Storm doors swing outwards because they are installed exterior to egress or external doors and thus it is impossible for them to swing inwards. Left or right swinging depends on the left or right swing of the external door—they typically match—but the surrounding structures also make a difference.
Storm doors are a vital part of many homes with multiple important functions. Because they can be so vital, the swing direction of your storm door must be given adequate attention so that they can function to their utmost potential.
To ensure the functionality of your storm door, read on for detailed information about building codes that must be followed, the logistics of swinging, and how to easily and cheaply change the direction of your storm door.
Storm Doors Swing Outwards
Since a storm door does not stand on its own and is always attached outside of a regular exterior or egress door, it physically cannot swing inwards.
As such, it would be practically impossible to install it to swing inwards or even find a storm door on the market that can swing inwards.
All storm doors must swing outwards, so this narrows down your choices significantly.
Can Storm Door Swings Over Stairs?
According to Section R311.3.3 of the IRC:
“Storm and screen doors shall be permitted to swing over exterior stairs and landings.”
This is because it is likely for a person to trip and fall when there is a step below you while you open a door, and also because it is easy to hit someone and knock them down the stairs with the door when they are standing on the stairs.
When a door is coming at you, it is more difficult to avoid it when there are uneven steps behind you. This same logic applies to when you are re-entering the house and have to open the door towards you on the steps. It is certainly an awkward process.
Why Is This Permitted?
The incidents described above are much less likely with storm doors since they are see-through. Those exiting will see those near the door and be cautious and those on the other side of the door will be able to see in as well.
Furthermore, if you are unfamiliar with the door, you can see there are steps behind the door before stepping through.
It is also permitted since the directionality of a storm door cannot be simply reversed like a normal door can. Storm doors cannot physically swing inwards. If steps are underneath them, a storm door cannot conform to the code that applies to other doors.
If it was made to conform, it would not be functional, and its functions are very important.
A storm door, like the name implies, protects the front door and home from the damage that can come from storms. It also often has screens built-in that can provide inexpensive ventilation on a pleasant day.
They can also filter in more natural light to your home. Storm doors are also great buffers against extreme temperatures and can reduce energy loss up to 50%.
Should Storm Door Swing Left or Right?
In general, swinging to the right or left is determined by the swing direction of your egress door. The general consensus is that the egress or exterior door and your storm door should swing in the same direction (left or right).
For example, if your egress door swings right, then your storm door would also swing right.
Both doors swinging in the same direction is not always the most convenient decision.
For example, if there is a wall that makes it so that the storm door does not open all the way, it is best that the door swings the other way to avoid this.
Even if the egress or exterior door swings right while the storm door must now swing left, it is still the best scenario as long as the entrance and exit through these doors is as convenient as possible.
More important than uniformity of door swing direction, ease of use should be prioritized when determining the left/right swing direction of your new storm door.
Deciphering Right/Left Handing and Hinging
To determine the handing of your storm door, you must step outside and view the storm door. If the handle is on the right on the outside, it is right-handed. If the handle is on the left on the outside, it is left-handed.
Hinging is the opposite of handing. If your storm door is right-handed, it is left-hinged. If it is left-handed, it is right-hinged. The hinging can also be determined the same way as handedness, by viewing from the outside.
Right-handedness determines where you must open your storm door, but does not describe the way it opens. Standing on the outside of the door and opening a right-handed door would mean that the door swings to your left.
The direction of swing is better described by the hinging.
How Far Should a Storm Door Swing?
A storm door usually opens at around 90 degrees. This is to ensure that an important and convenient function of the typical storm door, the ability to reach its farthest length and then promptly close and latch itself, is performed.
With a swing of greater than 90 degrees, this function is harder to perform. A storm door that opens to 180 degrees could also be pressed against the house by the wind and broken as it extends past its swing range.
Can You Reverse the Swing Direction of a Storm Door?
You can reverse the hinging swing of a storm door (not its inward/outward swing), and the process isn’t very expensive or time-consuming. It is quite similar to reversing the direction of a normal door.
Since the hinges must be reversed but the holes from the hinges are still there, it is easiest to fill in the old holes with wooden dowels (amazon link) and wood glue (amazon link) for a clean slate. Sand (amazon link) down this edge of the door for a smooth surface.
You can then flip the hinges upside down so that the door opens the opposite way (left vs. right) and drill new holes. Flip the door upside down and remove all hardware.
The door handle, deadlock, mortises, and other door appliances must be switched to the opposite side of the door.
Once all important items have been flipped, the door can be rehung with the original pins.
For greater detail and a live demonstration, visit the video below from the youtube channel “This Old House.”