The front door of your home is one of the very first things that people see when they approach your home, so of course you want a stylish option that will fit with the outer décor of the structure. But you also need it to be functional, and to be durable enough to stand up to storms, severe cold and heat, and even potential home intruders. In this day and age, with so many different materials and options available for your front door, you don’t have to sacrifice form for function with a sub-par fixture.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the front door for your home, including material, finish and how it is set up in your doorframe. More modern doors are stronger than those of yesteryear, as they are more reinforced and often coated with a finish that can withstand exposure to the elements. Older doors, especially wooden ones, are prone to becoming warped and otherwise damaged over the years. The same can be true of steel doors as well.
Fortunately there are more options than ever before for when you are styling the threshold to your structure. You can make a stylish statement without losing functionality in any aspect.
How damaged is your doorframe?
A “slab” or a “blank” is just the door without any additional framework. Sometimes switching your old door for a new one can just be a matter of swapping out the two blanks, but this isn’t often the case. It is not at all uncommon to have to rip out the entire door frame and replace it before being able to install your new door. This is especially true of older wooden door frames, as they are prone to warping and rotting as a result of outside elements.
Even if your frame is just fine, you might still have to make changes to the existing threshold to accommodate your new door. Wall studs can shift when they settle, making it difficult to even use your new door. You don’t want to have to fight your door to get into your house, right? If this happens, you might have to plane the top and bottom of the door frame to fit the new door properly, or even trim away a bit of material until the door can fit. Metal and fiberglass doors cannot be planed or cut to fit into place, however. Only wooden doors are capable of this.
Opting for a pre-hung door
Pre-hung doors are sold as systems that include the door frame, the door and some form of weather stripping. If you intend to enlarge your doorway or are experiencing damage with your door’s framework, this might be the best option for you. Many modern doors come as a part of these systems.
The first step in selecting your pre-hung door is to determine whether you need a right or left-handed door. To do this simply step inside the doorframe and face outside. If the locks are on the right, then you need a right-handed unit.
If you don’t want to replace the entire doorframe, you can choose to utilize a door replacement kit. Pease Industries is a reputable retailer of these systems. Door replacement kits come with a door that is pre-hung in a small steel frame. This still frame will be able to fit snugly into your old frame, allowing for easy installation. However, there are numerous downsides to using this method of installing a new door. They can reduce the size of the entryway and aren’t available in very many sizes. Also, these kits cannot be placed over a rotted door jamb.
If you need to replace your door jamb because of rot, you’ll first need to find the right jamb size. If you want to measure this yourself, just measure the height and width of the existing door jamb from inside edge to inside edge. Add another half of an inch to the fame height, and ¾ of an inch to the width. Most doors are at least thirty-six inches across and is measured across its face.
Material Selection: What is right for you?
Modern doors offer more options in terms of style and décor than older doors, and as a result you can seriously improve the outer appearance of your home by upgrading to a new, modern unit. Appearance is not the only factor to consider, of course, as functionality is the most essential aspect of installing a new door. At lumberyards, home centers and door dealers you can find a slew of different options of varying finishes and colors, as well as materials.
Or, if your budget allows for it, having a customized door made is a fairly popular option. Some retailers will allow you to choose the types of panels and glass that you would like featured on your new door. Those who choose this service are usually quite glad for it when the project is don, but it is important to remember that a custom-order door will likely take between two and eight weeks to arrive.
Modern doors are made up of different materials. One example of this is fiberglass doors with wooden framework. When you go shopping for door options, remember that it is the surface material that most impacts the appearance, price and overall durability of your new door unit.
Wood doors are iconic, common and one of the most varied options that you can choose for your front door. You can choose the type of wood that looks best for your chosen aesthetic. However, this is the most expensive of all your options with a price tag beginning at $600. Hardwood doors come with an even heftier cost.
These days, stock wood doors are made up of a wood-veneer skin that sits over an engineered wooden core. This is superior to having a solid slab of wood in your doorway, as this reinforcement helps to prevent warping. They are also a stylish and inexpensive alternative to solid-wood doors, starting at around $200 or so. When you go shopping for your door, check to make sure that the veneers are at least 1/6th of an inch thick, as anything thinner is more prone to damage.
Whatever wood options you choose, expect to spend between $2,000 and $4,000 for a complete system that, in addition to the slab, includes:
- A pre-hung door in its frame
- Weather stripping
There are numerous sheens and stains that will help provide protection of your door against the elements of nature. Polyurethane is a common and popular option to create the most resistant finish. For any finish that you choose for your door, make sure to apply it to the top and bottom edges of the unit to help keep it from absorbing moisture and expanding.
