Fix­ing frosty door may not be worth trou­ble

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QWe had new doors and win­dows in­stalled in our home about three years ago. Our home was built in 1985. Our prob­lem is with the front door and storm door. Ev­ery win­ter the storm door frosts up solid. We have had the in­stall­ers back sev­eral times over the past three years. They have re­placed the door, re-caulked ev­ery­thing, and checked in­su­la­tion, but to no avail. Our back door is fine, ab­so­lutely no prob­lems there. There seems to be a lot of hu­mid­ity be­tween the doors. We have opened up the screen to see if the hu­mid­ity would dis­si­pate, but that has not made much dif­fer­ence. It seems as though there is warm air get­ting be­tween the doors and we can’t fig­ure out where it’s com­ing from. Sev­eral years ago we had a prob­lem with fly­ing ants hatch­ing in the base­ment. We think they came in from the front of the house un­der our front door. The first year this hap­pened we had a lot of ants, the sec­ond year not as much. We haven’t had a prob­lem since we put down pes­ti­cide. I am won­der­ing if th­ese ants could have pos­si­bly dam­aged the foun­da­tion where the wood meets the con­crete. Who would I con­tact to look into this prob­lem as it has be­come very frus­trat­ing ev­ery win­ter? Thank­ing you in ad­vance and I anx­iously await your re­ply, Ur­sula. An­swer: Some­times there are is­sues with our homes that may be a nui­sance, or worse, where the so­lu­tion may be more dif­fi­cult to as­cer­tain than the ef­fort is worth. Of­ten small is­sues, like your frosted storm door, may be some­thing that can be min­i­mized with a lit­tle ef­fort but may be too tricky to com­pletely elim­i­nate. Be­cause we live in a cli­mate where the tem­per­a­ture is of­ten well be­low the freez­ing point for sev­eral months at a time, is­sues with cer­tain ar­eas of the build­ing en­clo­sure be­com­ing frosted or ice cov­ered may be in­evitable. Even with good qual­ity weath­er­strip­ping, ther­mally in­su­lated doors, win­dows with sealed units and air vapour bar­ri­ers, warm air may leak out and come in con­tact with the frigid ex­te­rior air. When this hap­pens, con­den­sa­tion is likely and will of­ten re­sult in quick freez­ing, es­pe­cially in cer­tain ar­eas. The rea­son your front storm door may be giv­ing you this prob­lem, and not the back one, may sim­ply be lo­ca­tion. If the front door faces the north or west side, it is more prone to the pre­vail­ing winds, which can sub­stan­tially cool the doors more quickly. Also, the North wall of a home will re­ceive lit­tle direct sun­light, which may act to melt frost that does oc­cur on a storm door, or pre­vent con­den­sa­tion by warm­ing the door, it­self. If the front door area has a large over­hang or porch, that may fur­ther pre­vent the warm­ing sun from hit­ting the prob­lem­atic spot. I would sus­pect your rear door does not freeze as eas­ily be­cause it may be in a lo­ca­tion that is in direct sun­light for much of the day­time and any re­sult­ing frost will eas­ily melt. An­other fac­tor to look at is the amount of times the door is used dur­ing the day rel­a­tive to other en­trances. If you have an at­tached garage, as with many homes your age, that may be the ma­jor point of en­try to the home. Es­pe­cially dur­ing the win­ter months, many peo­ple en­ter and leave their homes mainly from their ve­hi­cle, through their garage. Direct ex­po­sure to the el­e­ments will be less­ened, but may re­sult in the front door be­ing in­fre­quently opened. That lack of use can al­low any warm air that leaks around the door to be­come trapped be­tween it and the storm door. This lack of air move­ment in the small space will help pro­mote con­den­sa­tion and freez­ing. If the front door is the main en­try point, and is used fre­quently, then the re­verse may be true. Fre­quent open­ing of this door may al­low a large amount of hu­mid air to es­cape the home, which can be eas­ily trapped by the sub­se­quent clos­ing of the storm door. This will surely freeze in cold weather, only to melt par­tially the next time the in­side door is opened, and cause even more ice buildup at the bot­tom of the door or sill. I am glad to see that leav­ing the storm door screen slightly open has made a slight dif­fer­ence in the frost buildup. Do­ing that may help re­move some of the warm air that is es­cap­ing into the small cav­ity be­tween the doors. Un­for­tu­nately, it may also al­low quicker con­den­sa­tion and freez­ing on cold days, so the ben­e­fits may be small. Try­ing to re­duce the rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity in your home may also help pre­vent this phe­nom­e­non, but not much else may be pos­si­ble due to the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the front door. I doubt the ant prob­lem has much to do with the freez­ing door, but you may have a prob­lem with mois­ture dam­aged wood in the floor struc­ture or base­ment which should be fur­ther in­ves­ti­gated and re­paired. Not all mi­nor is­sues with our homes have straight­for­ward so­lu­tions. Even though we know that warm air leak­ing out from around your front door is the likely cause of the frost, com­pletely elim­i­nat­ing it may be too dif­fi­cult for such a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience. Keep­ing the rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity down in­side your home and leav­ing the screen slightly open on the storm door may be the only prac­ti­cal op­tions, other than sim­ply tol­er­at­ing the frosty is­sue. As an­other year comes to a close, I would like to wish ev­ery­one a Happy New Year and thank all read­ers for their kind com­ments, sug­ges­tions and most im­por­tantly, all the ex­cel­lent ques­tions. Please keep the in­quiries com­ing so that I may con­tinue to pro­vide insight and so­lu­tions to your home is­sues in the com­ing year. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Property In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba (cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out

his web­site at trained­eye.ca.

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