6 Expert Tips To Choose An Exterior Door

Exterior doors, apart from welcoming visitors to our home, have three other main purposes - safety, privacy, and décor. With the increasing awareness about these aspects, both families and architects/interior designers have begun to pay more attention to the front doors.

"The front door continues to appeal to our sense of arrival. Call it the ceremony of coming home." - Akiko Busch

Are you buying a new home or remodeling your existing home? Remember, the front door creates the first impression about your home.

This guide provides important tips on how to make a lasting first impression with your exterior door.

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1. What Types of Exterior Doors Are There on the Market?

The are many types of exterior doors available. Here are the main ones:

Hinged

Also known as swinging doors, they are the most common type with a hinge mechanism fixing them to the door-frame. They open or close with a push or pull action, and are quite smooth to operate.

Hinged doors open in two ways:

  • 90° swing: These doors usually open to a wall or partition at the right angle. They have to be fitted with 90° hinges.

  • 180° swing (also called straight-angle opening): They open with a full swing, meaning they come to the same angle when fully closed or fully opened. Special 180° hinges are used for these doors. You can opt for soft-opening hinges for enhanced performance of these entry doors.

There are two main shortcomings of hinged exterior doors:

  • The hinges may rust, corrode, or deform under climatic effects. This will adversely affect functioning of the door.

  • If it is a wood or processed wood door, it will expand during heavy rain periods, so it may not close properly or not close at all.

If any of the above happens to your door, you will require a qualified carpenter's service.

Important: These domestic doors should not be confused with the heavy-duty swinging doors commonly installed in offices, malls, and other public places.

Hanged White Decorative Exterior Doors
Hanged Large Brown Wooden Exterior Doors
Hanged Simple Elmwood Exterior Door
Hanged Decorative Aluminum Exterior Door
Hanged White Aluminum Exterior Door
Hanged Mahogany Wood Exterior Door

Sliding

These doors slide in a straight line instead of swinging at 90° or 180°. When fully open, they form a double layer with the adjacent door panel.

Sliding exterior doors have limited usage as front doors because of safety and material considerations. However, they find common use for other exterior areas such as rear doors and backyard doors.

Sliding doors rest on aluminum or steel channels fitted to the floor. The base of these doors has metal or heavy-duty plastic rollers that facilitate the sliding action.

Sliding entry doors are ideal for areas that don't have the floor space required to open hinged doors. As such, they are excellent space-savers. Secondarily, they are good when** safety and security are not primary issues.**

Aluminum Sliding Screen Doors in White
Aluminum Sliding Screen Doors in White and Grey
Aluminum Sliding Double Doors in White and Grey
Meshtec Double Ultimate Aluminum Sliding Door
Black Plastic Sliding Track Screen Doors

Energy-efficient

Entry doors can account for a huge energy loss. Some types of doors provide better protection against that loss than others.

Do consider the steel, fiberglass, and vinyl entry doors for their exceptional energy efficiency. They are discussed in more detail in the materials section.

Storm doors

This is the door in front of the exterior door. If you want a wooden entry door, you can install a fiberglass storm door and thus prevent energy permeation to and from your exterior door. Enhanced safety and protection from high winds, rain, storm, and snowfall are bonuses!

Note: if you are considering using glass in your entry door, you can improve its energy efficiency by putting an insulating strip on the edges. This method is called weatherstripping. Glass being a good conductor will cause much energy loss without this measure.

Patio and French patio doors

They are the gateways to your cherished patio space. Being located at the rear of your home, you can afford to focus on their elegance and charm without being concerned about safety and security.

Commonly, patio doors are single-piece glass, fiberglass, or vinyl sliding exterior doors. They are available in a wide range of designs that will suit any kind of patio ambiance and décor.

French patio doors can be hinged or fully swinging doors. Usually, they are double-doors, not single units. You can have the option of opening just one door, not both.

