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Unlocking Value: A new front door can be a good investment



The front door is the focal point of your home, can add or detract curb appeal and shapes the first impression of those who visit your house.

An entry door must be tough enough to withstand weather elements such as wind, rain, scorching sun and would-be-intruders, yet attractive enough to make you want to walk through it every day. Meeting those needs is a tall order for most front doors, particularly older ones that have been exposed to the elements long enough to become warped, cracked, chipped or difficult to shut properly.

Whether this describes your front door or you just want to trade a solid door for one with a custom design or glass panels that allow for more light, you'll find plenty of options available on the market that will improve your house and return high on the investment when it's time to sell.

Signs it's time to buy a new front door

There are some clear signs that it's time to replace your old front door. The most noticeable would be rot, which usually starts appearing at the bottom of the door jamb (what the door is mounted in). The paint might be flaking off, or you may notice the wood getting soft. The weather stripping may be starting to wear out. You may feel air coming in from around the perimeter of the door, or see extra light coming in. If the door sits directly in the sun or on a side of the house that gets hot, the stain on the door might be fading or starting to peel off.

Though all the reasons listed here are cause for concern, the one that probably just forced you to sit up and pay attention is the thought that when additional air is getting in, you're wasting money on your heating and electric. Replacing a door isn't just about aesthetics or safety, but also about energy efficiency.

How to measure and where to buy

It's smart to go to a showroom or store so you can see what you're buying — and you'll want to go with measurements in hand. For a simple door replacement, measure the old door's width, thickness (normally 1 3/4 inches) and height (normally 6 feet, 8 inches). You'll also want to take note of the direction the door swings. From inside, if the doorknob is on the right, it's a "right-handed" door; if it's on the left, it's a "left-handed" door.

If you need to replace the entire entryway, you'll want to measure the thickness of the wall so that you can order the proper width of the door jamb, as well. Then when you are ready to place your order, you should be sure that all components are made by the same manufacturer to ensure that they are designed to go together. All weather stripping should seal tightly, and the threshold should interlock with the bottom edge.

"A common misconception is that you can just replace the door itself. You're replacing the door, the jamb, the threshold — everything," says Marc Rapchak, general manager of A.B.E. Doors & Windows in Allentown. "The manufacturers test for infiltration and insulating values, and that's the best way to replace a door."

You should also inquire about the length of the warranty, particularly if you plan on selling your house within the next several years. The best doors should have a limited warranty for as long as you own and occupy your home, though some warranties are transferrable to the next owner when you sell the house.

Types of doors

It used to be that main entry doors were typically made from wood. Today's doors, however, are also made from steel and fiberglass, or a combination of these materials.

Though wood doors have a natural beauty, they are especially vulnerable to weathering from direct sun and moisture, so they need extensive care and maintenance unless they've been installed in a well-protected area. Also, wood doors have very little insulation value. Fiberglass and steel doors, on the other hand, are designed to last for decades in severe weather conditions. Many also have a surface that, when stained or painted, resembles wood.

"We don't stock or sell a wood product anymore based on the amount of maintenance required. We carry steel and fiberglass, and I'm confident to say that they're both as energy efficient as each other," says Rapchak. "Fiberglass gives you a beautiful wood appearance. A lot of people still want a painted look on the outside. For us, I'd probably say that our sales are fifty-fifty steel and fiberglass."

Many manufacturers fill their steel doors with a high density environmentally safe polyurethane foam that insulates far better than a solid wood door. There is also an almost limitless array of decorative glass styles that you can have etched, beveled, stained or leaded into your new door. Finally, you can choose to outfit your door with decorative hardware that is usually made from nickel, bronze or antique brass.

Measuring cost versus value

Another home project, another cost to cover.

The price of having a door replaced may cause some homeowners to put it off for as long as possible. The truth is, an entry door replacement is one of the most affordable and important investments you can make in your home — one that will pay for itself many times over throughout the life of the door.

According to the Remodeling 2017 Cost vs. Value Report,, the average cost of an entry door replacement in the Middle Atlantic states for a fiberglass door is about $3,313 (compared to a national average of $3,276), and a steel door is around $1,467 (compared to a national average of $1,413). The cost recouped at the house's sale for a fiberglass door is 75 percent of the cost, and for a steel door, 80 percent of the cost. This makes a new door a wise