One of the improvements I wanted to make to my home immediately was to replace some of the residential exterior doors. When we went through our first walk through the property with our realtor, I had decided if my family bought that house then those doors would have to go. And I stuck to my promise and replaced all of the exterior wood doors.
As usual though, I discovered that replacing those doors was a bit trickier than I’d thought at first. In fact, just choosing the right doors was a challenge.
Choosing Materials for Residential Exterior Doors
Your exterior doors need to be chosen carefully for a couple of reasons. Unlike your interior doors, these doors are going to be exposed to the harshest things Mother Nature can throw at it. From hail to snow to wind, your door needs to be able to stand up to it for years.
Many doors, particularly in older homes, are made from wood. Wood can be very attractive, but it does pose some durability problems. For one, the weather conditions can warp the door meaning eventually it won’t fit as snugly into your doorway as before. The result is a reduction in energy efficiency because more air from outside can get into your home.
When you start looking at new doors, you’ll find that there are more energy efficient models available. The most cost-effective are probably the steel variety. They cost around $150 at the low end and can be painted so they match the rest of your home. The steel won’t warp, and they handle wear and tear pretty well. Fiberglass and composite doors are two other options. These cost $300 and up. They aren’t quite as energy efficient as steel, but they have a more upscale look. If you or your spouse hates the idea of a steel door, either of these options would be a better choice than wood.
Residential Exterior Doors & Safety
One of the big concerns when you are replacing exterior wooden doors on your home is safety. When I was door shopping, for example, I found a beautiful model that had lovely windows around the edges. Another shopper saw me admiring the door and warmed me against buying it. His son-in-law had installed the same door a few weeks earlier, then a burglar broke one of the glass panels, reached inside, unlocked the door, and robbed their family while they were away for the weekend.
Those windows are beautiful, and they do let plenty of light into your home. However, you have to weigh those benefits against the safety risks. Look for doors that might allow you to have both by placing the windows in strategic locations or by including other safety features. Remember that the glass could also be broken by a careless paperboy, a neighbor kid playing ball, or even a particularly bad storm.
My advice for buying residential exterior doors is to stick with metal, particularly steel. It’s affordable and durable. If you love the wood look and can afford a little more then give the composite or fiberglass versions a whirl. But never make your purchase without thinking about your home’s and your family’s safety.