Large Magnet Patio Door Mesh Curtain
Hand In-Swing Exterior Patio Door
Fiberglass Mesh Curtain Entry Patio Door Screen
French Door Mesh Curtain Magnet Patio Door
Magnetic Screen Patio Door with Heavy Duty Mesh

2. What Materials Are Used for Exterior Doors?

Modern technology and architecture design have made it possible to have beautiful exterior doors from a wide range of materials.

Wood

This has been the predominant furniture material since centuries, and for good reasons:

  • Wood is elegant and eco-friendly

  • It is very strong and long-lasting, hence it offers protection and durability

  • Excellent textures and grains of different types of wood - oak, maple, cedar, birch etc.

  • Biodegradable

  • Can be recycled and up-cycled. Processed wood products such as hardboard, plywood, veneer, and composite wood are good examples.

  • Exciting surface finishing options. You can paint, spray, varnish, lacquer, stain, and French-polish wood to suit your taste and ambiance.

Considering the above features, it is obvious that you may want a wooden front door. Go ahead and make your choice from thousands of designs available in catalogs and on manufacturer websites.

Note: While considering wooden exterior doors, you can choose from pre-hung varieties, which have the door already hinged with the frame, or just the door structure.

Dark Solid Wood Exterior Door
Cherry Wood Exterior Door with Glass
Wooden Frame Front Entry Doors
Solid Wood Front Exterior Door
Hemlock Wood Prehung Front Entry Door
Mahogany Wood Slab Front Entry Door

Steel

It is one of the strongest man-made materials. Steel exterior doors offer unbeatable safety and security and fortifies your home against intruders. It also offers good thermal insulation, hence it ranks high on energy-saving. The standard thickness of steel used in exterior doors should be 24-gauge.

It would be a mistake to think that steel exterior doors are heavy, bulky, and aesthetically dumb and dull. Contemporary steel door designs are as good as or better-looking than wooden or other doors. When combined with glass, buff glass, inlaid glass, screens, aluminum or wrought iron grills, or even stain-glass, steel doors can create a breath-taking first impression.

Baroque Iron Front Entry Door
Iron Oval Decorative Front Entry Door
Aluminum Exterior Door in Brown
Decorative Aluminum Exterior Door in Brown
Square Modern Iron Exterior Door
Oval Iron Front Entry Door in Brown

Fiberglass

The adaptability of this wonderful material makes it possible to have entry doors of enduring elegance and lasting beauty. Apart from the fiberglass body, manufacturers today produce countless varieties of fiberglass sheet designs and textures that can be framed on doors.

Also, consider these features of fiberglass:

  • Very durable
  • Highly resistant to climatic and atmospheric elements (air, moisture, heat, cold, snow)
  • Very stable - unlike wood, it will not expand, deform or corrode
  • Stain and scratch-resistant
  • Virtually maintenance-free
  • Excellent thermal insulation

As for the energy efficiency properties of fiberglass, it is an excellent non-conductor of heat. For this reason, fiberglass exterior doors reduce heat loss to a minimum and can be classified as energy-efficient exterior door.

You would be also pleasantly surprised to see the excellent finish and designs of these doors. Hence, it's not as if you would be compromising on the aesthetic appeal when you use them. All this gives you enough reason to favorably consider a fiberglass front door.

1-Panel Fiberglass Front Entry Doors
Clear Glass and Fiberglass Entry Door
Black Fiberglass Front Entry Door
Modern Fiberglass Front Entry Door
Double Fiberglass Front Entry Doors in Blue
Decorative Fiberglass Front Entry Door

Vinyl

Vinyl is another great material for entry doors. It is pocket-friendly, yet it offers superior performance and aesthetic appeal.

Some of vinyl's favorable characteristics are:

  • Vast range of designs
  • Countless surface textures and finishes including wood textures
  • Maintenance-free
  • Energy-efficient. It provides excellent thermal insulation. Vinyl entry doors create an excellent barrier through which heat or cold cannot permeate easily.
  • Affordable yet effective
  • Suitable for many climatic conditions

3. Which are the Standard Exterior Door Sizes?

In the US, the standard size for exterior doors is 6'8" (80") x 3' (36"). Newer homes also offer 8' tall exterior doors. And their thickness is between 44mm and 70mm.

