Friday, 26 May 2017

Troublesome Doors

In March 2014 we got our front door working better than it ever had, with the help of people from Wald in Nagano City. Our experience importing windows and external doors was not without problems, and if we were building today we would probably use the best available domestic windows. When we built there were no domestic windows with suitably specifications, and our passive house would have been a cave! Since we were importing windows from Europe, and since I was also using some savings from the UK to pay for the house, it seemed like a good idea to try to pay for the windows in Euros, so that there was only one currency exchange rather than two. This meant that the windows were not paid for through the builders, which I think added to their foreignness and made them "someone else's problem".

Most of our windows have been problem free, with the large exception of the triple paned door on the south. The doors have had several problems, and it's difficult to classify them into design, construction, installation and use. Five years later, wear and tear cannot be ignored, but the doors on my twenty-year-old Toyota still worked fine, and I paid more for the doors of this house than I did for that car. 

For much of the first couple of years the front door was not closing properly, and it never locked fully without a struggle. There was even a time when it didn't lock at all. When the door is open, the key could be given two full turns, but usually it would only go around 360 degrees.

For a while the door was scraping on bottom of the frame, and you can see the remains.

The genkan (the area immediately inside the front door, where you take your shoes off) seemed to be colder in the third year, but it's difficult to quantify as it's always been colder in there than in the house.  In the winter it always feels cold when you open the door from the living room, but then it always feels really warm when you come in from the cold outside.

I wasn't paying full attention when they were putting the door in, but I think it may be resting on a bit of concrete, which will act as a thermal bridge between the insulated slab and the tiled step outside the front door. Also the washer on the outside of the handle has partly worn away, which may be allowing cold air to leak in. We've been trying to fix this, but it needs parts from Europe.

The other external door needed trimming so that it would fit within the frame when it was open. A careless oversight that the architect was unnecessarily gleeful to blame on the drawings from the foreign supplier. More recently part of the latch plate broke, stopping it from shutting smoothly. Another part we need to get from Europe. In fact that door also needs some adjustments to align it properly with the frame.

And then at the end of March 2017 we had some workmen in to look at some internal doors. Even when the front door has closed properly, people often either push it too softly while turning the handle, which stops it from closing, or push it too hard, which slams and sends rattles around the house. So we asked about fitting a door closer, which would stop the door from slamming, but make sure that it closed. They noticed that the top hinge was broken. Luckily there are two more hinges, but they will now each have significantly more weight on them, and a higher likelihood of following suit. This fracture may partly have been caused by the single stopper for the door as it opens, which is on the door frame at the bottom. When the door swings open and hits it, this will act as a pivot to translate the considerable momentum of the swinging door into a shearing force on the hinge at the top.

We are looking forward to getting this repaired, but it will be a major task.