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Exterior doors – steel with magnetic weatherstrip?

harrison55 | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

We are planning a “pretty-good” house for Zone 4 (Virginia). We are shooting for R-25 walls (using Zip-R 1.5 for the thermal break), R-50 ceiling, and a blower door test of 2.0 ACH 50. The finish will be white trim inside and out, with six-panel doors and a traditional look.

The house has three 36″ X 80″ outswing exterior doors with a “nine-lite” in the upper half. It also has a 36″ X 80″ inswing door leading to the garage (no lite), and a 72″ X 84″ center-hinge inswing patio door (full lite). All the doors are well-sheltered by roof overhangs.

Next: what doors to use? My first thought was to spec fiberglass doors with multi-point latching to energize the seals. But after reading Martin’s advice in All About Doors, it struck me that I might get equally good air infiltration performance from a steel door with magnetic weatherstripping. The steel is pretty rigid, and the magnetic weatherstripping should (theoretically) self-energize.

If I can get decent performance from steel doors, I can save several thousand dollars. I would love to do that. Does anyone have any experience with- or advice on steel exterior doors?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Most builders have extensive experience with insulated steel exterior doors. They are the go-to exterior door for a budget project. This type of door provides excellent value for the price.

    An insulated steel entry door is functional and unpretentious. From an energy perspective, it performs much better than the wooden doors of yore. It won't meet the Passivhaus standard, and the bottom of the door can rust if you use a lot of salt on your front stoop during the winter, but it is an honest product that does what it's supposed to.

    All of the steel doors that I've installed come with rubber bulb weatherstripping (or some type of flexible plastic weatherstripping that resembles rubber bulb weatherstripping) -- not magnetic weatherstripping.

  2. lance_p | | #2

    I remember reading up on this a while back, and if I remember right, the magnetic seals are no longer being offered on exterior doors. I'm not sure why?

    I have seen these magnetic seals available at hardware stores as replacements. The thought crossed my mind to do steel doors and just replace the seals with these magnetic versions, but I'm not 100% sure they would work as a drop in replacement.

    I have replaced the foam "4" shaped seals on both the doors in my house. The front door sealed OK but the garage door didn't; it wasn't centered in the frame properly, requiring me to bend the hinges for a bit more offset. The fit is much improved, but not perfect. It was this process that got me questioning whether the magnetic seals would be wide enough to bridge the gap properly, they look fairly narrow.

    Lance Peters

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