Category: Doors & Windows


How Do Innovative Skylights Lead to Lower Bills?

Solatube's ingenious Daylighting Systems bring natural light into even the hardest-to-reach rooms, helping homeowners cut down on lighting costs while enhancing their interior spaces.

Photo: solatube.com

There’s been a lot of talk about light bulbs over the past few years. In 2012, after the new federal light bulb standards started to take effect, we all began to encounter a range of new options in the aisles of local home centers and hardware stores. Certainly, when compared with traditional incandescent bulbs, the latest CFLs and LEDs are substantially more efficient. But when it comes to operating costs, even the most advanced light bulb cannot compete with an age-old natural resource—sunlight. Budget-minded homeowners are realizing that in order to keep their lighting costs to an absolute minimum, there’s no better strategy than to forgo electric light altogether, at least during the day. With beautiful, abundant, and totally free sunshine pouring down on the roof every day, making the most of this light is only a matter of letting it inside.

Skylights have long offered an efficient way of pulling in sunlight, but installing a skylight used to be a major undertaking with a steep price tag. In the case of traditional skylights, installation remains cost-prohibitive for many homeowners, as the intensive work typically requires some not-so-minor structural modifications. As well, traditional skylights have always been limited in at least one key respect: They illuminate only those spaces situated directly below the roof. To brighten rooms located elsewhere in the house, homeowners have needed to continue using (and paying for) electric light. Fortunately, for those seeking to capitalize on sunlight as a way of lowering household energy bills, there’s a newer, next-generation option that’s both more affordable and more versatile—tubular daylighting devices from innovative manufacturers like Solatube International, Inc.

Photo: solatube.com

Whereas traditional skylights are basically windows on the roof, the Solatube Daylighting System works in a very different way. First, its leak-proof, impact-resistant, and self-cleaning optical dome harvests sunlight on the roof (even when the rays arrive at an angle, as they do in winter). Next, the sunlight travels down into the home through highly reflective tubing that not only extends to distances up to 40 feet, but also pivots easily around would-be obstructions like rafters and joists. In this way, thanks to their unique design, Solatube systems can deliver sunlight virtually anywhere in the home, even to first-floor bathrooms, hallways, and closets. Best of all, installation takes hours, not days, because the system requires neither changes to the house framing nor repairs to the ceiling or walls indoors.

Up until fairly recently, most people viewed skylights as luxuries—attractive and desirable, perhaps, but luxuries all the same. With the rise of Solatube and other makers of similar products, plenty of homeowners now see the practical, money-saving potential of daylighting. You probably don’t think twice about turning on a table lamp, wall sconce, or ceiling-mounted fixture, but the fact is that lighting your home has a considerable, often overlooked effect on your family finances. Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that lighting accounts for approximately 14 percent of residential electricity consumption. With the one-time installation of a Solatube Daylighting System, you can cut out the cost of electrical lighting during every sunny hour of every single day. The savings add up!

Another important factor to consider: With Solatube, you’re not saving money on lighting only to lose money on heating and cooling your home. For years, traditional skylights were plagued by flaws that allowed heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. Solatube sidesteps those issues with products that have been designed and manufactured for optimal thermal performance. Indeed, select Solatube systems are rated by Energy Star for their ability to deliver daylight without upsetting the temperature of the home. Compared with a fixture that generates an equivalent amount of light, a Solatube device actually generates less heat. So, on top of saving you money on lighting, this one solution can also save you money on air conditioning throughout the summer months.

A host of customization options and add-ons are available across the Solatube line of products. For instance, there’s an optional Daylight Dimmer that enables you to control the brightness of the incoming sunlight. You can also choose from a variety of warming and softening Effect Lenses to modulate the color temperature of the light so that it suits your personal preferences or matches up with your interior design goals. It’s also well worth mentioning that if you’re hesitant to clutter your ceiling with multiple fixtures, Solatube makes it easy to streamline. The optional Light Kit embeds an incandescent or CFL bulb within the light-channeling tube, giving you a multifunctional fixture that responds to your around-the-clock lighting needs.

