Finding New Heights and New Looks in Entry Doors
by Alan B. Goldberg
There was a time when a door was the epitome of standards … standard height, standard width, standard hardware and standard panels of wood. But that has changed.
Architectural styles, consumer preferences and more attention to the front entry have given new meaning to doors and components. No one understands that better than distributors and dealers of doors.
“Ten years ago, homeowners personalized their entry by incorporating decorative glass into their entry-door panel. Today, more people are focusing on the entry system rather than simply the door panel,” said Chris Brown, brand manager and national sales manager of Peachtree Doors and Windows of Norcross, Ga.
He pointed out that homeowners want dramatic entries, such as a two-story foyer with lots of light. More consideration must be given to monumental transoms, sidelites or a unique fixed window over the entry door.
“With this trend, we see eight foot and taller entry doors gaining popularity,” Brown said.
According to Greg Schmitt, sales representative for Simpson Door of McCleary, Wash., there has been a trend for several years toward larger doors. The most common within the oversized door style are 8 feet in height. This size is most conducive to homes with 10-foot ceilings and homes with a two-story entry, he said. Even interior doors are becoming 8 feet high.
Oversize also applies to width, according to Schmitt. He mentioned a wide width (a 3-foot, 6-inch door) used by builders to make themselves unique. The advantage of the additional 6 inches is to provide a large area for people to move through and for easy passage of large objects.
Paul Bellows, marketing manager for Mai Wood Doors & Stair Parts of Wylie, Texas, also sees this trend. He said that doors have become thicker and are 2-1/4 inches typically. Within these larger sizes are full radius and eye brow radius-top doors that are naturally distressed and can make use of ornamentations like clavos, strap hinges, speakeasies and grilles.
The trend in larger doors is attributed largely to consumer priority, said Peter Lenar, marketing manager of Hurd Millwork Co. of Medford, Wis.
“The entrance and subsequent curb appeal of the home is a top priority with homeowners today. The first impression of the house is set with the front entrance. This is a trend we will see continue into the future,” Lenar said.
According to Ron Plypick, sales manager of Buffelen Woodworking Co. of Tacoma, Wash., the popularity of larger custom homes often equates to large front entrances and double-door entries with or without sidelites have been the trend for several years.
“Our Craftsman door, an older-type design, which was once popular during the first half of the 1900s, has renewed interest,” said Plypick.
“It’s not only larger doors, but they may also include sidelites and a variety of transom sizes and shapes,” added Lisa Schwarz, vice president of marketing and product design, GlassCraft Door Corp. of Houston.
“The entry door continues to be a point of focus for production builders who find a way to make a dramatic statement at the entrance to new homes,” said Jeff Wedge, general manager of HDC Sacramento, a door installation company in Sacramento, Calif.
“In the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of 8-foot entry doors that we are manufacturing, with sidelites and transoms. Ceiling heights seem to be getting taller, especially in higher-end new construction,” added Ann Mayer, marketing communications coordinator of Kolbe & Kolbe of Wausau, Wis.
Coupled with height is design, and manufacturers are offering quite a wide selection of styles to meet architectural design and consumer preferences.
“Clean, simple and classic styling surround today’s popular door design,” commented Schmitt. He said that Craftsman, Bungalow and doors with square sticking detail (rather than ovolo) from the turn-of-the-century are quite popular now. They are found predominately in new homes with period architectural details. Schmitt said that more attention is being paid to details within the door, such as panels and component widths.
“Steel doors are the number-one selling entry doors in the country, with two-thirds of the entry-door market. Wood doors are second, and then smooth and textured fiberglass,” added Brown.
Brown pointed out that fiberglass doors, which currently have 10 percent of the market, are the fastest growing segment. He said smooth fiberglass doors are taking market share from steel doors and textured fiberglass is taking market share from wood doors.
The Glass Factor
Another door detail is the use of glass.
“I feel consumers and builders use glass options because of beauty, first, privacy, second, and maybe third, just to be different,” said Schmitt.
He explained that glass options have long been part of the cabinet industry and are now becoming part of the door industry.
“Glass options completely change the look of the door,” he said.
Schmitt does not see any negative impact on security by using glass.
“All of our glass is tempered, by law, which is known for its strength; [tempered glass] breaks safely into small pieces if damaged,” he said.
Schwarz added that current architectural styles have sparked an interest in round top and double eyebrow doors, and she expects this trend to continue. She said that homeowners are combining the beauty of glass with security by requesting triple insulating lead glass panels.
“Homeowners want more glass to bring light and depth to their entries. We’ve added more half-view and full-view rectangular and oval windows within the door panels to meet this demand,” Brown said.
