When walking past your home, what’s the first thing people take note of? Is it the windows? The color or style of your home?
It’s actually none of the above. It’s your front door.
“The door sets the tone for the entire home,” explains Jim Callery, millwork door buyer and purchasing agent at Ring’s End in Darien. “It’s the first thing you really pay attention to when walking into the house … It’s the centerpiece of the home.”
Consequently, when choosing a front door, it’s important to make sure you make the right choice.
The most common type of door homeowners are purchasing is the arts and crafts style, according to Callery, who says, “The arts and crafts style door has six glass panels at the top and two or three long wood panels at the bottom. Sometimes there is a shelf on the outside.”
“If you have a Colonial home, a six-panel door is the most common style,” he adds.
Dutch doors — which are split in half horizontally — are more typically used in the back of the house, rather than the front, observes Dmytro Dovgan, owner of Abbott Builders in Redding. “A Dutch door can easily let pets out and fresh air in while part of the door is still closed,” he says.
Gothic doors, in which the top of the door is shaped like a pointing arch, are good options for homes that are Gothic in style. “Although this style of door is not popular in New England, it works well when a home’s shape, windows and exterior wall treatments are also Gothic,” Dovgan says. “Otherwise, it may become an eyesore.”
Many homeowners have strong opinions when it comes to how much light they want coming through their front door. Some people choose to have sidelights on a panel that’s next to the front door. “The purpose of the sidelight is to let natural light in,” Callery says.
For those who want privacy, Dovgan recommends a solid door with no glass. “Or have a little bit of glass on top of the door,” he suggests, “which will allow some daylight in while still maintaining your privacy.”
Approximately 80% of homeowners choose a raised-panel door, according to Dovgan, although those who want a very simple, more contemporary style door may opt for a flat panel.
People sometimes choose a door with panels that match their window grilles, which are decorative patterns consisting of horizontal and/or vertical bars that divide the larger sheet of glass into smaller panes.
“Matching the door panels to the window grilles will create a similar look for the entire house,” Dovgan says, adding that the door itself can have many different types of panels and through this, a large number of styles can be created — two of which are a raised panel and a flat panel. “The raised panel has the same thickness of the door, while the flat panel has a recessed back, so it’s not as thick as the door,” he explains.
There are several options for the door material, including steel, which costs the least, then fiberglass, and finally, different species of wood, such as pine, fir and mahogany.
Steel doors require little maintenance and are energy-efficient but they can dent or rust, according to Callery. “Today’s wood is not as good as the kind of wood that was available many years ago,” he explains. “The trees that we are now cutting down are fast-growth trees, so the growth rings are wider, which allows for more moisture to penetrate.”
Furthermore, environmental factors such as rain and sun can warp or crack a wooden door. “Over time — it can be one year to five, depending upon how the house is situated — the wood door is more apt to absorb moisture and have to be maintained at a greater rate than they were 40 to 50 years ago. That’s why you have to have an overhang on the door,” he says.
Consequently, most people are choosing fiberglass doors. “Some of the higher-end fiberglass doors very much replicate the look and feel of a wood door but without the same environmental issues as wood has,” Callery explains. “That’s why boats are made of fiberglass instead of wood.”
When it comes to color, some people prefer a stained wood look, “which you can achieve with a fiberglass door, while others want to paint their door,” Callery says.
A drawback of a fiberglass door is that one is limited in the choice of color, because fiberglass doesn’t take paint very well, according to Dovgan. “If you’re looking for a very specific color, you might have to go with a wood door. You would have to your door painted every other year in order to protect it,” he says.
The front door style should match the style of the house. Some people choose a door because they like its aesthetics, but as soon as it’s installed, they realize it doesn’t really fit the home. “Research the style of your house to find the best front door matches,” Callery concludes.