When it comes to doors, wood wins the prize for appearance. It is beautiful, natural, and tactile. With either custom or manufactured-wood doors, you can choose from several species intended to be finished naturally—including oak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, maple, fir, and pine—or paint-grade doors from any of several softwoods.
Because of their vulnerability to moisture and sun, wood doors must be maintained with a durable finish.
Most mass-produced doors are made with an engineered-wood core that is faced with a veneer, a construction that minimizes warping and movement and makes a door more affordable to build. But be aware that veneers are easily damaged, particularly if they’re thinner than 1/16 inch.
If you want to design your own front door, you can have a local custom shop build it for you, or you can order it from a large custom door manufacturer such as IWP or Lamson-Taylor Custom Doors. IWP lets you customize your door by choosing from a myriad of options, including many prefinished hardwood colors.
With Lamson-Taylor, you can radically push the design envelope. “If you can’t find it anywhere else, we make it,” says Grant Taylor. His company utilizes a high-tech construction method that virtually eliminates bowing and splitting and incorporates insulation into the door’s structure. Stiles and rails are built up from two thicknesses of material that are laminated together. The panels are also made from split construction, and they’re designed to sandwich an insulation core. The result is a wood door with an insulation value of about R-5 compared with a conventional wood door at about R-2. Other door makers who build up panels, stiles, and rails from two or more thicknesses of material include Simpson and Pella Rolscreen.
Solid wood doors are the most expensive type. For a 3-foot-by-6-foot-8-inch six-panel pine door, you can expect to pay $600 or more; hardwoods are pricier. When you purchase a complete entry system, the cost can easily run between $2,000 and $4,000.
Most door companies will not sell you a finished door. The door will typically be machine sanded and then finished with 120-grit sandpaper before shipping.
Finishing a wood door as soon as it arrives will protect it from changes in temperature and humidity, which can cause warping, rot, and other problems. If you must hold off on finishing, make sure the door is kept in a well- ventilated, clean, dry environment away from sunlight, and do not let it rest on a concrete floor.
When shopping for wood doors, ask the dealer if you can take home (or have shipped to you) small pieces of several different types of wood (usually referred to as corner pieces) from the manufacturer.
Samples will show you the different grain patterns and also allow you to experiment with different stains or paints to see how the wood will look when finished. Most all woods accept stain well; poplar is the ideal choice for painting.
Some companies offer sample kits for around $10. These kits contain samples of popular woods in thin rectangular pieces that you can sand and finish.
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