Home Guru

The Front Door as Key to a Home’s Personality

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By Bill Primavera

As a realtor, I always stress to clients the important the condition of their front door is. The front door can be the key to a home’s personality, either reflecting the condition of the space within – or contradicting it.

A beautiful, sturdy door with quality hardware greets the visitor with a confident hello; a weathered door, perhaps out of alignment, with old or poorly functioning hardware, conveys something quite different about the house, something unappealing.

Just as a person is judged within a few seconds of a meeting, a house is judged in great part by the condition, functionality and look of its front door.  When showing properties to prospective buyers, I’m always surprised to find an older home that has been upgraded, but the owners have not paid proper attention to the front door – especially its hardware.

If the door needs painting or is warped and if the hardware is tarnished and in poor working order, a pall can be cast over the entire house as being outdated. Perhaps some homeowners are not aware of a deteriorating front door because most people drive into their attached garage and walk directly into the mudroom or kitchen. However, visitors normally come only to the front door.

While the functional purposes of a front door are to withstand the elements, increase energy efficiency and provide protection, visitors view it as a statement, even a psychological one. If the door is attractive and in good shape, that perception extends to the entire household, and to its owner as well.

Look at your front door and determine whether it needs a simple sprucing up or a total replacement. Some door problems can be repaired and others cannot. If the door is improperly hung, has trouble closing or latching, is only slightly warped or is just sticking, these problems may be worth fixing. But if it has rot or is outrageously outdated in style, consider options for replacement.

Whether you use a contractor or a handyman, you’ll get different opinions about which kind of new door to choose. Some would suggest that the top-quality material is still considered to be wood. Steel or aluminum may be recommended as the most sturdy and secure, but according to most remodeling contractors, the best choice today is the new and high-quality fiberglass door. Its insulation quality is better than that of a wooden door, and it will not warp or crack.

The most appealing feature of a quality fiberglass door is that the manufacturers have managed to develop an incredibly realistic grain that matches real wood. Also, there is a virtually unlimited number of door styles and beveled glass options available. Fiberglass can be stained or painted, and fancy hardware can be applied to them, just as you would a wood door.

That brings us to door hardware, which, in aesthetic terms, can make a door “pop,” but if it’s worn, that pop can be a dull thud. The polished look is one factor, but a lock and handle’s functionality is the primary thing to consider.

Basically, locksets fall into two different categories, mortise or cylindrical. While I don’t fully understand the mechanical workings of these two types of locks, my trusted locksmith tells me that mortise locksets, which are installed into a rectangular dugout in the door, offer the ultimate in security, design and ruggedness.

The choice of locksets and handles can be a daunting experience. When I went hunting for new hardware, I was overwhelmed by the selection. I took a picture of the set I thought the most attractive and showed it to my locksmith and asked him to supply the best choice for my particular door, which is an antique and required all sorts of considerations for its installation. Better to leave such things to the experts, unless you’re great at doing things yourself.

Highly polished solid brass knobs, backplates and thumb latches are desirable but, fair warning, they can be quite expensive.

When it comes to selecting a color for the front door, it is best to coordinate or contrast with one of the house’s tones or the surrounding landscape. Most people today choose a deep green or red to have their front door stand out. There is a bigger trend now toward selecting yellow, which can be toned down with a covering glaze.

One cardinal rule about color: a front door should never be stark white. The theory here is that the door should relate to the landscape in some way and pure white is rarely found in nature. If your preference leans toward white, it should have a hue of another color, like pink or yellow. The large casing around the door should be a different color than the door itself. The casing should be treated like a trim which matches the windows and other trim.

For those of you with a bent toward feng shui, the front door is the main source of a house’s energy. For practicality, curb appeal and resale value, spruce up the front door, and in a sense, you have a new home.

Bill Primavera is a Westchester and Putnam-based realtor and marketing practitioner associated with William Raveis Realty. He can be reached at 914-522-2076.

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