Heightening curb appeal

The cliché that states “you never get a second chance at a first impression” holds true for buildings as well as people. The front of a house is the first impression for any visitor, and the door is an integral part of that impression.

Like in other product categories, options for entry doors abound to ensure homeowners can get exactly what they’re looking for in exterior design. Chris Donatelli, president of Wayne, Ill.-based Donatelli Builders Inc. notes door manufacturers have expanded options such as size, color and material and made every element very a la carte. “When you build a door, the options and combinations are almost endless,” he notes. “The demand is there to have that flexibility and attention to detail. People realize an entry door can really make a statement.”

Size-wise, Donatelli has noticed homeowners choosing thicker entry doors, often 2-in.-thick, which is up from the more typical 1 ¾-in.-thick door. It also is more common for people to choose a wider door than the traditional 3-ft.-wide door. “People are going for a door a bit wider in size – up to 42-in.-wide in some cases,” he says. “Mass-wise, doors have grown more substantial.” Nearly any height can be specified as well.

For the clientele in search of wood doors, mahoganies and exotic woods are making a splash, as opposed to years past when the main wood selections were pines and Douglas firs, Donatelli says. “Wood doors are probably the biggest area where I’ve seen things spread out in terms of options and desirability,” he notes.

Noting wood doors aren’t for everybody, Donatelli speaks to the merits of fiberglass doors. “If you’re in a situation where the door system is constantly exposed to sun, any wood door would take a beating in that environment. Fiberglass doors can do a good job of replicating a wood product when wood may not be a good long-term solution.”

Homeowners also have numerous color options for entry doors, and can select from glass options including clear glass, various privacy glass patterns or even side-lites, some of which have venting functionality.

Although a solid door might make a bolder design statement, storm doors also are part of the design equation. Many people do not opt for storm doors, but when they do, Donatelli notices two prevalent reasons. One is a situation in which the existing door is old and lacks proper weather stripping or is leaking a lot of air. In this case, a storm door can act as a buffer, though it simply acts as a bandage rather than fixing the problem. The other big reason for choosing storm doors is for ventilation and light. “When people want to keep their main doors open, they use a storm door for a screen system,” Donatelli says. If a customer is concerned about a storm door detracting from a home’s curb appeal, options such as retractable screens are available. 

More than the door

Any curb appeal conversation must involve landscaping considerations. Although Donatelli recommends connecting with a landscape designer for substantial work, he has noticed a couple areas in which people commonly err, particularly with plants. Choosing plants that will thrive based on climate and environmental conditions is important. “You have to be careful and realize not everything will work in every soil condition in every situation,” Donatelli cautions. 

It’s also necessary to account for plant growth. “A year or two down the road it becomes overgrown and doesn’t look good anymore because they did not provide for growth when placing them,” he notes.

A home’s exterior encompasses many separate elements such as doors and landscaping that must work cohesively to yield a polished look. “Look at everything as a whole,” Donatelli advises. “Exterior design consists of many elements. I’ve seen situations where someone likes a door, installs it but it doesn’t tie in with the other architectural elements of a home. Carefully navigate the process to ensure your door is working with the other strengths the home has. The door should be the icing on the cake.”