How to Get the Front Door You’ve Always Wanted
Doors For Builders contributes to the article by HOUZZ
Learn about material and style choices, how to get a front door installed and how much it will cost
By Mitchell Parker, Houzz Editorial Staff;
A front door is one of the first things people see on a home. It’s something most homeowners use multiple times every day, coming to know all its intricacies and scuffs and flaws. For something that takes up such a small fraction of a home’s exterior surface, the front door makes a great design impact.If you’re considering a new front door, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just tossing a new door in the back of a truck and driving it back to your home to hang it up. Here’s everything you’ll want to consider.
Consider the sun. Which way does your home face, and how much direct sunshine does your door get? If your door faces east, west or even south, for example, the direct sun on your door will limit your options in terms of what material you should choose. That’s because the sun’s intense rays can cause hairline cracks in wood and warp over time. This is more of a concern for doors that are 8 feet or taller.If you have a porch or an overhang, or your door faces north, you don’t have to worry about material selection.
For the industry standard one-year warranty on wood doors to be valid, homeowners are required to have an overhang that’s half the size of the door. So, if you have an 8-foot door, you need an overhang of 4 feet.What door material should you choose? Once you determine the sun’s direction, it’s time to choose the material of your door. The three most common are fiberglass, solid wood and a sort of layered hybrid. There are other options too, such as metal and glass.Wood. If you have a porch or an overhang that extends at least half the height of your door, a solid wood door is an option.Solid wood doors, the most expensive option of the three common types, are considered top of the line by most. “Solid wood doors are like pieces of furniture,” says Yuri Nekrasov, the business development manager at Doors for Builders, a company in Chicago that specializes in solid wood front door manufacturing and design.
Oak and walnut doors are good and common, but Nekrasov says by far the best species is Honduran mahogany wood. It’s a very hard wood and survives exterior conditions better than other species. “It takes a beating,” he says. “It’s considered top of the top.”
Hybrid. These doors have solid wood styles and rails, but the panels are made from a sandwiched construction of foam and plywood. Then everything is covered with a wood veneer. If you lack an overhang for shading but still want a rich wood look, hybrid doors are recommended. They also come with customization options. The downside is that since they are still covered in wood, they need to be refinished and touched up every couple of years. Plus, Nekrasov emphasizes the importance of the quality of the solid wood chosen for the styles and rails. “Some people try to do poplar on the inside with a veneer of mahogany,” Nekrasov says. “It’s not going to help. It’s the wood on the inside that matters. That’s what’s going to warp and move.”
Fiberglass. While there’s no such thing as a no-maintenance door, fiberglass requires the least maintenance of the three. Fiberglass doors are slightly less expensive than solid wood doors, too, but you’ll have fewer customization options, and while they can be made to look like natural wood, up close you’ll be able to tell the difference.
What door style should you choose? Just like architectural and interior styles, front door style options are countless. Professionals will recommend that your door style fit the overall style of your home’s architecture and interiors, but many great custom door designs break these rules.Look through photos on Houzz of different front door styles — Craftsman, Shaker, traditional, contemporary, for example — to find doors that you’re drawn to and that might work best for your home. Do you like rectangular versions or ones with arches? Do you like solid doors or ones with raised panels? Do you like a clean look or something more artsy with intricate wrought iron detailing? Do you want a bright color or a dark stain?
If you want a door that matches your home and interior decor but aren’t confident enough to make a style choice yourself, consider hiring an interior designer to help you choose a door style, hardware and finish that will blend seamlessly with the rest of your home. “If you have money and time, hiring a designer to help is the safest way,” Nekrasov says.
How much light versus privacy do you want? If your front door faces a busy sidewalk or street, you might not want a lot of clear windows that allow people to look right into your home. But you might still want some light to enter. Transom windows, sidelights and even panes on the door itself allow light in but maintain privacy. You can also look into frosted, textured and sandblasted glass.
Will you be expanding the doorway? Do you have a single door but really want to have double doors or a door with sidelights and transom windows? If so (and you have room for them), you’ll need to have a professional determine if your entry wall is load bearing or not. If it is, you’ll want to hire an architect to help you design an expanded entryway that’s safe.The construction of your home will determine the difficulty of expansion as well. If your home is stick-frame construction and siding, it will be easier to expand. If the entryway wall is brick or stone, things will be much more difficult and therefore more expensive, as the labor is greater.
Making a doorway smaller, on the other hand, is much easier, and an architect doesn’t need to be involved.
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Consider the interior and exterior trim. Replacing a door isn’t just about swapping out the slab that hangs on hinges. When you add a new door, you also have to add a new frame, jamb and trim on the interior and exterior so that everything matches up.When you replace a door, you will damage the brick mold, a piece located on the exterior door that covers the space between the frame and the wall. Door manufacturers will supply this, but they won’t provide replacement interior trim, because it’s nearly impossible to stock all the different versions that homeowners might have.A skilled carpenter might be able to carefully remove the interior trim and replace it after the new door goes in, but if not, you’ll need someone to make new trim and match it with your existing trim.
