As the temperatures drop during the next few months, your to-do list will likely grow to phenomenal lengths. For example, you may need to add insulation, replace missing shingles, clear your gutters, and insulate your plumbing. As you jump from task to task, you may also discover that your trees need trimming and your chimney needs cleaning.

But with all the hustle and bustle of home maintenance, don’t forget to add your entry door to your list of items to inspect, clean, and repair. Although your door may look like a solid barricade against icy rain, snow, and wind, it may have small weaknesses that will negatively affect your home’s energy efficiency.

Not convinced that your door needs the extra care? Ask yourself the following questions. You may feel surprised at how much work your entry door needs this season.

  1. Is the Wood Warped or Rotting?

Without proper maintenance, solid wood doors don’t remain solid for long. Temperature fluctuations, pests, excessive moisture, and general wear and tear can wreak havoc on wood. Over time, the wood and the surrounding frame may crack, splinter, and warp. Additionally, mold and fungus may rot the wood, gradually softening and compromising the door’s strength.

Carefully inspect your door for any signs of damage, including dents, scratches, and breaks within its panels. If the paint on or around your door has bubbled or peeled, gently press a screwdriver or similar tool against the wood to test for soft spots.

If your door seems worse for wear, hire a contractor to install a new entry door.

  1. Is the Caulk Cracked or Discolored?

According to the US Department of Energy, the average homeowner spends approximately half of his or her energy costs on heating and cooling. Unfortunately, the typical home also loses about 30% of its heating and cooling energy to air leakage around windows and doors.

Caulk minimizes air loss by creating a tight seal around your door frame. But acrylic caulk shrinks and cracks over time, allowing heated air to escape once more.

As you examine your door for signs of damage, don’t forget to carefully inspect the caulk around your door. If you see any cracks, missing chunks, or permanent discoloration, you’ll want to remove the old caulk and replace it with a 100% silicone caulk.

Silicone, unlike acrylic, doesn’t shrink and crack, so it provides a tighter, more waterproof seal around your door. However, silicone caulk is also more expensive. If you have a tight budget, you can opt for cheaper mixes, but you’ll have to reapply caulk every year or so.

  1. Does the Frame Have Visible Gaps?

Caulk works well for sealing immovable areas around your doors and windows. When applied correctly, caulk will increase your home’s energy efficiency as well as keep out mold and mildew. However, caulk is not the ideal solution for movable areas. If you were to use caulk directly between the door and its frame, the constant friction would quickly wear away the caulk within a matter of days.

With your door closed, check for visible gaps between the door and the frame. If you see small rays of light peeking through the holes, you need additional weather stripping to stop up the holes and prevent air leaks.

Weather stripping should remain flush against a closed door, but it shouldn’t interfere with the door’s opening or closing action. Depending on how your new door sits in the frame, you may need to mix and match weather stripping materials to ensure a snug fit. Tension seal vinyl, for example, works best on the sides and top of a door while reinforced foam works best at the bottom of the door.

If you’re not sure which weather stripping works best for your door and your budget, talk to a professional contractor for advice.

  1. Do You Live in an Area With Extreme Temperatures or Weather?

A new door sealed with a fresh layer of caulk and weather stripping can go a long way to lowering your energy bills and protecting your home against drafts. In most cases, these three items are all you’ll need to prepare your entry for winter.

But if you live in an older home without an overhanging roof for protection, your door will still take a beating when the snow and wind arrive. The harsh weather will still find a way to damage wood, crack caulk, and seep through the door frame, and you can expect your utility bills to rise as a result.

Fortunately, you can lower your utility bills in the long run when you invest in a beautiful yet protective storm door. Storm doors shield your entry door from wind, rain, and debris that would otherwise tear into the paint or damage the wood. Additionally, storm doors create an extra pocket of air that acts as a buffer between your heated home and the chilly outdoor air.

However, you should note that storm doors need proper installation to grant you these benefits. If installed incorrectly, the door won’t fit snuggly within the frame, resulting in gaps and air leaks. For best results, hire a professional to mount your door for you.

Enjoy a Warmer Winter

Once you check these four items off your to-do list, you and your family can rest easy this winter. With a little care and investment, your door can weather the winter while lowering your utility bills.