If you have a door that opens and shuts properly, you probably shouldn’t replace it. Doors are important in keeping out bad things — like burglars and weather — and in letting in good things — like fresh air and visitors. But an old door that stays shut when closed, and opens when you want it to open, is a fine thing.
Even if your door sticks a little, or drags across the floor, or squeaks when you open it, there’s no need to replace it. If a stick-tight door is not too hard to open, leave it alone. Forced doors usually just get worse. And if a door is still easy to open and close, don’t worry about the squeak either. You can always oil hinges later if they get louder instead of investing in door replacement.
You should replace an old door when it no longer does its job, which is to keep out the weather and the burglars. If a door is rotten, you will probably have to replace it even if you don’t want to. But if it has merely warped, you may be able to fix the problem by planning a little off the bottom of the door, or by adding new hinges or a new strike plate, or by shimming the hinges.
That’s all well and good, but what you might really want to know is: how do you know when to replace an old door? That is, how do you tell whether it’s worth trying to repair an old door or just throw it away and get a new door replacement?
This question is harder than you might think. Here are some examples of things that might make you want to replace an old door:
The door has warped so much that it sticks in summer
This happens often with wooden doors because wood expands in summer. It’s annoying when a door sticks in summer because the heat causes air pressure inside your house to be higher than air pressure outside your house. So, every time you open the door, air rushes out of your house with enough force that sometimes it blows over small children and kills them.
The door’s glass is broken
A broken window pane is not a huge problem unless you live in a very cold climate where it could let in so much cold air that your heating bill goes up by $500 per month. In that case, the cost of replacing the glass might be less than the savings on your heating bill.
The door’s paint is peeling
If this happens, it means the previous owner didn’t paint his doors properly, which means he was probably also careless about maintaining other things in the house. Paint peeling off a door usually means there are termites eating away at the wood underneath. To find out for sure whether there are termites, hire an exterminator. If there are termites, find a reliable professional to do your door replacement immediately before they eat away more of the wood.
The door has a glass panel
Glass panels are bad because if you slam the door too hard it will shatter and shards of glass will fly through the room at high speed cutting everyone they hit in half. If there is a glass panel in your door, you should replace it immediately before it kills someone.
The door has warped so much that it doesn’t close properly
This happens often with wooden doors too, but in winter instead of summer, because wood shrinks in winter. It’s annoying when a door doesn’t close properly because cold air rushes inside your house and the thermostat turns on the heat, which costs money and wastes energy. But as long as the door still opens and shuts manually, it will do for now.
You want an enclosed porch
If you have a screen door, the only way to enclose your porch is to put up windows on the sides. If you have a glass storm door and want to enclose your porch, all you have to do is replace the glass with plywood or drywall or some other material that blocks wind but not light.
The door is old and ugly
Sometimes you don’t need a reason other than that you don’t like something. I don’t like it when my house looks ugly, so I replaced my old black steel screen door with a new white wooden one.
I concluded that a door should be replaced when it is no longer worth repairing, or at least not worth repairing the way it is. A door should be repaired in a way that preserves its style and materials. A door should never be repaired with materials that are less durable than the original materials. Door replacement should also be the option if it cannot perform the functions for which it was originally chosen. So, if you have an exterior door that is letting in drafts and noise, replace it. If you have an interior door that won’t stay closed, replace the hinges before you replace the whole door. And if you have a hollow core door in your house, replace it with a solid wood one – or just throw it out, frame and all, and start over from scratch.