If you’ve ever lived in an older home, one of the first things you realize when you start talking to contractors is that nothing was made to a standard size like newer homes. I suppose this is because everything was crafted on site, including windows and doors. One important aspect that first attracted us to purchase this home is that all of the windows and doors were original except for one hideous circa 1950’s aluminum storm door in the walk out basement. Actually, this door was hidden from view by a “Dorothy door”- the same kind that Dorothy could not open in the big tornado scene- but was still visible from inside the finished basement. I was always a bit apprehensive about opening the “Dorothy door”- you never knew what kind of bug or spider was lurking there. It had to go.
The first contractor quoted a price of $900 for the door itself since it had to be custom made. A couple of years past before I found a woman carpenter who specializes in hanging vintage doors. She came out to the house, measured the opening, and gave me the range of dimensions that I needed. The great thing about wood is you can shave an inch here and there to make it fit. She thought I might have luck hitting one of the architectural salvage companies in town. In Baltimore, we are fortunate to have several architectural salvage companies. For this project, I stopped by Second Chance which is close to Raven’s Stadium.
With the dimensions in hand, I searched row after row of doors looking for one that would allow maximum daylight to enter the basement. Second Chance makes the search easier by listing the dimensions of each door. Then I found it- a true 15 divided light door with thick wavy glass and solid heavy wood- all of this for $125. Saving $775 felt pretty good, plus wavy glass gratis!
The door hanging went off without a hitch so it was time to unhinge “Dorothy” and expose the nice reclaimed vintage door.
For weatherstripping, my energy efficiency auditor installed q-lon. It can be adjusted to match the idiosyncrasies of an older door and is the tightest sealing weatherstripping I have come across. During the final blower door test, I couldn’t feel any air penetrating through it.
Next project- search for vintage exterior shutters to help block the summer heat gain in south and west facing windows. Evidently, the house had many operable shutters once upon a time. I discovered hooks that held the shutters closed when restoring the windows, however, the only shutter left is the one in the front of the house outside the dining room sans hinges. Just the other night I spoke to the former owners’ daughter who had lived in the house in the 50’s and 60’s. She remembers her father closing the dining room shutters.