Doors Adjacent to Unconditioned Space

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Description

Exterior doorways are essentially large holes in the exterior shell of the home connecting the indoors to the outdoors or to other unconditioned spaces like garages, attics, and porches. However; with proper installation and air sealing, exterior doors do not have to represent a significant source of air leakage and heat loss.  Exterior doors are usually sold as a kit with the frame attached. Insulated foam-core, metal or fiberglass ENERGY STAR doors are available and should be selected if possible. When the exterior door is installed in a new house, the rough opening (the space left for the door) is typically 1.5 to 2 inches larger than the door frame to give the installer room to install, plumb, and square the door. Once the door is set in place, some installers will stuff batt insulation into any gaps remaining in the rough opening around the frame. This fiber insulation may provide some insulation value but will not stop air flow. The rough opening should be filled with non-expanding foam or backer rod (a rod-shaped closed cell foam product) and caulk. On the exterior, the door should be properly flashed with adhesive waterproof flashing before siding is installed. The door frame should be weather stripped and a tight-fitting door sweep should be installed along the bottom of the door.

Air sealing could be done by the framer, the insulation contractor, or the contractor who installs the door. This task should be included in the contract for the appropriate trade depending on the workflow at the specific job site.

How to Air Seal the Exterior Doors

  1. Select doors that are self-closing and fire-rated; consider ENERYG STAR-labeled metal- or fiberglass-clad insulated foam core doors.      
  2. Install the door per the manufacturer’s instructions. Install an automatic door closer. Fill the rough opening around the door with non-expanding foam or press backer rod into the wider gaps and seal the seams with caulk. Flash the door frame with adhesive waterproof flashing that is properly integrated with the wall sheathing and house wrap.
  3. Install appropriate weather stripping to the door frame and threshold. See the table below for types. To determine how much weatherstripping you will need, add the perimeters of all the doors to be weatherstripped, then add 5% to 10% to accommodate any waste. Weatherstripping should be applied to clean, dry surfaces in temperatures above 20°F (-7° C). Make sure the weatherstripping meets tightly at the corners. Use a thickness that causes the weatherstripping to press tightly between the door and the door jamb when the door closes without making it difficult to shut.

Air seal door and window rough openings with backer rod, caulk, or nonexpanding foam

Figure 1 - Air seal door and window rough openings with backer rod, caulk, or nonexpanding foam  Reference

Install an ENERGY STAR-labeled door with an automatic closer. Weather strip the door frame.

Figure 2 - Install an ENERGY STAR-labeled door with an automatic closer. Weather strip the door frame  Reference

Types of Weatherstripping (DOE 2012):

Weatherstripping Best Uses Cost Advantages Disadvantages
Tension seal:

Self-stick plastic (vinyl) folded along length in a V-shape or a springy bronze strip (also copper, aluminum, and stainless steel) shaped to bridge a gap. The shape of the material creates a seal by pressing against the sides of a crack to block drafts.

Inside the track of a double-hung or sliding window, top and sides of door. Varies Durable, invisible when in place, very effective. Vinyl is fairly easy to install. Look of bronze works well for older homes. Surfaces must be flat and smooth for vinyl. Can be difficult to install, as corners must be snug. Bronze must be nailed in place (every three inches or so) so as not to bend or wrinkle. Can increase resistance in opening/closing doors or windows. Self-adhesive vinyl available. Some manufacturers include extra strip for door striker plate.
Felt:

Plain or reinforced with a flexible metal strip; sold in rolls. Must be stapled, glued, or tacked into place. Seals best if staples are parallel to length of the strip.

Around a door or window (reinforced felt); fitted into a door jamb so the door presses against it. Low Easy to install, inexpensive. Low durability; least effective preventing airflow. Do not use where exposed to moisture or where there is friction or abrasion. All-wool felt is more durable and more expensive. Very visible.
Reinforced foam:

Closed-cell foam attached to wood or metal strips.

