In my business we install a lot of doors and make a ton on repairs to doors that are rotting or damaged and the types of door sweeps used are one of the biggest factors that can save or destroy a wood door. The right type of door sweeps can keep bugs, water and air out of the house and the wrong type can literally cause the door to rot within just a couple years.
Every manufacturer will tell you their sweep is the best, but I’m here to give you the real world experience in terms of effectiveness and ease of installation. So, let’s get right to it starting with the absolute worst types of door sweeps you should avoid at all costs.
The Worst Door Sweeps
The whole purpose of a door sweep is to help your door. It helps it seal better and last longer protecting it from water intrusion. The two door sweeps below do the exact opposite of that. They damage your door so steer clear of both of these designs
The Vinyl U
There are a few forms of this door sweep, but the U-shape bottom is big problem. Whether you purchase the compression-fit or screw-on variety this type of door sweep causes more damage to exterior doors than almost anything I have ever seen.
The big issue is that the bottom of doors are often left unpainted and sliding on this U-shaped vinyl bottom causes rain water to be trapped under the door. Whether the door is painted on the bottom or not the water is inevitably drawn up into the wood and it never has a chance to drain out or dry out. The door quickly begins to swell from the increased moisture content making it hard to open and rot sets in in just a few months.
I’ve encountered new mahogany (a very rot resistant wood) doors just a year or so old that are so swollen that they can’t open any longer with soft mushy bottoms once this door sweep is removed.
Peel & Stick
Possibly the simplest form of a door sweep, this peel and stick fin is just as easy to apply as it is to fall off. The adhesive strangely does one of two things and for the life of me I can’t figure out how. Option 1: the adhesive is so strong that it rips paint off when you try to adjust the fin. Option 2: the adhesive is so weak that the fin constantly adjusts itself over time and use to where it is out of position so much that it provides little to no protection.
I don’t know how the adhesive can be so different between applications, but I have rarely seen a peel and stick vinyl fin that is doing its job of protecting the door’s finish and keeping the elements out of the house.
The Best Door Sweeps
Now you know what to stay away from let’s talk about a few options that you can use with success. One of the biggest things to consider when selecting a door sweep is whether you have an in-swing or out-swing door. The types of door sweeps that will work most effectively and where to install them will largely depend on this determination.
Aluminum/Vinyl Screw-in Door Sweep
So basic and so simple, this type of door sweep is hard to mess up, and unlike the options above, it can’t damage your door. For in-swing door you’ll need to install this door sweep on the interior and for out-swing door it can go on exterior for most effectiveness. I have installed it on the exterior of in-swing doors and it can be done, but often the vinyl binds up under the door and doesn’t provide the protection you need.
What’s simple about this is that it prevents blowing wind or rain from pushing under the door as long as you install it tightly against the threshold. Make sure to run it down tightly and trim it to fit your particular door width as it comes in 36″ width only. You’ll need a razor knife and small hack saw to cut the aluminum. The screws hold it securely in place and provide for easy adjustment to the height.
Aluminum Brushseal Door Sweep
The same setup as the aluminum/vinyl door sweep we just discussed, this one has a brush seal that can be a great option for when you want it on the outside of an out-swing or inside of an in-swing door, but you don’t want to deal with the binding of the vinyl fin.
This brushseal is excellent at keeping out bugs and air, but not a good choice for keeping out water. If you have a door on a covered porch then this may be the best option for you, but if your door is exposed to big rains then this is probably not something you want to look at.
The advantages are that the brushes last longer than the vinyl when exposed to sun and the elements. The vinyl eventually gets brittle or tears over time and needs replacement.
Automatic Door Bottom
Automatic door bottoms are tough to install and require some skill with a router, but if they are installed correctly they are extremely effective for both in-swing and out-swing doors AND they are completely invisible when the door is open. The whole thing is installed into a routed out channel on the bottom of the door and has a small pin on the side then is compressed when the door is closed causing the seal to press down onto the threshold and seal the door.
I’ve used on a lot of high end applications where clients don’t want to see the door sweep. After all, who actually wants to see this element? You just want your door sealed and doing it in an unnoticeable way is best.
It is an aluminum housing with a vinyl bulb at the bottom that seals via compression. This can be adjusted to make sure you get an even seal all around and it really only works on doors 1 3/4″ or thicker with a saddle type threshold.
It’s effectiveness is incredible and it works equally well on both in-swing and out-swing doors. Installation is more complex than any of the other types we have discussed since it involves routing a channel into the bottom of the door, but once installed it does the job handily, so I recommend it to anyone with a door that needs sealing.
I hope this has helped you stay away from the worst types of door sweeps and find the best types of door sweeps for sealing up your door. If you need any other help with your doors check out the doors category on my blog for all kinds of tutorials.
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.