Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bronze Weatherstripping For Antique Doors

Bronze weatherstripping is one of those old fashioned "tried and true" products that has been around for well over 100 years (Victorian era). I'm not entirely sure if anything was used prior to this (I know that most old sash windows were never originally weatherstripped, but I'm not sure about doors), since there doesn't seem to be much available when it comes to "the history of weatherstripping".

Some of the benefits of bronze weatherstripping, is that if it's properly installed, it will last over 100 years, and it looks very elegant when paired with an antique door. It is, however, one of the more expensive weatherstripping options, and it will not necessarily give you a 100% perfect seal around all 4 sides of a door. There will be very small air gaps in the corners and at any strike plate or lock location. However, these small gaps are quite minimal, so it will be up to you whether or not you choose to use this product for your home.

One other quick benefit that I should mention is that this weatherstripping can be quite accommodating when it comes to odd shapes (such as round-top doors, or lancet-shaped Gothic doors), and it can be adjusted to account for slightly wider, or varying gaps. It can easily squeeze into a gap as tiny as 1/16" or be made to weatherstrip a 1/4" wide gap or slightly more. You would simply nail it down, and bend it forward to increase the lift angle.

I am primarily choosing this option for looks and longevity, and I'm more than willing to accept a few tiny air leaks.

I am writing out this detailed installation guide for a few reasons:
- While this product has been around for over 100 years, there seems to be a lack of detailed information on how it should be installed. I have gone through dozens of YouTube videos, and browsed several web sites, and a lot of the information is flat out wrong, slightly off, or there are details of the installation that aren't covered.
- Most installations deal with windows.
- Most guides don't have adequate photos.

When it comes to BW (I'll be abbreviating "bronze weatherstripping" to BW for the rest of this article since it's starting to be long to type out each time) there are several different kinds offered for sale, and most of them can be found through Killian Hardware, at They carry the most common types (the flat ribbon type) as well as specialty pieces to fit around locks, strike plates, and for windows. They have single door kits available, as well as 100ft rolls.

Since I was planning to eventually redo all the exterior doors for the house, I bought the 100ft roll a few years ago. I would easily have enough for 3-4 doors and at a better price than individual kits. As you can see, the price has gone up a fair amount since it's currently on sale for what I had originally paid (probably around 4 years ago).

Useful tools for the installation include:
- Measuring tape
- Pencil
- Drill (along with a small No.54 or 1/16" bit)
- Awl
- Tin snips, metal shears, or old scissors
- Small tack hammer
- Nail set (nail punch)

For most applications, you will need what they call "lock strips". These are 12" long and $0.99 each. One strip was long enough to do the strike plate and the lock on my front door. You simply cut it to length (I cut mine 1 inch longer on either side). These get pre-drilled for copper weatherstripping nails (use and indexed drill size No.54, or in a pinch, use 1/16"). The nails are also available from Killian Hardware, or through most hardware stores.

The lock strips are a sort of "C" shape, and these are nailed to the short section of the jamb.

Nail spacing tends to vary depending on what tutorial you read. Some say every inch (a bit overkill), and some say 1 1/2", but I chose 1 1/4" for the spacing. The BW tends to want to flex around, so I preferred to use a bit of an in-between spacing. To make things easier, mark yourself a hole-spacing "ruler" from a piece of cereal box cardboard.

Start your nails with a small tack hammer, and then finish nailing them with a nail punch. If you try to nail these down using only a hammer, you will either mess-up the weatherstripping, or bang into your jamb and end up with unsightly hammer marks everywhere. You also don't want to nail it down too far. If you bang the nails too far, you will dimple and kink the metal. This is very thin springy material, so use common sense. It doesn't need a death grip to stay in place.

Check that everything still works nicely. If the lock strips are working correctly, they should form a seal and block out the light.

Next is the "ribbon" weatherstripping. BE CAREFUL NOT TO KINK IT! You need to handle the strips very gently since they are fragile and easily kinked until they are firmly nailed down. Kinks CANNOT be fixed. The strips can be cut with metal shears or a pair of strong scissors that you don't mind getting dulled.

Start with the strike side of the door. Measure and cut a strip a bit longer than needed. Remember this is expensive material. You don't want to cut an extra 3 or 4 inches (and waste it) and you also don't want to cut it an inch short, and waste a few feet! To hold the strip temporarily in place, I used the awl in a pre-drilled hole at the top.

Note: Top corners should be clipped at a bit of an angle so that the strips won't bind together at the top corner. 1/4" is plenty (yes you can eyeball this).

