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Installation tips for an accurate fit by Paul Bianchina

Home repairsIf you’re looking for greater protection for your doors than you can get from deadbolts and other locks, a steel security door may be the perfect solution.

Security doors are added to the door frame on the exterior side of any standard exterior doors, similar to adding a standard screen door or storm door.

They feature the strength of an all-welded steel framework and cross-bracing, along with an open steel mesh that allows for ventilation while being infinitely stronger than the aluminum or fiberglass mesh in a standard screen door.

Welded steel plates allow for the installation of a deadbolt lock, creating a door that’s virtually impervious to kicking, prying, lock-picking and other forms of attempted illegal entry. They’re especially well-suited for vacation homes or other homes that may be vacant for extended periods of time.

Now if you’re picturing your house looking like the entrance to a bank vault, don’t. The doors are surprisingly attractive, with a low-profile frame and wrought-iron-style embellishments that look like most upper-end screen and storm doors, and are typically available in factory-baked gloss white or black paint.

Selecting and installing the door

The door you select needs to be the same size as the size of the door you’re installing it over, typically 3 feet wide by 6 feet 8 inches high. Both left- and right-hand swings are available (swing is determined by which side the hinges are on as the door opens away from you), and the swing of the security door needs to be the opposite of the swing of the existing door.

For example, if the existing door is a right-hand swing — the hinges are on the right as you open the door and swing it away from you to enter the house — then the security door should be a left-hand swing. Like a storm or screen door, the security door opens out, away from the house rather than into it. That places the knobs for the security door and the existing door on the same side for easier access.

The door comes completely pre-hung in its own frame and hinges, ready for installation. Basic tools are all that are needed, including a level, socket wrench set, drill, and drill bits that are long enough to go all the way through the wall. You’ll also need a helper, since these doors are heavy and awkward, and this is definitely a two-person job.

The door is first set in place and leveled, making sure it’s centered over the existing door. Depending on the type of existing exterior trim your house has, you may be able to install the security door over the existing trim, or you may need to remove it and install the door directly against the siding. The main consideration is that the frame be flat and solidly in contact against the house, which some types of trim may prevent from happening. You’ll also need to remove the interior door casing.

The frame is predrilled for the installation bolts, so the next step is to transfer the hole locations to the house wall, then set the door aside. Using the appropriate diameter of drill bit, typically 3/8 inch, drill all the way through the wall to the inside of the house. It’s important that the holes go through the wall straight and level, and a good trick is to have your helper hold a level or a framing square in place against the outside wall as a guide for keeping the bit straight while you’re drilling.

The frame is installed using bolts that go all the way through the wall and are secured with a nut and washer on the inside. You could install the door using lag bolts, which thread into the wall framing from one side, but without the nut on the inside, someone with a wrench and a little bit of time could simply remove the lag bolts and take the whole door off.

The last step is one of interior aesthetics, depending on what you want to do with the nuts on the inside wall. The easiest solution is to select a trim that is large enough to cover the nuts — you may have to build up two pieces to get the necessary thickness — and hollow out a place on the back at the location of the nut.

Security doors are available by special order through some hardware stores and home centers, as well as through retailers and wholesalers that specialize in doors.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at
Copyright 2009 Inman News

See Paul Bianchina’s feature, Attic Conversion Done Right.

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