Therma-Tru Doors – Know Your Fabricator

One of the biggest disappointments in this project has to be the exterior doors.  While I initially considered Intus doors, I ended up going with Therma-Tru because they were American-made, they had adequate performance, the available style was more in keeping with the look of the house (i.e. the Intus doors seemed to have a more modern/European look), they had a very authentic Douglas Fir look, and they seemed to be less expensive. I used the word “seemed” because, while in my initial comparison (which was focused on a mid-level model) they were significantly less expensive, after looking back on the top-of-the-line Therma-Tru doors that we ended up purchasing, the cost difference essentially disappeared.

My disappointment with the doors doesn’t relate to the doors themselves.  Rather, it centers on the fabricator; Seal-Rite Doors, Inc.  I didn’t know this at the outset, but apparently when one purchases a Therma-Tru door, the order is filled by a fabricator like Seal-Rite, who assembles and mills the door and jamb according to the specifications and options received from the customer.

In my case, I purchased the doors through a local building supply company, which then placed the order with Seal-Rite.  I purchased four Therma-Tru doors. A front door assembly consisting of the door and two sidelights, milled together; two “side” entry doors that were exactly the same as the front entry door, less the sidelights; and a slab door for the Bilco well.  All of the doors are fiberglass.  The three primary doors are all the Classic Craft American model, with composite jambs and adjustable sills.  Total cost for the four doors was approximately $6,700, and finishing the doors was on me.

When the carpenters went to install the doors, the following problems became apparent:

– The two side entry doors arrived with jamb mortises that did not line up with the latches and hinge mortises that were so deep, the door bound up before they could be completely closed.

– One of the hinges on one door was completely unattached, with no holes or screws in the jamb.

– The window mullions on one of the doors (which are attached with double-back tape), fell off within a few days of arrival, and could not be securely re-attached.

– The plastic latch mortise inserts were missing on one door.

I contacted the building supply company, and they immediately reached out to the Seal-Rite representative, who said he would have to come out and see the problems first hand…the following week.  However, after further discussion, he agreed to come out the following day.  After examining the doors and taking measurements and photos, he confirmed the issues, and advised that Seal-Rite would give me two new jambs that were properly mortised.

It took almost one month to get the new jambs. And amazingly, one of the two had a latch mortise that did not line up with the latch.  So the representative requested yet another jamb.  All-in-all, in my estimation, a testament to Seal-Rite’s incredible lack of quality control.

Two weeks later, we received the third replacement jamb, and fortunately they got it right (or at least close enough). The doors are now all in.  But frankly the fit (between door and jamb) is not even close to what I would expect from a company like Therma-Tru (or from any door company that charged as much as they do).  For example, here are photos of the fit on the latch and hinge sides of the front door, which is the only door they got close enough to right on the first try:

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Since I’ve lost all patience with Seal-Rite, I’ll fix this one myself.

Update…My discontent with the fit of the doors eventually led me to the Therma-Tru website.  One of the things I discovered was that Therma-Tru doors use two different types of weather strip; one type for the hinge side of the door, and another type for the latch side and top.  Amazingly, Seal-Rite couldn’t even get this detail correct.  Of the six jambs that they sent out, at least two of them didn’t have the correct weather strip (I didn’t get a chance to check two of the jambs that I returned).  So I will be reaching out to them yet again to remedy the situation.

 

 

 

Blower Door Test #2

A few weeks ago, we conducted the second blower door test.  Our number increased to .38 ACH @ 50 pascals. This was still comfortably under the .60 limit.  Interestingly, it appears that the bulk of the increased air leakage (over the 1st blower door test) resulted from the windows (actually, maybe that’s not so interesting, given that the only change since the first test was the installation of the doors, windows, and blocking for the pent and porch roofs).  While under negative pressure (we were pulling air out of the front door opening), some of the sashes exhibited leaks that could easily be felt and easily seen with a smoke pen.

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I visited the guys at Intus in Washington DC the day after the test.  They were incredibly helpful, and explained how to (easily) adjust the windows for a potentially tighter fit where necessary.  Of course, they also cautioned that I double check the installation (plumb/level/square).  While I’m confident that the installer took great care with his work, I also know that few things in life are perfect.   They also pointed out that that the numbers are still incredibly positive.  And they added that, when getting down to the numbers we’re at, even high performance windows may have limits.

The next test will be performed after the mechanicals are installed.  If it becomes necessary, I will examine the installs and adjust the windows to see if it results in any performance increase.