Photo: solatube.com

If you’re really serious about cutting your lighting costs, check out the Solatube Smart LED. Compared with a traditional light source, the Smart LED offers up to 94 percent greater efficiency: During the day, when the device operates in daylighting mode, you’re spending $0. When light levels recede—at night or in the presence of cloud cover—the system automatically switches over to LED, a technology that runs on dramatically less energy than incandescent bulbs. Combine free sunlight with high-efficiency, low-cost LED lighting, and you’re paying next to nothing for the illumination supplied by a one-of-a-kind hybrid solution. Want your Smart LED to save you even more? Go for the optional occupancy sensor. Depending on whether or not the sensor detects someone in the room, it activates or deactivates the integrated LED bulbs accordingly. That way, you never waste electricity. You pay only for the LED lighting you actually need and use. The occupancy sensor option doesn’t just mean savings, though—it also means the convenience of never having to remember to hit the light switch on your way out!

In the end, there are many ways to slim down your household energy bills. But of all the improvements you might make in the name of efficiency, only Solatube stands to leave your home looking brighter, feeling airier, and seeming more cheerful. You’re saving money and making your home more beautiful. It’s a win-win.

 

This post has been brought to you by Solatube. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Discover How This Innovative Skylight Even Shines at Night

Wholly unlike the skylights to which you're accustomed, a new option on the block provides home lighting no matter the weather, any time of day.

Photo: solatube.com

It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see the vast difference between artificial light and bright, beautiful, mood-lifting natural illumination. Through the decades, homeowners have understood the distinction and its importance, often adding skylights to let the sun shine in. To be sure, some of the early skylights suffered performance problems, but advances in manufacturing have not only corrected past imperfections but opened up a range of new possibilities for the future.

Today, with its revolutionary approach to the category, Solatube International, Inc. ranks as a foremost industry leader. Whereas conventional skylights are essentially windows on the roof, Solatube offers something new, different, and, in the eyes of many, much better than what came before. We might be used to thinking of a skylight as illuminating only the space directly beneath it, but Solatube tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) are capable of delivering natural light to virtually any room, even on the ground floor of a multi-story home. What makes it all possible is a unique and groundbreaking design that relies on three principal components: a daylight-capturing dome, a highly reflective light-channeling tube, and a customizable in-room lens that finally delivers and diffuses the light. Running from the roof to the darkest, most tucked-away corner of your home, Solatube leverages cutting-edge optics to introduce daylight wherever you want it.

Compact and cost-effective, Solatube stands out for many compelling reasons. But here’s what might be most impressive: The company has actually figured out how to make skylights functional at night! Meet the Solatube Smart LED System, a one-of-a-kind hybrid lighting solution that’s always operable, sun or no sun.

Photo: solatube.com

DAY—AND NIGHT
For its Smart LED System, Solatube combines its daylighting technology with the latest in LEDs to provide an unparalleled home lighting solution. At its heart is a control center whose SunSense Technology continually monitors the amount of light coming in from the roof. If and when the light level drops—at sunset, for example, or during periods of heavy cloud cover—the SunSense Technology immediately activates the integrated LED bulbs. The homeowner might not even notice the transition from daylight to LED, and in certain instances, both types of lighting might work in concert. That’s how, unlike any other skylight before, Solatube Smart LED Systems always provides lighting, sun or no sun. It’s a revolutionary concept, and the implications are far-reaching. Remodelers once had to install extra lighting fixtures to account for the reality that, at night, the skylight would become non-operative—in effect, a big black rectangle. Now, rather than settle for an unsightly, Swiss cheese-like ceiling, you can achieve an uncluttered, streamlined look with single fixtures that provide both daytime and nighttime illumination.

