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Each apartment in our building has a small storage room in the parking lot. The doors to those rooms have grilles which allow dust to come in. The result is that everything I put in there I have to cover with plastic sheets. I am inclined to replace that door or cover the grilles somehow. But I always try to understand the reason something is the way it is before I do any changes to it. So what is the point of those grilles? The only thing that I can think of is that they allow air circulation but that's exactly what you don't want there, when the door opens directly to open air.

I am attaching a picture that shows a door that has similar grilles, even though my door has grilles all over the door and not just near the bottom.

enter image description here

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    Anecdote time, but actually relevant: Many years ago I had an office with grilles on two of the doors from the office to the common hallway. Burglars knocked out one of the griller and stole some stuff. After calling landlord (didn't care), police and insurance, I went to a nearby hardware store and got plywood which I bolted to both sides of the door. Moved out of there when the lease was up. Years later, my "security panels" had been painted to match the doors but nothing else changed, including the grilles on other doors. Aug 5 at 13:37
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    Are there any electric meters or telephone equipment in there?
    – JACK
    Aug 5 at 16:20
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    A picture of your actual door might provoke more ideas. Floor to ceiling grille? Sounds like maybe a cheap interior louvered closet door. Maybe price was the reason.
    – jay613
    Aug 5 at 20:06
  • Nice to see someone taking to heart the lesson of Chesterton's fence. Aug 8 at 3:23
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    The storage rooms dont have exhaust ventilation by any chance, do they?
    – JMac
    Aug 8 at 13:27

5 Answers 5

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As other answers state, the grilles are for ventilation and help prevent buildup of fumes, moisture, etc.

You can purchase an air filter that's intended for forced-air heating systems. Duct-tape the filter over the grille from the inside of the door. That will still allow air exchange, but it will keep the dust out.

Photo credit: homeadvisor.com

enter image description here

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    Since these closets are generally not climate controlled, they can become extremely hot without the vent in place. Particularly so if it's a metal door that gets direct sunlight. Hot enough to damage what's inside. Using a filter is definitely better than covering the vent. For something outdoors like this, I recommend one of the filters that you can rinse off and re-use.
    – bta
    Aug 6 at 1:43
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    The vents may help avoid overheating of electronic equipment in these closets which need a controlled environment. I've come across telephone switches in such closets, for example, which tended to fail during the winter, when hot air was pumped into the closet. Worked fine in the summer, though. Aug 6 at 16:09
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    Will that actually allow air to exchange sufficiently? I know it does in an AC system, but there the air is being forced through by a fan.
    – Michael
    Aug 7 at 17:50
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    @Michael Good question. Vents like this are not about air exchange, they work by diffusion. Without make-up air, you'll never get much air exchange, yet they work fine for preventing fume buildup and for humidity control. Think about it -- if a skunk sprayed in the closet, would you smell it outside the closet? Natural diffusion is hardly impeded at all by filters that are designed to trap dust particles. To a fume molecule, a dust filter looks like mostly empty space.
    – MTA
    Aug 7 at 18:10
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One possibility is that people are likely to store volatile chemicals (gasoline/petrol/paint thinners) in these storage rooms. The vents will make it less likely that any leaks can create an explosive build up of fumes.

Additionally if someone is in there with the door closed, the vents will ensure good ventilation to help stop someone being overcome by a build-up of fumes.

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Those large grilles are most commonly used, and required, when fuel-burning appliances like water heaters are installed inside the closet. Perhaps that was a design consideration for those closets.

If you do not burn fuel in the closet, do not use it to store gasoline or other volatile chemicals, do take steps to prevent mold inside the closet, and do not replace the door (perhaps violating rules for the common areas of your building) then you should be fine if you just cover the grille on the inside to eliminate dust.

You may find a $5 furnace air filter that fits nicely over the grille, rather than a plastic sheet, that allows air but not dust to pass.

You should also make sure that a child (or anyone) cannot become closed or locked inside a small air-tight space. So, the door should be locked from the outside and not lockable from the inside. If that's not the case, change the lock, also ensuring that any HOA master key continues to function ... in case of emergency.

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If that's the only source of air circulation then it aids in mold prevention.


Also...

I am inclined to replace that door or cover the grilles somehow.

How so? Are you the maintenance person for the apartment? Good luck not getting evicted for such an action.

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    Don't worry, I own the apartment.
    – george
    Aug 5 at 12:40
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    @george There might local building codes that call for those doors to have vents/grilles. There might be a possibility to install air filters on those vents, should also be much cheaper than replacing doors.
    – crip659
    Aug 5 at 12:46
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    @george I have doubts that you get to do as you please and that there isn't some ordinance like an HOA to contend with. Kudos to you for asking before taking any action.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 5 at 12:49
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    My sister and I had similar clogged kitchen drains not too long ago. I own a condo with a HOA; she owns a house. Fixing my clog cost me a phone call to the maintenance guy. Hers cost hundreds of dollars. YMMV, of course, but not all HOAs are evil.
    – Martha
    Aug 5 at 19:20
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Since it is a public area, they might be install them purposefully for an easy method to check for any suspicious smells like drugs, something decaying, or chemicals.

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