However, we would be generalizing this tip if we stopped here. While selecting the door size, please also keep in mind points such as:

  • Climate. If you live in a cold area, you would not like to install a very wide door that wastes energy unnecessarily.

  • Family members. If you have senior parents or members of the family with special needs, you will have to select the door with maximum width.

  • Home type. If it is an apartment, you will want a door size that is similar to other doors on your floor. But if yours is an independent home or a villa, it makes sense to choose a wider, more welcoming size.

Having a bespoke exterior door size is also a welcoming idea for all homes except apartments, where uniformity is advisable. For example, if you have a low-rise home with a sloping roof, opt for a wide door that will match the entire setting. Or, opt for a tall door if your home is multi-storied with a covered porch and the entry door is set deep inside.

Mahogany Slab Single Exterior Door
Mahogany Wood Single Exterior Door in Black
Mahogany Wood Single Exterior Door in Grey
Steel Double Entry Door
Primed Fiberglass Double Entry Door in Red
Primed Fiberglass Double Entry Door in White

4. What Should You Keep In Mind While Choosing an Exterior Door?

These are some important points while matching your door to the exterior of your house:

Location

  • Front doors - Keep in mind the other external features of your home such as front lawn, flora and shrubs, the color of exterior walls, and texture or finish of front façade.

  • Entry doors in backyards, patios, and gardens, consider the other elements such as a gazebo, swimming pool and pool furniture, other exterior furniture, and wall color.

  • Storm doors, keep in mind the wall color and the style, design, and color or the exterior door.

Climate

This is important from durability, safety, and energy efficiency standpoints. Be careful about:

  • The maximum and minimum temperature range. If you live in cold regions or at higher altitudes, a wooden exterior door would be your pick since it absorbs heat. But if you live in the Midwest with significant temperature variations, you would want an all-weather option such as steel, aluminum, or fiberglass.

  • Adaptability with the overall exterior ambiance. Regardless of the location of your exterior door, the rule of the thumb is it should naturally and seamlessly merge with the exteriors.

5. Which Locking Devices and Security Features Should I Consider?

There are locks and locks. However, below are the state-of-art locking and security devices for your exterior door:

  • Reinforced locks: these are child-proof, burglar-proof, and tamper-proof spring-loaded locks. A reputed brand will withstand 800 pounds' weight without giving in.

  • Door jammers: Typically made to block unauthorized entries. These tough jammers can resist a weight load of 2,500 pounds!

  • Smart locks: These are truly futuristic locking devices that offer the ultimate solution in safety and security. From key-less and contact-less models to app and Alexa-operated gadgets, you will come across a big variety to choose from. Some impressive features of these locks are:

    • Built-in alarm
    • Remote operation through a smartphone app
    • Fingerprint-only access
    • Alexa-enabled
    • Touchpad

Some combination locks offer up to 365 codes for you to change them every day!

6. What Standards and Certifications To Look For When Choosing Exterior Doors?

Below are some important ones to look for when shopping for your doors. We advise you check with the provider whether the doors you are planning to buy are compliant with the standards below:

  • ISO 7172:1988. It is for the strength and stability-related performance of doors.

  • Energy Star. It is the program run by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy that certifies energy-efficient products.

  • The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) for quality of doors.

  • AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 - North American Fenestration Standard/Specification (NAFS) standards for windows, doors, and skylights

  • CSA A440.2  - Fenestration Energy Performance

Lily is a modern designer with great appreciation for sleek architecture, a love for art in its many forms, and a passion for sharing her experience with people. If you’re looking for advice on how to modernize your old-fashioned place or make your new restaurant a visual blast, she’s definitely the one to ask.