Photo: solatube.com

Photo: solatube.com

THE LED ADVANTAGE
Each Solatube Smart LED System features a quartet of 3000K LED bulbs. To be clear: These are not the sort of bulbs you’re going to replace on a regular basis. LEDs are the longest lasting of any bulb type, often remaining viable for up to 20 years. That’s three times longer than compact fluorescents, eight times longer than halogens, and 25 times longer than incandescents! Indeed, a lot has changed since Thomas Edison and the advent of the familiar incandescent light bulb. Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, and in the realm of lighting, LED reflects the very best of today.

EXTRAORDINARY EFFICIENCY
Inferior skylights let rooms become too hot in summer, too cold in winter. You could either live in discomfort or pay extra for your heating and cooling appliances to counteract the effect by working overtime. Neither option sounds very appealing, right? With the Smart LED System, you don’t need to worry about the skylight causing physical or financial discomfort. The system boasts the coveted ENERGY STAR rating for its ability to keep heat gain and heat loss to a bare minimum. Here, skylight installation doesn’t mean upsetting home temperature, and isn’t that the way it should be?

The Smart LED System actually saves money: Compared to a traditional light source, it’s 94% more efficient! That’s because sunlight obviously doesn’t cost anything, so when it’s daytime and sunny, you’re spending $0. Then at night, when the system switches over to LED, you benefit from the fact that, compared to incandescent bulbs, the newer technology requires dramatically less energy to run. Combine free sunlight with low-cost LED lighting, and you get serious savings on home lighting.

Achieve additional savings by choosing a Smart LED System with the optional occupancy sensor. The Solatube sensor detects whether there’s someone in the room, and it activates or deactivates the LED bulbs accordingly. That way, you can ensure that if a family member forgets to turn off the light, you don’t end up paying for the mistake at the end of the month. With the occupancy sensor option, you never need to think about hitting the light switch again, while enjoying maximum energy savings.

EASY INSTALLATION
Even a modestly sized conventional skylight can take days to install. In the hands of Solatube Premier Dealers, the Smart LED System takes just a couple of hours. Depending on your skills and experience, you might even be able to handle the installation yourself. That’s because the system requires no structural changes; the components fit between and around rafters and joists, making for a fast and easy project. Any place overhead light fixtures currently exist, Smart LEDs are particularly painless to install. That’s because here, there’s no need to run new wiring. What powered the previous fixture would simply be hooked up to power the new Solutube device. In this way—be it in a hallway, laundry room, or small bathroom—the Smart LED System allows homeowners to introduce clear, dazzling daylight into spaces formerly lit only by dim artificial light. Best of all, homeowners can do so in a non-intrusive way that requires minimal effort and virtually no modification to the home. Try saying something like that about a conventional skylight!

Homeowners love skylights for transforming dark, dreary interiors into bright, airy spaces. By virtue of its unique design, the Solatube Smart LED System goes where others cannot, introducing sunlight to virtually any room in the home. And unlike other skylights, past and present, this one doesn’t go dark when the sun goes down!

 

 

This post has been brought to you by Solatube. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Choose a Skylight

There's never been a better time to be in the market for a skylight. Today's models are markedly more reliable than previous generations, while the familiar designs have been joined by new and exciting options.

How to Choose a Skylight

Photo: fotosearch.com

Picture the average lightbulb. Now picture sunlight streaming into a room in your home. There’s no comparison, right? By opening interior space to the outdoors and the sun, skylights usher in unparalleled brightness and vibrancy. Yet, even as they transform the character of formerly dark, gloomy interior spaces, skylights also deliver a practical, bottom-line benefit. Sunlight is free, after all, so that means adding a skylight means subtracting from your month-to-month electricity bill. Whereas older skylights earned a reputation for unpredictable performance, mainly due to moisture problems, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. In fact, today’s homeowner can choose among skylight options that weren’t readily available, or didn’t even exist, only a few decades ago.

Operability
If you’ve shopped for a skylight before, you know that historically, there have been two main types of skylights—fixed and vented. Either installs flush to the roof deck or on a curb raised slightly above it. True to its name, a fixed skylight is non-operable and intended only for the purpose of providing extra illumination. Meanwhile, a vented skylight can be opened, either manually or via remote, depending on the unit. Of course, remote-operable vented skylights cost considerably more than their manual cousins. And, by virtue of involving a greater number of more sophisticated parts, electric skylights are comparatively more vulnerable to problems. Still, vented skylights offer, beyond the aesthetic and perhaps emotional benefits of natural light, an additional way to admit fresh air into the home.

