dodger will have to do.

Thanks again! You guys are the best!!!
Jaye Green
1/1/2019 at 11:40 AM

The draft isn't coming in UNDER my doors. It's coming in from the side by the locks. Is there something I can attach to the inside that can stop the wind from coming in that's cheap and easy?

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