How do I replace my door’s weather stripping?

JD Norris

The other day I had someone ask how they could replace the weather-stripping from around their front door. When I asked why they needed to, she said their dog had scratched at it in various places and caused it to shred in places, while the portion under the door was tearing.

With winter coming on, the timing couldn’t be better to address this issue. There are about as many door manufacturers as there are homes to put them in, and each one seems to use a slightly different style of weather-stripping, so I can only address a few of them.

Most modern doors come complete inside a frame and is referred to as a door unit. If you stand inside the home and open the door, you will see a vinyl clad foam weather-strip up both sides and across the top of the frame. The weather-stripping is held into the frame by a stiff, barbed rib that slips into a groove running around the perimeter of the door stop. The barbed rib is comprised of soft vinyl ridges, not the sharp metal barbs we think of when we hear the term. The weather-stripping will pull out of the groove with a firm tug.

Many times, experienced painters will remove this foam seal in order to prevent getting paint on it then push it back in the groove when complete. When this type of seal becomes worn or damaged, simply remove it and replace it with new pieces. They may be found at home centers and building supply stores in the door weather-stripping areas.

When cutting the new strips to the proper length of your door frame, make sure the bottom touches the threshold to prevent air infiltration along the bottom and continue until it touches the top of the door frame, called the header.

You will notice the vertical groove may be interrupted by the horizontal header groove. In order for the vertical weather-strip to touch the header, you may have to clip about one half of an inch of the stiff rib along the top. Use heavy sheers or a sharp razor knife if you don’t have any tin snip sheers. Be careful with the razor knife.

Continue installing the other vertical seal before installing the top piece. To cut and install the top piece of weather-stripping, measure the length from side jamb to side jamb. This will become the longest points of the top piece, but you will want to cut the ends at a 45-degree angle to overlap the two vertical pieces for a good air tight fit. A little finessing of the stiff rib will be necessary to accomplish this fit.

With older doors not designed with this groove, the same vinyl clad foam is available with an added support strip attached to the foam seal. This support strip comes in aluminum and wood and is designed to install onto the side of the door stop. The door stop is the thicker portion of the wood frame on the outside half of the frame when the door is closed, if the door is an inswing door.

The vinyl clad foam weather-strip with the support strips run up both sides of the frame and across the top as well. To properly adjust the tension in order to achieve the best weatherization, close the door and latch the deadbolt; after the vertical, lock-side strip is cut to length, press the foam seal against the surface of the door while exerting pressure against the deadbolt. This ensures a good snug fit after the job is complete.

Start with the lock-side to establish the proper compression, and, as you install the hinge side of the seal, use a little less compression of the foam seal. If you compress the hinge side too much it may get caught and pinched the first time you open and re-close the door.

As you install the top seal, the compression will match that of the lock-side as well as the hinge side, which means it will have a slight taper to it as it spans across the outer portion of the header.

Once the weather-stripping is installed, the door itself can be removed and placed on saw horses so that you can remove the bottom seal, if it is worn out. On newer doors, it is common to have a vinyl seal along the bottom of the door that is held in by two parallel grooves along the bottom of the door with a staple at each end. Remove this seal and replace with the same style, available at home centers and building supply stores.

With this task behind you, you can face winter’s other challenges with one less thing to worry about. If you have a problem with weather-stripping on an old-style door, email me and let me know, and I will address it in another column.

JD Norris is the owner/operator of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen and a certified S.C. Master Builder, certified “Aging in Place” Specialist and certified Green Professional. If you have any projects that you would like discussed in an upcoming article, email jdn.dm@comcast.net or to access past articles, visit www.dreammakeraiken.com.