Q: I would like to update an Andersen aluminum storm door. The door is in very good condition but has weathered over the past 15 years. How do I clean the frame? Can the door be painted? Are replacement door handles available? Or should I purchase a new door?
A: Andersen Windows & Doors (800-426-4261; andersenwindows.com) has a "Parts & Support" section on its website, and one of the categories there is a "Storm Door Help Center." Under "Care and Maintenance" are instructions for cleaning the frame. You might be able to guess what they say: Rub with a soft, clean cloth moistened with a mixture of mild soap and water.
If that doesn't restore the look you want, it is indeed possible to paint the aluminum. Andersen gives advice on that, too. Lightly sand the frame with fine wet-dry sandpaper (300 to 500 grit), just enough to roughen the surface. Wash with soap and water, rinse, and let dry. Lightly spray with an exterior paint in a spray can. Let dry, then re-coat. Several coats work best.
Besides Andersen's suggestions, here are a few others: Remove the door and take out the glass panel, if possible. (The glass panels are removable on all but one type of Andersen storm doors; the exception, according to a woman who answers consumer questions for the company, are full-view laminated doors. The company began making those in 2005, so it's unlikely your door is one of those.)
Set up a work area outdoors, with the door flat on sawhorses or other supports. When you get to the spray-paint stage, put on safety goggles. To ensure an even coat, move your body as you spray, so that the distance and angle of the spray remain uniform. Do not just tilt the can right and left or up and down.
If you want a pro to do the painting, you might or might not save money compared with buying a new door. At Home Depot, Andersen full-view storm doors range from $199 to $410. But regardless of the cost, repainting would reduce waste, and you could get a first-class finish from a company that specializes in powder-coat finishes. This type of finish uses an electrical charge to ensure that every nook and cranny of the metal is coated and the finish is baked on, resulting in an extremely durable, like-new coating. Gary Lamb, owner of Extreme Powder Coating in Lorton (703-339-8233; extremepowdercoating.com), said it would cost around $200 to $250 to sandblast the existing finish off and re-coat. However, powder-coating is an option only if the glass panel can be removed; otherwise, it would crack during the baking process, Lamb said.
As for replacement hardware handles, Andersen has an online store for storm door parts (parts.andersenstormdoors.com). You can search by the model number of your door (look for it on a hinge) or by identifying the handle set using the "Identify Storm Door Parts" section of the Storm Door Help Center. New handles are available for all models that have mortise handle sets but only for some doors that have surface-mounted handle sets. Home Depot, which sells Andersen doors, also carries some replacement handle sets for $50.