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Snowbird 03-02-2009 03:34 PM

Larson Storm Door Won't Close
I need help with two things. First I have a Larson Storm Door that won't close all the way and the problem seems to be seasonal. Second I need some storm door recommendations based on local weather conditions. Please be aware I'm not experienced with building, tools and stuff like that, so try to use simple language. I just found this forum by accident and I hope some of you can help with my door problem. Details are as follows:

I have a Larson Vinyl Covered Wood Core Storm Door (with screen) that won't close. The door was just put on my house in September 08, so it's not even a year old. There appears to be nothing wrong with the hinges and it swings freely - it just won't close all the way. It appears to be sticking / striking at the top. That is, the top of the door is hitting the metal frame thing that came with the door. This leaves about a two inch gap when the door is 'closed' as it refuses to close all the way.

This morning there was a big drift of snow in my back hallway, between the two doors because the Exterior Door (the Larson) won't close. I feel this is the worst door I ever have seen, especially since I paid $500 for it. The man that installed it had said it was a good brand and that he had the same brand of door on his own house for years with no problems. I find this very hard to believe, as my door has gone bad very fast. Perhaps his door faces a different direction or he gets less rain/snow in his neighborhood as he lives many miles further inland. He is honest but I think he just doesn't know very much about door brands and so forth (as he really is a roofer but does other handyman jobs for me as well).

I have researched this weekend and have found many bad reviews on both Larson doors and Wood Core doors, that they rot away from the inside within 3 to 6 years. I fear now that this door won't last long at all and will rot away just as the previous Aluminum clad door the Larson had replaced. That door had lasted from 2000 to Sept 2008, having big holes at the bottom (holes about as big as your fist) with a strange white powder. I don't know what the powder was and I feared it might make my cats sick (any ideas?). The outside metal on it had rotted away and my handyman had said it was 'aluminum rot'. Sometimes that door acted up in winter, too, not wanting to close but it was just for a short time at the middle/end of March.

This door (the Larson) started acting up in Jan so its much worst! First it was hard to close and I really had to pull on it with all my strength to slide the deadbolt. That grew worst and worst until in the the end of Jan/ beginning of Feb it wouldn't close at all. It almost looks as if the door grew bigger in that one spot (not that there is a lump or anything, but it closed OK in Autumn)? I know that should be impossible but I can't think of what else it could be? The previous door would go back to closing by itself once the weather warmed up, but I can't have the Larson open all winter (from Jan to April) as that is just INSANE. It's letting in the cold as the interior door is not good enough by itself to keep out the cold. It's just 17 degrees out now and yesterday it was only 12. This poorly constructed door is making my heating bills skyrocket.

I should add I don't really know anything about home repair or the proper names of various parts. I would just like recommendations on a GOOD type of door, a door that would actually CLOSE in winter. Surely that is not too much to ask for, is it? I would also appreciate ideas of what is CAUSING the door to do this. Many other people in my neighborhood have metal or vinyl doors, yet their doors close fine. I don't understand why my door won't. It's frustrating. :(

I did notice that this door is made very badly. There is nothing to stop the water from running down the glass and into the inside of the door. I'm sure a lot of rain and snow has gotten inside it already. My old wooden windows have caulking (or whatever you call that stuff) on them and that keeps the weather off & the glass in the frames. This door has nothing like that at all. I should have refused it, but I had trusted his experience to pick out a good door and now I'm stuck with a door that doesn't work at all. It's useless. :furious:

Any recommendations for a NEW door? Here are the weather conditions:
Back door facing the East (with a river nearby and Lake Michigan to the East). Shady during the summer (tree nearby) with partial sun in the mornings. Frequent often bad thunderstorms with blowing rain, the rain often striking the door. Summers have high humidity and temps can be anywhere from 80s to upper 90s. Winters are extremely cold with heavy snowfalls. Snow often drifts against the door and the wind blows it there. Even in the winter our humidity can be high. There is no porch or anything protecting the door, so it receives direct weather on it.