In the case of your new front door, the key is in the details. You will likely be able to tell a lot about the quality of the door based on a few things that you will notice if you look closely enough. Higher-quality doors will have:
- Intricate carvings and moldings
- Thicker stiles and rails
- Thicker panels
If security and durability are your top priorities, then a steel door might be the option for you. This type of door is stronger than wood and fiberglass composite doors, and do not crack or warp in extreme conditions like wood doors are known to do. You can also fix minor dents in a steel door with an auto-body repair kit.
What many people consider the most important when choosing steel doors, is the price tag that comes with them. These doors are the least expensive option out there with the basic door, sans hardware and glazing, starting at $150.
However, do remember that a steel door does not guarantee a cheap project. $150 is just for the door itself, not for any of the hardware, the bells and whistles that come with it. When you factor in everything, a steel door system can cost you almost as much as a wooden door system.
All modern steel doors are built with an inner frame made of steel or wood for reinforcement. Any gaps (also called “honeycombs”) in the frame are filled with foam insulation. If you check out some premium door dealers, you can even find heavier steel reinforcement in doors that will give you the added peace of mind in regard to security as well as overall durability.
Steel doors are also fairly low-maintenance. Their baked-on polyester finishes might require repainting every now and then as a result of outdoor exposure. From some premium retailers you can obtain a door that is coated with vinyl to protect even better against the weather.
If you want the benefits of steel and the aesthetic appeal of wood, then you can look into the option of having a laminated wood veneer on your steel door. It looks just like the real thing, while giving you all of the advantages of steel.
Most of the time, steel doors are a part of a pre-hung system. But sometimes you can just lift off your old door from the hinges and replace it with your new door. The trick about this is that the hinges have to match, which can be a difficult find. However, some steel doors will come with extra predrilled holes so that you can make small modifications to get the door to fit.
If you opt for the embossed wood grain, make sure that the grain runs across the rails horizontally and across the stiles vertically.
It is also essential that you give your warranty a good, long look over. In certain circumstances a manufacturer can void your warranty. One example of this is if you install an aluminum storm door in front of your steel door. The buildup of heat between the two units can cause damage to the finish of them both.
Fiberglass Composite Doors
For those who live in extreme or very humid climes, this type of material is ideal for use on any outside-facing door. Fiberglass is as durable and as low-maintenance as possible for what you need, and can come in a wide array of styles and finishes to complete the outer aesthetic of your home. They can be made to match the appearance of many different wood types as well. Because of how tough these doors are against the elements, manufacturers often provide a long warranty. For example, Pease Industries offers a warranty that covers the door for as long as you own your house. Usually, however, these long warranties are only offered when the door is sold as part of a complete entry system.
The cost of a fiberglass door is very competitive, starting at around $200 just for the slab. However, the accessories and hardware all cost the same regardless of the type of door you choose, so you can expect to spend somewhere in the area of $4,000.
Same as when you check out a steel door, make sure that the wood-grain pattern runs horizontally on the rails and vertically on the stiles. This ensures the most accurate mimicry of an actual wooden door. You need to also make sure that the hinges line up with the existing frame.
In the exact same fashion of steel doors, aluminum doors consist of an insulation core that is covered by a metal skin. One potential downside for some customers is that these doors can only be bought from door dealers, as they are each made individually to fit your needs to the fullest. Varying colors and wood-grain finishes are available for this type of door as well, so that you don’t have to sacrifice function for style.
An enamel finish is baked onto the aluminum door to prevent worries about repainting or rusting. These doors often come with a warranty of a decade or two, as they are very durable.
All of these benefits come at a cost, making this type of door the second-most expensive, next to solid-wood doors. Prices for aluminum units start at about $600.
Keep these things in mind when you go shopping for your new entry unit
These tips are handy for anybody buying either just the door or the entire entry system.
- If you are buying a complete entry system, or a door with any additional hardware, make sure that all of the bits and pieces are from the same manufacturer. Make sure that the weather stripping seals properly and the bottom edges interlock.
- If the door has a window on it, check to see if it has any glazing. Some manufacturers do this as a deterrent for break-ins. If a decorative window has real lead or brass, it will cost more than imitation materials.
- Higher quality steel and fiberglass units have a thermal break, such as a vinyl strip, to separate the door skins. This helps to preserve the door by preventing outside elements from causing damage.