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A Grand Entrance: The Best Exterior Door Buying Guide for 2021

By David Lawrence , in Home Improvement , at August 20, 2021

There’s no denying that the front entrance of your home is one of the most important parts of your property. Not only does it command the most attention and leave an impression on both you and your guests. But it also commands undeniable amounts of attention from the general marketplace — and this is a big deal when selling your home. 

When it comes to choosing the best exterior door, there’s plenty to consider, it’s not just about the color and the hardware. You have to consider your budget, the type of material you want, energy efficiency, and of course, security. 

Allow this simple buying guide to point you in the right direction when choosing your home’s front door. 

Shopping Tips: Choosing the Best Exterior Door for Your Home 

First thing’s first, it’s important to know exactly where to shop for your new front door. Whether you choose to peruse brick and mortar stores or shop online, you want to do some research beforehand. And the best place for that is the internet, even before you visit local stores. 

You want to get familiar with manufacturing materials, door descriptions, finishes, and features so that you have some sort of idea of what you’re looking at. 

Other important factors to consider: 

  • The energy efficiency of your exterior entry way — look for models that are Energy Star certified and independently tested
  • Installation — do you want a pre-hung door in a frame, a simple slab door, or a custom-sized door that requires re-framing? 
  • Safety — it’s not actually the door itself that deters criminals, but the door lock, so this is something you want to spend good money on 
  • A reliable and reputable contractor to install your door for you, such as Prescott Window

While the aesthetic of your front door is important, its main purpose is to provide robust security for your home. In order to reinforce your front door even more, make sure to use a one-inch deadbolt and metal box strike. Make sure the box strike attaches with three-inch screws so that it lodges securely in the framing. 

Front Door Materials: What To Consider 

Another crucial factor that goes into choosing reliable entry doors is the material. In fact, this is probably one of the most important decisions because it determines how secure your door is, as well as its longevity, and price. 

Here are some of the most popular materials on the market today: 

1. Wood 

This is the most popular type of front door material you’ll find in most homes across the U.S. And for very good reason. Wood is not only extremely versatile, but it’s durable, strong, and the options are endless. 

You can choose from natural-finish doors in a plethora of wood types such as cherry, walnut, oak, maple, mahogany, or pine. Or, you can choose custom-finish doors or paint-grade doors with a softwood finish. 

Wood doors are also very affordable. For example, a basic wood door with wood-veneered skins over a wood core will cost about $200. Just make sure you opt for a hard-wearing veneer that’s at least 1/16 of an inch thick. 

In contrast, you could pay about $600 for a solid wood door, while a hardwood door is a little pricier. For a complete pre-hung door system, including hinges, weatherstripping, locksets, and sidelights you’ll pay an average of $2,000-$4,000. 

This might sound expensive, but solid wood or hardwood door can last a lifetime if it’s finished correctly. 

If you’re going with a pre-finished wooden door, you also want to ensure you choose the right stain and finish — ideally with polyurethane. If you’re going with a paint-grade door, make sure to choose a high gloss sheen as this offers the most protection for the paint.

2. Steel

This is the best material to invest in if durability and security are high on your priority list. There’s nothing stronger or more safety efficient than steel — it’s the most durable material on the market today. 

Steel is a brilliant option if you live in a climate with wide fluctuations in temperatures, too. These doors won’t warp, swell, crack, or bend due to temperature or huge climatic changes. 

Dents and dings are also easy to repair yourself with a simple auto-body repair toolkit. Believe it or not, steel exterior doors are the most affordable option if you’re on a strict budget. For a standard-sized door with hardware and glazing, you’d pay about $150, on average. 

However, if you choose a steel door with the best-of-the-best hardware, sidelights, and a robust lock system, this could cost almost the same as a wood-door setup. 

Bear in mind that most steel doors are not made from solid steel. They include an inner wood frame, filled with foam insulation that’s very high density. This is to ensure the door offers great insulation. You can also find steel doors in a smooth finish or even a mock-wood grain pattern. 

The finish of your steel door is also important. You want to look for a polyester coating for more affordable steel door types. While premium steel doors will have a vinyl coating. Today, you can find most steel doors as part of a pre-hung system. So if you’re replacing a steel door, make sure the hinge area of the new door, matches the hinge area of the old door. 

3. Fiberglass Composite

This is yet another tough competitor in the world of front door materials. Fiberglass composite is hard-wearing, low-maintenance, and ideal if you live in a warm, humid climate. 

It’s also a great option if you love the look of a wood door as you can choose from fiberglass doors that mimic the look of many wood-grain textures. Some of these include walnut, pine, cherry, oak, mahogany, and more. 

Below the fiberglass surface, most doors include a wooden framework of stiles and rails, while the lockset also includes wooden edges. The spaces in-between consist of polyurethane foam insulation.

The best part about fiberglass composite is its longevity. Most of the time, your door will come with a very long warranty — much like a hardwood or solid wood door. In short, your door should last for as long as you own your home. 

However, most long-term warranties are only applicable with complete entry door systems and must include the doorframe, not just the door. You can expect to pay about $4,000 for a full fiberglass composite entry system that includes door glazing, the frame, hardware, sidelights, weatherstripping, and more. 

4. Aluminum

Finally, you have the option of aluminum. Like a close cousin of the steel door, you can find aluminum doors with a wood core, coated in a long-wearing aluminum skin. However, these types of doors are not as readily available and you might only be able to order one through an exclusive dealer. 

Aluminum doors are usually custom-built, too. So if you have a very specific type of door system and style in mind, it might be best to go with this material. Aluminum is also amazingly versatile. You can find this material in a plethora of colors and smooth or wood-grain finishes. 

The best part about aluminum doors is the low maintenance and great lifespan. Due to their baked-on, enamel finish you won’t ever need to repaint it or worry about rust. You can find a 20-year warranty attached to these types of doors. 

They are not cheap, as you can imagine, and generally start at $600 for just the door. After solid wood, this is the priciest choice for homeowners. 

Choosing Entry Door Features 

Let’s be honest, the crowning glory of all front doors and porch doors are the features. This is what makes them unique and is the best way to tie them into your home’s overall aesthetic.

Whether you opt for panel designs, glass designs, grille patterns, transoms, or elaborate sidelights, it all depends on your budget. Here’s what to keep in mind when choosing decorative features: 

  • Always choose a door with an adjustable threshold as this ensures your door remains weather-tight 
  • Keep in mind that while glass panels are beautiful, they are costly 
  • Always opt for rails and stiles made from laminated wood, covered with veneer. Remember that solid wood rails and stiles might warp over the years

An extra note on glass inserts: make sure the glass you choose for your door is double or triple panel glass to ensure it’s safe and secure and offers good insulation. 

If you have glass panels near your doorknob or you’ve chosen glass-paneled sidelights, always choose a double-cylinder deadbolt lock for added security. 

Are You a Savvy Homeowner? 

To recap, the best exterior door for your home is one that’s made from a robust, long-wearing material that not only looks great but provides security and insulation. If you can remember these important factors, you shouldn’t have to replace your front door for many years to come. 

If you’re a first-time homeowner and want to broaden your knowledge on improving your home, why not take some time to explore the rest of this site? With us, you can learn about roofing, how to sell your home, bathroom design tips, and so much more.

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