Door Tips and Tricks

The Importance of Proper Insulation in Wooden Doors

An insulated wooden door

Wooden doors are arguably the best on the market. They offer a wide range of benefits such as energy bill savings, long lifespans, and easy maintenance, and they look incredible when paired with the vast majority of home décor themes. 

However, just like any other entryway or opening in your home, there is the issue of insulation.

Keeping your home properly insulated is absolutely crucial, and some wooden doors just don’t do that; especially on the cheaper end of the price spectrum.

Today, we want to take some time to go over why ensuring your door is properly insulated is important, what constitutes proper insulation, and what you should look for when buying a door to make sure you’re starting with a product that will work right out of the gate.

Let’s get started.

Why is Insulation Important for Your Home?

Whenever you hear the word insulation used in terms of a home or components of a home, it’s referring to the home’s ability to retain hot or cold air (depending on how you’re controlling the climate in your home).

This ability to retain the climate control effort of your home is absolutely crucial for a number of reasons, and while home insulation spans a lot further than just your entryways, the front door is a key location you need to pay attention to.

 A person insulating wooden doors

Why Your Door’s Insulation Matters

When homeowners think about insulation, they typically think about the thick layers of insulation material behind their drywall. That’s what helps conserve energy and keeps the temperature outside from warming up the interior of the home, and it keeps hot air inside from radiating through the walls and essentially doing little more than “heating the outside” if you ever had your mother tell you that as a kid for leaving a window open or something similar.

However, homeowners don’t tend to consider all the energy lost via their doors. 

Sure, when you open the door to go in and out, you probably expect a small difference in your home’s climate control abilities. However, it goes well beyond that.

Your exterior door is essentially a “leak”. It’s not a solid form like a wall is. There are small gaps between the door and the door frame that can allow the air in your home to escape and limit your climate control abilities. After all, the door has to open, and that requires it to sit on hinges and have enough clearance to move. The door itself can also provide insulation if you take care of the gaps. Certain materials are more resistant to radiating heat or conducting cold temperatures; which helps you maintain the temperature in your home dramatically. We’ll talk more about that later.

How Gaps are Insulated 

First, we’ll talk about how the gaps between doors and doorframes are insulated. That’s the most problematic part in the vast majority of cases.

Obviously, the solution is not to make the door perfectly seal itself against the doorframe. You either wouldn’t be able to open the door, or you’d damage the door and the frame every time you attempted to. Instead, softer, more pliable materials with great insulation properties are used to create a type of cushion between the door and the frame.

Usually, this is a simple rubber seal. If you go open your front door right now, you’ll probably notice that it’s lined with a strip of rubber along at least the sides and top. That strip fills the gap between the door and the frame to seal it up and prevent energy loss, but it’s soft and pliable enough that the door can easily move out of the way when you try to get out of or into your home.

Other materials can be used, too. For example, caulking is a method. However, it requires a bit more skill to install that and not make it look horrible, and it tends to need maintenance more quickly than a simple rubber strip. Sometimes, the two materials are used in tandem to ensure perfect insulation.

The bottom of the door might be insulated, or it might not. Most modern door frames do include a seal around the bottom to prevent energy loss, but that also tends to be the first part of the seal to become damaged, and if you don’t pay good attention to your home, it might be gone without you even noticing it. That’s the part of the door you’re constantly walking on, dragging new furniture over, and everything else. So, it tends to get worn out faster than the other parts of the seal.

Regardless of what sealant material is used on your doorframe, this is the main form of insulation you have to look at and maintain. 

If your doorframe isn’t insulated, you can do it on your own with some silicone caulk. With this process, you essentially create the soft seal around the door on your own. However, this has to be done properly, or you can end up with a mess. 

Insulation and the Door itself: Why Wooden Doors are the Better Option

Next, you have to consider the insulation properties of the door itself. This is something you have to think about when you’re buying the door. There are ways to add a bit of insulation to the door after you’ve purchased it, but in general, you want to make a good choice from the start.

This is because some materials have better insulation properties than others.

A person adding foam to insulate a wooden door

For example, a hollow metal door is not known for insulating homes well. It heats up during the summer and makes your AC work harder, and in the winter, the energy that creates your warm, climate-controlled, house just radiates right through it.

The same is true for some cheap, hollow, wooden doors. These are the low-quality pressboard doors that really shouldn’t be used as main entryway doors in the first place. They just don’t provide a lot of insulation, and in terms of a main entrance, they create security risks, as well. 

