Door Difficulties

As much as I like the new windows and the LOOK of the new doors, the doors are not opening and shutting correctly. These are Therma Tru entry and french patio doors that Alpen purchases and then installs their high end glass into. It is the Smooth Star line that when painted the same color as the fiberglass windows, match their style and appearance beautifully.

Smooth Star Doors

Smooth Star Doors

I spent some time working on one of the french doors that was left not fully installed because the issues with the doors showed up right away when they were installed. The Therma Tru doors are shipped to an assembler as slabs and a jamb kit and they are put together by a local manufacturer. In this case the guy who came out to figure out the door issues was from the Trimco company. Also the Efficiency Matters sales person, Mike Rodriguez, and the EM owner whose name I forgot, the AE Building Materials rep, Todd Collins and the Alpen rep Riley Dennig were on hand to figure out the problems. The Trimco guy checked the level of the french door sills and determined they were out of level by a hair. He worked on the jambs on one of the doors himself, but said it was probably ultimately my fault (who would have guessed?) by not having perfectly level sills. They recommended tearing out the doors (at EM’s expense I suppose) and putting in level sills.

So I thought about this for a night and started to think it seemed bogus. What house has perfectly level sills? Even a new house doesn’t. That is what shims are for. So I wrote Mike and told him they could just come out and plumb and level as much as possible with shims. The Trimco guy said that the jambs should be screwed on the outside mid jamb which I was not too happy with. In fact the directions say the doors ship with clips that should be removed AFTER they are plumb and level which would mean drilling holes in the exposed part of the jambs. The problem with that is introducing an avenue for rusted screws, water, and ugliness on the jambs of the doors. The installers used regular door hanging instructions, i.e. they screwed the jambs level and plumb in the hinge area of the doors. They did not replace a hinge screw with the longer screws provided though.

After I worked on the door myself, I had it exactly level at the sill and jamb and still could not get it to close properly. Plus I found that the hardware I was trying to install didn’t fit, and then when I put another set of hardware on, the door’s three point locking system wasn’t working properly. I started to get annoyed. Why did I pay thousands of dollars for doors that don’t work as well as cheap Jeldwens? Plus the paint job on one of the doors is rough like they painted with dirt on the door, and another one is chipped at the lock set holes. The locksets are made in China and the bolts are just sprayed with the dark color so that the act of screwing them in chips finish off in the phillips head area.

So I had read that people had trouble with the Benchmark Therma Tru series that Lowes sells, but that the factory Therma Tru doors were much better. After my issues I read further that installers have used these doors for years with mostly good results. They blamed misfitting doors on the assembler more often than the manufacturer. Although complaints about moving to Chinese manufacture for the hardware were found. In 1999 the door hardware was made in the USA and installers thought they were of better quality.

Mismatched lockset plate on right

Mismatched lockset plate on right

I also read that dark painted doors with a southern or western exposure were likely to warp, especially if storm doors are installed. I missed a statement on the Alpen quote that said the warranty for the doors was not in place if they did not have an awning that covered at least the top half of the door. Of course that upset me when I finally read it–the Therma Tru warranty does not state this. So of course it means they had trouble with the doors warping before. The whole business about not being able to order outswing doors was based on what they were willing to warranty and this NEVER was mentioned. So I complained to Mark but it was too late to change the order to outswing–without warranties.

I’m pretty sure the doors are not closing well enough to be airtight. So that impacts my blower door results pretty strongly and means that I have purchased high level doors with performance that will LOWER my HERS rating, not improve it. I’m waiting for Efficiency Matters to see if they can re-level and re-plumb so that the doors actually close tightly against the weatherstripping evenly all up and down the jamb.

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