First impressions

A few years ago, a door company based in Oregon launched a contest asking architecture students to design the ultimate front door. One of the winning entries was from a University of Kentucky at Lexington student who created an entry made from dark-stained mahogany with four blond panels crisscrossing the door’s facade.

“It’s called ‘The Good Luck Door.’ The designer thought every door you open should signify good luck so it represents the crossing of the fingers,” said Elizabeth Souders, product manager for Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors, the contest’s sponsor.

Not every front door is designed with symbols of good fortune but changing the entrance to a home can bring some positive results, whether it’s improving curb appeal, setting the overall feel for the rest of the house or creating a bold personal touch. A new door can also be a welcome face-lift when more intensive renovations just aren’t in the budget.

“(Entry doors) really can change the appearance and impression of a home,” said Darren Student, vice president of Quality Wood Products in Las Vegas. “It’s not uncommon for an attractive entry door to be noticed from a hundred feet away.”

One of the most popular trends for front doors right now is the incorporation of glass, which can add beauty while at the same time allow natural light to flow into the house, according to experts. The glass may be part of the door, or included in sidelights or transoms. It may be in the form of solid panels, beveled or laced with metal stripping to create everything from geometric designs to more traditional florid shapes.

Customers across the country, including Las Vegas, are turning toward more contemporary doors with cleaner lines such as craftsman and art deco styles. Fiberglass doors also are having an impact on the market thanks to new technology that enables makers to replicate the detailed graining of real wood. Therma-Tru Doors, a pioneer in the making of fiberglass entryways, offers doors that mimic woods such as fir, oak and even Honduran mahogany.

“There have been huge advances in the technology. Good luck telling which is wood and which is fiberglass,” Souders adds. “Fiberglass also has the widest range in terms of cost. You can paint or stain it, and you have a few hundred options for glass.”

In the competitive door market, change is never far away. Quality Wood Products, a door subcontractor, recently launched a sister company called New City Door, which offers a patented door with removable veneer panels. If that oak entry hasn’t kept up with the home’s modern interior, for example, a customer can simply replace the panels with a material such as aluminum.

“Presto, their entry door looks brand-new and is offering a completely new style,” Student said.

For higher-end homes, all-wood doors are still popular because of the detailed craftsmanship and a flexibility that allows each door to suit the specific needs of the customer.

“With wood you can get any size or design you want on each new door because we’re starting from scratch every time, literally,” said Brad Loveless, marketing manager for Simpson Door Co., which has been making wood doors for nearly a century.

Among the most popular wood choices for Simpson are mahogany, cherry, maple, knotty alder and Douglas fir, Loveless said. The company also has launched an Artist Collection with doors that feature glass panels created by master glass designer Mark Olson. His nature-inspired renderings, including California Poppy, Coastal Surf and Northwest Garden, can be found on the company’s Web site.

The choices can be confusing so before any purchase, it’s a good idea for consumers to do some research, whether it’s browsing showrooms, getting ideas from other homes in the neighborhood or checking the manufacturers’ Web sites, said Jerry Cordova, vice president of Avanti Door Group Inc. in Las Vegas. It’s also important to know the purpose of the new door, “whether it’s to give a face-lift, add value to the home or make a statement,” he said.

When it’s time to get specific, other issues to consider include the door material. Steel, for example, is very durable while fiberglass and wood offer more flexibility in terms of a door’s design, Souders said. In Las Vegas’ harsh desert climate, wood may not be the best choice for an entry without an overhang to protect it from the punishment of daily sun exposure.

“Doors that are dark will absorb the heat,” Souders adds. “And storm doors, while they can be energy efficient, you need to make sure they’re not getting a lot of sun because the glass can magnify the intensity of the heat and trap it.”

Homeowners also will want to consider whether the entry should blend with the rest of the exterior, or even mimic the flooring, cabinets or molding inside the home, Loveless said. Privacy is also an important consideration. Someone living near a street or in a neighborhood where the homes are close together may want glass panels that are opaque. Manufacturers make this decision easier by offering ratings based on the amount of privacy different glass panels provide.

Whatever the choice — whether it means buying something in stock at a home improvement store or custom ordering down to the very last detail — a front door can make an impact. And, if you keep your fingers crossed, perhaps even bring a bit of good luck.


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