One of The Best Ways to Improve Your Home is Do-able in a Day


It’s shockingly difficult to add value to your home these days. Only a few projects have a return of over 100 percent, which means that, no matter what improvements you make, chances are good you won’t get all of your money back when you sell your house. This shouldn’t discourage you from making changes however, as there are other great reasons to upgrade and improve certain features — starting with this one, which can be completed in less than one day.

New front doors (specifically steel front doors) rank consistently as one of the best improvements you can make to the average home. Not only do they increase your home’s efficiency while you’re still living there, they also amp up your home’s curb appeal to attract potential buyers when you’re ready to sell.

Replacement Options

When it’s time to replace, you have a couple of options, both of which should take a day or less for a professional to install.

Pre-hung doors come already mounted in a frame, with hinges, and pre-cut holes for handles and lock sets. If you are doing the work yourself, it’s easier to pull off a level, weather-proof exterior door with this set up. You might still have to trim it out with casing, and paint.

Slab doors are just the door, without the frame, hinges, or door handles (although they can have the pre-cut holes). If you go this route, you’ll install the new door in the existing frame, or build out a new frame yourself. If you have the skills, you can save money this way, and have more control over the look of your door, i.e. use a vintage one that you are in love with. Since you are working with less-than-standard variables however, this can complicate the work.

Above, Tiffany’s New Orleans home has a classic looking front door but is painted a light robin’s egg blue — one of the easiest ways to customize your new entry. The color is welcoming and cheerful, and the windows at the top let light into the entryway.

The cost of a similar new front door will, of course, vary depending on a variety of factors, such as going DIY vs. hiring someone to help, the region where you live, and how fancy you want your new door to be. Remodeling Magazine estimates a nationwide average cost of $1,413 for a pre-painted pre-hung door installed by a pro. A similar door to the one above from Home Depot sells between $400-600, if you want to go the DIY route.

More Door Buying Basics

You’ll need to choose between an inswing door (which opens inwards) and an outswing door (which, you guessed it, opens outward).

Hollow core doors are cheaper, lighter and easier to install, while solid core doors do a better job at muffling noise and are higher quality for home resale.

Make sure you’ve chosen a door that’s appropriately right-handed or left-handed —which is the side where the new handle is placed —depending on your preference.

Arielle Goldman’s historical Richmond home if chock full of charm and detail, starting with her front door. To get this look yourself, start by adding a fresh coat of paint in a bold color to a new door, then add in brass details like the knocker, mail slot, and kick plate.

You can buy a basic steel door from the hardware store for less than $200, like this one from Lowe’s which comes pre-hung and primed. Vintage-style hardware is available from places like House of Hardware, where you can pick up a kick plate for around $100. Mail slots start at around $50, but you’ll need to cut a hole in the existing door first (which is not so easy with steel, so you might want to go a different route there).

Common Door Materials

Steel is the readily available budget option, although they can be both heavy to install and hard to cut through to customize. They usually come pre-primed, which makes for easy painting. But because metal is a good conductor, these aren’t as energy efficient as fiberglass versions.

Fiberglass doors are less affordable than steel, but last the longest without heavy maintenance, as they resist rot, denting, rusts, warps and cracks. Today, you can get a fiberglass door that even looks like wood, with a similar texture (which can also make it harder to paint).

Wood is perhaps the most beautiful option, but harder to maintain than the other two types. They are more subject to temperature and humidity fluctuations, which potentially leads to warping and cracking. When it’s time to repaint, you’ll need to scrape or peel off old paint before you paint again.

Evan and Gavin’s Seattle residence is decidedly mid-century, so it only makes sense that they have a front door to match. The avocado green paint is both period appropriate, but also looks great next to the grey siding.

Retro Renovation has a great roundup of resources for doors that fit in nicely with the time period. Although none are steel, several companies offer fiberglass or wood varieties, with super retro windows in different configurations. Above, Builders Choice sells glass-paneled fiberglass doors at Home Depot between $700 – 1200, pre-painted in some fun colors. Very groovy.

And if I lived in Santa Cruz, and I didn’t always have the door wide open, I’d choose this mostly glass exterior door as well. Caryn and her family are able to enjoy their uninterrupted beach view all day long.

If you like this look, Steve & Sons have a similar fiberglass version available for between $350-550 depending on size.

If you choose to DIY, here’s a great how to for replacing a pre-hung door, from the DIY Network.

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