What to Know About Adding a Door Sweep

Have a drafty exterior door you want to fix? A good door sweep may be the solution. Here's what you need to know.

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What Is a Door Sweep?

No exterior door offers a complete seal against cold air, blowing snow, rain, dirt and pests. The only way this would be possible is if the door dragged on the floor, which would of course make it difficult to open and close. That’s where door sweeps can help.

Also called draft stoppers, these devices are narrow barriers of rubber, plastic, brush-like bristles or other materials designed to keep cold air and other things from getting into your home underneath exterior doors. They come in three main styles: strip, bristle and under-door.

Types of Door Sweeps

Strip door sweeps provide the best combination of effectiveness and convenience. They’re easy to install, don’t take any floor space and are painless to replace when they lose their effectiveness.

Some strip-style door sweeps come with an adhesive backing meant to stick directly to either side of your door. Others are mounted in rigid metal or plastic installation guides fastened to the bottom edge of doors. Either way, the idea is to mount your door sweep at the right height to allow gentle contact between the strip and your floor, without creating enough friction to impede the door’s use.

Bristle door sweeps are similar in concept to strip-style sweeps. Bristle door sweeps plug the space beneath your door with a row of fine brush-like bristles rather than solid strips of rubber or plastic. Less friction when opening and closing the door is the main benefit of the bristles. These sweeps don’t usually work as well as strip style sweeps, especially for keeping out cold air and bugs.

Under-door sweeps offer the tightest seal possible between the bottom of your door and the surrounding floor. They’re typically shaped something like an uppercase “B,” with the two round pieces facing upward, straddling the bottom edge of the door. Often made of soft foam, some under-door sweeps come with a hook-and-loop strip for application to the bottom of your door to prevent sliding.

Installing and Maintaining a Door Sweep

Door sweeps should always be applied on the outside face of exterior doors. This prevents snow, dirt, and pests of all varieties from collecting underneath your door.

Strip-style door sweeps with an adhesive backing are the easiest to install. Just peel off the backing and, with a helper, apply the sweep to the bottom of your door, making sure it’s level and in light contact with the floor. (Drawing a light pencil line on the door where the top of the sweep should go helps.) You’ll need to drive a few screws into the door if your sweep is the type with a guide to hold a strip of plastic, rubber or bristled material.

Under-door sweeps can sometimes be slid beneath your door easily. Occasionally you’ll need to take the door off its hinges to get these in place, especially if hook-and-loop reinforcement is involved.

When a door sweep cracks, bends or is damaged somehow, replacement is as easy and removing the old and installing a new one.