Storm doors are so common, it’s easy to assume they’re a critical building feature or even required by building codes. In reality, these doors perform several functions that can be highly valuable to some homeowners, but not to all.
More than Just Protection from the Weather
A storm door is an exterior door installed in front of a main exterior door, primarily for additional protection from the elements. They’re typically used on front entry doors, but can be installed on any exterior door.
Most consist of an aluminum frame that holds a glass panel, a screen, or a combination of the two. Some models let you replace the glass panel with a screen for ventilation in warm weather, then switch back to the glass when the cold weather returns. Other models are equipped with built-in screens that roll out when needed. They’re available with full glass or half glass panels and come in a variety of frame colors and widths. The concept might sound simple, but these doors are surprisingly multi-functional.
Weather protection – A storm door acts as another layer of insulation between the interior of your home and the inclement weather outside, slowing down unwanted heat loss from conduction. This is especially valuable for uninsulated aluminum and steel doors. If the interior side of your door is cold to the touch in cold weather, you can benefit from a storm door. The same is true if your front door suffers from air or water leaks that aren’t easily repaired.
A storm door also protects the door itself, preventing damage from rain, snow, and wind-blown debris. If you have a high-end wooden door or a recently painted door, a storm door will keep it in good condition longer, extending the time between repainting or replacing the door.
Improved airflow and lighting – A storm door with a screen lets you leave your main door open during good weather to enjoy a breeze without inviting in bugs and curious animals or letting your pets out. Better airflow reduces your reliance on air conditioning. Even without a screen, a glass storm door lets more light into your entryway without letting your heated or cooled air escape.
A cleaner home – While it’s keeping out the cold, a storm door also keeps bugs, dust, and other debris out of your home. This reduces your risk of infestations and cuts down on your cleaning work.
Additional security – As a side benefit, a locking storm door puts another layer of security between you and the outside world. It can slow down would-be intruders and let you feel safer opening the door to talk to someone on your porch. If your existing exterior door is inadequately secure and you don’t have the budget to upgrade, installing an ordinary storm door is already a step up.
For a higher level of security, consider a specially designed security storm door. Built with features such as steel frames, laminated security glass, and knife-resistance steel screen mesh, these doors are tough enough to provide serious protection from home intruders.
A better view for your pets – With a storm door, you can safely leave your main door open to give your dog or cat another view to the outside world, keeping them entertained and calmer. You might find your dog barks less when he can see what’s going on outside instead of hearing mysterious noises.
Not Always a Worthwhile Investment
As helpful as they can be to some, for others, a storm door is little more than a luxury or, worse, a minor annoyance. Installing one when you don’t really need it is not only a waste of money, but can also make you overall less happy with your home.
If you have a newer, energy-efficient exterior door, a storm door will give you next to no improvement in your comfort and energy savings. If your door is sheltered by an overhang or covered porch that keeps the rain and snow off, it already has nearly the same level of protection a storm door would offer. You won’t recoup your investment from savings in energy bills and door repairs.
Storm doors help with ventilation, but they can’t correct for overall poor indoor ventilation, so you might be disappointed if a big improvement in airflow is your goal.
In storm door design, beauty takes a back seat to functionality and durability. While many high-end models offer a selection of frame colors and full view glass to let most of your front door shine through, you’ll still have a metal frame around your door. If you’ve invested in an elaborately detailed solid wood door, you might not want a storm door obscuring its beauty. If your home was built in an older architectural style, a storm door might clash with the aesthetics and detract from its authenticity.
The total cost is another factor. While a storm door plus installation rarely runs more than $300, it’s money spent on something you might not need. A well made storm door can last up to 30 years, but because its job is to stand as the first line of defense against harsh weather, it’s bound to sustain some wear and damage. That means you’ll need to pay for repairs.
Your main door can also suffer. The points where the storm door is attached to your main door are at increased risk for leaks and rot that shorten the door’s lifespan. If your door gets more than two hours of direct sunlight a day during the warmer seasons, a storm door can trap enough heat to damage the main door.
If your main goal is improved security, you’ll be better off investing in a steel or solid wood exterior door. These doors are physically stronger than any storm door and can be fit with stronger locks than a storm door can handle.
Storm doors can be a little inconvenient, too. It’s one more thing to hassle with on your way in or out, and for the elderly, people with physical limitations, and families with small children, it might be more hassle than it’s worth. During large gatherings when a lot of people are moving in and out of the house, a storm door becomes an annoyance.
If your exterior door is an older or low-cost model, adding a storm door can improve your home’s energy efficiency, cleanliness, and security while also bringing you better airflow and lighting. For a modern, energy-efficient door, a storm door isn’t a must-have, but you might still appreciate the added light, airflow, and security. Ultimately, though, if you don’t like the idea of an additional door and your existing door is in good condition, you have nothing to lose by foregoing the storm door.