Choosing a Perfect Exterior Door
Whether you’re remodeling an old home, or just replacing a worn out front door, choosing an external door can be a bit of a hassle. There’s a lot of options to consider, and the best option to suit your needs will vary depending on what your priorities are. Are you looking for a stylish piece? Something that can handle harsh weather? Improved security for you home? Considerations like this will impact your decisions about material, finish, and configuration.
To help you sort through the long list of details, we’ve put together this guide outlining the most common considerations and choices for external doors.
Pre-Hung and Slab
The first order of business when choosing a door is determining whether you need to replace just the door, or the whole entryway (frame included). A “slab” door is just the door. It’s what you buy when you like the frame and door jamb, but want to replace the door. A “pre-hung” door comes with the frame attached, ready to install.
These are both typically options for those who are looking for less extravagant doorsets, and need a less expensive option. More elaborate options, including custom doors, don’t usually come pre-assembled. Some do come as slabs, however, if that’s what you need.
You may have already noticed, but most doors meet a standard size. The standard, and most common size is 3’ wide by 6’ 8” tall (or 36” x 80”). There are some variations on this standard, as doors can come taller, usually in 7’ and 8’ heights. Doors also come in different widths; for those looking for a more narrow door, 30” and 32” wide doors are common options. If you’re looking for a wider door instead, the widest most doors come is 40”. Beyond that, a double door configuration is used (usually with the standard 36” x 80” size).
Doors come in a variety of materials these days, and they each have their advantages and their drawbacks.
Wood is the traditional material for doors, and is still regularly used today. Wood is usually chosen for style reasons because of its natural look and the ease at which details can be added. Wood doors—particularly when made of hardwoods like oak and maple—are durable, dent resistant, and heavy.
The two main problems with wood are how it performs in extreme weather, and the cost. Wood is susceptible to the elements, with swelling due to high humidity among the most common problems. Wood is also the most expensive option, with a complete doorset of any quality easily running several thousand dollars.
Fiberglass and fiberglass composite doors are usually chosen because they are low maintenance. They resist harsh weather, don’t swell or rust, and usually only require resealing in extreme environments (and even then, not as often as wood does). They can be made with a smooth finish, or with a laminate veneer that fairly reliably resembles wood. They’re usually filled with insulating polyurethane foam, and are wood-reinforced in areas where the hardware will be seated. Fiberglass is almost as expensive as wood, however, so it’s not always the best option if you’re project is on a budget.
The most economical option, and perhaps the most reliable, steel doors aren’t just weather-resistant and low maintenance, they add a level of security. Inner frames for steel doors can come either in wood or steel, with steel providing additional strength and security. Like fiberglass, they’re filled with foam insulation, and holes for hardware and hinges are pre-drilled for convenience.
24-gauge steel is common for the outer shell of the door, though those who need added security can find doors with a heavier-gauge skin. Most have a baked-on polyester finish, and will have to be painted semi-regularly, though higher-end options have more durable finishes.
While the above three materials are by far the most popular, there are other options, such as aluminum and iron, for those who are looking for something truly unique. Be sure to do your research first, to be certain the material is a good fit for you.
Doors and doorways these days often incorporate glass to add to the appeal, and afford natural light. The three main locations that glass is used are:
- Inset in the door
- Sidelights (windows set into panels on either side of the doorframe)
- Transoms (windows set above the door)
Beyond that, the glass comes with a number of options: transparent or translucent, ornate or simple, stained or clear, etc. Note that adding glass to the door or doorset will increase the price.
In addition to the front door, there are several other external doors to be considered, depending on the home and the desires of the owner:
- Side and back doors
- Storm, security, and screen doors
- Patio doors
Side and back doors take into account some of the same consideration as front doors, though they are usually not as stylish, and often are less exposed to the elements. Usually, these doors are chosen economically, and with principles of simplicity in mind.
Storm, security, and screen doors are all variations on a door that covers the front door, for various purposes. Storm doors protect the front door from the elements, security doors are usually steel bars that prevent break-ins, and screen doors permit ventilation without permitting unwanted insects.
Patio doors lead to decks, patios, and backyards, and usually include large window portions to let in light. Typically a double door, they come in sliding, French, and center-hinged varieties.
For more information on this and other remodeling advice, contact Success Path.