Dear Ken: I put a new storm door over my steel front door. Now the plastic decorative pieces have warped. How can I make it look decent again? - Kay B.
Answer: Your situation is a reminder that storm doors are trouble makers if they are installed over doors on the "hot" sides of the house (south and west) and the door they're protecting is foam-filled. Modern steel and fiberglass doors have a high-density insulated core. Infrared heat from the sun builds up to temperatures as high as several hundred degrees between these doors. Why? The heat gets trapped by that foam core. Even real wood doors will deteriorate more quickly if they are covered. So, storm doors really only behave themselves on the northerly exposures - where the wind is stronger and they do more good anyway.
Those decorative plastic escutcheons can be popped out and replaced. But you probably won't be able to find exact replacements for them. If calls to a few door and window companies are unsuccessful, you can patch the little holes under the decorations with metallic paste like the body shops use. You can sand it smooth and apply some high gloss enamel or exterior latex paint. I promise it will look good as the trunk of a '51 Ford!
Dear Ken: Please settle a dispute between my husband and me. He keeps closing down the crawl space vents because he says they cool the house down. By the way, the furnace and water heater are down there, and I say they should stay open. Who's right? - MDB
Answer: You both are. In the winter, it's a good idea to close all but one vent to cut down on cross currents of air. Two or more open vents - especially if one is on the north side - will allow winter winds and snow to blow through and suck heat out of the house.
On the other hand, you do need as much ventilation as possible in the summer, since there is so much more moisture around. It's raining and folks are sprinkling their lawns - all of which mean that the humidity in your crawl space will rise from the marginally wetter dirt.
Complicating this whole thing is the requirement of your furnace and water heater to "breath." They need large amounts of oxygen from the outside to combust the natural gas. If they get starved for air, you can create a "draw down" in the house, wherein carbon monoxide fumes build up. Check with your heating technician this fall for the minimum venting square-inch requirement for your two appliances.
Ken Moon is a home inspector. His radio show, "Around the House," is carried on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5, at 9 a.m. Saturdays. Contact him at www.aroundthehouse.com