Measure. If you’re doing a straight replacement door, you’ll want to measure your door so you’ll know what to look for and what to tell manufacturers. Standard doors are 6 feet, 9 inches high, 36 inches wide and 1¾-inches thick. Taller standard doors start at 8 feet high and 36 inches or 42 inches wide, and are generally at least 2¼ inches thick. (These measurements refer to the slab, or just the moving part of the door, and don’t include your frame or jamb.)If your door falls into either of these measurement categories, then you have a standard-size door, and there will be a lot of off-the-shelf or stock options of styles you can easily choose from. This will make things easier if you’re planning a simple replacement door and won’t be expanding or shrinking the size of your doorway. However, keep the shape of your door in mind, too. If you have a square door, it’s going to be easier to find stocked options. If there’s an arch, you’ll have more trouble.
You’ll then need to know the jamb depth — how thick the wall is. If it’s a wall framed in 2-by-4 construction, which is what used to be the norm, the depth will be 4 9/16 inches. If you have a newer home, the construction is likely 2-by-6 and will be a depth of 6 9/16 inches. The jamb and frame need to be finished in the same color and material as the door itself for everything to look right. Most manufacturers stock only jambs for thedepth of 4 9/16 inches, so if yours is bigger, you’ll need to get a jamb extension.
If your home is built out of brick or another thicker construction method was used, your jamb could be up to 10 or 12 inches in depth. For that you’ll likely need a custom door, jamb and frame.
If you’re unsure of your measurements, it’s recommended that you hire a professional to take them.
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Do you want off-the-shelf or custom? Big-box stores carry lots of off-the-shelf options for standard doors, and some even offer semicustomization. If you go straight to a manufacturer, like Doors for Builders, you can find competitive prices on stocked doors. If you’re going the custom route, a designer plus a manufacturer is the way to go. Many manufacturers have in-house designers on hand that can turn even a napkin sketch or inspiration photo into your new front door.Nekrasov says he’s had a lot of people send him Houzz photos for custom door inspiration. “One client found a door they loved but didn’t want it in metal, like it was in the photo,” he says. “We created a similar design in solid wood and added some detailing.” Furthermore, custom door manufacturers can match stains, paint colors and windows found elsewhere on and inside your house.
Consider making do with what you have. Of course, the simplest and most inexpensive way to get a “new” front door is to work with what you have. Consider a new paint color, hardware and details like house numbers or a knocker before going with a brand-new door. That’s what designer Rachel Greathouse did for her farmhouse door, seen here, which was originally walnut colored. “Little details are important for any home,” she says.
Consider the hardware and finish. This is one of the last steps. Most door manufacturers work with hardware makers to customize or provide stock hardware. There are endless finishes and styles to consider, so be sure to do your homework and find something that works with your door style. Manufacturers, builders and even general contractors typically have a working knowledge of what goes with what, so always ask for options and suggestions to narrow down your search. While skilled carpenters can install the locks and hardware, it’s usually recommended to have this done at the factory if possible.Having the finish done at the factory is also recommended. You want to have your door sealed right away. If you have it transported before it’s sealed and painted, it can take on moisture and potentially cause damage or at least complicate things down the line.
Manufacturers can usually match any paint sample you send to them. Some might use different paint companies than you’re familiar with, but that’s because they’ve learned over time what works best with exterior conditions, such as the sun and heavy traffic that front doors receive.
More details. Think about what else you might want on your door in terms of wrought iron detailing or a knocker or house numbers.
Which way will your door swing? When replacing a door, it’s a chance for you to assess how functional your old one was. Did you always hate how the light switch was on the wall behind the door? Could changing the way the door opens offer a better view into your home? Now’s your chance to make a change if needed.
Who to hire. You’ll want at least two people to install your door. This can be your trusted general contractor, carpenter or general home repair professional. If you’re skilled and confident enough, this could be a DIY job, but it’s not recommended, because there are a lot of pieces and detailing to get right.If you’re expanding your entryway, your general contractor or home repair person should be able to tell you if your wall is load bearing or not. If it is, you might want to consider hiring an architect. You might also consider hiring an interior designer to help you choose a door style, hardware and finish.
Cost. Expect to spend at least $1,000 for a new door, says Greathouse. “And if you’re expanding the size, that might be another $1,500 in hired labor.” Nekrasov says a solid wood door in prefinished Honduran mahogany that’s 6 feet, 8 inches tall and 36 inches wide starts at about $1,750.A stock double door with diamond glass windows might start at around $5,500. Fiberglass options are a little less expensive than solid wood. Custom options are typically about 25 percent more expensive than stock options.
As with most custom things, the sky is the limit. Nekrasov made the custom 16-foot door with transom windows seen here for $24,000.