How to Choose a Skylight - Tubular Skylight Illustration

Photo: solatube.com

Essentially, conventional skylights are windows on the roof. A newer option—tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) from Solatube International, Inc.—are a compact, efficient, and cost-effective alternative. Also sometimes known as tubular skylights, TDDs depart from the basic functionality of a window, and their innovative design clearly demonstrates that departure. On the roof, a weatherproof dome captures daylight, then channels it into your living spaces through highly reflective metal tubing. Where the light tube terminates, a special lens takes over to diffuse the harvested sunlight, evenly spreading it through the room in a pure white glow. Solatube Daylighting Devices even allow for customization: You can add ventilation, a daylight dimmer, or a lightbulb add-on kit to create a multifunctional system.

Glazing
Once upon a time, skylights were nothing more than a single pane of glass held within a metal frame. Today, glazing runs the gamut from single- or multi-paned glass to advanced plastics, with or without insulation and coatings to control such variables as heat and UV radiation. In a traditional installation, glass would afford a more crystal-clear view to the outdoors. Plastic, though less expensive, boasts a few key advantages. For one, it’s more durable. Plus, whereas glass skylights are typically flat and rectangular, plastic can take virtually any shape, lending itself to any number of placements on the roof. More importantly, domed skylights—only possible with plastic—outperform glass, not only by shedding leaves and snow, but also by receiving sunlight even when it comes in at an angle.

How to Choose a Skylight - TDD Installation

Photo: solatube.com

In its 30-year history, Solatube International has focused on a domed skylight alternative that, through its patented technology and leading-edge optics, corrects many flaws of earlier approaches to skylights. First of all, Solatube domes are leak-proof, impact-resistant, and self-cleaning, so you can enjoy trouble-free maintenance. You can also plainly see the Solatube International difference: Its light-capturing dome and reflector work together to achieve unsurpassed year-round performance. On the one hand, Solatube systems redirect low-angle sunlight so that even on winter days, your skylight functions satisfactorily. On the other, Solatube systems reject overpowering sunlight, so you don’t get too much of a good thing. Inside, you can even tweak the strength and color of the daylight entering your home through the Solatube “effect” lenses.

Installation
To choose the right skylight, you must account for the structure of your roof. Take a peek into your attic to assess the framing. How far apart are the rafters? Partly for the sake of convenience, conventional skylights come in sizes that fit snugly between the rafters of roofs with standard 16- or 24-inch framing. It’s not impossible to install a larger skylight—so long as yours isn’t a truss roof—but doing so goes beyond the abilities of the average do-it-yourselfer. Rafters must be cut, doubled up, and headed off—in other words, it’s no easy weekend project!

Even a modestly sized conventional skylight can take days to install. Solatube Daylighting Systems take just a couple of hours. Depending on your skills and experience, you might even be able to handle the installation on your own. That’s because Solatube devices require no changes to be made on the framing, and there are no major ceiling or wall repairs required on inside. Rather than contend with rafters and joists, Solatube devices cleverly fit between such components, with their patented fastening system, adjustable-length tubes, and angle adapters all making for a fast and painless remodeling project.

So easily routed, Solatube TDDs can illuminate those spaces you never thought daylight would reach. Because the light-channeling tube in the Solatube system extends up to 30 feet, the room you would like to brighten doesn’t have to sit directly beneath the roof. The tube component of the system can travel through attic, utility, and wall spaces to deliver natural light virtually wherever you want it, even the ground floor or basements in a multi-story home.

