Nothing says “welcome home” quite like a warm and inviting front door. The perfect front door should not only complement your home’s style, it should also increase its curb appeal.

Because your front door has the ability to add or subtract to your home’s value and safety, replacing it is consistently rated as one of the most high-value projects for homeowners to invest in. According to Remodeling Magazine, replacing your exterior doors to increase curb appeal is one of the most worthwhile projects when comparing the value to cost.

Without some expert guidance, choosing a new front entry door can be daunting but it really doesn’t need to be. Follow these few simple guidelines to help navigate through the process.  First, start by choosing your configuration, then narrow down your options by deciding which material best meet your needs.

Start with your configuration

Configuration is a good place to begin. The configuration of your door refers to the layout; single front door, double front door, and any combination of additional elements including single or double sidelights and overhead transoms.

Sidelights & Transoms

Sidelights are panels or windows that flank and accentuate your door(s). Front doors with sidelights are popular because they can transform an otherwise ordinary door into an elegant entryway. A transom is made with decorative glass inserts that are installed above the door to fill the entryway with natural light.

Next, choose a material to meet your needs

After selecting your front door configuration, decide which material meets your needs and expectations. When it’s time to replace a door, most people reflexively think of wood as their first option. But given durability issues inherent to wood, many homeowners are beginning to turn to other materials more frequently.

The material your door is made from will directly affect its performance. Durability, weather resistance, appearance, and level of maintenance are all things to consider when choosing a material.

Since functionality is the primary purpose of any door one of the best ways to narrow down choices is to look at options in terms of material. Here are some pros and cons to consider the most common front door materials; wood, steel, and fiberglass.

Wood

Wood doors are naturally beautiful and inviting. Best used in a covered area such as a house with a portico, porch, or storm door that will help protect it from harsh weather, a wood door can last for many years with proper maintenance.

Pros:
  • Wide variety of options, from bamboo to a traditional oak, mahogany, or even a more rustic cedar or knotty pine.
  • Highly customizable. Wood doors are easy to work with and can be made to fit your exact needs; cutting space for windows, trimming the dimensions to fit your specific doorway, and staining (or painting) in your preferred color.
  • Beauty. There is no denying the rich, timeless, and classic beauty of wood.
  • Scratches are easy and affordable to repair.
Cons:
  • Maintenance. Wood doors should be sealed before or immediately following installation. Wood doors need to reseal every couple of years. In the same manner, you may need to touch up stain or paint every few years, too, as they may chip with normal wear and tear over time.
  • Weather Resistance. If not properly maintained wood can absorb moisture, which eventually leads to warping and or swelling over time. Direct sunlight can also fade wood doors.
  • Wear and Tear. Because of their heavy material, wood doors may sag over time.
  • Cost. Generally, wood is a more expensive choice for an entry, in comparison to fiberglass and steel. Off-the-shelf replacement doors are the least expensive wood option, while custom wood doors are the most costly.

Steel

Just like wood and fiberglass, steel doors come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Steel is most often chosen for its strength, and the fact that it won’t crack or warp, but it can dent. Depending on the core, a steel door can help lower heating and cooling costs. but steel does conduct temperature, so its performance won’t be optimal in extreme climates. Steel is one of the least expensive options, but there is a trade-off in a shorter lifespan.

Pros:
  • Security. A steel door is your best bet if security or durability are your priorities.
  • Price. The cost of steel doors is generally less expensive than wood options, but both steel and fiberglass doors can vary widely depending on the quality, style, and size.
  • Low Maintenance.
Cons:
  • Durability. Exterior steel doors tend to have a shorter lifespan than both wood and fiberglass doors. If exposed to salt air, or overly humid climates, or heavy rains a steel door will last about ten years on average.
  • Dents and Scratches. Steel is more prone to scratches and dents than fiberglass, and this damage can be expensive to fix.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass doors are usually chosen for their affordability, durability, and the fact they’re almost maintenance free. Fiberglass doors can go years without needing touch-ups, so they are particularly well-suited for harsh and humid climates. This material tends to last longer than wood or steel, and its foam core is an excellent insulator.

Pros:
  • Wide variety of options. Fiberglass doors come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and finishes.
  • Close to wood. Thanks to advanced manufacturing techniques, many fiberglass doors closely mimic the natural look of wood.
  • Energy-efficient. Fiberglass doors have an energy-efficient core to help lower heating and cooling costs.
  • Cost. On average, fiberglass doors tend to be less expensive than wood. However, depending on their quality, style, and size, the cost of fiberglass doors can vary widely.
  • Weather Resistance. Fiberglass does not react to weather or temperature changes, it also doesn’t rust, making it a longer-lasting option for salty-air and humid climates.
Cons:
  • Security. Fiberglass is a lightweight material, which makes it easier to bend in and break through. If struck hard enough, fiberglass is susceptible to cracking.
  • Sizing. It’s very difficult to trim a fiberglass door. It also isn’t cost effective for manufacturers to make an individual door at an odd size. So, if your doorway isn’t a standard size you might have a hard time finding a custom size door for an affordable price.

Choosing the right front door will pay off with less maintenance, increased curb appeal, and potential energy savings. You’ll also have a fresh new entry that makes a great first impression. No matter which front door you choose be sure to personalize it with color, hardware, and accessories to make it your own.