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For job they do, storm doors get little respect

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Storm doors can be seen as another type of window, helping to fight off the dark, or they can be a natural form of ventilation.

Or they can be considered virtually useless.

"I've never seen the logic in it," says Pine-based home builder Don Horn, who has made himself well known with his accurate Colonial designs. "I never recommend it."

But Bruce Stephen from the Minnesota-based Andersen Corp., which makes energy-efficient windows and doors, says the logic is irrefutable in terms of energy savings and practical use.

Paul Benton from the McCandless outlet of Lowe's offers an observation.

"If they weren't popular and if people weren't finding a use for them, would we have 20 of them?" he says, pointing to a crowded display.

But their use sometimes is denied.

Jennifer Silk, a member of a homeowners' committee at a part of the Adams Crossing development in Butler County, says property owners are not permitted to put storm doors on the front of their carriage homes. The decision is meant to maintain a uniformity of appearance.

Storm doors are permitted on back doors, but must be of the full-view design. Those doors are open enough to show the door behind it.

Life can be stormy for that type of door.

A household Rodney Dangerfield

For the jobs they do, storm doors sometimes get little respect.

Andersen's Stephen talks about how they can provide protection for the main entrance door and some safety when you want that door to stand open.

By throwing on the latch, an entranceway can be ventilated, yet kept closed so children or pets can not wander away, he says.

That ventilation can be a big step in creating the sort of through-house draft that can be used to keep a house cool without air conditioning, he and Benton say.

The locked door also provides a little privacy to keep an inquiring neighbor or friend from simply walking into a home, Stephen says.

He and Benton point out some storm doors have three latches on them to make them even more protective. The added touch of security is inexpensive at $100 to $400.

Stephen says, however, some storm doors with custom, decorative glass can top $500.

But interior designer Steven Hildenbrand from the Irwin firm that bears his name believes storm doors take away from the look of the main door. They cover up to design and the material of the main door, even covering up the sometimes-striking handleset.

Some homeowners will keep the glass in their storm door to better show the appearance of the main door, he says, and if that is done in the summer, it can damage a door because of the heat.

"It can really cook a door," he says, "particularly a west- or south-facing door."

Horn says, however, many of the current steel and fiberglass doors have strong enough surfaces to avoid such issues. But neither do they need the protection, he says.

Even energy-efficient, wooden main doors, which sometimes can cost $4,000, are strong enough to exist without a storm door, he says.

"The only thing you need to protect a door is a roof over top of it," he says, insisting keeping snow and rain off it is the best protection.

The screen door option

Horn says he never recommends adding a storm door to any house, but says he has added wooden screen doors to the back entrance of homes "when they want it."

"If you don't have enough ventilation from windows, that is a good option," he says.

Ventilation and its positive nature play a big role in the promotion of storm doors. Benton talks about the ease of retractable screens, which stay permanently mounted in the door and can be raised or lowered into place at a whim.

Full-view doors have screen units that take the place of the glass and can open the whole door to a cool breeze.

"You just pop out that glass," Stephen says. "It's easy."

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