A front door can significantly alter the appearance of your home and there are many elements to consider when you are looking to buy.
If you are the owner of a listed building then there will be restrictions in terms of size, style and material. Similarly for period properties, particularly if you live in a street lined with similar houses, the last thing you want to do is install a contemporary design into a traditional building. Those living in more remote locations, or self builders, will have a larger say in the design, but do your research to ensure you get the right spec for the right price.
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How much should I pay for my front door?
A common agreement amongst experts is that you should not focus on the price, but on quality — the strength of the material, the lock and how the design works with your home.
“You could buy a front door off-the-shelf for £300, but this is a false economy as what you’d be buying wouldn’t have good insulation and wouldn’t be as secure. You need to spend at least £1,200 for a decent door, which includes the frame, ironmongery and mechanisms,” says Matt Higgs, Sales Director at Kloeber.
“The price of a front door depends on the size of the opening — a good-quality doorset could start from £3,500 and range up to and even over £6,000, depending on specification,” explains Nick Daulby from Voysey & Jones.
“This should also come with a robust guarantee of at least 10 years,” says Tom Allen, Head of Product Management at Anglian Home Improvements. “If a company isn’t prepared to offer this, then look elsewhere — you need confidence that the door will continue to be operable.”
What about front door design?
Tom Allen from Anglian Home Improvements points out: “If you live in a Conservation Area or a listed building, you’ll be limited on options, but otherwise you have the opportunity to really put your own stamp on the house.”
Renovators should look at the period of the property and see which designs match the era of their home. “Victorian classic-style doors are one of the most popular options, with two glazed panels at the top and two infill panels at the bottom,” says Garry Baird, Sales Manager at Yale Door.
Self builders have the luxury of specifying the size of their opening and this has led to a growth in suppliers offering large, bespoke sizes instead of conforming to the standard 2.1m height. “People appreciate what front doors can do for the house and now want larger doors to act as a feature,” says Elizabeth Assaf, Designer at Urban Front.
Consider ironmongery and colours, too. Traditional doors will favour primary colours with brass hardware, while modern designs lend themselves to pastel shades or wood grains, to chrome.
Which material should I opt for?
If you are after a low-maintenance front door, then composite designs offer factory-finished products that give the look of wood without the hassle, whilst for contemporary styles you could opt for aluminium or even steel.
If you’re not worried about a little maintenance, then timber can provide high insulation values and can easily be repainted a different colour. The major concern with timber is whether it will withstand water ingress. Consider how exposed the timber will be to the elements and determine how often it will need treating — note that microporous paints will offer the best waterproofing.
How can I achieve an airtight front door?
Achieving airtight homes with better U values is becoming more of a priority as homeowners look to improve their carbon footprint and lower their energy bills. In order to comply with Building Regulations Part L, Martin Hile, Commercial Director at JB Kind, says: “The unit should not exceed 1.8W/m²K.”
The aim is to get these values down as low as possible. According to Matt Higgs, Sales Director at Kloeber, the doors should also be “weather tested as well as air tested to ensure you’re purchasing a high-performing door”.
Chris Wood of Lomax+Wood continues: “To put it in context, a traditional six-panel door with timber rails, stiles and muntins will be around 1.2W/m²K, while a composite door with an 80mm panel can be as low as 0.6W/m²K. To achieve a high-performance U value, composite panels are required.”
“Some people might be wary of buying a timber door, thinking that they won’t achieve good airtightness levels due to the product shrinking or expanding,” adds Matt Higgs. “Some manufacturers do, however, supply timber doors that close against a rebate on the outside of the frame that locks onto a gasket with a depth of 8mm all the way down to 4mm to make the seal airtight — even the locking mechanisms have hooks that pull in to keep the door airtight.”
If you’re going down the Passivhaus route, make sure you do your research. You may not have as much choice of design, but there are a handful of companies who do offer Passivhaus doors on a case-by-case basis.
What security measures are important?
“The new Building Regulations Part Q coming into force in October 2015 will require new front doors to have letter plates that people can’t stick their hand through, as well as a door viewer and door limiter,” says Chris Wood, Managing Director of Lomax+Wood.
“If you’re investing in a quality door, then you should be looking for those that are Secured by Design accredited as these go through an intense security test, from attacking the doors with crowbars to police battering rams, and even swinging bags of sand at the glass,” says Matt Higgs, Sales Director at Kloeber.
Locks are vital, too, but ensure you invest in a quality one to avoid common forms of break-in. “Gone are the days when the standard break-in was from picking a lock, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t ensure your lock has anti-pick, anti-drill, anti-snap and even anti-bump cylinders. Bumping is now the most common way of breaking an entry as it leaves no evidence — you wouldn’t immediately realise you’d been ‘bumped’. There are a lot of locks, even from some of the big mainstream door and lock manufacturers, that aren’t anti-bump, and you’re putting your home at great risk if you overlook this,” warns Tom Allen, Head of Product Management at Anglian Home Improvement.
Are there any innovations I should be aware of?
“Two areas that companies are working on at the moment are the smart door bell and the smart lock. Smart locks typically operate remotely without needing a key – this will be via Bluetooth – and smart door bells are moving into systems such as video calling and facial recognition. These products are in their infancy, though, so it’s worth waiting a while to see how these perform before investing,” explains Tom Allen, Head of Product Management at Anglian Home Improvements.
Fingerprint entry is another development that is being worked on at present, however if you’re thinking of adopting these gadgets you should consider how they will work with the look of your door. “I estimate that innovations such as fingerprint entry could add around £350 to a door at a basic level, but they will not really work with a traditionally styled door — they’re more in keeping with a very modern appearance,” says Chris Wood, Managing Director of Lomax+Wood.
What should I avoid doing?
The fundamental mistake people make when buying a front door is that they don’t do their research, which can lead to choosing the wrong size and style. “Homeowners should do some research before making a selection and visit the manufacturer’s showroom to experience the quality and operation of the products. Always check performance criteria and ensure the design correctly matches the architectural period of the property,” says Tom Barfield, Sales Director at Mumford & Wood.
“These days too many contemporary-style doors are being shoehorned onto buildings they are not architecturally suited to,” adds Chris Wood, Managing Director of Lomax+Wood. “The design must be done with a view to match the whole house.
“With renovation projects, homeowners also don’t always appreciate the internal floor height and find that the size of the door they’ve chosen doesn’t fit,” advises Garry Baird, Sales Manager at Yale Door. “People find that, when fitting a door to a porch, they forget to consider the width of the door and then face the problem of not being able to get round the door when it’s open.”