How to Choose a Skylight - In Room

Photo: solatube.com

Cost
Skylight prices vary widely, depending on the options you choose. Homeowners are wise to consider, not only the upfront product and installation costs, but also the ongoing impact the skylight may exert on heating and cooling energy bills. Though insulated skylights have become the norm, there remains a risk of efficiency losses offsetting the practical and aesthetic benefits introduced by the skylight. In winter, because hot air rises, inferior skylights lose more heat than a window. In summer, skylights admit more heat than a window, again by virtue of their placement on the roof. In either case, your HVAC would have to work overtime to counteract the skylight and maintain a comfortable temperature. Therefore, it pays to insist on a product with Energy Star certification. Energy Star-approved skylights, such as the daylighting systems offered by Solatube International, exceed the defined minimum energy performance requirement for climates around the country.

How to Choose a Skylight - Before After

Photo: solatube.com

This post has been brought to you by Solatube. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Replace a Worn-Out Window Screen

A staple gun, some scrap wood, and a utility knife—that's all you really need to replace the worn-out screen on a wood-frame window. Here's how it's done.

Replacing a screen on a wooden window frame? It’s a straightforward job. To get it done right, and with a minimum of hassle, here are some guidelines to help you along.

Wood Window Frame Screen Replacement

Photo: fotosearch.com

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First, lay the screen flat on a work surface. With hammer and chisel, gently remove the molding around the edge of the screen. Meanwhile, cut a piece replacement screening material that’s a few inches larger than what you need. Lay the new screen over the frame and staple the top end, making sure the weave runs square to the frame.

Next, pull the screen a little beyond the bottom of the frame, then staple it across a pre-cut scrap of one-by-two. Stretch the screen taut by tilting the scrap wood against the frame while firmly pulling downward. Once satisfied with how tightly the screen fits over the frame, go ahead and staple the bottom to secure the mesh in place.

Proceed to staple the screen along both sides of the frame. Once finished, go back and, using a utility knife, trim away all excess material—that is, the extra mesh that sticks out beyond the staples. Finally, replace your trim.

When replacing a window screen, bear in mind that although aluminum mesh tends to last the longest, fiberglass works best in areas with salty air.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.

How To: Make Your Own Window Cleaner

Save your window from streaks—and still save a little money—with a DIY version of your favorite commercial cleaners.

Homemade Window Cleaner

Photo: shutterstock.com

Windows get dirty, in part because we put off cleaning them, mistakenly thinking of the chore as a somehow complicated one. Certainly, cleaning windows can be a chore, but complicated? No. That’s never more true than when you eschew fancy store-bought formulas in favor of homemade window cleaner. Save some dollars and keep things simple by mixing up your own window cleaner with nothing more than a few pantry staples you likely have on hand. Here’s a recipe for success.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar
- Liquid dish soap
- Water
- Essential oils (optional)
- Spray bottle

STEP 1
Raid the pantry to gather your materials. Here, as in so many other non-toxic cleaners, vinegar plays a key role. Its acidity cuts through dirt and grease, an attribute that well equips the stuff to remove streaks from windows. Plus, if you’ve washed your windows for years with a commercial cleaner, it’s likely that the glass sports a subtle, waxy film. That comes off easily with ordinary dish soap, another ingredient contributing to the efficacy of homemade window cleaner.

Homemade Window Cleaner - Washing Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Mix your ingredients. In a spray bottle, combine a quarter-cup of vinegar with a half-teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Dilute the mixture with two cups of water, then shake the bottle vigorously to combine the components. If you happen not to have vinegar on hand, note that you can substitute in lemon juice. Like vinegar, lemon juice has a mild acidity that cuts through grease and grime with equal panache.

STEP 3
As a cleaning agent, there’s much to love about vinegar, but the strong odor isn’t everyone’s favorite thing. Fortunately, you can go a long way toward camouflaging the scent by adding essential oil into the spray bottle mixture. Pick your favorite oil—it doesn’t matter which—and include about 10 or 15 drops.

With your homemade window cleaner now ready, mist the window glass with it and then, using a lint-free cloth, wipe the cleaner across the entire surface you’re cleaning. Be careful not to use a cloth or sponge that’s going to leave streaks (or even scratches). For best results, opt for microfiber or chamois.