Door or window stops; bottom or top of window sash; bottom of door.  

Low

Effective sealer, scored well in wind tests, rigid. Can be difficult to install; must be sawed, nailed, and painted. Very visible. Manufacturing process produces greenhouse gas emissions.
Tape:

Nonporous, closed-cell foam, open-cell foam, or EDPM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber.

Top and bottom of window sash; door frames; attic hatches and inoperable windows. Good for blocking corners and irregular cracks. Low. Extremely easy to install, works well when compressed, inexpensive. Can be reinforced with staples. Durability varies with material used, but not especially high for all; use where little wear is expected; visible.
Rolled or reinforced vinyl:

Pliable or rigid strip gasket (attached to wood or metal strips.)

Door or window stops; top or bottom of window sash; bottom of a door (rigid strip only). Low-Mod. Easy installation, low to moderate cost. Self-adhesive on pliable vinyl may not adhere to metal; some types of rigid strip gaskets provide slot holes to adjust height, increasing durability. Comes in varying colors to help with visibility. Visible.
Door sweep:

Aluminum or stainless steel with brush of plastic, vinyl, sponge, or felt.

Bottom of interior side of in-swinging door; bottom of exterior side of exterior-swinging door. Mod- high. Relatively easy to install; many types are adjustable for uneven threshold. Automatically retracting sweeps also available, which reduce drag on carpet and increase durability. Visible. Can drag on carpet. Automatic sweeps are more expensive and can require a small pause once door is unlatched before retracting.
Magnetic:

Works similarly to refrigerator gaskets.

Top and sides of doors, double-hung and sliding window channels. High Very effective air sealer.  
Tubular rubber and vinyl:

Vinyl or sponge rubber tubes with a flange along length to staple or tack into place. Door or window presses against them to form a seal.

Around a door. Mod- high. Effective air barrier. Self-stick versions challenging to install.
Reinforced silicone:

Tubular gasket attached to a metal strip that resembles reinforced tubular vinyl

On a doorjamb or a window stop. Mod- high. Seals well. Installation can be tricky. Hacksaw required to cut metal; butting corners pose a challenge.
Door shoe:

Aluminum face attachment with vinyl C-shaped insert to protect under the door.

To seal space beneath door. Mod- high. Sheds rain on the exterior, durable. Can be used with uneven opening. Some door shoes have replaceable vinyl inserts. Fairly expensive; installation moderately difficult. May require door bottom planing.
Bulb threshold:

Vinyl and aluminum

Door thresholds. Mod- high. Combination threshold and weatherstrip; available in different heights. Wears from foot traffic; relatively expensive.
"Frost-brake" threshold:

Aluminum or other metal on exterior, wood on interior, with door-bottom seam and vinyl threshold replacement.

To seal beneath a door. Mod- high. The use of different materials means less cold transfer. Effective. Moderately difficult to install, involves threshold replacement.
Fin seal: 

Pile weatherstrip with plastic Mylar fin centered in pile.

For aluminum sliding windows and sliding glass doors. Mod- high. Very durable. Can be difficult to install.
Interlocking metal channels:

Enables sash to engage one another when closed

Around door perimeters. High. Exceptional weather seal. Very difficult to install as alignment is critical. To be installed by a professional only.

Ensuring Success

Visually inspect exterior doors to see that weather stripping has been installed and that doors fit snugly with no air movement around perimeter or along trim when the door is closed. Verify that doors open freely with no drag on the threshold. Visually inspect that rough openings around door frames are air sealed before the drywall or door trim is installed. Check for air movement around the closed door and door trim with a smoke pencil or hand. Leaks will be easier to detect during a blower door test.

Scope

Doors adjacent to unconditioned space (e.g., attics, garages, basements) or ambient conditions gasketed or made substantially air-tight

Air Sealing

Doors adjacent to unconditioned space (e.g., attics, garages, basements) or ambient conditions gasketed or made substantially air-tight.

