Door Detectives: How to Choose the Right Entry Door and Installer

If you're like most homeowners, your home improvements list is full. Repair the dripping faucet. Install new carpet. Buy a new entry door to keep out the cold weather.

Of course, some improvements are a snap. After all, it doesn't take any prolonged effort to replace a light bulb or switch out a defective flapper in your toilet tank. Still, choosing a new front door takes a little research, particularly if you plan to hang it yourself and even more if you hire someone to do it for you.

Here are a few clues to choosing a great door and seeing that it gets installed correctly:

Know Your Options
There are a lot of choices in entry doors these days. Insulated. Non-insulated with a storm door. Fan or side lights. Wood. Steel. Choice is a good thing, but it's easy to feel a little overwhelmed at first. It's time to use a few detective skills to figure out what's best for you.

First, plan to choose the base material. The most popular options are fibreglass, steel, or wood. Here are a few things to know about each material:

  • Fibreglass: low-maintenance, resists rust, cheaper brands may crack in cold weather
  • Steel: heavy duty; can hold paint well, low maintenance, comes in many styles & colours
  • Wood: aesthetically pleasing, easy to stain or paint, eco-friendly but may warp and swell with weather changes

Style & Durability
When it comes to style, you may want to hold off on buying on a whim before you've asked yourself a few questions:

  • 1. Which direction will the door face?
  • 2. Will it be exposed to sunlight or shade?
  • 3. Are there trees or other natural elements that may shelter the door from adverse weather?
  • 4. How has my current door withstood (or failed) the tests of time and weather?
  • 5. Is security an issue in my neighbourhood?
  • 6. Are certain styles harder to install (can I do it myself or do I need a professional)?

Answers to these questions may narrow down your choices somewhat.

For example, if you want more natural sunlight in your entryway, you may consider a door with a fan light at the top. If it is a north or west-facing door that will be exposed to wind and storms, you can probably still have the style you want if you make plans to install a storm door.

As to durability, doors that contain a lot of glass may be less durable than solid doors. You'll want to ask your manufacturer. Most durability questions depend more on materials used than style (e.g., steel may last longer than wood). Read the product specifications if in doubt.

If you're worried about security, it doesn't mean you have to forego sidelights or transoms. Still, you should weigh the strength of the glass and door with other factors (whether or not you have a locking storm door, for example) and costs.

In the end, if in doubt about a given style's durability or security, ask the manufacturer or poll a few door and window installers.

Speaking of costs, you should factor in more than just the costs of your door itself. Because exterior doors need to last through weather ravages and normal wear & tear, you'll pay more for them than for interior doors.

Here are a few factors that impact what you'll pay for your new door:

  • Materials & style. Wood and fibreglass tend to be pricier than steel; added glass windows also cost more.
  • Door frame. Rotting, disrepair, or re-framing that cost more to correct before installation.
  • Custom door fitting. If you're installing a larger door than what you have now, plan to spend more.
  • Additional labour costs. You'll be charged for equipment, hardware, & installation time.

Also inspect your weatherstripping, real brass caming on the glass (if that matters to you) and sturdy build. The next step is hiring an installer.

Choose the Right Contractor
Finally, unless you are handy enough to install the door yourself (there are many video tutorials online), you need to know how to choose a reputable installer.

When you're collecting bids, make sure they include the following costs:

  • Door and hardware
  • Prep work costs
  • Labour and/or hourly charges
  • Clean-up and debris removal fees
  • Any general contractor fees
  • Sales tax
  • Permit fees (if needed for your project)

When you've collected all the data you need don't forget to ask for references. You want to know that your contractor has ample experience in door installation. Additionally, be sure you get your quote in writing. That way you'll avoid surprises later.

Congratulations you've found all the important clues to door installation. Now you'll be ready to improve your entryway, stay more secure, and keep winter winds at bay. Enjoy your new door and be ready for lots of compliments not just about the door, but about your newly-found expertise!

For more information, be sure to check out our blog or contact our helpful staff at Sunrise Windows & Door Depot.

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