You've been thinking about a new entry door since you bought your home and yikes, that was a few years ago. Maybe you found a door you like, but have no idea where to find one like it? You love your old house and the front door tells a story. You'd love one of the front door styles with more glass for the added sunlight it brings into the house. You're not alone so in this article, we offer tips on how to pick the perfect door for you and your home.
In many ways your front door represents your home's personality and the family that lives there. It's important that your front door compliment and enhance the overall look of your home, and it should fit into the neighborhood too.
Finding Your Perfect Front Door Style
When you drive through neighborhoods, you probably see houses and front doors that you love, that you think would be perfect for your house. But do you know why some doors appeal to you while others don't?
Here's a fun exercise to discover what front door styles will work best for you.
- Drive down your street and identify the houses you most admire.
- Drive down the street again and write down the personality you feel each house reflects.
- Do this again and focus on the front door and see if the front door styles match the personality of the house.
- Now you're ready to pick a new door for your home as you should easily know if it the style of the new door should be casual, traditional, formal or unique.
Front Doors: What are Your Functional Requirements?
Doors are also functional. You've narrowed down the front door styles you like. Now it's time to identify the additional requirements your door needs to satisfy inside the home. You might want a new front door that's energy efficient. Many hallways tend to be dark so when you're replacing an exterior door, it's a good time to review your options for bringing more sunlight indoors.
Here's a list of functional front door requirements for you to pick from, as they aren't all obvious when looking at front door styles:
- Access requirements which seem obvious, change with time if you need a wider door to accommodate a wheelchair.
- Source of natural sunlight for indoor spaces.
- Ventilation may be important for houses that don't have central air conditioning. Today we use screen doors for ventilation where older buildings once used operable glass windows over doors for this.
- Door strength for security, which differs based on materials (wood, fiberglass or steel) used to manufacture a door.
- Fire resistance which typically is most important in doors between the garage and the house.
- Noise barrier if the house is on a busy street.
- Energy efficient using thermal insulation to reduce the loss of conditioned air.
- Low maintenance materials so you don't have to worry about frequent painting/sealing for wood doors.
Picking Front Door Styles
You might think it's easy to pick your front door style but it's not. There's the door panel and many more components you can change and/or add to the panel. When you want more sunlight, you can add glass panel(s) in the main door on one or both sides of the door. If your house can't support that big a change, you might be able to add a transom window over the door.
Look at these Therma-Tru doors (my handyman business installed hundreds of these doors). You should already see how they each satisfy different requirements. When the door is the focal point, it makes sense to pick a door style with more detail, using the texture of wood or integrated glass to create a door that captures the eye. If your door plays a supporting role then you can use a simple door style and put more of your budget into the surrounding trim (see the columns in front of the door at top) and/or landscaping.
Once you understand the basics, you can build different front door styles to fit your house and the look you want to create. Sidelites and transoms are wonderful because of the added sunlight you get indoors, which is where you spend most of your time.
Decisions You'll Make When Buying a Door
After you've picked your door style, there are more decisions to be made:
- Material choices include wood, fiberglass and steel. You want to consider energy efficiency, i.e. a door with an EnergyStar rating (check for available tax credits) and maintenance requirements.
- Even door hardware comes in different styles. The new front door levers are better as they're easier for anyone who has trouble gripping small objects. Dead bolts are a great option for those who are worried about security but make sure the length of the bolt provides real protection.
- The manufacturer influences the cost of your new door. Budget will help narrow your choices from a simple, attractive front door costing 600 to a premium front door which can cost up to $15,000. Don't forget the hardware which can run from less than $100 to more than $500.
Installing an Exterior Door Isn't Easy
Proper installation is critical to avoid problems with water damage. The job requires professional carpentry skills so the door functions properly and remains weather tight. Here are reasons why you might not want to install your own door
- Door must be level along 3 dimensions which can be a problem when the rough framing in which the door sits, isn't true on all sides. Doors must be straight vertically (not tilting left or right), plumb with the wall (one side can't be deeper than the other) and not tilting with top or bottom deeper than the other (learn about common door problems).
- When replacing a door, it's not uncommon to run into common door problems which need to be resolved while the rough opening is accessible.
- A new door must work with the interior flooring and sometimes the wood rot extends under the floor requiring a new sub-floor before the new door can be installed.
- All exterior doors must be weather tight which involves weather stripping (should be part of new door product) and sometimes you need a rain deflector for the bottom of the door to keep out horizontal rain.
- All exterior doors must be painted (6 sides) when new to reduce the amount of swelling/contraction of the wood and yes, even fiberglass doors need this type of ongoing maintenance as they have a wood strip around the edges in order to get a nice, tight fit.
We've got lots more tips about the many doors in your home. If you're researching front door styles and related topics, these are the best articles to check out:
- Doors Tips to Add Value to Your Home
- Exterior Doors: Fact, Fiction, Gobbledy Gook?
- Front Door Handles: How Many Styles are There?
- Handyman Repair Stories for Common Door Problems
- Digital Doorbells for Smart Homes