  1. Install a continuous gasket, such as weather stripping, around all exterior door openings.

Training

Right and Wrong Images

Presentations

None Available

Videos

None Available

CAD Images

None Available

Compliance

ENERGY STAR Version 3, (Rev. 07)

Thermal Enclosure Checklist, Air Sealing. Doors adjacent to unconditioned space (e.g., attics, garages, basements) or ambient conditions gasketed or made substantially air-tight.

DOE Challenge Home

Exhibit 1: Mandatory Requirements. Certified under ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes Version 3.

AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440-08 NAFS

North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for Windows, Doors, and Skylights.  Available from AAMA.  This is a voluntary standard/specification that covers requirements for the following components for new construction and retrofits: single and dual windows, single and dual side-hinged door systems, sliding doors, tubular daylighting devices, and unit skylights.

ASTM E-2112-07

Standard Practice for Installation of Exterior Windows, Doors and Skylights. Available from ASTM. The standard covers fenestration product installation from pre-installation through post-installation procedures in new and existing construction.

2009 IECC

Table 402.4.2 Air Barrier and Insulation Inspection Component Criteria, Windows and doors: Seal space between window/door jambs and framing.* 

2009 IRC

Table N1102.4.2 Air Barrier and Insulation Inspection Component Criteria, Windows and doors: Seal space between window/door jambs and framing.* 

2012 IECC

Table R402.4.1.1 Air Barrier and Insulation Installation, Windows, skylights and doors: Seal space between window/door jambs and framing and skylights and framing.* Table R402.4.1.1 Air Barrier and Insulation Installation, Narrow cavities: Batts in narrow cavities are cut to fit; or narrow cavities are filled with insulation that readily fills the available cavity space.* 

2012 IRC

Table N11402.4.1.1 Air Barrier and Insulation Installation, Windows, skylights and doors: Seal space between window/door jambs and framing and skylights and framing.* Table N1102.4.1.1 Air Barrier and Insulation Installation, Narrow cavities: Batts in narrow cavities are cut to fit; or narrow cavities are filled with insulation that readily fills the available cavity space.* 

*Due to copyright restrictions, exact code text is not provided.  For specific code text, refer to the applicable code.

More Info.

Case Studies

  1. Author(s): PNNL
    Organization(s): PNNL
    Publication Date: April 2012

    Case study about design and testing 10 high-performance homes in Farmington, Connecticut.

References and Resources*

  1. Author(s): Baechler, Gilbride, Hefty, Cole, Williamson, Love
    Organization(s): PNNL, ORNL
    Publication Date: April 2010

    Report identifying the steps to take, with the help of a qualified home performance contractor, to seal unwanted air leaks while ensuring healthy levels of ventilation and avoiding sources of indoor air pollution.

  2. Author(s): DOE
    Organization(s): DOE
    Publication Date: June 2013

    Standard requirements for DOE's Challenge Home national program certification.

  3. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: June 2013

    Standard document containing the rater checklists and national program requirements for ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, Version 3 (Rev. 7).

  4. Author(s): American Architectural Manufacturers Association
    Organization(s): American Architectural Manufacturers Association
    Publication Date: May 2008

    Standard covering requirements for single and dual windows, single and dual side-hinged door systems, sliding doors, tubular daylighting devices, and unit skylights for new construction and replacement applications.

  5. Author(s): American Society for Testing and Materials
    Organization(s): American Society for Testing and Materials
    Publication Date: January 2007

    Standard covering the installation of fenestration products in new and existing construction.

  6. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: October 2011

    Guide describing details that serve as a visual reference for each of the line items in the Thermal Enclosure System Rater Checklist.

  7. Author(s): DOE
    Organization(s): DOE
    Publication Date: May 2012

    Information sheet explaining how weatherstripping can be an easy and cost-effective way to save money on energy costs and improve comfort by reducing drafts.

Last Updated: 08/15/2013

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