Off-the-shelf doors can be found in a variety of standard popular sizes. These are generally classified by width, and range from 30″ to 36″. If your frame doesn’t conform to a standard size you may be able to trim the door to fit; many wooden doors can be reduced by up to 12mm along each edge.
In some cases you might be better off buying a complete door set, which consists of a frame and matching door. This can be a particularly good move if you have an older property, where the original frame may have warped or even cracked over time. Alternatively, you may decide to pay a bit more and have the door made to measure.
As the front door will set the tone for your entire home, it’s important to choose a design and colour in keeping with the overall architectural style. An ornate panelled and glazed door would suit a Victorian or Edwardian house, for example, whereas clean, minimalist lines are often the best choice for modern homes. This applies to other fittings such as door handles and letter boxes too.
The way the door has been constructed plays a part as well. Less expensive dowel doors are made from kiln-dried wood that has been assembled using fluted dowels (small wooden pegs) and adhesive. Premium M&T (mortice and tenon) doors are manufactured from specially selected kiln-dried timber and put together using traditional mortice and tenon joints and adhesive for superior weather-proofing properties.
The most popular type of natural material used in external doors is timber, particularly oak, pine and hemlock. Solid timber is prone to cracking and warping over time, so nowadays most wooden doors are manufactured from engineered timber. This is made by gluing together small sections of wood to form a multi-layered construction which is stronger and more stable than solid timber. The components are covered in wood veneer afterwards – a process which ensures matching colour and grain across the door panels.
Engineered timber is better for the environment, as the manufacturing process produces less waste. However, unless the door is supplied ready-finished you will have to coat it with paint or a high performance wood stain to weather-proof the surface, and re-treat it on a regular basis.
Composite door sets made from fibreglass are becoming increasingly popular. Designed to resemble timber, they are manufactured from a mixture of glass fibres and resin and are supplied complete with a steel and PVC reinforced frame. Weather resistant and low maintenance, these doors come in a variety of colours, require no protective treatment and provide a realistic-looking alternative to timber versions. They are also lighter than wooden doors, making them easier to hang, and will not warp or split.
Another low maintenance option is PVC. This heavy-duty plastic is still widely used for sliding patio doors, but is less favoured for front doors nowadays due to its relatively flimsy construction and synthetic appearance.
Obviously, your choice will be influenced by the size of your budget. If price is a major concern, consider a door made from engineered pine or hemlock. Many doors are available without glazing, so you have the option to insert your own patterned or stained glass for an individual touch. Buying an unfinished door and painting or staining it yourself will also save money. Single-glazed doors are usually the cheapest, but obviously don’t provide the same level of insulation as double or triple glazing, so can prove more expensive long-term.
Hardwood doors cost a little more, but are longer-lasting than pine and can still be found at reasonable rates. Oak is the premium option, offering an attractive grain, excellent weather resistance and an undeniable feel of luxury.
Composite doors are more expensive than most timber doors initially but have the advantage of requiring no finishing or maintenance, saving time and money in the long run.
You will also need to factor in the cost of door furniture. This can vary hugely, from around £10 for a pair of simple chrome-effect zinc handles to more than £100 for a superior set made of brass or polished nickel. You may find that a handle kit, comprising handles, hinges, fixing screws and a latch, is the most convenient solution.
Letter boxes, also known as letter plates, come in a wide range of styles and price points. You can pick up a plain chrome-effect model for less than £10, while brass letter plates start at around £18. An engraved brass or wrought iron letter plate could set you back by anything between £150 and £450, depending on the finish.
A good quality lock is also important – for the best protection, look for ones advertised as anti-bump, anti-pick and anti-drill. To finish off, you will probably want to add a knocker or bell (unless you have chosen a letter plate incorporating a postal knocker).