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The perfect entrance.

First impressions count And entryways can make eloquent

introductions-given a few new opening lines.

First impressions count. And entryways make eloquent introductions-given a few new opening lines.

Every entrance, simple or stately, acts as an ambassador on behalf of its owner and influences how the rest of the house is perceived. It's not enough for the front door to keep strangers out. Homeowners expect entries to define the character of their homes, to reflect their tastes and values, and above all, to welcome.

Whether an entry is complimentary to an owner often depends on the personal attention vested in it. Yet most homeowners spend their time and resources renewing the interior of the house but leave the exterior to its own care, perhaps under the misconception that exterior makeovers are costly and beyond the capabilities of the ordinary handyman.

On the contrary, four common areas of neglect-the entry door, siding, lighting, and the stoop-can easily be modified with modest skills and capital. Several weekends spent replacing worn or undignified components can transform the most homely home front into the perfect host.

No part of the house comes under such scrutiny as the front door-when someone is waiting outside it. Dated doors can endure only so much pushing and pulling before they become inefficient and drafty and ready to come unhinged. Fortunately, most doors put up little resistance to early retirement, and nearly anyone can pull the hinge pins and doorknob, lay the old door atop the new one, and trace around the outline. Then cut, plane, stain, and hang it up, knuckling the hinge halves back together.

While the door is down, moreover, the house is left wide open for such alternatives as sidelights, a more efficient threshold, oak casing-the extra touches that go beyond simply providing a passage through the wall. Chances are that the existing frame is not equipped with the latest weatherstripping products, whichh rival refrigerator seals. In fact, it's usually well worth the effort to kick out the jamb with the door and have the new door factory hung or at least mated to its frame at the local lumberyard (for around $100) to secure a windproof fit. Pease Industries, in its quest for a tight-lipped door, recently released an adjustable "Jamb-Jack," which replaces nails. It fits between the jamb and the stud cripple and brings the doorjambto the door during installation -or for that matter, anytime it needs to be snugged up in the future.

There is something everlasting, warm, and traditional, albeit perhaps a bit ordinary, in a wooden entry door. A number of companies offer a new breed of distinctive carved, leaded-glass doors less likely to duplicate the door next-door. Or homeowners can reach a little further for a Lasting Impressions solid-oak or mahogany custom-carved door from International Wood Products in San Diego. Those who like the look of natural wood but not the maintenance fee can protect the exterior with varnish, which not only provides impermeability but also filters out wood-fading ultraviolet rays.

Nothing can disgrace a handsome door worse than a halfpenny lock set. Find one that gives a good handshake -one that reaches out more than just locks out. Solid brass (as compared to plated) may seem pricey up front, but it guards against time. Lemon j uice-if the brass isn't too far gone-or brass polish and No. 000 steel wool will rub life back into the dullest of brass. Spray new brass with lacquer and the glow won't go.

Too many doorbells sound like the buzz of distant houseflies when they could just as well have a welcome chime. Replacing the old buzzer requires all of five minutes, a screwdriver, and wire strippers. Before putting the tools up, however, consider upgrading the courtesy lights as well. Because changing a light is so simple and inexpensive, it's hard to believe that some light fixtures have survived through generations of owners. That 30-minute, $30 solution can illuminate the art of showing a person in.

Walls themselves may not come down as handily as lights or doorbells, but a well-clad exterior lends dignity. Most often, entrance areas are recessed into alcoves or inside corners where a shift in siding material is excused, if not expected. Weathered stone, brick, or cedar flanking the door builds character and complements nearly any existing siding. What's more, such rugged materials wear well and require little maintenance, and they aren't that difficult to install.

However, masonry does require footings, so don't try to set a wall on the stoop, the ground, or any wooden structure. One soludon is to bolt a three-inch angle iron directly to the house foundation and set the first course of brick or stone on the steel. It's also possible-and better-to dig down to the house footing that should overhang the foundation by four inches and lay several courses of block up to ground level. If the house is built on a slab and there's ground-level concrete to work from, all the better.

At worst, the wall will require its own footing, which has the advantage of allowing minor floor-plan rearrangement-or sometimes the reverse. And for one couple, replacing their tired yellow aluminum siding with a $400 stone wall made a million-dollar difference.

If a footing is called for, call a professional. But should you decide to lay the stonework yourself-not unreasonable-take this advice:

* 1. Start with a sheet of Tyvek (a nonwoven fabric) on the wall, because mortar and brick, are porous and may otherwise leak.

* 2. Take your time. Don't stack more than two feet of material in a day, or it could avalanche.

* 3. Use a line with a bubble level to keep the courses straight.

* 4. Resist the temptation to grout with your fingers, or the lime will etch holes in your fingerprints.

* 5. Mix the mortar carefully. If you mix it too dry it won't bond. Mix it too wet and it'll run.

* 6. Use plenty of wall ties.

* 7. Don't get cold feet. Anyone who can lay tile in the bathroom can lay brick on the wall.

Decidedly, every entry project stumbles over the stoop-that graceless appendage of immovable concrete, so often the nemesis of the noblest designs. Few stoops are connected to their houses, and fewer still have frostline footings, which is why so many stoops have lost their balance and may suggest how they came to be named. Of course, one way to see quick response is over the handlebars of a jackhammer. Just chisel the top step off, build a wooden frame for the new step, and pour the new stairway over the old. Some contractors suggest using lumber for the frame that is of the same dimensions as the step. If you drill a few sets of holes down to the frostline below the new stairs' location (something few contractors bother with) and fill the holes with concrete as you pour the new stairs, the stoop will stay put in the future. Spread the stairs out, curve them, segue them to the lines of the house and landscape. A stairway must do more than get its guests to the door-it should draw them up.

If nothing else, a good first step might be to cover the raw cement with brick or stone to match the wall choice. Make sure the pitch runs away from the house, and whether you lay them yourself or have it done, save some extra pieces for future replacements.

For surprisingly little time and investment, an entryway can be converted into something you'd be proud to hang your name on. And to be sure, it's nice having an entrance worth coming home to.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Home Improvements
Author:McQuilkin, Robert
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1988
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