According to Brown, homeowners continue to request decorative glass to put a signature on their front entry, whether the style is traditional, contemporary or art deco.
“The most popular decorative glass patterns are the most intricate. Our best-selling pattern features an intricate combination of clear Baroque glass, beveled-border treatments and curved bevels in polished brass or patina caming,” he said.
According to Scott Honey, door coordinator of Kolbe & Kolbe, the Craftsman wooden rustic door is very popular as is pre-finished, wood-grain, fiberglass doors, which give the look of wood but are low-maintenance. Honey believes this trend will remain for some time.
“We have seen a change in what is considered popular over the past few years. What used to be thought of as trendy has become a standard,” he said.
Honey added that decorative glass has become very popular just as low-E has, a proven energy-saver. Laminated glass is the option for security.
Bellows said the future for larger exterior doors looks very promising because homeowners “prefer a warm, welcome look for their entryway instead of the cookie cutter look that a plain energy-efficient exterior door projects.” He pointed out that many homeowners want triple-pane, insulating, tempered glass units for safety and security. But he said there is a growing preference for dark patina or sterling zinc caming as the border for various glass components, instead of the traditional bright brass caming.
“We have seen the market move away from brass caming and into colors like satin nickel and patina,” he said.
Wedge concurs. “Decorative glass is still a much-asked-for option by homeowners. However the once-popular bright brass caming on decorative glass is diminishing, while patina and black are taking hold,” he said.
But not everyone sees a growing demand for more glass.
“The current trend in glass seems to be less of it,” said Plypick, who pointed out that the popularity of Craftsman style doors (in which the glass takes up one-fourth to one-third at the top of the door) bears this out. There is a better sense of security, he said, with less glass.
Hardware Offers the Right Touch
Design trends dictate hardware style, said Schwarz. That’s why most hardware manufacturers offer a variety of styles and finishes to complement any door style. She said there is increased interest in decorative hardware elements such as clavos and wrought iron for speakeasies and rustic-style doors.
Wedge agrees. “Wrought iron speakeasies are starting to become a popular option,” he said.
“Hardware continues to evolve just as panels. More styles and colors are available to match homeowners’ preferences and windows and interiors,” said Brown.
He said corrosion-resistant hardware is a must in coastal areas. Regarding security, he said, homeowners should consider the distance between the dead bolt and handle set. The further apart they are, the more force it takes.
“Recently, we’ve noticed a level of creativity with hardware. Homeowners are ordering alternate hardware, integrating non-standard hardware and requesting multi-point hardware. And, there is much interest in our wide variety of wood species,” commented Joel Pullman, regional sales manager of Eagle Window & Door of Dubuque, Iowa.
Schmitt said another trend associated with the 8-foot door is multi-point hardware, which adds another key feature: security. The three locking points versus the traditional single added a measure of security. It also eliminates the possibility of warping with taller doors.
According to Schmitt, in terms of availability, hardware is becoming more readily available on a national level through hardware distributors.
Mayer confirmed the popularity of multi-point, ball-bearing systems and decorative handle sets and said that they help keep the decorative entrance system low-maintenance.
“We see a trend toward alternative finishes. Consumers are looking to set themselves apart from the house next door,” said Lenar. He believes individual styles are taking precedence with home designs.
The Popularity of Custom Doors
Custom doors will continue to be popular, said Plypick, as long as homeowners want a unique look.
“It is not uncommon to get requests for alder, beach, teak and other species,” he said.
Brown explained that most custom doors are hardwood species, which are easier to fit to an opening. Steel and fiberglass, due to their composite, are much harder to customize and are sized to industry standards. But, he said, customization is done through the use of sidelites and transoms.
“We are seeing a big trend for customized entry doors for some of the reasons that homeowners want larger exterior doors—to have something unique they can look at with pride as something they (or their architect) designed,” said Bellows.
Mayer and Schwarz say the demand for custom doors is on the rise.
“Custom doors are a large part of our business, whether it is size, color, species or panel configuration,” added Honey.
Schmitt regards custom door use as significant and growing.
“People want what they want, and they have the resources to pay for it,” he said.
“With custom, it can be their size of door or sidelite or transom, their choice of wood material and their design.”
Schmitt explained that price is not the first concern.
There is no question that entry doors have reached new heights and changed dramatically. Judging by those who manufacture and install doors, that trend will continue. Schmitt sums it up this way:
“In some U.S. markets, builders face significant competition at certain price levels. The main entry is an obvious area to create curb appeal. A door with just the right look can make or break an exterior’s façade.”
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