Entry Doors Allen Park MI
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In a recent survey commissioned by door manufacturer Therma-Tru, consumers were asked to compare a solid six-panel door with an entry system consisting of a door with decorative glass, sidelights and a transom. The survey participants estimated that the enhanced entryway would add as much as $24,000 to the perceived value of the home. A separate study by ODL, a manufacturer of decorative door glass, involved both new-home buyers and consumers who had purchased a new entry door for an existing home.
The consensus was that doors with decorative glass have a significant impact on curb appeal. Custom and semi-custom homebuyers, who have access to the widest variety of entry door options, are strongly motivated by appearance and expect their homes to have an impressive entry. Other concerns, such as security and privacy, are important but secondary to aesthetics. Tract-home buyers, too, recognize the value of upgraded entry, but they're frustrated by the limited number of choices at the time they purchase the home. Those who replaced an entry door in an older home cited appearance as a motivating factor, along with additional light, insulation, security and privacy. "A frequent comment was, "It's just dark in our entry; we needed more light,'" says Angelo Marasco, director of marketing for ODL. Owners of higher-end homes take it for granted that their entries should make a statement, but Marasco says the notion is filtering down to tract-home buyers. "They want something that may not be as grand as a front door with sidelights and a transom, but is still an attractive door with glass that adds value to the home," he says. How Materials Compare Each type of entry door has advantages and drawbacks.
The original door material - wood - is prized for its natural beauty and design flexibility. "Of all building materials, wood is the easiest to customize," says Kelly Reynolds, product manager for Jeld-Wen wood doors. A wood door can be fashioned out of oak, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, hemlock, maple, mahogany, cherry, walnut, alder and other species. While wood is a good insulator, it has lower R-values than other types of doors and must be sealed properly against heat and moisture to prevent warping and twisting. Steel currently has the lion's share of the exterior door market, approximately 70 percent. Insulating steel doors, which first appeared in 1960, offer greater security and energy efficiency than wood, with a polystyrene core that provides a thermal break.
The gauge (thickness) of the steel measures strength; a 24-gauge galvanized-steel door is a sturdy choice. They are available with a smooth surface, or a wood-grain look that resembles painted wood. Steel doors can cost half as much as wood, but they're prone to dents and may even rust unless properly sealed (especially in northern climes, where residents often use salt to melt the ice away from walkways, steps and landings). Also, the wood bottom rails (horizontal members) under the steel facing can rot in harsh, wet conditions. To prevent this from happening, look for a steel door with a steel bottom rail. Fiberglass doors were introduced in 1985 as a response to the demand for a door that had the beauty of stained wood and the energy efficiency of steel, but more durability than either material. Todd Friedman, marketing manager for Pella's entry systems, acknowledges that when fiberglass doors were first introduced, distortion from excessive heat buildup was an issue. "On a very hot day when the sun was beating down on them, they had a tendency to bend," Friedman says. Today, fiberglass doors are made with laminated veneer lumber frames for greater rigidity. Fiberglass doors won't warp, crack, dent or rust and are scratch-resistant.
Made with polyurethane or polystyrene cores, they have at least five times the insulating value of wood doors, and they won't get hot or cold to the touch like steel doors, says Jennifer Britt, marketing communications specialist for Therma-Tru. "In terms of being maintenance-free, (a fiberglass door) is probably the best," says Michael Menn, a builder, remodeler and architect in Northbrook, Ill. For these reasons, fiberglass doors are catching up in popularity to steel - even though they're more expensive. Composite doors, which cost a little more than steel but considerably less than fiberglass, have a skin made from resins and either wood, fiberglass or carbon fibers. The forms used to create the door's grained surface are often patterned from real oak for authenticity. Composite doors have a rigid foam core that gives them an insulating value about six times that of solid wood doors. Like fiberglass doors, they are virtually maintenance-free and won't crack, warp, swell, chip or dent.
Criteria for Selection As you ponder entry doors, consider price, curb appeal, durability, security, energy efficiency, warranty and maintenance. Your climate and the direction the door is facing are also critical, because direct sunlight, precipitation and sea spray can increase maintenance costs and shorten the life of the door. "If your home entrance has a southern exposure with no overhang, or you live on the coast with salty sea air, wood might not be your choice," Reynolds says. In those cases, a fiberglass or composite door is recommended. Bill Martin, a residential designer in Broken Arrow, Okla., emphasizes that a wood door should never be used with an unprotected entry. "Over the course of two or three years, as the rain splashes up, it will start to crack the varnish and open the wood up to the weather," Martin says. Other problems can develop if moisture penetrates the wood components. "If you don't have a cover over your front door and your stoop is fairly close to the threshold, water can leak in, and over time, the floor system will rot," says Kim Tingley, a production-home builder in Richmond, Va. "There are trays you can put underneath the door when it's installed that will catch any extraneous moisture and dump it back outside the house."
