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How the hell do you pick an Entry Door?

Written on 12-06-2016

So you have a house, and you need to get into said house. If you are planning on using a front door, good on you. You are already making the right decision.

Front doors are made of a few different materials. Your budget and requirements can affect which materials are right for you. However, like most products, manufactures will fine tweak available information to give their own product a leg up on their competitors. I can't blame them, but it makes finding unbiased information a little difficult. Further down the article you'll find the pros and cons to various door material types from a variety of sources compiled by a hopefully non-biased source, Modern Sample.

Whatever material door you use, make sure the door fits tightly into the frame with no more than 1/8" clearance between the door and the frame and is fitted with secure, high quality door locks. The tight fit will also reduce draft and make the door more efficient at keeping the heat in, or the cold out. [5]

To paint or to stain

When looking at doors you should ask yourself if you plan on having a stain grade or a paint grade door. Both options are similar in quality and durability. Choosing one comes down to your particular taste. If you plan on painting your door, look for a smooth texture. If you plan on staining your door, look for one with a wood grain texture, either natural or molded into the surface of the door. [10] If you want to stain the surface, you are not limited to wood since fiberglass doors can also be stained.

What about security?

If it's security you're looking for, don't use a hallow core door. As Consumer Reports states "Our tests with a battering ram have shown little difference in strength among door materials. All eventually failed because the doorjamb split near the lock's strike plate, though we also found that beefed-up locks and strike plates can greatly increase a door's kick-in resistance." [2]

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My home was broken into some time ago. With one kick the burglar took the frame right out of my wall. With the exception of a dirty foot print, the hallow door slab was in pretty much perfect condition. I could have easily hung it right back up. According to Remodeling magazine's 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report, entry door replacement ranks among the Top 5 home improvement projects nationwide, generating the highest return on investment at resale. [6]

Glass

You can purchase most door styles with windows, or decorative glass. The glass can be insulated for energy efficiency, beveled, silk-screened, tinted, textured or use stain glass with brass caming. [4][5]

Sidelites
Sidelites are windows adjacent to the left and/or right of the door and come attached to the door as a single unit.
Transoms
Transoms are windows that go above the door and come in three distinct shapes: arch, ellipse and box.
In-Glass Blinds
Some doors have adjustable blinds made inside the glass pane. It's a nice option but very pricy.

Door Materials

Fiberglass

Fiberglass doors have wood-grain texturing and can be stained to match oak, cherry, walnut, and other woods. Beneath their molded surface is a framework of wooden stiles and rails, including wood edges for the lockset. Voids in the framework are filled with polyurethane-foam insulation. [1]

Pros

  • Less expensive than wood. [6]
  • Durable and often carries long warranties. Doors can last 15 to 20 years. [2][4][6][8]
  • A good option for harsh or humid climates.
  • Usually have more insulating value than wood doors and about the same as steel. [4] Models that are Energy Star-qualified must be independently tested and certified, and often boast tighter-fitting frames, energy-efficient cores, and, for models with glass, double- or triple-panel insulating glass to reduce heat transfer. [2][6]
  • Require little maintenance. [2][4]
  • Won't warp crack or rot. [6]
  • Wood gran can be molded into the panel to make it appear like real wood. [4][6]
  • Installing a new fiberglass entry door may help in the sale of a home. A new fiberglass door has a national median cost of $2,500, and you'll recover 60% of that investment through a sale. [9]

Cons

  • Has no thermal break - the vinyl strip or part of the wood frame that separates the inside and outside door skins used to prevent heat transfer. [1]
  • They can crack under severe impact. [2]

Metal

Metal doors are typically a 24 gauge or heavier steel veneer over either wood or steel, although steel cores in a residential application are rare. [1][3] The interior cavities are filled with a high density foam. Some doors are steel-coated on their outside face but feature oak or hardwood moldings on the inside, providing a warm inner look while remaining secure outside. [3] Aluminum doors are available but typically only through a dealer.

