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Choosing Exterior and Interior Doors

Before you go door shopping, do your homework on what’s new and what’s available in residential doors today. Here are some guidelines and tips for getting exactly what you want and need.

Gather Information
"Entryway doors can dramatically change the appearance of your home," says Jeff Kibler, brand manager of Peachtree Doors and Windows in Mosinee, Wis.
"Think about how the door styles fit and complement the home’s architecture."



Peachtree 700 Series Hinged Door with clad exterior and interior of distinctive hardwood options.
Peachtree 700 Series Hinged Door with clad exterior and interior of distinctive hardwood options.

Whether you shop at the big-box stores or plan to have custom-made doors installed in your home, there are a wide variety of door styles made from a number of materials. Go prepared with the answers to the following questions:

• Will the door be subject to occasional use or be used often?
• What style and type of hardware are you interested in?
• Which material do you want in a front door (wood, fiberglass or metal)?
• Interested in a plain door or an elegantly carved wood one?
• What are the dimensions of the door you need?

Karl Mayer, president and co-owner of Maverick Door and Millwork, a custom door company, in Schertz, Texas, adds that you should also consider the exposure entryway doors get from the elements.

He adds that it’s important that the "door should complement the style of the house. If you have a Spanish-style house you might select a different door than what you would for a Colonial home. You might even consider an arched doorway if you have arched windows or circle top windows and a circle top doorway."

Finding the Perfect Exterior Door
When it comes to choosing an exterior door, the range in materials, styles and prices might seem overwhelming. No matter where you live—in a cold climate, near the water or an area with high humidity—you can find a door that works for your environment and weather conditions. Think durable and weather-resistant.

Steel doors are becoming increasingly popular. "In 2008, the industry will sell 12 million entry doors,” Kibler says. “Out of that pie, 65 percent of doors are steel, 26 percent are fiberglass and 9 percent [are] solid wood doors."


Peachtree Doors and Windows Rustic Collection, a plank-style, alder-grain entry door in low-maintenance, energy-efficient fiberglass.
Peachtree Doors and Windows Rustic Collection, a plank-style, alder-grain entry door in low-maintenance, energy-efficient fiberglass.


Standing up to adverse weather conditions is the hallmark of a steel door. "These doors can dent depending on the gauge of steel and can rust in certain climates," notes Kibler. "Steel comes in 24, 25 and 26 gauge. The smaller the gauge, the heavier the steel."

Fiberglass models offer the appearance of wood, are basically easy to maintain and are resistant to rust and warping. Kibler explains that fiberglass doors are taking a big chunk of the market share from steel and wood doors.

Greg Miedema, certified graduate remodeler and president of Dakota Builders in Tucson, Ariz., says, "I’m a big fan of clad door products where the exterior is wrapped in aluminum and the inside of the door is wood. These doors are good for all-weather conditions."

When looking for your new door, figure in the maintenance factor. Are you willing to do the upkeep on a wood door? Wood warps, twists and crack. It can be difficult to keep a wood door looking its best. Miedema says it’s simple: "Wood doors will last as long as you keep up the maintenance." But if a wood door does warp, the result is a reduction in energy-efficiency due to more air from the outside getting into the house since the door won’t fit as securely as before.

When Miedema’s customers ask him about door prices, his typical response is a question: "How much do you want to spend?" Door prices are dependent upon the options you choose and the money you have to invest.

For wood doors, Mayer says look at the workmanship to determine how the door is assembled. Look for tight joints, dowels to reinforce the joints and, of course, ask if the door is manufactured with waterproof glue for exterior doors.
"There is a concept that steel is tough, but I would put white oak and African mahogany up against any residential steel door product," says Mayer.

Security Factors
One of the big concerns when replacing exterior doors is the issue of safety.

"Your solid panel doors will offer the most security—no glass in the door, more secure,” says Kibler. For added security, he says," We reinforce the back side of the door jam with a steel plate on all of our doors."

Doors should fit tightly into the frame, with no more than 1/8-inch clearance between the door and the frame, and be equipped with secure door locks. Such simple measures will help increase your security and prevent air loss through the door that can increase your heating bills.

"Security isn’t really about the door but how the locks fit into the door jam," says Miedema. "Buy non-removable pin hinges for your door because the door hinges can’t be removed from the outside."


Mahogany exterior 6-panel door with complementary 3-piece transom above and 2 sidelights with custom art glass.
Mahogany exterior 6-panel door with complementary 3-piece transom above and 2 sidelights with custom art glass.


Miedema is an advocate of locks and says if someone has to work at unlocking your front door for a long time, they’ll simply move on to the next house.

Interior Doors
For interior doors, the choices are between solid and hollow core doors and composite doors that are made from engineered materials that can include wood fibers and glue that’s compressed.

"We can build interior doors that cost $800 or $900 or you can go down to a big-box hardware store and find a unit for $50," Mayer says. "You will have to paint it and it will be hollow core door."

Pocket doors, a sliding door that slides along its length and disappears when open into a compartment in the adjacent wall, will free up floor space. These doors, however, involving ripping out the surround walls to install and are not easy DIY jobs.

With regular doors, you must sacrifice 4 to 6 square feet of floor and wall space. For bathrooms, pocket doors probably won’t give you that secure feeling a regular door will afford.

If you purchase pocket doors, make sure to get quality hardware. Look for a double track at the top of the door so the wheels can’t slip out of the track.

Trends in the Marketplace


Mahogany half circle top exterior 2-panel door with custom
Mahogany half circle top exterior 2-panel door with custom "rope" molding around the raised panels including functional "speakeasy" with decorative iron work.

"Now we’re seeing different kinds of wood like alder,” says Miedema, “because people have finally discovered there is more than simply pine or fir."

And don’t forget the style of the handle set needs to complement the design of the door or entry. Brushed nickel and oil rubbed finishes are becoming particularly popular for lock and handle sets for door hardware.

Priscilla Castellano, design consultant for Andrea Lauren Elegant Interiors in Tampa, Fla., says, "It’s all about what you’re trying to achieve in your home. The Tuscany look is a very popular style in doors right now."

Castellano says she’s seeing a lot of arched doors with wrought-iron bars across a 4×4 square peephole opening.

Interior French doors remain a strong seller and are primarily used in an office, the pantry and the laundry with frosted glass panels. "You could put a laundry basket design on the laundry doors or the word ‘Pantry’ on the pantry doors," says Castellano. "Café doors can be used to separate a wine room or other areas of the house you want to off-set."

Dress up your home with exterior and interior doors for a fresh new look. The options are limitless. Let your imagination and budget be your guide.

Credit: Renovate Your World