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ON THE THRESHOLD OF CHANGE THINKING OF REPLACING YOUR FRONT DOOR? THE EXPERTS WALK YOU THROUGH IT.

Byline: John Morell Correspondent

Anyone who's stuck with the typical, plain tract home front door usually pines for something a little more interesting.

``The problem with a bad front door is it looks lousy both outside the house and inside,'' said Steve James, a general contractor in Glendale. ``You can't escape it.''

Replacing your door with one that enhances the look of your home is an alternative that could increase the curb appeal for a small investment.

``People do it usually as part of an overall remodeling on the outside, or when they paint the exterior,''said Mike Miulli of American Sash & Door in Northridge. ``When you start picturing how your home is going to look with a new paint job, you often focus on how much you dislike your front door.''

Deciding you don't like your front door is one issue; finding a replacement is something else.

``It can be a big production if you let it,'' said Cathy Knott of Do-It- Yourself Window & Door in Granada Hills. ``There are so many choices out there it's pretty confusing as to what you might like best. It's not a decision you can make quickly.''

The first step in replacing an ugly door starts with a tape measure.

``As much as you may like a beautiful door in a showroom, if you don't have the space, it's not going to fit,'' said Knott. ``If you have a standard 36-inch single door, that's generally the size you're going to have to get when you replace it.''

If you're replacing a double door or you have ideas on creating a grand entrance by expanding the size of your doorway, keep in mind the need for space. If you're thinking about a door with sidelights, which are the wood and/or glass panels set to the sides of the door, you'll need at least a 61-inch space.

Once you've got an idea of the door size, you can start thinking about the style you're looking for. One of the first ways to get an idea of what you want is to take a look around the neighborhood - but not necessarily your own.

``I always suggest driving around a neighborhood you like and look at the doors. You might find a style you hadn't thought of,'' said Josh Lanier of Terry Sash & Door in Van Nuys.

``When you're driving around, keep a camera with you and take pictures of doors you like,'' said Knott. ``That makes it easier than trying to describe it when shopping for doors.''

While in the door market, you're likely to end up with a sheaf of brochures with pictures of every sort of door imaginable. One way to narrow down your choices is to take out the scissors.

``I always suggest cutting out the pictures of the doors you like, then go across the street, look at your house and hold up the pictures against your door,'' said Miulli. ``That gives you some perspective of how the door looks on your house.''

In spite of the fact that a door may fit your frame, you also have to consider if it's right for the house. ``You might fall in love with a modern-looking door, but that may not look great on your ranch-style house,'' said Knott. ``It's all a personal preference, but you've got to be aware of the architecture of your house.''

Paneled hardwoods are the most popular choices, with four to eight panels on the front. But it's not hard to get fancy from there. ``The Southwestern look, with distressed wood and rustic hardware, is becoming a popular choice, and using leaded glass in the door is a big favorite in order to bring more light into a room,'' said Miulli.

Some homeowners object to glass in the door or sidelights because of security concerns, although door manufacturers have addressed most of those issues. ``Much of the glass that's used is designed so that it's hard to see inside, plus we're seeing a lot of triple-glazed glass doors, which means that a burglar has to break three panes of glass to reach inside. That's going to create a lot of noise,'' said Miulli.

Some homeowners choose a security door with steel or metal inserts that prevent it from being kicked in. However, a sturdy wood door is just as safe. The real attraction of a steel door is maintenance. Sun and water may damage wood, which needs needs to be treated each year to maintain its beauty. Steel can be painted anytime you want a new look but does not need treatment each year.

If the exterior side of the door is subject to moisture from sprinklers or rain, it may be wise to to look at fiberglass. These can be painted and are made with a wood grain texture, but they won't rot like real wood under wet conditions.

Stain-ready doors are a popular choice, as more people go for the wood look over paint. ``You can find a good deal on many high-quality paint-grade doors, since it seems like many people like the stained-wood look,'' said James.

Door prices can vary widely, depending on size and quality. ``You can find a door for a little over $100, all the way up to $15,000,'' said Lanier. ``It's all about what you can afford and what you like.''

Once you have the door you like, there comes the question of hardware.

``It used to be that everyone used shiny gold or brass hardware,'' said Knott. ``Now the choices are across the board. You've got pewter, nickel, antique, oiled bronze - a wide assortment to choose from.''

Installation of a door is another cost factor, since the amount of work involved can vary. ``There are times when you need to replace the door jamb, or there needs to be some stucco repairs, so the installation costs can go across the board,'' said Knott.

A standard installation without extra work on the frame runs approximately $200 to $300, but in Southern California virtually every doorway needs some extra work.

``Because of earthquakes and foundation settling, there's usually some sanding and planing needed to make the new door open and close smoothly,'' said Lanier.

Hanging a door is often considered a science by those who do the job, since it takes skill at making precise measurements to get it right -it's definitely not a job for the weekend do-it-yourselfer.

``We often get calls from people who tried to hang their own door and need a pro to come and finish the job,'' said Lanier. ``It's a lot harder than it looks''

Overall, changing a door is a big step, but one that could be worth the value. ``If you think it's true about curb appeal being important to the value of your home, the door is really the focal point, so a nice door will make a big impression,'' said James.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) A steel door is a lower-maintenance option and may offer added security.

(2 -- color) The Pueblo Door from Art Glass Millworks is made of cedar with an arrowhead grille, an optional ``Shaman'' carving design and glass sidelights.

(3 -- color) Sundance Series half-circle custom-colored glass is set above a Custom Heritage Series stained cherry French-style door from Kolbe & Kolbe.

(4 -- color) This home's owners chose JELD-WEN's Aurora, a heavy door made from composite materials - ideal for rough weather - inset with clear and beveled glass.

(5 -- color) The custom segment head door of this house creates a bright, dramatic entrance, although some homeowners shy from using glass because of security concerns.

Box:

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 11, 2003
Words:1276
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