International Wood Products, a Jeld-Wen company that makes custom hardwood doors, suggests a simple formula for determining the correct entry overhang. Measure the height from the base of the door to the bottom of the overhang and divide that distance in half; this is the minimum depth the overhang should be to protect the door. For example, if the measurement from the base of the door to the bottom of the overhang is 10 feet, the overhang should be a minimum of 5 feet deep. There are some situations where only wood will do, such as the restoration of a vintage home. "You wouldn't want to put a steel, molded or fiberglass door on a bungalow, brownstone or Craftsman-style home," Reynolds says. "You want something that will be historically relevant." Wood doors are used heavily in the repair and remodeling market, where homeowners want to make a statement that reflects their own personal style. The possibilities range from a beautiful hardwood door containing elegant decorative glass for $1,000 to $1,500, to a totally custom entryway with decorative sidelights and transom, all designed by the homeowner and costing five figures. Entry doors don't have as much impact on energy efficiency as insulation, windows and other products, but with proper installation and weather stripping, they can lower energy costs by reducing air infiltration. "Look at the complete door system," advises Jim Hackett, director of marketing for Jeld-Wen's door group. "Make sure you've got a good threshold that holds out air and water.
The fit of the door to the frame is critical, because the energy that is lost through the door itself is minimal compared to what you can lose around the perimeter." Low-E glass is an option that can help boost a door's thermal value. Many builders use entry doors with adjustable sills or thresholds, to compensate for job-site variations during installation. Cambridge Homes, a large-volume builder in Libertyville, Ill., makes a point of using doors with adjustable thresholds because they create a weather-tight seal between the house and the outside world, says operations vice president Tom Arndt. The adjustable threshold can also correct misalignment that occurs when lumber shrinks and causes the door to move within the frame. "It's a great feature, particularly in an older home," Hackett says. "But homeowners need to know to use it. Sometimes they don't realize the door has an adjustable sill." Warranties differ depending on the manufacturer and the type of door. For example, wood doors may be warrantied for five years, steel doors for 10 years, and fiberglass and composite doors for 20 years to lifetime. Remember that the warranty is just one factor in the selection process and should be considered along with the door's other features and benefits. Safety Issues An entry door's frame and locking mechanism are more critical to security than the door itself. A solid wood lock-block will add structural integrity to the lock system, Friedman says.
Beware of cheaper doors that have foam lock-blocks or no lock blocks at all. Therma-Tru recommends a door with a security strike plate, which wraps around the front of the door jamb so a potential intruder can't drive a crowbar between the jamb and the strike plate to force open the lock. Hackett says several things can be done during installation to make an entry door more secure. Removing the short hinge screws and putting 2-1/2-inch screws into the frame and the 2x4 around it can reinforce the most vulnerable areas. The long screws can also be used on the latch side, around the strike plate. For homeowners who feel glass in or around a door will compromise security, Friedman notes that it's tempered safety glass (the same product used in automobile windshields) and triple-glazed. "There are three pieces of glass to break through, and two of them are tempered," he says. ODL manufactures door glass, sidelights and transoms in transparent, semi-obscure and obscure versions, depending on the degree of privacy desired. Marasco points out that transparent glass, which isn't as clear as clear glass, can be textured to further obscure the view into the home. Most building codes require a fire-rated door between the house and attached garage, but for added safety, homeowners can elect to have a fire-rated entry door. They are offered in various material types, such as wood, steel and composite, with different ratings. Steel doors are smoke-rated for 20 minutes and fire-rated for 30, 60 or 90 minutes, meaning that they will block the passage of smoke or fire for that specified period. According to Bill Rouleau, manager of technical services for Therma-Tru, a non-fire-rated steel door has wood stiles (vertical members), while a fire door is made entirely of steel. Fire doors cost slightly more than non-rated doors, but they won't win any beauty contests. "They're pretty plain-Jane," Rouleau says. "All you can do is paint them, and you can't have any glass unless it's a vision light, which is only 10 inches by 10 inches." Dress it Up There are many ways to heighten the function and appearance of an entry door. For practicality alone, it's hard to beat a door with an optional swing-open sidelight that provides extra space for moving large pieces of furniture in and out. Decorative glass inserts (also called door lights), transoms and sidelights can be used to bring more natural light into the foyer. Door lights can be oval-shaped, square or rectangular and are available in a wide variety of patterns and textures, including beveled, etched, grooved and frosted, along with colors such as green, rose, blue and gray. In his architectural designs, Martin likes to use full glass doors with sidelights and transoms, if the height allows. "I try for more of a classic, old-house look with a wider foyer," he says. "I'll put narrow windows on each side of the door and transoms above the door and windows. It gives you a real big feel, but doesn't cost a lot to do." The standard height of a residential entry door is generally 6 feet 8 inches, but doors that are 8 feet and even taller have become increasingly popular. The taller doors give an expansive feeling to entryways and make small homes seem larger. "Once you go from 6-foot-8 to 8 feet, though, you need additional hardware for support," Menn cautions. "And if you go above 8 feet, you also need additional thickness in the door." There is a strong relationship between entry-door designs and architectural styles, especially with wood doors. Craftsman, Shaker, Mission, Southwestern and Mediterranean styles are in demand along with contemporary designs that use decorative glass in a manner reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style work. For those who want a real wood door but find the cost prohibitive, there are steel, fiberglass and composite doors with strikingly realistic wood-grain patterns, raised panels, arched tops and other features. Yet another trend is the growing variety of caming colors. Once available only in brass, caming (the metal bonding material that fuses pieces of glass together) can now be ordered in black, patina, bright zinc, dark zinc, brushed nickel and satin nickel. And there is an assortment of decorative accents, such as grilles, hinges and straps. The bottom line, Menn says, is that consumers who focus only on price are missing out on an opportunity to achieve greater street presence. "There are two big things people look at - your entry and whether or not your garage is facing the street," he says. If all the houses in your neighborhood look the same, an eye-catching entry can make yours stand out. n Susan Bady is a freelancer based out of Chicago.