How to Choose an Entry Door

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In homes as in personal relationships, nothing beats a great first impression. A high-quality door sets a welcoming tone and raises the perceived value of your entire home as well as provides added security.

  • Complement your home's architecture with an appropriate door style--moldings and raised panels for a traditional house, sleek lines for contemporary style, ornate carving for a Victorian.

  • Simplify installation with a prehung door, already framed and weather-stripped. Door-replacement kits include steel frame inserts, but are available in fewer sizes than prehung doors.

  • Get out your measurement tape and choose between a standard single door, 32 to 36 inches (81 to 91 cm) wide; an extra-wide door, typically 42 inches (107 cm) wide; or double doors. New homes with higher ceilings look better with 8-foot (2.4 m)-tall entry doors. Keep in mind that changing your existing door size will require costly structural work.

  • Choose a wood door for natural warmth and beauty, but expect it to require maintenance. Wood doors used to warp and crack over time, but today's engineered-wood cores, laminated construction and vapor barriers help keep doors weathertight.

  • Buy a steel door for strength and security. Most new models feature heavy galvanized steel around a wood or steel frame, with a dense polyurethane foam core that insulates almost five times better than wood. Choose standard steel, steel embossed with wood grain or vinyl-clad steel.

  • Select fiberglass composite for the look of wood without its upkeep. These models wrap tough, compression-molded fiberglass around an energy-efficient polyurethane foam core. Paintable and stainable, fiberglass won't rust and resists shrinking and swelling.

  • Brighten your foyer with a glass door panel, transom or sidelights. Frosted, beveled and leaded patterns range from simple to ornate, private to unobstructed. For security and noise reduction, order laminated glass.

  • Complement your door's style and scale with solid brass or bronze handle sets and locks. Pick tarnish-free metal finishes with lifetime guarantees if the door is exposed to weather.

  • Invest in quality materials that will last for decades. Prices vary between manufacturers and according to style, size, material and options. Insulated fiberglass costs more than steel but carries a longer warranty. A 36-by-80-inch (.9 by 2 m) wood door can cost $275 to $3,500, depending on the type of wood, construction, finish and glazing. Paneled single fiberglass doors start at about $600, steel at about $200.

Tips & Warnings

  • Save energy with features such as compression weather-stripping, a thermalbreak threshold, an extended sill plate, a triple bottom sweep and a moisture-resistant bottom rail.
  • To decide what color, take a picture of your home from across the street. Print several black-and-white copies and use colored pencils to plan different door styles. Or, take a picture with a digital camera, then try out different colors in any graphic editing program.
  • Order wood and veneer doors prefinished. Finishes applied on site (paint, varnish and polyurethane) are difficult to maintain on solidwood doors.

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