Marketing studies reveal that a good solid-feeling front door leaves an impression of quality that will carry over throughout the house.
If your front door is flimsy, uninteresting or truly beyond repair, consider replacing it. The design choice and price range is vast. However, most entrance doors fall into one of three basic categories: steel, fiberglass and wood.
Steel doors won’t warp — the main reason they’re marketed for residential use. Many also have good insulative value. The downside is that they can rust and dent, and may be embossed with exaggerated wood grain patterns that aren’t very convincing on close inspection.
Fiberglass doors combine the warp resistance of steel with excellent insulative value and a much more realistic wood grain look. They can be planed and sanded, and are designed to accept either paint or stain. A carefully finished fiberglass door presents a fairly convincing copy of wood, while requiring less maintenance over time.
Solid wood presents a look and feel of quality that neither steel nor fiberglass can match. However, wood doors do have drawbacks, including susceptibility to warping and rot, so-so energy efficiency, and a need for vigilant maintenance.
Once you’ve found a door that suits you, think about a good-quality entrance lockset. There are lots of manufacturers to choose from, but only a few make truly first-class products. Look for high-quality locksets at better hardware and lumber dealers, and ask a sales assistant for help. Many styles of lockset are available with matching doorknockers, doorbell shields, and the like. Because not all finishes are in stock, you may have to order a few weeks in advance. And be prepared to pay several hundred dollars for a decent-quality entrance lockset, and more for paired doors. At these prices, you’ll be sorely tempted to buy a cheaper lockset that “looks just the same.” But it won’t feel the same or last the same. Remember what builders have known for decades: You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.