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9 door and window maintenance tips

Maintaining doors and windows will keep them functioning properly and looking great. This will save money in the long run as replacement costs can be high.

Adjusting a door latch

If a door will not close properly, the first place to look is the strike plate on the door jamb. Take a screwdriver and tighten the screws, making sure that these are the proper 1" screws. If the screws do not tighten, insert a toothpick in the hole and break it off at the jamb. Repeat until the hole is plugged. The screw will penetrate the cluster of toothpicks and form a tight bond. When the door is closed, if the strike plate does not match up, tighten the hinge screws and use the toothpick method to ensure a tight fit.

Tip: if the latch does not match with the strike plate, colour the door bolt with a felt pen and close again. The pen mark will show the position of the door bolt. The strike plate may have to be lowered and this means taking it off and either filing a bigger hole or chiseling out an extension to the mortise on the jamb, either higher or lower than the strike plate. When this is done, re-attach the strike plate.


Opting for a pre-hung door

Hanging a door, whether inside or outside the home, takes a practised eye. This is because the hinges have to be installed properly so that the door swings in a perfectly balanced motion; moreover, the holes for the lockset have to be drilled out accurately to accept the door locking mechanism. Pre-hung doors, especially for interior use, already have the holes drilled and the hinges installed.

Remove the old door frame, door and jamb. Fit the new, pre-hung door into the hole and adjust with a level and shims. Although a little more expensive, these doors save on installation time and are also sure to close properly.


Keeping the windows warm in winter

Windows in older houses were traditionally made from wood or aluminum. Although these materials may look good, they allow a lot of heat to escape in winter.

To prevent this, in the fall, seal the moving parts and sliders with removable caulking and then cover the inside of the windows with plastic film. These products are sold in most home improvement stores and can save you hundreds of dollars a year in heating costs.


Maximizing the garage’s energy efficiency

While many attached garages are insulated, their doors are often not. They are usually made of wood or steel and have no R value whatsoever.

The solution: garage door blankets that can be installed by the homeowner. This not only makes the garage warmer and stops the cold entering the home, but the home will also be quieter as a result.

Also check the weather-stripping around the garage to make there are no gaps. In many cases this can be fixed by adjusting the play in the door rollers.


Polishing window and patio door rails

When dirt accumulates in the rails of windows and patio doors, they do not work as smoothly as they should and will become worn more quickly. Vacuum all the closers and rails; wash them with soapy water, and rinse. Now use a silicone lubricant spray to coat the rails. You can also then polish them with a "Pledge" type product.


Making the hardware look new

Brass and copper door handles and knobs are popular with owners of older-style and heritage homes. Many of these houses still have their original door handles, and improper cleaning could damage them.

One simple way is to cut a lemon into wedges and dip one wedge in salt. Rub this on the brass and wipe clean with a soft, cotton cloth. The brass will look like new! Copper hardware can be cleaned with a combination of salt, vinegar and flour in equal parts. Smear this paste onto the doorknob and let sit for five minutes. Then take a soft, damp cotton cloth and wipe it clean.


Taking measurement for replacement windows without removing the window frame

The best way to measure for replacement windows is to measure the rough stud opening. This is the wooden frame that holds the window to the house.

Measure each axis – horizontal and vertical – on the inner frame in three places: top, middle and bottom. Take the smallest of the horizontal and vertical measurements and add 1 ½" to each (this will compensate for the ¾" furring on each side of the window as well as at the top and bottom).

There are other factors to consider before ordering new windows, including the window type, but these measurements will give you an initial idea of what the windows will cost. The professionals at your home improvement centre will then be able to help you refine your choice.

For everything you need to know on installing windows, read our article: Installing a replacement window.


Eliminating drafts

Even a well-heated home will feel cold if the weatherstrip on the bottom of the door is worn. To replace this weatherstrip, also called a door sweep, undo the screws holding it to the bottom of the door. Take the old piece to your home improvement store and match it with a new one, or ask the sales assistant to help you choose – he or she may be able to recommend another type better suited to your door.

The new sweep will be longer than you need but it can be cut to size with a hacksaw or sharp knife. Follow the instructions on the packaging and adjust the sweep up or down so that it prevents drafts while allowing the door to close easily.


Repainting the door

Entry doors are expensive and usually require a professional to install them. To revamp their look, simply paint them another colour.

To improve the look of the front of your home, simply remove the lockset from the entry door, tape the trim, and re-paint the door. First, fix all nicks and scrapes with wood filler and lightly sand the door with a fine sandpaper. Then prime the door using a good-quality primer applied with a sponge roller. This roller will provide a smooth surface and is small enough to work paint into any ornamental features. Choose a bold colour for the top coat; you can get ideas from catalogues and home decorating magazines.

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