Windows and Doors

Doors/Garage Doors/Openers/Hatches

Image of white painted French doors and flagstone patio
Exterior French doors

The doors in your home are used to separate and close off spaces or rooms and to allow passage and security. Doors have hinges that allow them to swing open (usually in one direction), and knobs or lever-type latches and locks to keep them closed and provide some level of privacy or security. All exterior doors should also be fitted with thresholds and weatherstripping to seal off the outside from the inside. Doors are available in a plethora of styles to meet almost any design taste and are made with all kinds of materials. Exterior doors need to be weather resistant.

Doors can be custom made but mostly come in a range of standard sizes that are described in feet and inches. For instance, the standard height for doors is 6’-8” (80”). I am not sure why 6-8 is the standard height (I am certain many professional athletes have wondered also), it just is. I prefer 8’ high doors and have them throughout my own home. Apparently enough other folks prefer taller doors also because all of the major manufacturers now offer 8’ versions of their offerings. Standard door widths are: 18”, 24” and increase in 2″ increments from there. Most interior (room to room) doors are 30″ x 80″ (762 mm x 2032 mm). The standard width for exterior doors is 36” and wheelchair access doors must also have a minimum width of 36”. The standard thicknesses for most pre-fabricated doors are 1 3/8″ thick (for interior doors) or 1 3/4″ (for exterior).

Normal hinged doors can only swing one way, so along with their size, they are also described by their swing direction (right or left). The easiest way to tell if a door is a “right hand” or a “left hand” door is to close the door and stand on the side where you can see the hinges. If the hinges are on the right it is a right-hand door and if they are on the left it is a left-hand door. Simple as that. The building code requires that doors into the garage from the home need to be solid core and self-closing for fire safety.

Pocket doors are specially designed with tracks that allow the door to slide into the wall cavity and thus disappear from view entirely when open. It is important to remember not to drive nails into the sides of the door pockets.

Another type of door that has become very popular lately for indoor use is the barn slider. Barn-type sliding doors are suspended from tracks that extend out from the wall across the top of the door opening. The door can then slide across the front of the opening to close or open.

Image of sliding barn-style door
Sliding barn style door

Most doors installed in your home are wood products subject to the normal characteristics of wood-like shrinkage and warpage. Fluctuations in humidity from the use of forced air furnaces, showers, and dishwashers may occasionally require minor adjustments to the wood doors.

To ensure longer life for your exterior wood doors, plan to refinish them often. Tiny cracks form over time in the finish and this is where water and sun can penetrate to the wood surface where the damage begins. It can spread quickly and quietly. Stained exterior doors with clear finishes tend to weather faster than painted doors. Wood doors in direct sunlight may require refreshing with a wood preserver as often as every three months to preserve the exterior and prevent the door from drying and cracking. Reseal stained exterior doors whenever the finish begins cracking or crazing. Steel doors are a more durable, energy efficient and secure for exteriors. These can get very hot on the outside if they are exposed to direct sunlight. Be cautious about what you hang on the outside of steel doors.

Slamming doors can cause damage to doors, hardware and jambs and can even cause cracking in adjoining drywall. Do not to hang on the doorknob, place any spreader-type pull-up bars or other equipment in the door way or on the door jambs.

Image of French limestone house with high quality wood windows and doors
Hi quality wood doors, windows and screens

To-Do

  • Keep a spare access key for your home in a lockbox locates somewhere handy on the property in case you lock yourself out by accident.
  • Keep a duplicate privacy lock key for bathrooms where kids cannot reach it in the event someone gets locked in. The top edge of the door casing is often a place to keep the key.
  • Avoid the slamming of doors.
  • Do not allow kids to hang from door knobs and do not place spreader type work out bars in the door jambs.
  • Learn how to fix a stripped wood screw.

