Deciding on an external door (especially one to the front elevation) can make a great impact on how your house is presented. They influence first impressions and initial kerb appeal so it’s essential to do a little research into doors and know what to consider before buying.

Take the time to compare the differences in material, thermal efficiency, security and, of course, budget. These factors should all inform the decision once you’ve chosen an external door design that suits the rest of the house.

The barriers between your home and the outside world, external doors provide privacy and a sense of security. As such, their practical — just as much as their aesthetic — attributes need to be thought through.

traditional georgian glazed door on cottage

Getting the design right for the style of house when choosing a front door is essential; this Georgian-style glazed door (from Evolution) is matched to a period renovation

What is the Best Material for an External Door?

Timber Doors

The most popular material for external doors, timber can be the cheapest to buy off-the-shelf but are also prone to twisting and warping over time.

  • Hardwood doors are just as likely as softwood doors to move, but a reasonable compromise for those who want something better is to choose hemlock, a durable North American softwood particularly well suited to doors.
  • Capable of outperforming hardwoods, Accoya heated timber, a process developed in Holland, and is usually finger-jointed which makes it more suitable for painting than staining.
  • Laminated or stabilised timbers (usually oak), which consists of small sections glued together, are also available.
interior shot of contemporary front door

Urban Front offer a great range of hardwood doors to suit all styles, including this Neo pivot door 

Aluminium Doors

Aluminium is widely used for sliding patio doors but the frames conduct a lot of heat so they’re not ideal, though the channels are relatively small. They are available in great swathes of RAL colours and sometimes metallic finishes for a truly personalised and individual aesthetic. Aluminium doors are a light-weight option and are great for contemporary homes that are not looking for a ‘timber-effect’ finish. 

Plastic External Doors

Although PVCu (sometimes written as uPVC) tends to be the cheapest alternative to solid timber doors, there is very little inherent strength in their make up.

The doors are built around a steel frame and invariably come with a multipoint locking which is necessary because of the material’s innate flimsiness.

red front door of traditional house

Anglian‘s Cottage range of composite doors can be personalised and made-to-measure

Other Popular Materials for External Doors

Non-timber external door materials tend to be more expensive, but they offer the benefit of dimensional stability. 

  • External doors made of steel are primarily used in social housing in the UK but are more popular in North America. However, steel tends to have an aura of security around it which is perhaps unjustified, since a door is no stronger than its frame (usually softwood). Steel takes paint well but is susceptible to bodywork damage
  • A realistic woodgrain can be achieved by using GRP (glass-reinforced plastic), also referred to as fibreglass. It can also match other joinery by using a stain

Composite External Doors

As PVCu and GRP are cladding materials, they require a subframe of timber or steel and are therefore referred to as composite doors. A big advantage of choosing a composite door is that the thermal characteristics can be improved by packing the hollow core with insulation. 

interior shot of wooden front door

Howdens‘ Linear is finished in an oak veneer and its glazed panel means the hallway is flooded in natural light

How Much do External Doors Cost?

As with most house fixtures, this is, in the majority, dependent on the spec and quality desired. PVCu traditionally costs around 20% less than solid timber doors, while composite doors can be tougher on the purse strings due to their build structure.

One thing to remember is that advertised front doors costs usually don’t include installation, delivery, hinges and sometimes VAT. This means a composite front door with a £450 price attached could end up costing more in the region of £1,000.

Matching Front Doors with House Style

Of course when choosing between wooden, plastic or aluminium front doors, cost will be a huge influence, but getting the style of door right is just as important when thinking about kerb appeal.

entrance with french doors of traditional style house

Evolution’s wood-effect french doors ensure the character of this Georgian property is not lost. Evolution’s external doors cost around £1,850 including installation

For older homes, timber is a sympathetic choice and might complement overall aesthetic of the property than, say, plastic. If your home is Georgian or Victorian, it could pay to research a good match for the period — for instance, late Georgian homes added fan lights where those earlier in the period completely filled the doorway with solid wood.

Adding glazing to a door allows natural light to infiltrate the entryway, which typically suffers from feeling pokey and dim.

Combining a contemporary home with sleek aluminium front door is a great choice as the vast array of colours provides amazing opportunity to get a little creative. Flush doors are also increasingly popular to achieve a sleek and polished finish to contemporary styles.

modern grey door with glazed glabel in new self build

Matching this grey Urban Front door to the contemporary grey cladding surround around the glazed gable creates a sleek finish on this self build

Keeping Homes Safe: Security in External Doors

External doors are the interface between the inside and outside worlds. They have to perform two distinct and contradictory functions: they have to be easy to get through for residents and guests but secure against unwanted visitors.

Generally, we have two separate locks on our front door:

  • The mortice deadlock sit inside the door housing and needs to be key-operated from inside and out.
  • A night or rim latch (still referred to as a ‘Yale’) can be hand-operated from the inside to facilitate escape in the event of a fire but are less secure than mortice locks as they can be forced open.

Although it’s not essential to have two separate locks, it does form part of the NHBC recommendations for new homes and as such has been widely adopted by insurance companies. The deadlock should be fivelever and should ideally meet the BS3621 standard.

Other features regarded as good security in front doors include fitting a door chain and, on solid doors, a viewer.

sage green entrance door with glazing

This timber front door is part of the Performance range from Green Building Store. It features triple glazing and dual compression seals for long-term airtightness. From £800-£1,550

Security Standards

There is an enhanced security standard, PAS 24, which is only available on factory-built doorsets. Houses that meet the Secured by Design standard set by the police also need to meet the PAS 24 standard.

This includes subjecting the doorset to a three-minute attack using a selection of hammers, crowbars and drills

aluminium blue green door

Origin’s aluminium doors are filled with a Thermimax core for optimum thermal performance. From £1,800

Smart Tech

If you want to incorporate some smart technology in your door security, then considering items like a smart doorbell can be a sensible move. Check out the best deals on smart doorbells on

Disabled Access

Front doors are required to have a level threshold as Part M of the England & Wales Building Regulations so that wheelchair users can come in and out of the house without having to go over a step. Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar regulations in place.

However, this doesn’t have to mean the threshold is at the front door, sometimes it’s more convenient to use another external door instead. Renovations and extensions to existing homes do not have to comply with Part M.

bright orange door on timber home

The bright orange front door contrasts beautifully with this contemporary home’s black timber cladding

Level Thresholds for External Doors

Normally, a level threshold is one that has a lip of no more than 15mm. The doors themselves do not have to be altered in any way. However there is a requirement that the Part M compliant door should be at least 838mm (2’9”) wide.

The frame around the door should also be Part M compliant (less than 15mm). There should also be no step either inside or outside the door.

A common way to design this is to have a ramped approach to the door. Alternatively, have a sunken matwell inside the door so that people coming into the house can wipe their feet.

With a reasonable amount of forethought, it’s possible to create a level threshold without it being intrusive in any way.

External Fire Doors

If a house is over two storeys fire doors will need to be considered. Half-hour fire doors are required to be fitted to habitable rooms leading off the main corridor and lading areas. However, fire doors do not have to look ugly. There are now plenty of companies offering complementary fire door ranges alongside their standard internal doors.

contemporary yellow front door on new house

All of Urban Front‘s doors can be painted to any RAL colour

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