If the windows are dusty but not streaky, you can clean them without bringing a cleaning solution, homemade or otherwise, into the equation. Simply use a lint-free cloth to pick up and clear away the dust. Then, once finished, complete the job by polishing the glass to a shine with a different, clean cloth.


Quick Tip: Clean Windows with Coffee Filters

For sparkling windows with no streaks, try cleaning your windows with coffee filters.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Everyone dreads at least one household chore. Many people’s least favorite is cleaning the windows. Too important to ignore, window cleaning frustrates homeowners, because even though it seems so straightforward, the effort often feels futile. Only a poor carpenter blames his tools, but here, the supplies used most often—cloth and paper towels—cannot help but leave behind lint. That makes it virtually impossible to achieve satisfyingly streak-free, sparkling results.

How to Clean Windows with Coffee Filters - Focus

Photo: shutterstock.com

There has to be a better way. And there is: Use coffee filters. A staple in many kitchens, coffee filters are inexpensive, widely available, and tear-resistant. They are also lint-free. Plus, given their role in the coffee-making process, filters are designed and manufactured not to break apart, even with prolonged exposure to water. In other words, coffee filters have several qualities that make them ideal for window cleaning.

To capitalize on coffee filters, start by cleaning your windows in the usual way (for comprehensive step-by-step instructions, click here). Spray on store-bought or homemade glass cleaner, then, instead of wiping the windows down with cloth or paper towels, do so with coffee filters—the larger the size, the better. Some have reported the greatest level of success with extra-large filters originally intended for use in restaurants.

It’s also recommended that you wipe with more than one filter at a time to increase absorption power. If you still find that the coffee filters are not absorbent enough, try wiping down the windows in two stages. After spraying on your glass cleaner, first wipe the window with a lint-producing cloth or towel. Then, in the second and final stage, finish off the job with lint-free coffee filters.

As homeowners have known for decades, another alternative to cloth and paper towels is newspaper. Like coffee filters, newspaper leaves no lint behind. And because glass does not absorb ink, there’s no danger of doing more harm than good. Ink can, however, easily get on the trim surrounding the glass, so be careful. Also, if you choose to work with newspaper, be prepared for ink to get on your hands. If you don’t like wearing plastic or rubber gloves, be prepared for the stains to linger on your fingers for up to a few days!


Bob Vila Radio: Shush Your Slamming Doors

If slamming doors are a nuisance for you (or your neighbors), restore quiet with either of these easy, low-cost, do-it-yourself solutions.

Is a slamming door driving you nuts? Have you had noise complaints from neighbors? Here are a few simple and inexpensive ways to shush those slamming doors.

How to Stop a Door from Slamming

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SHUSHING SLAMMING DOORS or read the text below:

Stick-on felt pads are a low-tech option. Available in a variety of sizes, they can be cut with scissors to fit. Once you’ve removed any dirt on the inside of the door frame, stick the pads to the part of the frame where the door makes contact. You can do the same thing with weatherstripping—and when you use it on exterior doors, it’ll help keep out drafts too!

Or how about installing a time-tested pneumatic door closer? These work especially well on screen or storm doors, with their bracket-and-piston design ensuring a slow, quiet close each time. Plus, pneumatics enable you to manually adjust the closing speed of the door, usually by simply twisting the piston part of the closer.

There are other options, in addition, which can help you stop a door from slamming. Check them out at your local home center!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


What Type of Door Is Best for Your Entryway?

When you're shopping for a new entry door, you've got a lot of decisions to make. But while you're grappling with the right architectural style and finish, don't lose sight of the single most important decision: the material your door will be made of.

How to Choose an Entry Door

Photo: masonite.com

You put a great deal of trust in your front door, counting on it to form a good first impression of your home for any visitor or passerby. For that reason alone, the front door is more important than it’s typically given credit for being. But the fact is that your front door needs to be much more than beautiful. It must also be strong enough to keep out would-be intruders, and it must be durable enough to withstand glaring sun, driving rain, and all the other challenges your local climate might bring. So if you’re seeking to give a fast and dramatic facelift to the facade of your home, be certain that you’re choosing a replacement door that’s up to the task.