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: Door hinges need lubrication at least once a year and the hinge screws need to be kept tight. If a screw becomes stripped in the wood jamb it will need to be repaired (link). Other door hardware, knobs, handles, strikes and locks also need to be lubricated and checked for tightness and smooth operation. Squeaky door hinges can be corrected by removing the hinge pin and applying a small amount of silicone lubricant to it. Avoid using oil, as it can gum up or attract dirt. Graphite can create a gray smudge on the door or floor covering beneath the hinge if too much is applied.
  • 2x per year: Doors operate within fairly tight tolerances, so slight movements of the structure can affect the latching mechanism and cause doors to rub on frames or floor. This condition will require an adjustment or repair.
  • 1x per year: Inspect finishes of exterior doors, jambs and thresholds. For homes with wood exterior doors and thresholds, it is critical to maintain the paint and finishes. Deterioration of the finish coats will quickly lead to structural damage to the door. Panels of wood doors shrink and expand in response to changes in temperature and humidity leaving gaps and bare areas that will need to be touched up with paint or stain.
  • 1x per year: Doors with roller latches located at the top of the doors can accumulate dust that will settle in the rollers causing them to stick. These can be cleaned with compressed air and lubricated with silicone.
  • 1x per year: Lubricate and operate door locks. Bathroom doors usually have privacy locks. Lubricate door locks with graphite or other waterproof lubricant. Avoid oil, as it will gum up.
  • 1x per year: Inspect for any minor separations that develop at mitered joints in door trim. Use putty, filler, or latex caulk to fill and follow with painting.
  • 2x per year: Check for any rubbing or doors sticking to the floor or jamb. Sticking doors are usually caused by the natural expansion of lumber due to changes in moisture levels and humidity. When rubbing or sticking is due to swelling during a damp season, try to avoid cutting the door unless it continues to stick after the weather changes. Tightening the hinge screws that hold the door to the jamb or installing a screw into door frame can sometimes move the door enough to stop rubbing. If it becomes necessary to plane the door after these attempts, use sandpaper to smooth and repaint the worked area to seal against moisture. A door that is warped badly may need to be replaced.

Garage Doors/Openers

Garages have an interesting history. Starting out as carriage houses first, these were usually located a short distance away from the main home so that they were conveniently close to the horse who was in charge of pulling the carriage around.
When the automobile became popular these carriage houses were converted for use with cars. With a car, folks soon gave up the horse and with horses gone, so were the problems associated with feed, flies etc. Now the enclosure could be conveniently attached to the house and the modern garage was born.
An overhead version of the door operator came into being in 1921 and by 1926 could even be fitted with an electric opener. This made car ownership fantastically cool, but we had to wait another 40 years to get a reliable secure remote control that would not open the neighbor’s door at the same time as our own.
Overhead garage doors are big and heavy, some as much as 400 pounds or more. In order to lift them, garage doors are fitted with powerful counterbalance springs that do most of the heavy work. These springs are rated to last at least 10,000-15,000 cycles. As durable as they are, sometimes one will break and that can be dangerous.
To avoid being trapped, the US requires garage doors to have a quick-release mechanism that allows the door to be disconnected from the opener in the event of a power failure. Garage door openers are also required to have safety sensors to detect objects in the path of the door and to reverse the garage door if it strikes a solid object.
There are several types of mechanisms for the openers. I prefer the “jack shaft” type opener where the motor is mounted on the wall next to the door springs. I don’t like having the motor hanging over my car. Garage doors have a bunch of panels and parts held together with bolts and hinges. These bolts vibrate when in use and need regular tightening. The tracks for the door rollers should be clean and free of debris and the bearings of the rollers should be lubricated annually. Garage overhead doors are not air tight. Severe weather conditions may result in some rain or debris being blown in around the door.
Image of garage door opener motor mounted on side wall adjacent to door
Side mount garage door opener

To-Do

  • Read the manual to be familiar with the steps for manual operation of the door in the event of a power failure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe and reliable operation.
  • Do not allow anyone or pets near the door and keep hands and fingers away from all parts when in motion.
  • Do not allow children to play with or around the door. If the large seal at the bottom of the door fails is should be replaced.
  • If debris continually blows into the garage from around the closed garage door, inspect all of the weatherstripping and repair as needed.

Maintenance

  • 2x per year: inspect and tighten all the bolts and nuts holding the door and opener together.
  • 1x per year: Lubricate the roller bearings and other moving parts. Do not get lubricant in the track itself in order to avoid “skating” of the rollers in the track.
  • 1x per year: Replace the convenience bulb once a year to avoid finding out the hard way that it is not working.
  • 1x per year: Most garage doors have a key lock that nobody ever uses. If this lock becomes stiff, apply a silicone or graphite lubricant. To prevent damage to the garage door opener, be sure the door is completely unlocked before using the operator.

Hatches

Hatches are covered openings into spaces of your home that are not habitable but need to be entered from time to time. All these areas must be accessible according to the building code for inspections and possible repairs, and the openings must be of certain minimum dimensions. Bigger access hatches are better, especially if there is a need to get equipment in or out. Hatch examples are crawlspaces, attics and roof access.
Hatches should have a cover or door that can be closed and that seals tightly. If the hatch is located within the living space, it should not only be secured tightly, it should be weather stripped to prevent air, insects or rodents from moving through the hatch opening. If the hatch is exposed to the elements, it should be water tight. Attic hatches can be fit with pull-down, folding ladders which are very handy.

To-Do

  • Locate and note all your access hatches both in and out, note the locations and inspect the covers for a tight seal.
  • Check each hatch located on the interior of your home to see if there is weatherstripping in place.
Image showing an open floor hatch leading to a crawlspace
Crawlspace hatch
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