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When one feature of a home is just the right fit – the highest quality, expertly installed by a true craftsman – it stands out as an indicator of the care and attention afforded to the home. Nowhere is this more true than right at the front door. But what are the hallmarks of quality in an entry door?
"We talk about fit and finish," says Bruce Killeen, general manager at JELD-WEN IWP Division. "The finish is how the door looks from the street, and also how it looks up close. Fit refers to how the door operates – how it seals tightly when you shut the door." A quality door installed correctly moves easily, yet feels substantial. And, of course, it looks great, too. "The front of the house just pops when it has a high-quality door."
Think back to your own childhood home. It's possible that your entry door was solid wood, a standard in older homes that served to fortify the house against the elements, day after day.
But the solid wood entry door your parents and grandparents relied upon to keep out the cold and keep their family secure year after year, in most cases, is becoming harder to find. That's because "old-growth" lumber is a modern-day scarcity.
"Today's lumber is much more soft and less stable than the lumber used to make doors 50 to 100 years ago," says Jeff Pagnier, millwork department head at Mans Lumber & Millwork in Trenton and Canton, and industry expert in the history of entry door materials and trends. "Old-growth lumber has mostly been depleted, and therefore the quality of the current lumber supply available for all items is much lower than it has been historically."
Yet some door manufacturers can still source high-quality wood materials, harvested from global regions where old growth still exists. "JELD-WEN's IWP division has access to genuine mahogany, which has historically been the best wood species for doors," Pagnier says. JELD-WEN IWP harvests old-growth lumber, and custom-crafts wood doors using artisan techniques, for the same built-to-last quality you remember from your grandparents' home.
Many quality choices – what is right for your home?
The choice, then, is about the look you want and the quality you expect for your replacement entry door. Where anything but natural wood simply won't do, it's comforting to know that you can still get the old-growth wood quality your home deserves. If a natural wood door is your choice, make sure you talk with a trusted, knowledgeable retailer, and learn more about the maintenance requirements of natural wood.
Not into the yearly upkeep a natural wood door requires? Fiberglass is fast becoming a popular material choice for entry doors, for its solid construction, long life, and insulating properties. If you believe a fiberglass door just won't suit your own sense of style, it's worth considering a better-than-wood alternative. The Aurora, a product of JELD-WEN IWP, is just that.
"Wood is typically considered higher-end, with fiberglass being a lower-end product, but with Aurora, you are getting the best of both worlds," says Bruce Killeen. "Aurora offers a high-end look without the maintenance headaches." A limited lifetime structural warranty and five-year finish warranty, not typical in the industry, backs the quality of this product, Killeen says.
Renovate and transform your look
A renovation project is a great opportunity to upgrade the look of your home, increase your energy efficiency, and even try out new ways of making your home accessible. "We have seen people take a boring, six-panel door and replace it with a contemporary design, or a craftsman door. This is something that can really update the look of your house. It can transform the home completely," says Killeen.
By opening the front of your home with a wider entry space, you can increase accessibility to your home now, and for the future. Double-wide strollers and wide wheelchairs that struggle to wedge through a standard 36-inch wide doorway can breeze through a four-foot wide space, which is available with an Aurora door.
Choose a low-profile, ADA sill for your front door for even better access for wheelchairs and strollers, suggests Pagnier. If your home has additional space, you can flank your new door with sidelights, and let the sunshine flood in, for a dramatic change that opens up your interior rooms, too. No room for sidelights? Select a door that has a half-, three-quarters, or full-window design instead, without sacrificing energy efficiency. Now that's something your grandparents could never do.
"Aurora offers complete design flexibility. You can go anywhere in terms of size or width," says Killeen. Aurora designs are inspired by the most innovative homes on earth, and can be customized to your specific style. "People will look at a catalog, but they want to tweak their choice a little. They have a base and they want changes. We can accommodate that, but a lot of the competition can't," says Killeen.
There is still time to make a change, big or not-so-big, to your home's entry profile before winter sets in this year. Talk to your contractor about your options, or visit a trusted retailer. Better yet, talk to someone who has seen the changes in entry door materials and knows the history of the industry, from your grandparents' era to today.
"We have been around since 1900, and are a fourth-generation, family-owned Michigan business. We're not going anywhere, and will always be here for our customers," says Chris Mans, vice president of Mans Lumber and Millwork.
Want to know more? Contact Mans Lumber & Millwork at 734-714-5800 or manslumber.com.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Mans Lumber & Millwork.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.