By Joseph Truini
Installing a new entry door is a great way to improve the curb appeal of your home and create a warm, welcoming first impression for visitors. And while entry doors should certainly be attractive and architecturally interesting, they must also be resilient, weathertight and able to withstand exposure to the elements all year round.
If you’re interested in replacing your entryway door, you’ll first have to decide which type of door to purchase. Entry doors are readily available at home improvement centers in three different types: wood, steel and fiberglass.
All three types come in a wide range of sizes, styles and prices, so you won’t have any problem finding a door to fit into your budget and existing doorway. The more difficult decision is choosing which door type best suits your home, personal taste and lifestyle. To make that decision a bit easier, below you’ll find detailed descriptions of each door type, including benefits, drawbacks and important features to consider.
Wood doors are commonly available in a variety softwood and hardwood species, including fir, pine, hemlock, mahogany, oak, cherry and walnut. Most wood doors feature frame-and-panel construction, and can be ordered with or without “lites,” or windows.
Solid wood doors are constructed entirely out of solid pieces of wood. Veneered doors have a solid wood frame that’s covered with a wood veneer. Solid wood doors are often heavier and more expensive than a wood veneer door, but they’re also stronger and more durable.
Homeowners love wood doors because it’s hard to beat the natural beauty and warmth of real wood. Plus, they can be painted, stained or finished with a clear topcoat. However, wood requires a certain amount of maintenance to keep a fresh, like-new appearance.
When exposed to the elements, wood can swell, shrink, crack and warp. Paint and clear topcoats will eventually blister and peel. That’s why wood doors are best suited for recessed doorway openings, where the door is protected from the weather by a large overhang or deep alcove.
If you’re planning on painting your new wood door, order it with a factory-primed finish. That’ll save you the time and trouble of priming the door before painting. Also, it’s very important that you paint the entire door: top and bottom ends, left and right edges, and front and back surfaces. That’s the very best way to seal out moisture and deter warping.
Steel doors are popular with homebuilders and homeowners alike, and it’s easy to see why: They are extremely strong and secure. They’re durable and weather-tight, especially when fitted with magnetic weather stripping. Generally speaking, steel doors are also the most affordable type of entry door.
Steel doors come primed ready for paint, but many home improvement centers now offer pre-finished steel doors in a wide choice of factory-applied paint colors. And while most steel doors have a smooth surface, some models feature an embossed wood-grain finish.
The two main drawbacks to steel are that it dents and rusts. You can fill dents with auto-body putty, but rust must be completely removed to prevent the corrosion from spreading. Scrape or sand away all the rust to expose bare steel. Then, apply a primer coat followed by two coats of paint.
There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free door, but a fiberglass door comes pretty darn close. Fiberglass is extremely tough and resilient, and particularly well suited for harsh, humid climates. It’s also highly resistant to warping, splitting and cracking. Fiberglass doors won’t dent or rot.
Most fiberglass doors have a realistic wood grain texture that can be stained to resemble a wooden door. In fact, if you like the rich look of a solid mahogany door but not the price tag, buy a fiberglass door and apply a mahogany stain. If you’d rather paint your entry door, that’s fine, too: fiberglass accepts paint beautifully.
The main drawback to fiberglass doors is that they’re relatively expensive. Only high-end solid-hardwood doors cost more.
Door-Buying Tip: Sizing Matters
It’s easy to make mistakes when ordering new doors because of the somewhat confusing way that manufacturers specify door sizes. For example, a 36-inch door is sold as a 3-0 unit (pronounced three-oh), meaning that it’s 3 feet, 0 in. wide. A 2-8 door isn’t 28 in. wide; it’s 32 in. wide.
If you’re not paying close attention, it’s easy to order a 3-0 door for a 30-inch-wide opening, and then discover that the door is six inches too wide. Avoid these costly, time-consuming mistakes by double-checking the dimensions before ordering the door.
When shopping for entry doors, keep in mind that price is a good indicator of quality. A high-quality door will cost more, but it’ll last longer, perform better and be much more energy efficient.
No matter which door you choose, make sure it suits your home’s climate. It’s also important to practice regular maintenance in order to keep your new door looking its best.
As a home improvement expert, Joseph Truini provides great advice on all kinds of DIY projects. Joe writes on a wide range of topics, from how to install a baseboard to replacing your front door. To see a selection of front entry door options, visit The Home Depot.