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February 27, 2013

Unlock the possibilities of the front door

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

It’s the ultimate first impression — the front door of a home.

“Certainly, it’s a first impression and it’s not just a first impression as you walk up to the house — it’s a first impression from the street,” said Laurie Glass, a Realtor with SKBK Sotheby’s International Realty in Birmingham. “Even the smallest house … (if it) has a great door and has great presence, (it) just makes the home welcoming.

“It’s that first impression that is sort of a sure-fire way to bring potential buyers over the threshold.”

But what if you’re not happy with the door you’ve got? There are options, said Daniel Palazzolo, manager at American Door Systems in Rochester Hills.

For those who want to replace the door outright, the biggest decision is choosing a style: painted, stained or wooden. From there, there are choices of different glass styles, or no glass at all in the door.

“It’s all basically just ‘look,’” Palazzolo said.

But, he pointed out, steel or fiberglass doors are three times more energy-efficient than a wooden door, and involve a lot less maintenance over time.

“You don’t have to worry about cracking of panels, the warping of the door, refinishing of the door over the years,” he said. “Wood-grain fiberglass products, you’re going to be a lot (more) cost-effective than a wood product.”

Whichever the type of door, Palazzolo said it’s important to have it professionally installed.

“You could buy the best door in the world and it’s still going to leak air” if it is installed improperly, he said. “Getting it professionally installed is sometimes worth the small cost, versus installing it yourself.”

Another way to get a new look, without replacing the entire door, is by refinishing the existing door or adding glass to a wooden door. Putting glass in a wooden door won’t change it’s energy efficiency dramatically, he said, but he cautions homeowners to make sure their front door is in good condition first.

“If there’s warpage involved already, there’s not much you can do for them,” he said.

Nevertheless, refinishing a door will cost about $400, versus the average replacement cost of $1,500-$2,000 for a new, prefinished door.

“Just adding (new) hardware and hinges … will brighten up a door dramatically,” Palazzolo said. “Just by adding glass and new hardware to a door, you’ve changed the look.”

For those who have a fiberglass or steel door but want a wood look, Rob Steusloff, manager of Ace Hardware in Macomb Township, said there’s a new refinishing product called Zar polyurethane that can help.

“It’s just a finish you can put on your door that you can make it look like a wood grain,” he said, explaining that it can be used on metal and fiberglass doors. “They sell graining tools that you can make your own grain (and) spruce it up. It’s pretty inexpensive. It’s definitely cheaper than replacing the door (and) about the same as painting. It just takes a little more time.”

Steusloff said homeowners could also purchase replacement locksets — nickel and bronze finishes are the most popular — to increase security. Another easy change is swapping the knob for a designer piece that will change the look of the door.

To find out if a door needs new weather stripping, close the door and feel around the edges or hold up a lit match to see if the flame flickers. Replacement strips are available for around the doorjamb and also for the threshold at most hardware stores, Steusloff said.

For those looking to just put a new coat of paint on the door, he said a good primer is key. Then, choose an exterior paint that will withstand fading from the sun.

“It seems like the deep colors are coming back,” he said. “The dark reds are popular.”

Those looking for more security should investigate a steel door, according to Palazzolo.

“We do a lot of tricks in the way of putting (in) reinforcing doorjambs,” he said. “Even on the fiberglass doors, we have a bunch of different jamb options.”

But adding security jamb plates isn’t something that can be done after the fact, he said.

“It mounts on the backside of the jamb, so you have to rip the whole door out,” he said.

How a door looks definitely contributes to its curb appeal, Glass stressed.

“It just has to subconsciously appeal to them,” she said of homebuyers. “I think a beautiful wood door, particularly in the luxury-market end of real estate … (they) are certainly more the trend and have been for some time.”

To check out available doors and styles, visit www.americandoorsystem.com. To contact the company directly, call (800) 717-9152.

For more information about SKBK Sotheby’s International Realty, call (248) 644-7000 or call Laurie Glass at (248) 217-8237.

For Ace Hardware at 23 Mile Road and Romeo Plank in Macomb Township, call (586) 786-9040.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.