The Home Guru: What Your Front Door Reveals about Your Home... and You

If eyes are the window to the soul, a front door is the window to the soul of a house. No matter what else needs attention, it's wise to keep your home's front door in excellent condition.

Recently I listed and sold a two-family home that needed some fixing up, but it was evident that the owner was not willing to make any improvements before it went on the market. 

I asked him to do just one thing and that was to paint the front door and, further, to paint it a specific color, Burgundy, the simple proper name from the Benjamin Moore color palette. To my taste, it's the strongest, most welcoming color for a door.

When a buyer came along with a 203K loan to renovate the building, the one comment he made to me about the condition of the house was, "Well, at least the front door looks good!"

The front door can be the key to a home’s personality, either reflecting the condition of the space within . . . or contradicting it.  A beautiful, sturdy door, freshly painted, with quality hardware greets the visitor with a confident hello; a weathered door, perhaps out of alignment, with old or poorly functioning hardware, conveys something quite different about the house, something unappealing.

Just as a person is judged within a few seconds of first meeting him or her, a house is judged in great part by the condition, functionality and look of its front door.  When showing properties to prospective buyers, I’m always surprised to find an older home that has been upgraded, but the owners have not paid proper attention to the front door, and especially its hardware.

If the door needs painting or is warped and if the hardware is tarnished and in poor working order, a pall can be cast over the entire house as being outdated.

Perhaps some homeowners are not aware of a deteriorating front door because most people drive into their attached garage and walk directly into the mud room or kitchen. However, visitors normally come only to the front door.

While the functional purposes of a front door are to withstand the elements, help toward energy efficiency, and provide protection for the home, visitors view it as an aesthetic statement, even a psychological one. If the door is attractive and in good shape, that perception extends to the entire household … and to its owner as well.  

Look at your front door and determine whether it needs a simple sprucing up or a total replacement. Some door problems can be repaired and others cannot. If the door is improperly hung, has trouble closing or latching, is only slightly warped or is just sticking, these problems may be worth fixing. But if it has rot or is outrageously outdated in style, consider the options for replacement.

Whether you use a contractor or a handyman for door replacement, you’ll get different opinions about which kind of new door to choose. Some would suggest that the top quality material is still considered to be wood. Steel or aluminum may be recommended as the most sturdy and secure, but according to most remodeling contractors, the best choice today is the new and high quality fiberglass door. The insulation quality of the latter is better than that of a wooden door, and it will not warp or crack.

The feature I like best about a quality fiberglass door is that the manufacturers have managed to develop an incredibly realistic grain that matches real wood.  Also there is a virtually unlimited number of door styles and beveled glass options available.  Fiberglass can be stained or painted, and fancy hardware can be applied to them, just as you would a wood door.

And that brings us to the subject of the door hardware which, in aesthetic terms, can make a door “pop,” but if it’s worn, that pop can be a dull thud.  Highly polished solid brass knobs, backplates, thumblatches are desirable but, fair warning, they can be quite expensive.

When it comes to selecting a color for the front door, it is a situation of relating to, or contrasting with, one of the other tones found in the house or the landscape that surrounds it. Most people today are choosing a deep green or burgundy to have their front doors stand out.

For those of you with a bent toward feng shui, you know that the front door is the main source of a houses’ energy. But practically and simply put for both curb appeal and resale value, spruce up the front door, and in a sense, you have a new home.

By the way, on a personal note, my antique colonial has five doors and each one is painted Benjamin Moore's Burgundy.

Bill Primavera is a residential and commercial realtor associated with Coldwell Banker (www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com) and a journalist who appears regularly as The Home Guru. For questions about buying or selling a home, he can be reached directly at: 914-522-2076. 



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