Craftsman Collection from Marvin Windows & Doors

Grand Openings

Entry doors represent the first chance to make an impression, and plenty of options are available for homeowners to showcase their personalities

By Tosha Kelly

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and when people visit your home, the first impression is often your entry door. As many realtors can attest, a weary-looking front door signals to the neighborhood, and to prospective homebuyers, that the house behind it needs major repairs or updating.

One of the best ways to boost your home's curb appeal (and its perceived value) is to replace your entry doors. But choosing new exterior doors can be a daunting challenge, given the number of materials, styles and features available in the market today.

Before starting the process, here are some tips from the experts.

Material matters

The material your door is made from is perhaps the most important. Fiberglass is growing in popularity for its low maintenance and cost; however, solid wood doors have their loyal supporters who love the authenticity of real wood. Many doors combine different materials, such as fiberglass or steel doors that have wood frames. But it's the surface material that most affects appearance, durability, security and price.

Wood Doors: the real deal

For many homeowners, the look, the texture and even the smell of wood evokes Old World craftsmanship and quality. When it comes to entry doors, wood may be the only material these homeowners will consider because of its classic curb appeal and timeless good looks.

Natural-finish stock and custom wood doors come in oak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, maple, fir, and pine. You'll also find paint-grade doors in several softwood varieties, such as pine and western hemlock.

"One note of caution in selecting a solid wood door," warns Michael Endres of Greatland Construction, "they are extremely beautiful, extremely expensive and are very high maintenance, especially with a lot of sun exposure. I have a solid maple door and after four years it's starting to crack and needs to be refinished." Wood also twists, warps, swells and moves with humidity levels in the air, Endres explains. "It becomes tight at the top and loose at the bottom, which allows air to get through. It's a gorgeous door," he says, "but beware. It's not a stable choice."

When shopping for prefinished wood doors, look for durable stains and clear finishes, such as polyurethane. For painted doors, high-gloss sheens offer the best protection.

Fiberglass Doors: low maintenance and new 'faux' looks

Fiberglass, an emerging material in the exterior door market, features all the benefits of wood without any of the drawbacks. "It won't rust or rot and one to two years later down the road it will look the same," says Cecil White of Builders Millwork Supply. Fiberglass requires little maintenance, and its insulation and durability make it perfect for any climate. Another plus? "You can paint or stain it to match the look of your home," White says. "There's no limit to what you can do."

Plus, today's fiberglass doors closely emulate the look of real wood and are available with a variety of options for customization — from panel finishes and textures to decorative hardware and glass. Manufacturers are continuously adding new textures to replicate woods such as mahogany, oak or fir.

Decorative Features: from glass to grilles

For an eye-catching entry, spruce up your door with decorative glass. This is an area where homeowners can customize and add drama, while also letting in natural light – an especially nice touch in dark entries. The options are endless: Transoms and sidelights, for example, come in multiple shapes with many different decorative glass features.

Beautifully ornate wrought-iron designs – also called grilles – help add complexity and interest to a door. The wide range of grille designs – from Old World to modern – give homeowners the flexibility to choose a door that reflects their personality and their home's architectural style and decor.

Hesitant about the idea of adding glass to your entryway due to security concerns? One option is adding decorative glass that allows light in but obscures vision so people can't see into your house. Impact-resistant glass can also add to a home's security as the glass shatters but does not give way.

So what does your front door say about you? If you're like most homeowners, according to a recent Jeld-Wen survey, you inherited your front door along with the house, and your current door doesn't reflect your personal style. Ready for a change? Among today's entry doors, customization reigns supreme, allowing you to find the perfect door for you. Better yet, you can set the overall tone for your home and make a great first impression for years to come.