Mark the correct length and snip to size (these are clipped straight across).

Take the strip down, then measure out all your holes, and drill them. Near the bottom (or top) edge, you will see that your holes may not end up evenly spaced. You can easily cheat the spacing on the last 4 or 5 holes to make it look like they match-up. You can either crowd them a bit, or fan them out a bit (but stay within 1 1/2" spacing).

Start with a nail in the top corner. The BW should be spaced about a matchstick away from the front edge. This will depend on the size of the BW you purchased, and on the size of your jamb. You don't want the "high" edge of the fin (the edge that seals) to be too close to the door stop moulding, and you also don't want it too far.

Smooth out the BW to form a nice straight line, and stick-in the awl in the bottom hole. Space nails every few holes going down from the top, and nail them only part-way into the holes incase you need to adjust the strip. You want the BW to lay as nice and evenly as possible without ending up with any bows, waves, or kinks in the fin. Also remember not to go crazy with your nailing. You want the nails nice and flat, but not driven-in too far that they start to kink the metal.

You can just see small dimples around the nails. You can also see that if my ribbon weatherstripping had been a bit longer (1 5/8) or if the lock strips had been deeper, I'd have a complete uninterrupted line of weatherstripping (with the ribbon resting over the lock strip edge). I COULD have backed-up the ribbon from the front edge and made it land on the lock strip, but because my door isn't perfectly straight on this edge, it would have made a poor seal down on the bottom few feet of the door. Another option here could have been one of the alternative V strips of BW such as the 3/4" width. This one would have been face-nailed away from the stop moulding. In the end, it's really not a big deal.

The same process is used to install the centre, and bottom strips. You can see here how I installed the bottom strip, with several nails started. At the very bottom, you also might want a small (maybe 1/8") angle cut to prevent any chance of the ribbon catching along the bottom corner.

The top strip is the same. Carefully measure the length and cut it. Angle-cip both corners, then install it.

No light:

Compare with this unsealed side (lots of light):

Now the hinge side. This side seems to be the one with the most confusion. This strip gets installed backwards, and as a single length. Why not in the same direction? It's true that the strip on this side would look better, and work equally well if it were installed the same way, but the problem is the hinges. You would end up with large air gaps at every hinge. If you don't mind those gaps, there's no reason why you can't install it the same way as the others, but if you want the best seal, you would nail the strip along the opposite edge. This gives you an uninterrupted line of nails (unless your jamb is especially narrow), and a complete seal from top to bottom.

There is no need to worry about the weatherstripping passing between the hinge locations, since there is usually a pretty decent sized gap in the hinge when it is closed (1/16" to 1/8", which is plenty of room for this thin strip of bronze).

One of the drawbacks, however, is that once the strip is installed, the hinges can't be unscrewed. For this reason, it was important for me to install my interior casings, caulk, and paint them before installing this BW strip. And since I've installed it, you can guess that my next blog entry will show off the finished interior casings.

Make sure to taper the top edge, and to leave enough clearance so that neither strip will catch on the other.

As mentioned earlier, if you find that the BW is laying a bit too flat once you've installed it, you can carefully slide your fingers behind the higher lip, and flex it forward (being careful not to make any kinks), or alternatively, you can run a metal object (something not too sharp) down the crease. Be careful not to increase the lift too much. If the BW is too tight, it will make the door more difficult to open and close. You want just enough pressure for the spring bronze to lightly push against the wood door and create an air seal.

For the bottom edge, there seems to be fewer historic options available. You have the choice of a sweep (many types are available, and not all of them look nice), an aluminum strip with a weatherstrip edge (top-mounted on the outside), or something like a self-adhesive foam strip, which is what I chose.

For Round or Lancet Doors:

If you are weatherstripping a round-top or a lancet door (or a variation) the process is much the same. The weatherstripping is installed normally along as much of the two vertical sides as possible (without kinks), and the curved portion is done in sections of about 2 to 3 inches long. Each section is installed with an overlap, much the same as if you were installing shingles. In a lancet application, I would start by the top (centre) and work my way down to the vertical sides. You can see an example of this type of installation on the Killian Hardware page with the bronze Weatherstripping.


  1. I love not only the quality of your workmanship but that you are willing to share your knowledge so others can benefit from it. Great job!!

    1. Thanks! I hope this tutorial will be useful for people (and that they can find it), since there seems to be a lack of info on this type of installation.

  2. Wow! This looks a lot better than the $15 three piece strip, draft strips. Where do you find this?

    1. Killian Hardware. The link is in the post.