The Ins and Outs of Exterior Doors
Get a crash course in choosing an entry door, from basic features to premium upgrades.
Synopsis: Senior editor Patrick McCombe spent years as a carpenter installing exterior doors, and also spent time selling them at a door shop. In this article, he explains what to know about size and inswing vs. outswing when ordering a door. He also runs through basic construction details, including material, sills, jambs and casing, hinges, and weatherstripping, as well as worthwhile upgrades when looking for a door that will last for decades.
I can’t think of something in a house that’s more important than the front door. It keeps out wind, rain, and intruders; it greets guests and provides light and fresh air; and it gets used every single day. For an exterior door to do a good job, its beauty must be more than skin deep—it’s the things you don’t see at first that determine whether an exterior door is ready for the long haul.
In addition to the years I spent as a carpenter installing exterior doors, I also spent a few years selling them at a pro-oriented lumberyard, where we had an in-house door shop and sold hundreds of doors every year. I got to see what makes a good door, and I also heard from builders and homeowners about all the possible problems. I learned what to know when ordering a door, and what you should look for when comparing options. Prices vary widely, so I’ll discuss options for all budgets.
Inswing vs Outswing
The first step in picking a door is to decide whether the door will swing in or out when it opens. In the United States, inswing doors are far more common than outswing doors, because you can open an inswing door when there are several feet of snow outside, and enter the house easily when your hands are full. That said, they don’t seal as well as outswing doors because wind pressure will work to open the door instead of pushing it closed. Because of their weathertightness, outswing doors are a better choice for coastal areas, though they can be harder to open for the reasons mentioned above.
From Fine Homebuilding #284
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More about exterior doors:
- Landings for Exterior Doors – Get the scoop on the specifications you need to install a variety of landings.
- Build a High-Performance Exterior Door – Not all exterior doors are created with the same quality and attention to detail.
- Design/Build: Entry Doors – There are a lot of things to take into consideration when designing and building a new entry door.