The house is about 120 years old with aluminum siding installed in the 80s. I need a SCREEN door as the old windows don't open and the summer breeze always comes in through the back. I need the screen for ventilation. There is a sloping roof a few feet just above the door.
Please, NO Pela, Larson or Wood Core doors!! Would a regular wooden screen door be better? Or would that stick in winter, too, 'growing' as this one did? I know wood expands from moisture, but I don't see how aluminum or vinyl can do that? Is the wood inside the door expanding and pushing the vinyl upward to hit that frame thing?

Someone is coming by on Wed to look at the door and I have no idea if he has seen this odd problem before. Just in case he hasn't, I need some ideas on how to fix it so I can get this door closed before it ruins my back hallway. He knows a lot of things but I fear this odd problem may be out of his experience.

I will try to post some photos of the problem spot. I already took the photos but need to put them onto my computer.

There is NO ice blocking the door track or in the hinges. The bottom of the door has clearance, too, so there's nothing wrong at the bottom. Its just that one spot at the top. It seems to be seasonal, whatever it is. The question is, how do I stop this from happening again? I'm unsure what is under the metal frame for the door at the top -- wood I guess or maybe aluminum from the siding. I really am tired of this problem and need ideas as to what is causing it and how to fix it. Having the old door open in March was bad but this is just ridiculous.

The interior wooden door closes with no problems and it never sticks. Its just the outer door that is causing problems.

I will post the photos soon. Thanks in advance for your help.

buletbob 03-02-2009 04:53 PM

pic's speak a thousand words. Also post a pic of the door it self mounted to the frame, standing back. I want to see whats above the door. I'm thinking something is expanding. BOB

wrangler 03-02-2009 05:21 PM

Non-closing storm doors can be caused by a number of things. 1) being that the hinge side was not mounted properly, leaving it slightly canted outward, and not allowing it to freely close all the way (the door 'binds' against the hinge itself). 2) The pneumatic closer is not installed, or set properly, thus also not allowing the door to close all the way. This is the easier to fix, since if it is just adjustment, it can be set to a faster closing rate. Where the pneumatic closer attaches to the door, there should be multiple holes. Open the door part way, activate the closer 'stop' to hold the door in a slightly open position, pull the pin that attaches the closer to the door and reposition it to a hole further away from the hinge side of the door. This will make the closer pull the door harder/allow more retraction from the pneumatic closer. If this does not help, then it is likely that problem is with the hinge. There are screws on both the 'face' side of the hinge, as well along the inside of the jamb (where the storm door meets the hinge). Unfortunately, I suspect that this may be your problem as you describe that it is hard to even manually pull the door shut, but as stated above, it is still possible that the door closer is stopping you from pulling the door shut if it is at is maximum retracted distance. One way to be sure would be to undo the closer (or both if it has 2) and see if it is still hard to pull shut. If not, then it is just a matter of re-adjusting the closer/s.
Hopefully, this is not too hard to follow.
Feel free to ask more questions or write us back with your results/findings.

Snowbird 03-02-2009 06:09 PM

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Hello, Bob. Here are the photos you wanted. I think you are right, that something is expanding during the winter - but I don't know what it is. Maybe these photos will give you a clue.

I did have my roof redone in 2000, including the little roof that is above my back door. I don't know if that is related to the problem or not, as the original door that came with the house had a big gap at the top (big enough to poke a finger through) - that's why I had a new door put on.

Snowbird 03-02-2009 06:21 PM

Hello Brett,

I'm not sure what a "pneumatic closer" closer is. It sounds like a gizmo that makes a door close by itself? My door does not have such a thing. I think doors on school buildings have those? I have to pull it shut like you do with any other normal door. It does have a little chain on the inside to stop it from blowing away / opening too wide. The chain is near the top of the door.

During warm weather it is easy to close. In September, October, November and parts of December I had no problems closing the door. The trouble started after we received heavy snowfalls and lots of moisture. Maybe the severe cold is involved, too. I don't know. I DO know that in December we received heavier than normal snowfall and that's when the problems started - or soon after that.

But even if the snow melts off that little roof (above the door) the door still won't close.

I will have the handyman look at the hinges when he comes on Wed. Maybe they got messed up somehow...


