Buying front door. No idea where to start.
November 2, 2014 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Our front door is letting cold air in, is ugly and is quite old (30 years+). So we are looking to buy a new one, and also have it installed. Where to start?

Our main problem with the door is that it is letting cold air in and that it is old. Our house is old and battered, and I'm not super-concerned about appearance, so the more economical the door is, the better. As long as it keeps the cold air from coming in and doesn't look like a disaster, I'll be happy.

The problem is that I know little about front doors, so I can't really give specifics on what kind I would like. I understand that the three main types are wood, steel, and fiberglass (right??). I was thinking fiberglass, since it seems like the most affordable option. But that is just an educated guess on my part.

I also don't know where I should buy it from. I would need installation too. Would Home Depot be a good choice for purchase + installation? Or maybe I should look for something on Angie's list?

So, my two questions are: 1. What kind of front door should I think about buying if my main requirements are that it is economical, energy-efficient + reliable? 2. Where are some good places to shop/have it installed from?

Thanks. We are living in Cleveland, Ohio if that helps any.
posted by BuddyBoo to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Home Depot, Lowes, or your local home improvement place can help you find one you like and get it installed.

Not necessarily the most price effective, but easy enough to be worth it, and big enough to have some recourse if things don't go as planned.

Otherwise, you can angies list any contractor or handyman to do it. In most cases, there isn't a whole lot to it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:25 AM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

For energy efficiency the installation may be more important than the door itself. You're almost certainly going to be buying not just a door, but a "pre-hung" door with the frame and hinges already attached. As long as it's installed plumb and level and square the weather seal between the door and frame should be fine, but you also need the contractor to do a good job of sealing between the frame and the rough opening in the wall. Worry more about the contractor than the door.
posted by jon1270 at 9:31 AM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

When I replaced my old front door a few years ago, I didn't have to do much more than find a company to do it, because they supply the door for the job. I got seven quotes in all before I was satisfied that I'd found the right people. The salesperson gave me catalogues of doors and colour samples to choose from. I picked out the door and, since I didn't care for any of their standard stock of colours, paid extra for a colour match to a paint chip I got at Home Depot and gave the door people. I also bought the door handle and lock set and had it in the house to give to the installers the day they arrived, bringing the door with them, to do the installation. The company will work with you to find a cost and energy efficient option.

I'd recommend checking Home Stars for your area to look for door installation companies.
posted by orange swan at 9:33 AM on November 2, 2014

So I live in an old house - the one thing I would strongly urge you to check is to see what kind of door you currently have, and if it's a standard size. Ours is not at all standard (in shape or Size) so a big box store would be a waste of time. If you have a standard door frame and door, any of the big box stores will be perfect (especially if your focusing on the economical instead of unique aesthetic)
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:53 AM on November 2, 2014

Where is the air leaking with your current door? If it is around the door, a couple of dollars worth of weatherstripping will solve your problem, and it's super easy. If around the frame, a couple of dollars of minimally expanding foam will solve your problem, but you'll have to remove the trim around the door on the inside to get at the space between the door frame and the rough opening.

If you do decide you need a whole new door, anything they sell as an exterior door at the big box stores will be fine unless you expect to have people trying to break it down, in which case you'll want something more solid than a steel clad foam core door, which is what I've used on the couple of replacement projects I've done.

There has been at least one episode of Ask This Old House with a segment on replacing exterior doors that would give you a good idea of what's involved. You might even find that it's something you can tackle yourself, if you have the necessary tools and mobility. (and preferably a second pair of hands)
posted by wierdo at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding the idea to double-check your door size.

We've actually been looking into getting our doors replaced at work (also in Cleveland, btw) and Home Depot has been no use at all, because of odd door sizes. We actually special-ordered doors from them, and they showed up 2 months late and the wrong size. So now we're collecting bids from contractors.

I'm not deeply involved with the project, so I can't give any recommendations or price estimates, but AFAIK we've just been calling various construction contractors (esp. ones that "specialize" in doors and home remodeling) and having them come out and take a look so they can give us a quote including the door and the installation.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2014

I sell doors (amongst other things). You will most likely get the best value for your money by purchasing the door from a locally owned or regional lumberyard/home supply store and finding a contractor to install it. That way you know exactly what you're spending for the door and the labor. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations, check Angie's List, and ask the store if they have anyone else to refer you to. Don't be surprised to spend as much or more on the labor, and yes a good contractor is worth the money.

For efficiency, ease of installation, and reliability you definitely want a pre-hung unit that comes with a frame. You should also look for an upgraded "rot-proof" or other weather-resistant frame, this should be a cheap upgrade so get it priced both ways. I always suggest fiberglass, but steel doors are generally slightly cheaper. The difference is usually only $20-40. Fiberglass will be more resistant to denting and won't feel cold to the touch like a steel door does in the winter. A smooth paintable door is least expensive, but you can get decently realistic woodgrain looks on fiberglass as well at additional cost.

Before you start shopping, you should measure the rough opening the door will be installed in and the jamb depth (to the best of your ability). Ask about the warranty on any doors you're considering and find out if there are any installation requirements or necessary accessories to qualify for coverage. If you have the time for it, don't be afraid to shop around. There are only a few major door manufacturers and you should be able to get prices on the exact same door from a couple different places to make sure you're getting the best value.

Feel free to MeMail any questions, and don't get intimidated by the technical aspects. In the end, any new door installed competently will be a huge upgrade in both efficiency and appearance.
posted by kyleg at 10:25 PM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

1. What kind of front door should I think about buying . . . ?
2. Where are some good places to shop/have it installed from?

We are living in Cleveland, Ohio . . .

You will most likely get the best value for your money by purchasing the door from a locally owned or regional lumberyard/home supply store and finding a contractor to install it

Correct. The answer to the second question in your case, BuddyBoo (you too Soundguy99) would be Lyndhurst Lumber. They'll help you answer the first question and will also line up an installer for you, who'll come out first and MEASURE before you order.

Ask for "Britt".
posted by Herodios at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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