Storm doors, also known as screen doors, are popular with homeowners for various reasons: energy savings, ventilation, weather damage protection, pest control-and security. An extra door is an extra barrier against housebreakers, especially if it's made of a sturdy material and locked. Today, you can find storm doors in a wide range of styles, materials, and security-feature combinations, so if you don't have one already, it pays to look into buying one.
What's a Good Storm Door Made of?
There are two main components to any storm door: the frame and the window. The frame on your storm door should be durable and sturdy. Most of the storm doors you've probably seen have solid wood frames with aluminum skins. These are among the more resilient of storm door frames and have the advantage of being nearly maintenance-free. If you want heavier-duty security, though, you may want to go for wrought iron or steel-more expensive than aluminum, but hardier.
Other materials include vinyl, polypropylene, and fiberglass. Storm door windows are generally glass panels, screens, or some combination of both. Full-length glass panels give you a broader view of your yard and anyone who might be in it, and they usually come with an interchangeable screen for warmer weather. On the other hand, metal screens break less readily than glass. Many storm doors have double screen and glass panels on tracks, and some even offer self-storage, where the glass panel slides down into the door when you don't need it.
Securing Your Storm Door
Once you've got a good, solid door, it's time to think about security features. Most storm doors come with some kind of locking mechanism, and many are available with keyed deadbolts and multi-point locks. If you're getting a glass panel, laminated security glass offers better protection than regular glass; if you're going for a screen, galvanized steel is a tough, tear-resistant screen material, and bronze, though more expensive, is even tougher.
For an added line of defense, you can get a door with aluminum or steel bars on top of the glass or screen. Tamper-proof hinges are also worth considering. If you've already got a storm door and but think it could do with some extra protection, you can always get locks or bars installed, or you can replace the glass panels or screens with stronger ones as mentioned above.
Buying Tips and Prices
Before you decide on a storm door, assess your security needs. Back doors usually require heavier security than front doors, so while you may be satisfied with, say, a regular aluminum door in front, you might want a heavier door with less glass and more security features in the back. Also, consider your other needs-ventilation, insulation, or aesthetics may be just as important to you as security. You may want more or less glass/screen space depending on how much air you like to let in, for instance, or how much of your main door you'd like the public to see.
Your budget may also determine the kind of door you get. Prices range anywhere from $75 for a simple vinyl door to $450 for a heavier door with deadbolts, glazing, decorative molding, and other snazzy features. Most quality doors fall in the $150-$250 range-again, differing depending on materials and features. (The warrantee is usually a good indicator of quality-a lifetime warrantee is a better sign that the door will last than, say, a five-year warranty.)
Installing a storm door is fairly simple to do yourself, as long as you follow the directions and use the templates that come with the door. Most companies also provide online help or a consumer hotline that you can call for emergencies. Most importantly, make sure you get the right size door for your doorway, and check that all the components work before leaving the store. If installed properly, a storm door is a step in the right direction towards securing your home.