For those hollow doors, some manufacturers use fillers that provide a bit of insulation, but it’s still not ideal.

There are also synthetic doors on the market, but they tend to be way more expensive than what they’re worth, and their insulation properties differ drastically. One might be made with insulation in mind and do a great job, and the next might as well be the equivalent of leaving your front door open all the time. With synthetics, it’s really up to the manufacturer.

However, the vast majority of wooden doors are different.

Most wood species used to make high-quality wooden doors have amazing insulation properties, and they usually retain your home’s energy effectively without anything special. Of course, there are some cheap ones that do a poor job because of the species used, and some designs might have weak spots that conduct energy and send it right outside, but you can usually trust that a solid wooden door made by a good manufacturer is going to insulate your doorway just fine. 

For all intents and purposes, we consider high-quality solid wooden doors to be your best option in terms of insulation and various other factors.

If your door isn’t made from a material that provides plenty of insulation, there are various coatings that can help slightly, but they aren’t optimal.

The Benefits of a Properly Insulated Wooden Door

We’ve gone over the various points regarding a door’s insulation and why it’s important, but if you’re still thinking about putting off insulating your frame or buying a door made from better materials, here’s a list of benefits you can expect to gain by doing so.

A person insulating a wooden door to maximize its functionality

1: Better Heat Retention

In the winter, keeping your house warm is a matter of filling it with unnaturally heated air; in simpler terms, you turn your furnace on.

However, there’s a problem with that.

First, that hot air can escape anywhere there’s a gap. Whether that’s around your doorframe, an open window, or a hole a squirrel chewed through your attic.

Then, there’s the problem with the heat radiating through your home and into the outdoors.

Having a door that is properly sealed and made from the right materials will prevent both of those problems. In fact, you can retain as much as 20% of the heat most homeowners lose just by fixing up your door.

2: Less AC Usage

In the summer, when you’re trying to keep your home cool and comfortable, your AC does the same thing as your furnace. Except, it makes the air cool.

The exact same thing can happen, too. If you have a door that isn’t insulated properly, that cold air escapes, your house warms up, and your AC works a lot harder in an attempt to cool it down.

With both the furnace example and this AC example, that equates to higher energy bills and a less comfortable at-home experience.

3: Lower Energy Bills

Because of the previous two benefits, you actually get a third. It’s not all about climate control and comfort.

Because a properly insulated door can save about 20% of the energy that is normally lost, it can dramatically lower your energy bill. Your furnace and your AC just don’t have to work as hard, and they don’t eat up as much natural gas or electricity.

4: Insect Prevention

Whether you can appreciate bugs, or you hate them with a passion, we can all agree that having our homes infested with them is not an enjoyable circumstance. When your door isn’t properly insulated, in terms of the frame around the door, bugs essentially get a free path right into your home to do whatever they want. 

Without a properly insulated door, you can expect ant infestations every time the season changes, flies can become a real nuisance during the summer, and other insects can make their way through the gaps in your doorframe to take your home over by force.

When you take the right measures to properly insulate your doorways, this is prevented, and the only time you need to worry about insects getting in is when you have a problem elsewhere in your home or you open the door. 

5: Sound Elimination

At a rural farmhouse or a small town with quiet neighbors, you might not be concerned about outside noise coming into your home. In fact, you might welcome it compared to the relative silence. However, if you’re living in the suburbs or the city like most people, the various sounds outside your home can be a major problem.

With a lot of doors that aren’t properly insulated, the kids playing outside, cars driving by, trains rumbling in the distance, police sirens a couple of blocks down, and everything else can constantly permeate your household and practically drive you insane. You’re at home to relax; not hear every little thing the outside world is doing at all times.

One of the perks of having a properly insulated wooden door is that it muffles the outside noise. Yes, you can still hear loud noises nearby, but you won’t be constantly disturbed by every little thing going on. This doesn’t have much financial value or prevent anything serious, but it does a lot to help you enjoy the atmosphere within your home; especially if you live in a particularly noisy area.

Make the Right Decision Early to Gain These Wooden Door Benefits

We’ve discussed how you can do some sealing around your door’s frame to add insulation, and that is a key part of having a properly insulated door, but it’s just as important to buy a door with great insulation properties in the first place. You can’t do much to add insulation to the door itself once you buy it and install it. For example, you can’t add something to a hollow metal door to make it have better insulation. You can just fill in the gaps around it.

This is why we recommend buying a high-quality wooden door that is solid. If you do that, and you take care of it, you won’t have to worry about anything besides the frame.

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