How to Replace a Front Door
Sometimes replacing a door means simply exchanging one door, called a slab or blank, for another. But in some cases you’ll have to rip out and replace the old door framing, which includes the door jambs and threshold — especially if these wood members have begun to rot.
Even if the old door frame is fine, the wall studs it’s nailed to can bow and settle out of square. This makes it difficult to open and close the door. To make a new wood door fit an out-of-kilter frame, you’ll need to plane the top and bottom or even trim one of these edges so the door hangs correctly. This is only an option with a wood door; metal and fiberglass doors can’t be planed or cut.
Prehung Front Doors
Most new doors are prehung, which means the door hangs on hinges within a new frame (these systems also include some form of weatherstripping). Prehung doors are an ideal choice if the old frame is bad or if you’re removing the frame because you want to enlarge the opening.
If you’re replacing your old door with a prehung unit, first determine if you need a left- or right-hand door. Stand in the doorway and face outside. If the lockset is on your right, you have a right-hand door.
Front Door Designs
Most manufacturers offer dozens of door styles, and you’ll find a broad selection at lumberyards, home centers, and door dealers. Or, design your own door. Some manufacturers let you specify the types of panels and glass options you want. But these doors have to be specially ordered and take two to eight weeks for delivery. A third option is to have a local woodworker or millwork shop build a wood door according to your specifications. Again, the drawbacks are time and money.
Best Materials For Front Doors
Perhaps the most important decision is what your door is made of. Most combine several materials; for example, many fiberglass and steel doors have wood frames. But it’s the surface material that most affects appearance, durability, security, and price.
A steel door is your best bet if security and durability are top priorities. Steel units are stronger than wood or fiberglass doors, and they won’t crack or warp. Any dents or dings on these doors can be pulled and puttied with an auto-body repair kit.
Steel doors also cost the least: Prices start at about $150 for a 3-foot-wide x 6-foot 8-inch-tall paneled door without hardware or glazing. A steel-door system with sidelights and premium hardware can nearly equal the cost of a wood-door system, however.
All steel doors have an inner frame made of wood or, for greater strength, steel. The cavities within the frame are filled with high-density foam insulation. Premium doors typically have a 24-gauge skin and a steel frame, though some offer heavier-gauge steel (represented by a lower number). The surface usually is smooth or has an embossed wood-grain pattern.
Most steel doors are coated with a baked-on polyester finish that requires periodic repainting. Premium versions get a vinyl coating similar to the one on vinyl-clad windows for greater weather resistance. Some even have a stainable wood-fiber coating or, on really high-end versions, a laminated-wood veneer.