How to fix a door closer from the 1940s


A reader’s 1940s door closer. (Reader photo/Reader photo)
May 7, 2014

Question: We used to have an old potbelly door closer on the front door to our building. Unfortunately, someone propped the door open a little too far last year and snapped the circular tension band inside, so we had to remove it. We believe the door closer was original to the building, circa 1948. Because of its age and design, we’d love to remain true to the historical integrity of the building and have it restored. The device is labeled “TACO.” Based on our research, that stands for Trans Atlantic Company, but they apparently went out of business in the late ’80s or early ’90s. Any leads on someone who could repair this? We’ve talked to a few locksmiths and they cannot.

— Washington

Answer: There are still companies that repair vintage door closers, and the price is less than you might guess. Here are three possibilities, though you’d need to ship the closer since these companies aren’t in the Washington area. Advanced Door Control Solutions, also known as Colorado Door Control (800-473-6781; www.advdoor-inc.com), charges about $75 to rebuild a closer like yours. AccessAbilities (877-563-4167; www.accessdoorcontrol.com) estimated the cost at $95. And Gulf States Door Closers (800-266-4950; www.gsdcinc.com) quoted $97.50.

Question: We will soon break ground for an addition that will include a ground-floor room with a bathroom that connects to an exercise room with a hot tub. That room will lead through sliding-glass doors to our pool. We thought about tiling the floor, but we are in our 60s, as are most of our visitors, and I fear someone slipping on wet tiles. Can you recommend flooring that would be softer, not too expensive, less slippery, water resistant and mold resistant? We have mold problems and will not be using the air conditioner in the summer since we want to leave the doors open.

— Potomac

Answer: If you visit countries where the air is humid and air conditioning is rare, you’ll find that most floors are tile or stone. Those are the ultimate choices in mildew-resistance and the type of flooring that’s usually recommended around indoor hot tubs. There are a lot of advantages to sticking with traditional solutions. They are time-tested. If you use small pieces, the numerous grout lines will automatically add considerable slip-resistance. Or you can choose matte or textured tiles.

But as you note, stone or ceramic tile is hard. If that is a critical issue for you, consider natural linoleum with heat-welded seams. Made from linseed oil and other natural ingredients, linoleum might seem like it would be mildew-prone. But it’s long been used as a countertop material and bathroom flooring. As long as no moisture is coming up from underneath or getting through at the seams, it should do fine in a room where considerate adults are using the hot tub. Make sure the linoleum installer follows the manufacturer’s instructions, especially regarding testing the floor beforehand for moisture content and applying the recommended sealer if the reading is too high. To avoid leaving puddles for long periods on the linoleum, keep a mop handy or place bath mats to catch drips and then hang them to dry when people leave the room.

If you plan to leave doors open in the addition but will have an air conditioner running in the rest of the house, ask your contractor to insulate the adjoining walls (and the ceiling, if there is a room above). The detailing should treat the new space as the exterior. Otherwise, within those walls and the ceiling cavity, warm, humid air will hit cold services and condense — a perfect scenario for mold.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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