The front entry door is what greets visitors arriving at your home, and it can make a fairly influential and lasting first impression. When it comes time to replace that door you’ll want to choose one that fits the style of your home and enhances its appearance. It’ll certainly pay dividends when it comes time to sell your home.
But, it’s not just about good looks and first impressions. The front and back entrance doors are an important part of your home security, and even though they occupy a small amount of space relative to the whole exterior of the home, they have a measurable impact on your home’s energy efficiency system.
Just like other components of your home, entry doors won’t remain functional forever and at some point will require repair or replacement. It shouldn’t be surprising considering how frequently entrance doors are used on a daily basis, the knocks and bumps they’re subjected to, and the constant exposure to sun, rain and freezing temperatures.
A solid, secure door installed in a properly fitted and weather-stripped frame, and with an effective locking system, is going to go a long way in increasing your home’s security. Doors that are easy to open and sufficiently wide, also make life that much easier for the elderly or disabled, and parents with strollers.
Glass Can Be Cooler
Doors with windows, sidelights, transoms, etc., may not offer as much protection from the cold as entries with fewer windows. Glass technology has improved greatly over the years, so the differences are not as big as they once were. (Photo by Therma-Tru Doors)
Keep it Consistent
Ensure the style of entry door you select is appropriate for the type of home you have. This modern door has a minimalistic look to it, but it matches the home nicely. (Photo by Simpson Door Company)
Solid wood doors can be made in many styles, especially by DIYers who want to create something truly unique. The downside to wood is that it’s harmed by the elements much quicker than steel or fibreglass, so an overhang of some sorts will go a long way to keeping them looking as new as possible. (Photo by Simpson Door Company)
With today’s technology it can be difficult to tell the difference between a wood and fibreglass door, unless you’re right beside it. (Photo by Therma-Tru Doors)
Even though entry doors have a small surface area, heat loss through transmission and seepage can account for 5 to 10 percent of your home’s annual heating bill – more if the door frame is compromised. Doors installed thirty or forty years ago are likely to be much less energy efficient than modern insulated doors. Just like roofing insulation, doors carry R-value ratings. In fact, manufacturers use two methods to rate the insulating efficiency of a door. The R-value is the most commonly mentioned – it’s a measure of heat flow resistance, with higher numbers being better. There is also a U-value, which is a measure of heat transfer – how much heat loss occurs through a specific thickness of a material, with lower numbers being better. Make sure you consider both values when selecting a door.
Glazed doors (those with glass inserts), door assemblies with sidelights or transoms (a window above the door), and patio doors, invite sun and heat into the home during the summer months, but can serve as a heat sink during the winter. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) gives you a measure of how well the door absorbs heat from the sun. The lower the number, the better the door is at blocking the sun’s heat. Generally you’ll want south-facing glazed doors to have low SHGC rates and north-facing doors to have higher rates. As with windows, some glazed doors have low emissivity (low-E) coatings that reduce energy loss by as much as 50 percent over standard glass. These coatings help keep heat on the side of the glass where it originates.
A factor that we don’t often consider when replacing an entry door is noise pollution. If you live along a busy street, or you have sensitivity to noise, a door that helps reduce environmental noise may be worth considering. A door’s ability to reduce noise transmission is measured by its Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. The STC is measured in a nonlinear, logarithmic scale (similar to the way earthquakes are measured) so every number is significantly higher than the next. A common STC range for exterior doors is between 20 and 40 – with higher numbers offering the best noise suppression.
Hung or slab
You can buy the door by itself (a ‘slab’ door) or installed in a frame (a ‘pre-hung’ door). If the existing frame is in good condition, then there’s no reason to replace it. The same goes for the hardware – reuse them if they’re in reasonable condition. Some slab doors come pre-drilled for the latch and lock, but generally you’ll need to cut the hinge mortises. Pre-hung doors are considerably heavier and take longer to install. Most likely you’ll need a helper. If you’ve never installed a door and frame before, then consider hiring a contractor to do the job for you.
I’ve had very good success staining and top coating wood doors. Careful sanding and patience are the keywords for achieving a favourable outcome. However, I’ve been less satisfied when painting metal doors. Getting a good looking, perfectly smooth finish with a brush is quite the challenge. However, if you’re competent with spray painting you’ll likely get better results. Otherwise, I highly recommend you purchase a prefinished fibreglass or metal door.
Entry Door Materials
The three most popular types of entry doors are wood, fibreglass, and steel. All three are generally available either unfinished or prefinished in a myriad of colours. You can choose from a wide range of styles – Mission to Craftsman, and Shaker to modern. Single or double doors can be had with or without glazing (glass panels), with single or double sidelights, and with transoms. Sliding patio doors, folding patio doors, and French doors (full glass hinged double doors), are most often available as fibreglass or steel and typically installed as a side or rear entrance door.
You can’t beat a solid wood door for sheer beauty. They hold up well to daily wear and tear, and they’re the easiest type of door to repair. However, they require ongoing attention and care, and there is the potential for warpage, cracks or twisting if not properly maintained. You’ll also pay quite a bit more for wood doors. They’re best suited for houses with an overhang (portico), porch, or veranda to protect them against the elements. You can get both engineered and solid wood doors. Engineered doors are often constructed with a finger-jointed core, edge banded and covered with a wood veneer that can be from 1/6″ to 1/4″ thick. Solid wood doors can be made of laminated or solid rails and stiles with panels ranging from 3/8″ to 1-7/16″ thick. Making a door is certainly within the scope of most woodworkers. It’s a reasonably time-consuming project that requires a high level of precision and attention to detail, but quite rewarding. See ‘Resources’ below.
Fibreglass doors are available with a smooth or embossed woodgrain texture. With advances in door manufacturing it’s hard to tell the difference between some of the premium textured fiberglass doors and solid wood doors, unless you’re at eyeball distance from them. They come in a myriad of styles and colours, and are super low maintenance. They’re very durable, and resistant to dents, scratches, warping and twisting. However, a hard impact will likely dent or crack the surface, and repairs are not easy to do. These are the most energy efficient doors you can get – especially those that have a polyurethane foam core.
For top-of-mind security nothing beats a steel door, which accounts for their widespread popularity. And the fact that they’re the least expensive door doesn’t hurt either. Plus, they won’t warp, twist or crack, and they’re unaffected by mildew or moisture. You won’t find them in as wide a style and colour range as fiberglass doors. And, like fibreglass, there’s the concern with denting and the difficulty of repairing them. Still, they provide better energy efficiency than wood, though not as much as fibreglass.
Home security starts at the entry door
It’s a good time to think about home security (and entranceway lighting) when replacing your entry door. The new crop of smart door handles, locks and viewers provide a practical and convenient way of keeping you and your family safe. Smart viewers let you see who’s there before you open the door. You can even see who’s there when you’re not at home. Likewise, smart locks enable you to open doors remotely – for children returning home early from school, visiting relatives or friends, service calls or courier deliveries. And, if the lighting around your entry door is less than adequate, consider upgrading to higher efficiency, more cost-effective LED lighting.
Getting Fancy – Digital door handles, locks and viewers are more common every day, and offer many different advantages over traditional products. (Photo by Ring.com)