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Storm Door Installation, Repair and Adjustment

Back "in the day", storm doors were a sure-fire way to save both energy and protect your valuable front door. Though many modern insulated front doors don't even need storm doors, the millions still in use will continue to need repairs, adjustment and replacement.  Here we go...  

Tips when installing an aluminum storm door...

How do I adjust my storm door closer? My storm door has recently begun to slam when it closes. I have tried to change the position of the bracket on the door, but either the door still slams or doesn't close all the way.


Tips when installing an aluminum storm door...

Though I honestly believe that the manufacturers of aluminum storm doors try to make them as easy as possible to install, the fact is that a storm door can be a mini-nightmare project. However, if you take your time, you should be able to do a great job. Things to be careful of:

  • Storm doors are designed to adapt to frames that are quite a bit out of whack. So, in your cutting and fitting, don't get hyper about absolute perfection. Really good is good enough.
  • When mounting the jamb bracket for the self-closer, believe the instructions when they indicate the distance from the door to the bracket, usually 1/4 inch. This distance is not micrometer-critical, but if you vary too much the door may not close properly or not open fully.
  • The safety chain is designed to stop the storm door from over-opening through the actions of humans or Mother Nature! Enough force can even rip the jamb bracket right out of the door jamb! Though many manufacturers give measured locations for the safety chain mounting, I always check to make sure that the safety chain will do its job before drilling any holes. I have found that the safety chains packaged with some doors are not the same length as the one described in the instructions. No big deal if the chain is too long, because you can snip off a few links. If the chain is too short, the door may not open fully with the chain installed! Follow these steps: Storm door with closer and safety chain

    Mount the chain at the recommended location on the door first. Open the door to an acceptable position and lock it with the hold-open washer. The closer should not be fully extended or stressing the door jamb bracket. If it is, you may have goofed up the installation of the jamb bracket or positioned the door bracket incorrectly. Correct this problem first before continuing!!

    Extend the safety chain taut and locate it on the upper jamb, with the safety chain jamb bracket angled towards the door. Mark the location of the holes with a pencil. Now, just out of curiosity, check the recommended distance from the hinge jamb to the location you just marked. If the distance is less than the distance you marked, you just saved your door and jamb from possible damage. If the distance is greater, your door wouldn't open fully and be, in a word, dysfunctional.

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How do I adjust my storm door closer? My storm door has recently begun to slam when it closes. I have tried to change the position of the bracket on the door, but either the door still slams or doesn't close all the way.

Understanding how these closers work will help you to understand the adjustment.  A spring within the unit does the actual closing. If the closer had just a spring, though, the door would swing shut wildly as did the old-time springs that are still used on some old wooden doors and gates. The automatic closer uses air (or in some cases oil) to control the spring and thus the closing rate. In a pneumatic closer, for example, there is an air tube inside the cylinder.  When the door is opened, this tube fills with air as the piston extends.  When the door is released, the internal spring begins to pull the door shut.  The movement of the spring is cushioned by the air in the cylinder, with an adjustable valve in the closer controlling how quickly the air  is released.  The slower the air is released, the slower the closing rate.

Storm door closer bracket

Either slamming or incomplete closing can indicate either the need for adjustment or the need for replacement.  As they age, door closers loose some of their ability to pull your door smoothly as the internal spring weakens and/or the seals in the pneumatic (or hydraulic) system begin to fail.  Often times, minor malfunctions can be compensated for by turning the closing rate adjusting screw that is located on the door-mounted end on the closer.  Turning clockwise will slow down the closing rate, while turning counterclockwise will increase the closing rate.

A second way to adjust the closing rate is by making adjustments at the mounting bracket on the door.  Many door closers have multiple holes on the closer and/or the mounting bracket allowing you to increase the tension on the internal spring in the closer.  This is known as preloading.   This is a good way to increase the closing force, especially in the last few inches of door closure if the door is not latching.  The problem, though, is that this adjustment can decrease the amount the door will open.  Check the total out swing of the door whenever making this adjustment to be sure that it is opening adequately for your needs.

If your mounting bracket does not have multiple adjustment holes, you can also move the bracket further from the hinge.  Many brackets have multiple mounting holes allowing for small adjustments.  Keep your adjustments small, testing the door function each time... a little goes a long way here!

There is another type of closer... the hydraulic door closer, which uses a light oil instead of air as a control fluid.  As the door closes, the internal spring forces oil to move at a controlled rate between two compartments inside the closer. The only time you would see the oil is if the unit malfunctioned. Hydraulic closers don't have an adjustment screw, but instead are generally adjusted by physically rotating the body of the closer on the piston.  Because the flow of oil is more easy to control with precision, these closers work more smoothly than air-controlled closers. The cost of these units is a little higher, but not staggeringly so.

If you need to replace the closer, take the old one with you to the hardware store. If you purchase a close or exact match you may save yourself some work since the hardest part of the installation is installing the door and frame brackets.  With an identical replacement part, you can just replace the cylinder and leave the rest of the hardware in place... unless of course the hardware is damaged.

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Jerry Alonzy, the founder of Naturalhandyman.com

Written by Jerry Alonzy

Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.

As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+.