The keys to buying a quality front door

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Are you thinking about replacing your front door, but you're also thinking about the price?

Nice doors don't have to cost a pretty penny.

The first thing to consider are the signs that it might be time to change your door.  One sign is simple: maybe you just don't like the style of your current door.  A few other signs to replace your door include difficulty in closing all the way, sticking, shaking, and failure to latch or line up correctly.  Then there are also the problems of not keeping cold air out and warm air in or moisture build-up.

"Once you know you want or need a new door, you're going to want to look at what kind of 'r' value your exterior doors are going to have.  That's the insulation and efficiency rating.  You'll also want to check out the type of weather stripping because you really want a well insulated door," said Eric Prosser, general manager at Indianapolis East Menards.

Whether you want a door made of wood, steel or fiberglass, ask for help because there are many choices nowadays and buying a custom door doesn't have to cost much more.

"A lot of people will look at the different glass styles as well as the color because you can get different patterns.  You also have to keep in mind the glasses are also energy rated," said Tina Cawley, cabinets and appliances assistance manager for Menards.

We discovered just a couple hundred bucks can get you a nice exterior door.  Many stores have computer programs, so you can make what you want without spending much more than what is already in stock.  One huge selling point of a home is curb appeal and a big part of that is the front door.  The first impression of a house can be dramatically improved by the front door.  Since the front door is a focal point for most homes, a quality one will set the tone and improve a home’s appearance.

Whether you're selling your home or just improving it, looks are only one thing to keep in mind.

"But looks are just part of it.  How a door is installed is very important because you can have a great door, but if it's installed improperly you can get air coming around the door which can drive up your utility bills," said Michael Schlinkert, account service manager for Menards.

A homeowner can put in a door themselves or buy it pre-hung.  That means the frame is already attached to the door.  It is then installed between the studded door opening.  The price isn't much different because a pre-hung door is often easier to put in.  Home safety is also a key factor.  A solid exterior door can deter criminals, and an extra security door is also an option.

"To know that your house is really secure and safe is a must.  I have a family and to know that we are all safe, you can't put a price on that.  And the cost of many of these security doors are less than $200," said Prosser.

It's important to assess the quality of your front door because maybe you just need weather stripping if it's leaking air in or out.  To save money and to make sure you get quality, don't forget to shop around.

"The majority of the doors here at Menards, we actually manufacture ourselves, so you are skipping the middle man basically, and that can save you a lot of money, but you still get great quality," said Schlinkert.

Many stores will have deals, so look for them to save some money.  Many stores are currently running deals or rebates, like the one they have this week at Menards.  It's an 11% rebate off everything right now.

The price for a new door can pay for itself in energy efficiency in a year or two.  It can also protect the valuable assets inside.  Remember, the most common way intruders might break in to your house is through the front door.  A new, secure front door might be the first step toward securing your home, especially with the variety of locking systems available these days.

There are some other ways to save some money.  One way is literally very transparent.

"It's going to depend on your glass style.  So, if you go with full-length glass it's going to be more expensive than just a half of it as glass.  But with full glass, you're going to have a lot more of it you can see through," said Cawley.

Another money saver at most stores is to buy basic white, and get a simpler glass design.  Wherever you shop, measure your current door to know the replacement size you'll need.