Almost no other feature of your home makes as much of a statement as your front entryway. Grand and glorious, or simple and austere, your front door helps define your home and will be the first thing that is encountered when someone visits. A beautifully crafted front door can add curb appeal to your home. Conversely the wrong door or an unattractive door can subtract from it.
As with buying anything else, there are numerous choices to be made when buying a front door or entryway. What material do I want my door to be made out of? Do I want glass in my front door, or do I want it to be solid? How concerned am I with energy efficiency? All those are common questions that must be asked and answered before a front door can be selected.
Few architectural products can rival the beauty and uniqueness of a solid hardwood door
. The variety of available wood species combined with a large variety of stain choices makes for numerous combinations when it comes to choosing a special look that will complement your home, adding character and distinctiveness.
Wood is a wonderful natural insulator. Since it is not a thermal conductor wood is 400 times more effective as insulation than steel and 1800 times more than aluminum.
No other material can boast of being as environmentally friendly as wood. Harvested from managed forests, wood is THE GREEN CHOICE, a truly renewable resource. Over two billion new trees are planted each year on both public and private lands to replenish the harvest. Of course many in the environmentalist movement fear the extinction of forestation due to excessive logging, but the USDA Forest Service reports that total wood volume exceeds harvest by 37% annually.
A wood door can be built a little 'oversize' for exact sizing on the job site. This allows for maximum flexibility when dealing with non-standard sizes.
Of course the character of wood makes it susceptible to warping, splitting, and bowing. A wood door does need to be maintained on a regular basis. Properly sealed on all six sides and protected from moisture, a wood door should last indefinitely.
Some Common Wood Choices:
Honduran Mahogany: Pale pink to dark reddish brown heartwood with yellowish white sapwood, generally straight grained wood with excellent milling properties, easily finished, and has very good decay resistance and stability. Honduran mahogany is currently in scarce supply.
Sapele: Light red to dark reddish brown heartwood with pale yellow sapwood, with interlocked, sometimes wavy grain. Milling properties are good and it is easily finished. Good decay resistance and stability. Sometimes known as sapele mahogany.
Cherry: Rich red to reddish brown heartwood with creamy white sapwood. Cherry will darken with age and with exposure to light. Cherry is very easy to machine having fine uniform straight grain, satiny smooth texture and has good decay resistance and stability.
Alder: is almost white when freshly cut but quickly changes (upon being exposed to air) becoming light brown with a yellow or reddish tinge with no visible boundary between sap and hardwood. The wood is straight grained with a uniform texture. Alder possesses good dimensional stability after being kiln dried. Typically containing knots of various sizes, alder is an excellent choice for old world or rustic type doors. It is easily finished.
Red Oak: Pinkish reddish brown heartwood with white to light brown sapwood. The wood is mostly straight grained with a coarse texture. The wood is hard and heavy with great wear resistance and takes stain well although it dries slowly. Red Oak is the most abundantly available American produced hardwood.
White Oak: Light to dark brown heartwood with light colored sapwood, white oak is mostly straight-grained with medium to coarse texture, typically having longer rays than red oak. Like red oak, it is hard and heavy with great wear resistance and takes stain well although it dries slowly. White oak is impervious to liquids which accounts for its common use in casks and ship timbers.
Fiberglass doors are made of carefully aligned fiber yarn that has been bonded together with thermo-resins to produce a strong composite compound. Having thermal conductivity properties only slightly inferior to wood, fiberglass doors provide good insulation value. The material can be shaped to resemble wood grain, then finished into a product that is similar in appearance to natural wood. In general a fiberglass door will be less costly than a wood equivalent. Fiberglass is not usually susceptible to warping or rotting and will require a little less maintenance than a wood door. Some fiberglass doors are manufactured with a fiberglass veneer and a polyurethane filling to provide excellent insulative properties.
A potential downside to fiberglass doors is that since they are a molded product, they cannot be sized on a job site in order to fit odd shaped door jambs and other architectural eccentricities.
A steel/metal door is usually built around a wood frame with steel being clad to the outside of the frame and polyurethane filling the core. Steel/metal provides maximum security due to superior strength. It can be painted any color, but must be kept sealed, especially if the steel surface is exposed to the elements lest rusting may occur.
Steel/metal doors will dent easily. Where nicks in wood doors can easily be repaired and fiberglass doors offer dent resistance, steel does not afford either of those advantages.
As steel/metal has no peer as a thermal conductor, doors with inadequate insulation will be less energy efficient.
Identical to fiberglass doors, steel/metal doors cannot be custom sized on a job site.
Glass in the door can affect the energy efficiency of your door unit as well. Glass can be configured in any number of ways, as single pane, or as an insulated double pane unit. In addition, glass is available with various energy ratings. Low E glass (low emissivity) is a common and popular choice. Low E glass consists of microscopic metal or metal oxide layers that function to suppress radiative heat flow.
A common measure of thermal efficiency is called 'r value.' It is expressed as mathematical formula. Generally the higher the 'r value' the more efficient the product is.
'U value' is another common measurement and it is simply the reciprocal of the 'R value.' The lower the 'U value' the more efficient the product is.
Insulated glass units can sometimes be fabricated with an inert gas, argon, replacing the air in an insulated unit. Argon adds thermal efficiency to the insulated glass unit.
Many times decorative leaded glass will be desirable to enhance the aesthetic value of a door. Leaded glass is not particularly energy efficient, but many high end door manufacturers have the ability to insulate the leaded glass between two sheets of clear tempered glass. Low E glass can even be used and results in a more energy efficient product.
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