How to Choose Storm Doors

A Guide for Buying Storm Doors

By Daniel Adema

What comes to mind when you think about storm doors? If cheap aluminum doors that bang shut and are falling off their hinges jump to mind then it’s time for an update. Times have changed. Storm doors today are are built from higher gauge aluminum and vinyl or plastic compounds making them significantly more sturdy than screen doors of the past.

When choosing and installing a storm door, there are 4 main things to consider: Price, Material, Size, Handing, and Style.

Pricing Storm Doors

First and foremost, you should stick to your budget.

Storm doors range in price from around $100-$300 for standard size doors that you can find at any large home improvement box store, to around $300-$500 for custom sized doors ordered from the same retailers. Now be realistic, while you may find a coupon that gives you a good deal, a $100 screen door is not going to perform like a $500 storm door.

Now you may ask, “What makes a $500 storm door better than a $100 storm door?” The answer is the materials and the bells and whistles. Vinyl storm doors are less expensive than extruded aluminum storm doors. While you save money on the price, they will wear out faster because of exposure to the elements. However, you can get a wood-core vinyl door which is more sturdy and provides better insulation for a little bit more money.

On a higher-end door you may get a choice of custom colors like cranberry, hunter green, or almond where on the lower end you can only have white or black. With more expensive doors you can usually choose a hardware color ranging from brass or silver to oil-rubbed bronze and antique brass. One important difference is most top end doors come with 2 door closure pistons instead of 1.

They are mounted at the top and bottom of the door instead of just having one at the top of the storm door. This gives the door better rigidity and allows you to adjust the speed more. Keep in mind that the cost of a separate piston is only about $5.00, so don’t spend an extra $100 on a door just to get a second door closure.

The best way to get a sense of the price is to either go into a national home improvement retailer and look at the storm doors or search on line. If you go to a store, be aware that while some associates may have general knowledge, most do not know the first thing about storm doors. I personally try to avoid them because in my experience none of them have ever actually installed a storm door.

To make matters worse, their training is minimal and they give cookie-cutter answers to all of your questions. Personally, I like to shop online to compare prices and narrow down more what I am looking for.

Another thing to consider about pricing is that most storm doors are Energystar compliant, which means that your new door qualifies for an IRS tax credit. The credit can be up to as much as $500 and is claimed on your next years taxes. So keep in mind that you can save money on your taxes by purchasing a higher end door.

Storm Door Materials

All storm doors are made from metal, wood, vinyl/plastic, or some combination thereof. Less expensive doors use vinyl/plastic and may or may not have a wood core for added rigidity and insulation. More expensive doors are made from extruded aluminum (“extruded” means “shaped”).

Storm door

The benefits of vinyl/plastic doors are that they are less expensive to purchase, are easy to clean, and inexpensive to replace. With vinyl doors, especially Emco’s Forever door, the color is molded throughout the door. This means that a scratch on the door is less visible because it is not a different color underneath. The drawbacks are that these storm doors wear out sooner, look “cheaper”, and have trouble standing up to extreme heat and cold.

The benefits of an extruded aluminum door are that it is heavier, more durable, longer-lasting, and better looking. They look classier and offer much more security. The drawbacks are that they are more expensive, are little harder to clean, require more maintenance, and can become hot to the touch when exposed to heat for a long time.

Storm Door Sizes

While you can order a storm door in whatever size you need, standard door widths (measured in inches) are 30″, 32″, and 36″. Standard door heights (measured in inches) range from 80″-81″ and 96″ (for 8′ feet tall doors). Traditionally, your front door opening is 36″ wide by 80″-81″ high. Back doors are traditionally 32″ wide by 80″-81″ high; however newer homes (built after 1990) have been also using 36″ wide by 80″-81″ high doors at times.

Storm Door Handing

One of the most important questions down the road becomes, “Which way will the door open?” If you are dealing ordering from a large home improvement retailer store, it is imperative that the sales rep be crystal clear on this. In the world of door installations, handing is everything. Now we get to some industry jargon.

First, ALL storm door measurements are assuming that you are standing OUTSIDE of your house looking at the door. Now, handing is stated as either “left-handed” or “right-handed.” This means that if you but your back against the jamb where you want the door do be hinged, whichever hand of yours is on the outside is the “handing” of your door.

For example, let’s say you but your back against the hinge side jamb of your front door and your right hand is facing the outside. Then you want a “right-handed” door.

The good news on handing is that most standard sized doors can be installed either way; you don’t have to purchase a storm door that is pre-handed (unless you have an 8′ tall door).

Now most of the time you want the storm door handles to be on the same side as the entry door handles. However, there are a few cases where this is not true. One such case is if you have a wall close to the opening. It is always preferable to have a storm door open towards a wall that is 12″ or less from an entry door. This is to ensure that your “traffic pattern” is not interrupted. Meaning that people won’t have to open and then walk around the storm door to get into the house. Doing this ensures that the storm door is not in your way when you enter and exit the house.

3 Styles of Storm Doors

Storm doors come in 3 different styles: Full-View, Ventilating, and Roll-screen.


A Full-View door is one where you can have ONLY the glass panel OR the screen panel in the door at any given time. You must physically change the glass and the screen and store the panel that is not in use. If you want to maximize daylight and visibility to the outside, this is the way to go. As long as you don’t mind installing the screen in the spring and the glass in the fall, you will be happy with this door. It does not have a line across the middle of the door obstructing visibility.


If you do not want to go through the hassle of changing glass and screen, the ventilating style keeps both glass and screen in the door at the same time. With this style, there are 2 panels of glass, and depending on the manufacturer, one or both move up and down revealing the screen portion and allowing for ventilation.


The Rollscreen models are the newest hybrids and take the best of both worlds from the Fullview and the Ventilating style. In this style, the screen is still self storing like the ventilating model, but you get the visibility of a fullview door because the screen is rolled up on a tensioned dowel at the top of the door. As you pull the top window down, the screen is attached and then revealed. This is a great choice of you have kids or pets that have a keen ability to destroy screens, because teh screen is only on the top part of the door . . . far out of their reach.

Once you have decided which style, then it is time to decide which manufacturer.

Storm Door Manufacturers

There are 4 main storm door manufacturers: Pella, Larson, Emco, and Anderson. From an installer’s perspective, I would rank these manufacturers in order of preference based on product selection, price, durability, warranty, ease of installation, customer service, and fewest number of problems in the long run as:

1) Pella Brand Storm Doors
2) Larson Brand Storm Doors
3) Anderson Brand Storm Doors
4) Emco Brand Storm Doors

For information on how to install interior door trim, see the “Installing Interior Door Trim” eBook from  The “Installing Interior Door Trim” eBook provides step-by-step instructions on how to install interior door trim. Pictures are included for every key step in the process.

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