Is a Wood Door Right for You?
Consult this handy list to see if a wood door makes sense for your house.
Is it protected from rain?
A wood door holds up best, and requires less maintenance, in a covered entryway. To be effective, that roof should project at least half the height of the door, including its sill and any overhead windows, such as the transom shown on the right. If the roof is 10 feet above the door’s landing, for example, it should project 5 feet. Also, the roof’s width should be at least 1½ times the door’s.
Is it exposed to the sun?
Doors that bake in the sun for more than 4 hours a day will quickly lose their looks without routine care. Clear-coated doors must be recoated every one to two years, and painted ones require a fresh coat every five to six years.
Is the sill high enough?
It should clear a porch landing by 4 to 6 inches to prevent built-up snow or pooled rainwater from causing rot.
Is fire a concern?
Check your local building codes, particularly if you live in a place prone to wildfires. A few doors are rated to withstand 60-minute infernos.
How cold does it get?
Standard 1¾-inch-thick wood doors have an R-value of about 2.5, close to that of a double-pane window. That’s far lower than a foam-filled fiberglass or steel door, but with tight weatherstripping you can boost its ability to stop air infiltration.
Alternatives to Wood
Both steel and fiberglass doors need less maintenance and get higher fire ratings than wood doors. And because they have foam cores, they insulate about twice as well. MDF (medium-density fiberboard) doors, made of glued wood fibers, are relatively recent arrivals to the marketplace. None of these alternatives have as many design options for you to choose from as wood does.
Magnetic weatherstripping makes these entries as tight as a refrigerator, but they’re susceptible to dents, dings, and rust. The embossed panels do not mimic wood convincingly. Steel is the least expensive wood alternative.
Better than steel at imitating wood, resisting water, and standing up to blows, but susceptible to fading. Keep it clean by wiping it down with soapy water. The cost is comparable to a high-end stock wood door.
It looks like paint-grade wood but typically costs less and carries a fire rating of up to 90 minutes. These doors must be kept painted on all sides with an exterior oil-based paint to maintain their five-year warranty.
How Safe is Your Door?
It’s a common misconception that it’s easier to break in through a wood door than a steel or fiberglass one. In fact, it’s not the door but the latch-side jamb that’s the weak link. To prevent a forceful kick from splitting the jamb, install an extra-long security strike plate using 3-inch screws sunk into the neighboring stud.
Here are the other major safety factors to consider.
1. Door thickness A beefy 1¾ inches beats 1 3/8 inches and still accepts standard locksets. Any thicker, and you’ll need a special lock and bigger hinges.
2. Hinges Use 3-inch-long screws in all three hinges to anchor the hinge-side jamb securely to its stud.
3. Glass Standard door lights made of tempered glass won’t stop a would-be intruder from breaking them and opening a door from the inside. To thwart such a break-in, order hurricane-rated glass, which has an unbreakable inner layer of plastic.
4. Lockset Mortise locks are typically built with higher grade steel, and are therefore stronger than the average bored locksets from a home center.