Monday, January 11, 2016


Many entrance locksets look more or less like this one.
They don't all have the same solid feel, however.
This happens to be the real deal from Baldwin Brass.

Even in their cheapest homes, tract builders will usually spring for a good quality door and lockset at the front entrance. Why? Because marketing studies have demonstrated that a good solid-feeling front door leaves an impression of quality that carries over throughout the house.  Developers refer to this sometimes-illusory impression of quality as “perceived value”. 

Whether illusory or not, the same trick can work for your own home. You may not have the budget to install hardwood panel doors or top-quality lockset(what most people refer to as "doorknobs") throughout your house; that could run to many hundreds of dollars per door. But chances are you can afford a good-quality front door and, even more important, a first-rate entrance lockset. 

If your house has an old, substantial lockset that doesn't
quite work right, for God's sake, fix it,
don't replace it.
Many prewar homes have beautiful front doors equipped with really substantial locksets. If you’re lucky enough to still have yours, for God's sake, don’t replace it. Any decent finish carpenter can repair a sagging or scraping front door fairly easily. Likewise, a balky lockset can be taken to a locksmith for repair. 

On the other hand, if your is flimsy, uninteresting, or truly beyond repair, consider replacement.  The choice of door designs (and price ranges) is vast. However, most entrance doors fall into one of three basic categories: Steel, fiberglass, and wood.  The price variations between common versions of each are surprisingly small, so choose them on merit, not cost.  

This fiber glass door is practically
a dead ringer for wood,
and it'll never warp or rot.
Steel doors won’t warp--the main reason they’re marketed for residential use.  Many also have good insulative value. On the down side, they can rust and dent, and many are embossed with grossly exaggerated woodgrain patterns that aren’t very convincing on close inspection. 

Fiberglass doors combine the warp-resistance of steel with excellent insulative value and a much more realistic woodgrain look.  They can be planed and sanded, and are designed to accept either paint or stain (although the staining procedure is different than for wood).  A carefully finished fiberglass door presents a fairly convincing copy of wood, while requiring less maintenance over time.

Still, nothing has quite the heft of a solid wood door. Genuine wood presents a look and feel of quality that neither steel nor fiber glass can match—one reason the latter products are so anxious to imitate it. Yet wood doors do have their drawbacks, including susceptibility to warpage and rot, so-so energy efficiency, and a need for vigilant maintenance. 

A mansion or just a regular house with a nice door?
From here, who can tell?
Once you’ve found a door that suits you, think about investing a good-quality entrance lockset.  There are lots of manufacturers to choose from, but only a handful make truly first class products. Look for quality locksets at better hardware and lumber dealers, and ask a sales assistant for help. Many styles are available with matching door knockers, doorbell escutcheons, and the like. Because not all finishes are always in stock, you may have to order a few weeks in advance. And be prepared to pay several hundred dollars for a decent-quality entrance lockset, and more for paired doors.

At these prices, you’ll be sorely tempted to buy a cheaper lockset that “looks just the same”. Don't fall for this ruse; I guarantee that it won’t feel the same, or last the same. Remember what builders have known for decades: you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. 


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