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Do It Yourself


Storm doors aren’t critical anymore

By Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton has been the handyman expert for the Boston Globe for more than 30 years.

Q: Are storm doors necessary?

A: Well, yes and no. Yes, in the good old days, front and back doors were pretty leaky and had little weatherstripping and no insulation. So storms were popular, even necessary, to slow down heat loss, and perhaps for extra security. There was a social aspect to storms, too, serving to help greet people into your house, and helping them leave graciously, especially keeping a storm from slapping a guest on his backside. Also in summer, a storm door acts as a screen door with proper insert, good for pleasant, breezy living in nice weather, and for ventilation.

Now for the no: With the development of insulated wood and fiberglass doors, well-weatherstripped storms are less important because they add little protection. In fact, with a heavily insulated door, a storm keeps in direct sun, and will overheat enough to burn the paint clear off, so manufacturers recommend against them.

So, take your pick, and if you really want one, and the main door is in direct sunlight, build a roof over it, but make sure the shade-giving roof is a good style and not looking like a big old pimple on your nose.

Q: Two of my interior doors swing and won’t stay open. Should I bend the pins, or is there a better way?

A: You can bend the hinges to make them nice and tight, but you can end up with horrendous squeaks. First, check the hinges for tightness. If loose, tighten them all. This way is harder to do, but is more efficient, and permanent. The hinge edge of the doors is not vertical (plumb), so doors don’t stay open or closed. To give you an example of a non-vertical door, open wide your refrigerator door, let go, and you will see the door close by itself. This is done on purpose, to keep you from losing expensive power.

So, take off a bottom hinge leaf, insert a thin sheet of wood or cardboard called a shim, and remount the hinge, then test. It will take some experimenting, but it works. If it doesn’t, you can install a solid brass door stop.

Q: Is there a way to renew the brass finish on my now-mottled brass bathroom faucets?

A: Yes, the faucets are solid brass, and the finish is wearing off. Manufacturers tried lacquering the brass, and that worked pretty well, but when it started to wear off, it was ugly – as you said, mottled. Now I think they are applying a powder-coated finish that is long-lasting and quite effective. But the best finish is still chrome-plated brass; if the chrome wears off, it does so with style, and the old faucets still look good. Not antique; an “antique brass” finish in the trade is simply tarnished. Clever, these designers. They’re keeping a gullible public in the dark.
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