Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Reducing Door Drafts

Any suggestions on how I can make my doors fit better and reduce draft?


Doors have a unique purpose for a building.  They are the principle means of egress.  There are meant to work with relative consistency and predictability.  They are designed to seal air in or out, separating inside from outside.  They can be used a few or thousands of times a day.  We forget about how much we rely on them until something goes wrong.


Doors are exposed to the harshness of sunlight and water, extreme material expansion and contraction, abuse from constant opening and slamming, poor fitting and building movement, frequent locking systems changes, and worst of all, poor air sealing.   A poor fitting door with an 1/8” gap around the frame is the same as a 3” hole in the wall.   So don’t forget to consider all of your doors that seal your conditioned space, including the garage, the basement, the bulkhead, the attic, as well as the ones you use the most.


First we deal with fit and operation, then weather stripping.  Here are some suggestions to help your new, and old, doors perform better.



A poor fitting door is the beginning of the end.  A sticking door is usually kicked, shoved, slammed and cursed until it finally is sent to the landfill.  But not all doors need to suffer this fate.

Here are some things to look for:

  • No longer latch
  • Rub on top, side or bottom
  • Weather stripping is broken or missing
  • Knob is loose
  • Flapper does not work or catch


Determine what is wrong

  • Slowly open and close the door.  Pay attention to what is going on.  Watch where it hits and where it is loose.
  • Check to see how the door closes with the latch bolt (flapper) into the strike plate (metal on the frame).
  • A properly weather stripped door should close with a positive seal all the way around; sides, top and bottom. A well-set strike plate does not allow the door to move much when it is engaged (some movement is expected within the door seal, or weather-stripping).
  • Open the door about ½ way.  Gently lift the door.  If the door moves up and down, the hinges may be worn or the screws loose.
  • Warped doors present an issue that is difficult to resolve, although a slight warp can still provide a good seal.


Consider this:

Old Wood Doors

Old doors are solid wood that use mortise and tenon joinery, and sometimes glue.  They can always be repaired. Typically doors were installed correctly, so something must have changed.  Determine the change before you cut it.


New Doors

New doors have some adjustability to them, so get the specifications, or the sheet describing how they work, on the door.  Many newer doors can be an install issue.  They can also be challenge to cut down, since many are veneered. Look first how the threshold and hinges can be adjusted.



Operation not only involves the door’s fit, but how well the hardware functions.

Hinges.  Hinges can be the cause for multiple problems.

Worn Hinges: Worn hinges can drop a door so the bottom or edge rubs. The best way to get a match is to remove the hinge and take it to a hardware store or locksmith.  And thickness is very important.

Loose Hinges: Use an appropriate sized and style screwdriver to check each screw and see if they are tight.  If any of them spin, remove them one at a time and check the threads to see if they are stripped (local hardware stores can match any missing or stripped screws you need).  A spinning screw with good threads can get a little help by inserting a few toothpicks into each screw hole, then reinstall the screws one at a time.


Door Knobs & Catches (Lockset).

Cylinder Locksets:  New cylinder locksets can be an easy swap out.  Always use an exterior grade.  Price dictates quality, and a lot of hardware is a step above disposable.  A locksmith can help you get a good quality lockset.  Buying online is risky, unless you know what you want and need to get.

Mortise Locksets: Most older inset locksets, or mortise locks, are fine quality and can be very easily repaired by a locksmith or good carpenter.  New ones can be over $500.00.  They do not like paint but like to be oiled.  Swapping with a new cylinder lockset can be challenging and short lived, unless it is done right.

Function: My biggest pet peeve is locksets that do not work.  The catch can be at the wrong point on the “strike plate”, or metal plate in the frame of the door.  Complete repairs to the door hinges, door fitting, etc. first, then deal with the function of the lockset.  A well-set strike plate does not allow the door to move much when it is engaged (some movement is expected within the door seal, or weather stripping).  Use a flashlight to see where the latch bolt, or part moving in and out of the door, hits.  You can move the strike plate up or down, in or out, although be sure to fill the old screw holes before you move the strike plate in the frame first.  You can also use a metal file to expand the opening of the strike plate, but be gentle.


Next week, weather stripping.





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