The Latest News and Information from C's Exterior Designs

Entry Door Basics Part III

20 November

from DIY Network


If your plans call for a front door with character, warmth and style, wood is the top choice. Unmatched for natural beauty and substance, wood doors with a natural or stained finish harmonize with all styles of houses. Lower-grade woods and finger-jointed construction – doors made with unmatched pieces of wood – take paint readily. In the hands of an experienced craftsman, wood is relatively easy to shape and cut, so custom possibilities are endless.

Wood doors generally are the most expensive door option, ranging from $500 to $4,000 for standard manufactured doors and more for custom sizes and configurations. Popular woods include oak, cherry, mahogany and clear fir, but wood door specialists may offer more exotic options.

“We’re always experimenting with new technologies and materials,” says Simpson’s Brad Loveless. “We’re currently using some very tough, weather-resistant woods such as black locust and nootka cypress that are incredibly durable.”

If environmental impact is a concern, look for doors made with wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to be sustainably grown and harvested.

The drawback of wood is that it needs consistent maintenance, especially in harsh climates or if the door is exposed to moisture and direct sunlight. Hairline cracks and changes in the color or texture of the surface signal it’s time to repair the finish. Expect to touch up your door’s finish every two or three years.


Although you can buy an entry door all by itself, most come as door systems that include the framework and all the necessary hinge mortises and cutouts for latches and deadbolts. Systems can get quite elaborate, and can include double doors, one or two sidelights and rectangular or arched-top transom windows. Finished entryway systems can be 16 feet wide and nearly as tall.

Doors can be solid, all-glass and everything in between with limitless selections of grills and art glass possibilities thrown in to the mix. “Options and flexibility are driving factors in the market right now,” says Lance Premeau, product and market analyst for Kolbe Windows and Doors. “Consumers want the freedom to choose their own styles and materials. As a result, our product offerings are very complex.”

To help the stylistically challenged consumer negotiate this option-rich environment, the web sites of most major manufacturers offer sophisticated data bases that provide styles, shapes, colors, and other goodies at the click of a mouse. However, you’ll probably have to have a local supplier work up a price for your tricked-out entry.


In many coastal areas, local building codes specify that windows and doors are tough enough to withstand impacts from flying objects, such as might occur during a severe storm. Florida and Texas lead the way for stringent rules governing the types of doorway systems that can be installed in areas at risk for high winds.

In Florida, for example, the Department of Community Affairs has designated specific areas as “hurricane protection” areas where building materials for new construction – specifically exterior doors and windows – must be able to withstand wind-borne debris travelling in excess of 120 mph.

That’s a wallop an ordinary door won’t take. Some manufacturers, however, specialize in creating tough door systems designed to meet the strictest building codes. Laminated construction, with fiberglass mesh sandwiched between layers of plywood, prevents wood styles and rails from giving way on impact. Steel rods embedded in the frame add strength. Laminated glass, similar to automobile glass, keeps window openings sealed even if the glass is shattered.

It’s important to note the distinction between doors claiming to be impact resistant, and those products that are actually tested to meet standards set by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association for resistance to impact.

“Testing is expensive and not all manufacturers actually test,” says Steve Lashley, owner of Surewood Doors in Naples, Fla., whose products are exclusive to the high-impact market. “Some products are engineered, meaning the product specs are reviewed and approved by an engineer, but not actually tested and certified by an independent laboratory.”

Approved products receive a Notice of Acceptance (NOA) from the state or county. Notoriously strict (with good reason) Miami Dade County, for example, has a database of building products approved for high-impact resistance. Those interested in impact-resistant doors should look for testing certification and an NOA.