Entryway tips for putting your best facade forward

An attractive front entrance to your home creates a first impression not unlike a smile: It is welcoming and revealing of what’s inside.

Sometimes, small, DIY-type solutions are all that are needed to spiff up this focal point of your home’s facade, but sometimes a more involved, contractor-driven solution is desired. Here we offer a few tips on both, as well as considerations for the front door itself.

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Entryways: providing the big picture

1. One of the quickest and simplest ways to punch up your front entry is with a color that contrasts with siding and trim. You can go bold with, say, orange or simply go with something unexpected like a springy green. But if you aren’t one for color, a glossy black can create a similar pop.

2. Walkways – concrete, pavers, stepping stones and so on – lead visitors to your front door and should ideally be about 3 to 4 feet wide and kept clear of overgrown plantings so that they can accommodate two people side-by-side. Most important, though, is their aesthetic compatibility with the colors, materials, style and visual weight of your front entrance. A substantial or grand front entryway, for instance, would overwhelm petite stepping stones.

3. Potted plants add personality and softness or structure, depending on the type of pots and plants selected, while just the right welcome mat – or rug on a covered entry – is like wearing the perfect piece of jewelry with an outfit.

4. While potted plants are fun and easy to layer, change and move, avoid overlooking the surrounding hardscaping. Given the cost of higher-end pots and plants nowadays, sometimes addressing steps and other architectural features is not substantially more expensive. Interesting tiles on the step risers or the addition of style-compatible brackets, railings, moldings, columns, awnings, and trim can pack a lot of design punch. If they can repeat an element from elsewhere on your home’s facade, all the better to establish a harmonious look.

5. Speaking of jewelry, house numbers, doorknobs/knockers, light fixtures, and mailboxes (if you aren’t required to mount yours at the curb) easily provide the polish that many entryways need. A wide range of styles and materials is available, so choose one that is perfect for your home’s vibe.

Entryways: focusing on the front door

When it comes to style, it probably goes without saying that the front door and the overall style of your home’s architecture should be compatible. Yet one of the mistakes homeowners make, in an understandable attempt to dress up the appearance of their house, is to choose a door that is too formal for the style of their architecture – for example, dark, rich wood tones and etched glass on a simple brick ranch. The unfortunate result is akin to being overdressed for a function: It looks out of place and inappropriate. And there’s no need to go wrong given the dizzying array of styles available today.

But there is much more to choosing a front door than issues of style. Also consider function, durability and safety, as doors take a beating from the elements of sun, wind and rain, not to mention from would-be intruders.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you opt for a new door, which can be a substantial, worthwhile investment:

1. Doors nowadays generally come pre-hung (with hinges and framing) in one of three materials: wood, metal, fiberglass-composite or a combination, each with its own set of pros and cons.

2. Wood looks rich and historic, yet it can warp, crack and, if laminated, delaminate. And wood doors are fairly pricey. On the plus side, they can be planed or cut if needed to fit an existing opening, unlike metal or fiberglass.

3. Wood doors, often a hardwood veneer over an engineered wood core, are sold in a range of types of hardwoods or paint-grade softwoods. If you choose a veneer, avoid one thinner than 1/16 inch. Glossy polyurethane-coated wood doors are thought to offer the most protection against moisture absorption, but be sure top and bottom edges are also coated.

4. Steel doors are both durable and secure. Cracking and warping are not issues, and an auto body repair kit will solve dent and ding issues.

5. With inner frames made of wood or steel, steel doors are filled with high-density foam insulation.

6. A range of finishes offers varying degrees of durability, but keep in mind that heat buildup between an aluminum storm door and a steel entry door can cause some finishes to peel.

7. Insulated aluminum doors have a baked-on enamel finish – smooth or woodgrain – that won’t rust, doesn’t require repainting, and allows manufacturers to offer 20-year warranties.

8. Fiberglass-composite doors and frames are a smart choice for our humid and other harsh climates. With wooden stiles and rails and polyurethane-foam insulation, they typically come with long warranties. And their embossed woodgrain pattern is quite convincing, provided, as with steel doors, you make sure that the patterns run vertically on the stiles (vertical members) and horizontally on the rails (horizontal members).

Carefully selecting your front door for decades of lowered maintenance and improved safety, security, energy efficiency, and appearance pays off big over time, while an all-round enhanced entryway offers a boost in curb appeal for your neighborhood and a more gracious welcome for you, your family and friends.

Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, serves as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, go to www.vbhomesliving.com and reach Chris at chris@vbhomesliving.com.