Snowbird 03-02-2009 06:37 PM

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Here are a few more pictures. I'm afraid they are not very good really, as I don't have any lights inside my back hallway and it was already a bit late when I took them. I tried to show the area on the inside where the door 'rubs', but you really can't tell anything by looking at it. Well, I can't anyway.

One even shows some of the snow that blew in.

The 'ceiling' of the back hallway is not 'finished' and if you want, I can get you a picture of the boards up there. They would be the ones above the door. To me, they just look like a bunch of painted boards.

The door sticks in the middle, sort of, but you can see how far it closes in the one picture.

The porch in the picture is way on the other side of the little roof, on the oppasite side of the house so it is not involved.

wrangler 03-02-2009 06:57 PM

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You are right about the top of the frame binding against the door, I can see that in the picture you posted. It appears that the installer left it this way rather than making it right because the outside siding is in the way (this could be rectified by grinding the frame, or insetting it upwards into the siding slightly?) but as can be seen from the other pics, this installer was all about getting his money and moving on. The 'beauty caps' that hide the outside screws were never even put on ( this is a plastic cover that runs the entire length of the 1/2' wide channel that is on the outside of the frame) and yes, there should have been door closers for this door. The fix might be as simple as repositioning the top frame to allow the door to close, but it may involve the hinge side as well.

jaros bros. 03-02-2009 08:05 PM

I hope you were joking when you said you paid $500 for the door. Those doors aren't even $200.

mostr 03-02-2009 08:20 PM

Just a thot, but how much snow is on the roof of that little room? See that one board separating away a little bit on the top right corner right below the roofline? Maybe it is putting pressure on the doorframe and making it not close.

Tom Struble 03-02-2009 08:35 PM

possible the porch foundation heaving from frost?

buletbob 03-02-2009 09:48 PM


Originally Posted by tomstruble (Post 239468)
possible the porch foundation heaving from frost?

Tom I Totally agree with you. That rear addition most likely is heaving along with the step. During the freeze. Its probably built on posts. BOB :thumbsup:

Snowbird 03-03-2009 12:03 AM

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Boy, you guys sure are smart! :thumbup: I never would have found that answer with a whole year of searching on the net!

I think I am dealing with heaving and adfreeze. I read about both on the net so I now have a basic idea of what is causing the problem.

The 'rear addition' as you call it is sitting on thick cement walls. Mainly the 'rear addition' is a roof for the cement stairs that lead down into the basement. The stairs serve as a second exit from the basement. There has always been a crack in the cement wall there (the wall on the same side as the door that won't close) and I patch it every summer, but otherwise I didn't think much about it. I guess I figured a crack or two was normal.

I guess this summer I need to try to drain the soil / get rid of water. I never water plants or use sprinklers, yet my yard is always very green. Mostly I grow native Wisconsin plants & flowers (wildflowers).

I also know about knee deep in my backyard I have clay. I've seen it while digging before.

That 'board', by the way, is a strip of aluminum trim. I put a red line under it on the picture.

Snowbird 03-03-2009 12:28 AM

And I may be wrong about the price. I admit I am very bad at remembering numbers. :( I had some other work done at the same time, too, so that was part of the price, too. I probably misremembered the breakdown of the various items. I'm better at words than numbers (hated math in school!).

I could extend the rear downspout pipes farther into the yard... I'm not sure how to drain water away from the foundation though, as there is a cement sidewalk right there. Any ideas? Perhaps make little slopes out of cement along the foundation wall to make the rain run off onto the sidewalk?

Would heating the basement hallway help? At the moment its unheated (and I have no idea how I would heat it anyway...).

This past summer I did a lot of repairs / painting on the main house. Looks like this summer will be for the 'rear addition'. :laughing: What a fancy name for a basement hallway! I like it! I should try to remember that phrase for Wed!

~ Sarah

buletbob 03-03-2009 03:01 AM

Whats the frost line for your region? 4'? In the summer dig and see if the bottom of the cement walls are below that depth. and take notice if there is clay at that depth also. When digging a footing and you are facing clay you must keep digging to get out of the clay even if you have to go down 6'. to set the footing heights.
May be someone from around your region would be able to help with some fix's . Here I have to deal with sand. Not to much clay. I do know not to set tooting on it and to dig it all out when faced with it. Good luck BOB.

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