Easy, routine TLC for your doors and windows
Jason Raish illustration
Doors and windows aren’t perhaps the most interesting elements in a home, but they do need to be functional, attractive and energy efficient. Regular maintenance will keep them working well and looking good.
“When autumn arrives and the temperature starts to drop, this is the ideal time to put a fresh coat of varnish or clear coat on your stained exterior door,” says Matthew Durish, owner and manager of Renaissance Doors.
Durish gives homeowners steps to check if this is needed. First, run your hand over the surface of the door. If it feels rough like sandpaper, then it should be refinished. Second, check for damage from the summer sun and thunderstorms. If the stain has faded, it’s usually worse at the bottom of the door.
Durish says think of faded stain like you would your car’s paint. There should be a color repair, followed by a new layer of clear coat. The clear coat will protect the color underneath and, if properly maintained, will keep the color from needing repairs.
Durish adds that if you need color repair just on the door’s bottom, sand it with 180 grit, followed by 220 (for novices, grit size refers to the size of the particles of the abrasive materials on the sandpaper). Once the area has been evened out, apply the color. He recommends a traditional rubbing stain, but gel can work, too. The longer the stain sits, the darker it gets. Next, wipe off the excess stains and let it dry. Once you like the color, then put on the clear coat.
For a long time, oil-based urethane was the standard for clear coats, but Durish says many water-based topcoats provide the same results with less fumes and easier cleanup, but make sure it’s made for exterior use. Finally, apply the top oat in thin coats — three thin coats is much better than one thick coat. If the grain gets raised between coats, try lightly sanding in between coats.
Once the color and top coat are squared away, move on to proper sealing of doors and windows on the exterior to ensure energy efficiency. If they’re not properly sealed, it can lead to higher utility bills. Zachary Tyson, owner of Tyson Construction, says you should use a good latex or silicone caulk (rated for exterior use) to caulk any visible cracks or gaps.
Tyson adds it is also a good idea to check wood windows for signs of rot and apply additional coats of sealer, especially on the exterior side, every few years. If the door and frame are older (a common issue in New Orleans), weatherstripping may not be present. Home improvement stores can retro-fit weatherstripping on your door to help keep unwanted cold or warm air from entering your home. If you do have weatherstripping, check that it isn’t damaged.
New Orleans’ heat and humidity, combined with the amount of wood in local houses, poses some unique challenges.
“Remember that doors, especially wood doors, are always expanding and contracting with the temperature and humidity,” says Tyson. “A good seal one day may not be a good one the next. It is a constant battle, but properly maintaining the doors, frames and windows will go a long way to ensuring they last and perform.”
Richard Maia, manufacturing manager of LAS Enterprises, says the most common problem he sees is people failing to clean their window’s weep holes (holes on the frame of your window that allow rain to drain out from it). Many times, he inspects windows whose weep holes have molded shut over time. When this happens, water will leak into the house. To fight this, Maia recommends cleaning the outside of your windows once a year. Every 2-3 years, use water with a little bit of vinegar to clean the windowsill.
With a minimal investment of money, time and effort, you’re doors and windows will be in tip-top shape and you will have staved off more expensive repairs down the line.