How to prevent front door cold air drafts – Replace or fix?

front door cold air drafts

With heating costs up 30% this year, it was time to think about seriously addressing a lingering seasonal issue: the draft from our historic, 100 plus year old front door. While beautiful with its carved wood and stained glass light box, years of wear have created significant light and air gaps.

Front door cold air draft

Especially when the temperature dips below 20 degrees, it’s difficult to retain heat in the house.

So this year, before the cold weather hit, we wanted to solve this issue of how to prevent cold air drafts from our front door. Would it be to replace the door altogether? Or, perhaps work with what we’ve already got?

Considering a fiberglass door replacement

Many of our neighbors replaced their double doors with one, wide, 36” door for the reason that, while pretty, the antique doors aren’t insulated like modern doors are today.

Fiberglass is a very popular choice, as it is has heat retaining properties and doesn’t need to be refinished like wood and doesn’t dent like steel.

Back in June, I went to my local door and window replacement service which I used to recently replace all the windows in my house. I had them price out a door replacement with a Jeld-wen brand door and hardware.

The job was to do the installation, side light and leveling off of the old slab below the door for a nice, airtight fit.

I thought about how nice it would be to have no cold drafts leaking in especially in the early morning when I came downstairs.

We got an estimate that came in at $6,000. While high, it seemed within reason for a quality door and highly competent installation.

Price increase

When the company came out to measure, they realized it would take a bit more work and materials given the size of the door and replacement of the light box. It was too hard to salvage the old, beautiful stained glass. Instead, they would remove it and we could use it inside the house as a decoration. Fine, I thought. Anything for a draft-less door. Just don’t make me go through one more winter with these drafts!

I was shocked when the price came in at $10,500.

Looking for alternates

Seeing that the price for a new door was now more than the price of a new boiler (!), I started interviewing local handymen and looking at how to get a less expensive door installation with hardware and side light. We could buy our own door from Home Depot, or anywhere really, and then have new carpentry around it and possibly preserve the stained glass light box.

A new quote and new information

The first handyman I interviewed said that I should sell the beveled glass from the panes because each pane is worth $350. He also said that he had a client recently who purchased fully refinished wood doors like mine for $10,000. He said he could do the door and light box replacement for $3,500 if we purchase the door ourselves, which would run around $1,000 including the hardware for a total of $4,500.

Another quote and a new strategy

When the second handyman came, I told him about how I wanted to save and sell the glass from the door, and about the person who purchased refinished doors for $10,000. Then he said, “would you consider refinishing the existing doors and weather-proofing them?” He suggested we could build an additional glass pane behind the stained glass to insulate it, and use appropriate materials, like brass, to weather strip the gaps. The original integrity of the door and stained glass would be preserved while solving for the draft.

lightbox door top

And, even though the vintage doors were thinner than modern doors, we have a second door behind it that could be weather-proofed. That would provide more of a barrier to the cold. The cost for restoring the outer door, repainting it, adding brass plates to the bottom for durability, and weather proofing it and the more interior door would cost $2,000.

Interior antique door

The decision

The more I thought about it, why am I looking to replace the beautiful stained glass and antique doors – worth the whole amount that I was initially quoted to replace the doors – when I could achieve my goal of no drafts with some tweaks?

It’s a lesson in just because your neighbors are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for you. And, maybe it’s possible to get everything you want and more for a fraction of the price, just by shopping it around to more creative, thoughtful people!