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Here's How: Replace Interlocking Weatherstripping for Airtight Seal

James Dulley on

Dear James: My front door needs new weatherstripping. Years ago, our doors had more durable interlocking seals. Can I install this type of seal on the wood doors of my house? -- Ted N.

Dear Ted: Most of the weatherstripping on wood doors today is made of some type of polymer foam, tubular seal or brush-type synthetic material. The old type of interlocking metal weatherstripping is still one of the best types on wood doors. Steel doors usually use magnetic seals, which are very effective and durable.

You should be able to buy interlocking door weatherstripping at most big-box home centers and hardware stores. The zinc-coated (galvanized) type is the least expensive and least effective. The best type of interlocking seal is made of bronze, which is probably what your older house had on the doors. Bronze is durable and flexible enough to seal very well.

Interlocking weatherstripping does not require a difficult installation procedure for an existing door, but it does require precision. If done properly, the door will open and close easily with a supertight seal. If it is off just a little, it will still seal fairly well, but you will notice the pieces do not interlock smoothly.

There are two types of interlocking metal weatherstripping available. Simple interlocking metal channels are the easiest to install, and they seal almost as well as J-strips, which are more difficult to install. The advantage of J-strips is they are recessed into the edge of the door. This makes them less susceptible to damage from children or when large objects are moved through the door opening.

The channel-type weatherstripping is nailed to the face of the door near its edges, and the mating piece is nailed to the doorjamb. The male half of the interlocking channel is mounted on the door along the top and the lock sides. On the hinge side of the door, the male half is mounted on the doorjamb. This results in smoother movement as the door closes.

In order to install a J-strip or any other type of recessed metal weatherstripping, it helps to have a power saw to create the recess (rabbet). A router can be used, but it may cause more tear-out on certain types of wood doors.


Another option is to use a handsaw, which was how they were installed many years ago. The best type to use is a kerfing handsaw. Since you may not use this for many other projects, try renting one at a tool rental shop. If you want to buy one, most home center stores sell them. The portion of the interlocking weatherstripping that mounts in the doorjamb is not recessed.

When making the recessed saw cut in the edge of the door, tilt the blade so there is about a 25-degree undercut. This provides clearance for the interlocking mating piece when the door closes. Make a second saw cut slightly deeper to provide a nice pocket for the strip.

If this sounds like more than you can handle, but you still want durable metal weatherstripping, consider installing a spring strip. This is a V-shaped metal strip with one leg longer than the other. The long leg is nailed in the doorjamb, with the V pointing indoors. When the door swings shut against it, the short leg springs against the edge of the door.


Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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