MATERIAL MATTERS

Most manufacturers offer dozens of door styles, and you'll find a broad selection at lumberyards, home centers, and door dealers. Or, design your own door. Some manufacturers let you specify the types of panels and glass options you want. But these doors have to be specially ordered and take two to eight weeks for delivery. A third option is to have a local woodworker or millwork shop build a wood door according to your specifications. Again, the drawbacks are time and money.
Perhaps the most important decision is what your door is made of. Most combine several materials; for example, many fiberglass and steel doors have wood frames. But it's the surface material that most affects appearance, durability, security, and price. Wood doors are the most common. Versatility and beauty are their strong suit. Natural-finish stock and custom wood doors come in oak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, maple, fir, and pine. You'll also find paint-grade doors in several softwood varieties, such as pine and western hemlock. Many stock wood doors are a sandwich of wood-veneer skins over an engineered-wood core. This configuration minimizes the expansion and contraction that cause warping. At about $200 or so to start, they're a low-cost alternative to solid-wood doors. Look for tough, furniture-grade veneers at least 1/16 inch thick; anything thinner damages too easily. Companies such as Lamson-Taylor, Pella, and Simpson discourage bowing and warping by laminating two pieces of wood to create the stiles and rails. Split construction is also used for door panels, but they have an insulation core. The result is a wood door with an insulation value of about R-5 compared with R-2 for conventional versions. These doors cost about $300 to $500. Solid-wood doors cost the most. A 3-foot-wide x 6-foot 8-inch-high, six-panel pine door runs at least $600, while hardwood doors are even more expensive. Figure on about $2,000 to $4,000 for a complete system that includes a prehung door in its frame, hinges, locksets, sidelights, and weatherstripping. When shopping for prefinished wood doors, look for durable stains and clear finishes, such as polyurethane. High-gloss sheens offer the best protection for painted doors. Whichever finish you choose, apply it to the top and bottom edges. This helps prevent a wood door from absorbing moisture and swelling. Also look for careful detailing. As a rule, the more intricate the carvings and moldings, and the thicker and wider the stiles and rails, the better the door. The same goes for panel thickness. For example, the high-end doors from Nord have 1 3/8-inch panels compared with the 9/16- and 3/4-inch panels on low-end models.
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