A home’s front door is the first exterior door that visitors and residents see, and it is the most commonly used exterior door in most houses. Homeowners should choose a door that makes an excellent first impression without sacrificing safety, durability and sturdiness. A front door that looks great but cannot deter intruders or resist the wind is not a good investment.
Today, many different materials are used to manufacture front doors. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages. These are the major options:
Wood — Wood remains one of the most popular materials used to build doors. Solid wood doors are the most expensive in this category. A single door can cost upwards of $500 or more. Solid wood doors are also sturdier than stock wood doors, and they are available in oak, maple, pine, cherry, walnut and other beautiful woods. Solid wood doors can have intricate carvings that enhance their beauty without sacrificing their durability. They tend to warp, but staining or painting their edges can prevent this.
A stock wood door with a core of engineered wood covered by a furniture grade veneer is also popular. These doors are less prone to warping and are less expensive than solid wood doors. The veneer can damage easily, however. Some manufacturers make similar doors with insulated cores that make them more efficient at keeping a home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Composite — Homeowners in humid regions or in areas where unforgiving weather is common choose a fiberglass-composite front door. Such doors are highly resistant to warping and wear. Fiberglass-composite doors are inexpensive, about $200 or so, and they last a long time. Many manufacturers will even guarantee a fiberglass-composite door for as long as a homeowner owns the home. As their name indicates, fiberglass-composite doors are made of a combination of wood, fiberglass and other materials.
Aluminum — Aluminum doors must be custom built, which makes them cost more than their steel-door cousins. Homeowners will spend at least $600 on a good aluminum door, but many aluminum door manufacturers offer warranties of up to 20 years on their product. Aluminum doors have an enamel finish that does not rust or need repainting, and they have an inner core covered by an aluminum skin
Steel — Steel doors are a homeowner’s best bet for security because they are stronger than any other front door option. Steel doors have a core made of wood or steel within a steel frame and skin. These doors usually need to be repainted frequently, but they are the least expensive of all the common front door options. Homeowners can get a basic steel front door for less than $200.
No matter the type of material used to construct the front door, a well-made exterior door on the front of a house should last a lifetime if it is properly shielded from the elements via a porch roof or overhang. Homeowners should also buy the door, frame and other system components from the same manufacturer when they want to install a complete entry system.
Decorative elements, such as stained glass, can be embedded into doors and provide a unique look to the door. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Terry H.)
Exterior door options
When choosing a front door, homeowners have many options to improve the appearance of their door and home. Glass panes can be embedded in the door and decorative patterns can be carved into the door and the entire door-and-frame system. Glass panes allow more light into the home, but can diminish privacy in the entryway. Security can be an issue because the glass can be broken. Break-ins can be prevented when security glass is used in the door construction. Knockers, doorknobs and other similar elements come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, shapes and colors, so there's no limit to customizing a front exterior door.
Storm doors and screen doors
Homeowners who want to extend the life of their exterior doors can add storm or screen doors to their front doors and other exterior doors. A storm or screen door is an additional door placed in front of another door on the same frame and jamb that provides additional protection for the main exterior door.r
These doors typically have a screen or glass panel that keeps out bugs, animals and the elements so that exterior doors can be left open.
Storm doors and screen doors are typically made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass and have the same pros and cons of materials used for front doors and other exterior doors. The two most popular storm doors are full-view storm doors and ventilating storm doors.
A full-view storm door has a glass panel that can be changed out for a screen depending on the season. A ventilating storm door has a glass panel and a screen. The glass panel can be moved to allow air to pass through the screen, or the glass panel can be closed. Such doors are more easily converted to screen doors than the full-view doors, which require homeowners to remove and replace the glass panel with a screen when they want to convert the door from a storm door to a screen door.
Dog and cat owners should definitely consider adding a pet door to at least one exterior door so that their animals can exit and enter independently. Normally, pet doors have a flap that is hinged at the top and inserted in the exterior door or wall. The pet can easily pass through this door, which means the homeowner does not have to be home to let the pet out.
Other creatures can enter a home as well, which is why most standard pet doors can be locked from the inside. Homeowners need to make sure the door stays locked and unlocked at the proper times. Homeowners who want less worry can choose doors with magnetic locks that open via a key placed in a pet’s collar. One of the best options for a secure pet door is a motorized door with an infrared sensor. This kind of pet door opens only when the right animal, wearing the right infrared collar, approaches the door.
Interior doors vs. exterior doors
Interior door construction is different from exterior door construction. Interior doors are less expensive than exterior doors. Additional differences include:
• Exterior doors are weatherproof. They need to keep out cold air, moisture and other elements. Interior doors don't have to be as strong.
• Interior doors tend to have lighter constructions than exterior doors.
• Heavy-duty finishes are par for the course with exterior doors. Interior doors aren't exposed to the elements, so a lighter touch can be used.
• Strong locks are mandatory for exterior doors. Interior doors typically don't have locks, when they do, they are simple.
French doors with glass panels are great for home offices. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Daniel D. of McKinney, Texas)
How much do interior doors cost?
There are many options in terms of price, design and quality when it comes to interior doors, which is why shopping for them can be overwhelming. These points can help when shopping:
• A basic, hollow, engineered-wood door costs less than $50. A hollow door made out of real wood is around $115, while a solid, real-wood door costs around $225.
• Bi-fold doors, commonly used in closets and pantries, cost between $50 and $100.
• The average price for a set of sliding doors is $200. Costs vary depending on the material and door style.
• Double pre-hung doors, which are convenient and versatile, cost between $300 and $400.
• Lightweight louvered doors price around $75 to $100.
In terms of hardware, prices vary depending on material. Popular options include satin nickel, bronze, brass and chrome.
You can switch up the appearance of a door with different handles. Knobs are popular, but levers are nice options too. Dummy levers can be used for doors that push or pull open and closed.
Additional interior door options
While standard doors are used for bedrooms and other rooms, dress up your home with interior doors for spaces like pantries, laundry rooms, closets and similar areas. Here are a few examples:
By-pass sliding doors - If you're dealing with a small space that needs closed in with a door, a by-pass sliding door may work. The opening is only half of a traditional interior door because one panel slides over another.
Multi-fold doors - These accordion-style doors are extremely versatile. Available in plastic, wood and cloth, use them to cordon off one area of a small room or to cover-up large openings without spending a fortune.
Pocket doors - Another great option for space-challenged areas, the sliding door tucks away into a pocket that's hidden in the wall. When it's open, there's no door blocking the entryway. Installation requires extra legwork, so it can be more expensive.
Bi-fold doors - Traditionally used for closets, these doors can be used for pantries and laundry rooms. When open, they take up less space than traditional doors. Choose doors with sturdy, strong hardware.
Swinging doors - Doors like these are often associated with saloons and cafes. They are fun, but avoid installing them in high foot-traffic areas because the constant open- and closed-swinging compromise the door's durability.
Creative tips for doors
You don't have to buy brand-new interior doors for your home. For a more unique look, shop around for interior doors that have been salvaged from old homes. You may find a durable, attractive door for a lot less. Old doors can be sanded down and painted for stunning results.
Install antique doorknobs on old doors to freshen up an interior door. Shopping for antique doorknobs and door handles is fun. Special steps may be needed to make an antique doorknob work with a new door.
While interior doors may not have to pull double-duty like exterior doors do, they are important parts of your home. From selecting the right hardware to choosing the right style, consider all your options when looking for new interior doors.