Pros

  • The most durable. Highly resistant to shrinking, swelling and warping. [4]
  • Argued the best for security but must be installed with a durable frame, 3" or longer screws and a 1-inch-long deadbolt and a reinforced metal box strike to achieve security. [2]
  • Won't crack. [1]
  • Easily dented but can be repaired with an auto body kit. [1]
  • Coated with a baked-on polyester finish. [1][4] Use a weather-resistant coating that won't strip or peel due to rain, snow or general environmental hazards. [3]
  • Usually have more insulating value than wood doors. Models that are Energy Star-qualified must be independently tested and certified, and often boast tighter-fitting frames, energy-efficient cores, and, for models with glass, double- or triple-panel insulating glass to reduce heat transfer. [2][4]
  • Installing a new steel entry door may help in the sale of a home. A new steel door has a national median cost of $2,500, and you'll recover 60% of that investment through a sale. [9]

Cons

  • Surface might peal. [1]
  • Require a stronger door jamb. [3]
  • Will dent and ding.
  • Coating requires periodic repainting. A steel door exposed to salt air or heavy rains may last only five to seven years. [8]
  • Restrictions on storm doors. You cannot use an aluminum storm door with a steel door due to heat build up. [1]
  • No thermal break - a vinyl strip or part of the wood frame that separates the inside and outside door skins used to prevent heat transfer. [1]
  • Does not handle the weather very well and will rust if scratched and not repaired. [2]
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Solid Wood

Wood doors are usually made using frame and panel construction to counteract the effects of climatic or seasonal changes. Wood species vary from inexpensive composite to fir or walnut. [4]

Pros

  • Arguably the most beautiful.
  • Comes in a variety of woods.
    Stain grade: oak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, maple, fir, and pine
    Paint grade: pine and western hemlock. [1]
  • Best at resisting wear and tear. [2]
  • Easy to repair. [8]
  • The heavy nature of the doors gives a sense of security. [4]

Cons

  • Can warp.
  • Most expensive option.
  • Require painting or staining to maintain appearance. [8]

Wood Veneer

Wood veneer doors offers the look of a high quality wood without the cost of a solid wood door. To reduce warping, thin sheets of wood are layered with the grain alternating directions. Look for a veneer that is no less than 1/16th of an inch.

Pros

  • Cores are manufactured for strength which minimizes the expansion and contraction that cause warping. [1]
  • Comes in a variety of woods.
    Stain grade: oak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, maple, fir, and pine
    Paint grade: pine and western hemlock. [1]

Cons

  • Can crack and delaminate. [1]
  • Require painting or staining to maintain appearance. [8]
Fiberglass Steel Solid Wood Wood Veneer
Cost per door $150-$600 [8] $150-$400 [8] $600-$2,000 [8] $200 hallow
$300-500 insulated[1]
R Value * R-5 to R-6 R-5 to R-15 R-3 to R-5 [1] R-1.8 to R-2
Durability
*Heat is generally lost through air leaks around the door, not through the door itself. [2]
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Sources:

  • [1] https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/how-to-pick-front-door
  • [2] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/entry-doors/buying-guide.htm
  • [3] https://www.angieslist.com/articles/5-things-know-about-steel-door.htm
  • [4] https://www.lowes.com/projects/build-and-remodel/exterior-door-buying-guide/project
  • [5] https://www.jeld-wen.com/en-us/products/exterior-doors/design-inspiration/learn-about-exterior-doors/453-what-to-consider-when-buying-exterior-doors
  • [6] http://www.clopaydoor.com/articles/post/2012/06/07/Upgrading-Your-Front-Door
  • [7] http://pressroom.pella.com/fast_facts/111/entry-systems-101-understanding-entry-door-and-storm-door-options
  • [8] https://www.houselogic.com/remodel/windows-doors-and-floors/exterior-door-installation-options/
  • [9] http://www.nari.org/assets/1/6/2015-Remodeling-Impact-Report.pdf
  • [10] http://todaysentrydoors.com/choose-front-doors/
  • [11] http://www.solidstateinspections.ca/solid-state-articles/exterior-doors.html

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