Related: New Front Doors Change Everything in 4 Entryway Before-and-Afters

With any investment you make in your home, there are up-front as well as ongoing costs. Entry door selection is no different. In weighing your many options, take the time to understand both the immediate benefits and the long-term requirements of any door you’re considering. There are plenty of factors that affect a door’s appearance, durability, security, and price, but what matters most is the material a door is made of. Choose a door of the right material, and you’re likely to be rewarded with smoother day-to-day operation, minimal annual upkeep, and—more often than not—energy savings.

 

WOOD IS GOOD

How to Choose an Entry Door - Wood

Photo: shutterstock.com

Picture a front door in your mind. What you’re most likely picturing is a wood door. For decades, wood was the only option, and it served homeowners well. Aesthetically pleasing and with a satisfying heft, wood doors are highly versatile, lending themselves to virtually limitless paint and stain possibilities. Because it’s possible to resize a wood door by planing it down, there are many wood doors around the country that have led very long lives, used over and over again in different applications. But for all their merits, wood doors can be problematic, mainly because the material is naturally porous. Wood inevitably expands and contracts along with changes in temperature and humidity, and in some cases, it can warp, cup, or twist. Furthermore, when exposed to moisture, wood doors can fall victim to rot. Homeowners can fend off those threats to the beauty and proper functioning of a wood door, but it takes work. Even though their manufacture has become more sophisticated and their resiliency has improved, wood doors remain sensitive to the environment. If you purchase one, expect to sand, stain, or repaint it every few years—and perhaps more often than that, if you live in area of the country with a wet, humid climate (for example, the South).

 

STEEL IS BETTER

How to Choose an Entry Door - Steel

Photo: masonite.com

Steel doors make up for the shortcomings of wood and boast advantages all their own. For one thing, steel doors are far more durable. That makes them an ideal choice for regions such as the South, where the combination of glaring sun and heavy rainfall would work against the longevity of a wood door. Also, steel doors neither expand nor contract, which means they always open and close smoothly, no matter the time of year. Perhaps best of all, many home experts agree that steel doors provide the greatest amount of security. While critics say steel doesn’t look as good as wood, new designs from industry leaders like Masonite are changing that perception. Masonite steel doors, available at The Home Depot, feature deep, high-definition decorative panels that closely mimic the look of high-end wood doors—without the maintenance that wood requires. Plus, with Masonite doors, homeowners can choose from an array of glass inserts that can make a steel door even more eye-catching. Considering that steel doors insulate better than wood, it’s a pleasant surprise that steel doors are often the most affordable option!

 

FIBERGLASS IS BEST

How to Choose an Entry Door - Fiberglass

Photo: shutterstock.com

The newest material for entry doors is fiberglass, and it’s fast becoming the most popular. Unlike steel, fiberglass isn’t prone to rust. And unlike wood, fiberglass doesn’t rot. Benefiting from the latest in manufacturing technology, fiberglass entry doors are impervious to the environmental factors that threaten other types of doors. Genuinely low maintenance, fiberglass doors resist dents and are surprisingly tough. Plus, they provide best-in-category insulation, helping homeowners keep their monthly utility costs as low as possible. What seals the deal is that there are now more style options than ever before. At The Home Depot, Masonite alone offers three families of fiberglass entry doors. The company’s Barrington fiberglass door collection combines the high performance of fiberglass with the beauty of hardwood, while Belleville fiberglass doors offer superior architectural design. In either case, you can go a step further to personalize your door, choosing a decorative glass insert from the wide variety of designs offered by Masonite. With such a broad selection, you’re bound to find a door perfect for your project.

Still not sure what type of door you want? Check out Masonite Max. Offered jointly by Masonite and The Home Depot, Masonite Max is an easy- and fun-to-use online tool that guides you through the process of designing and a purchasing a door that perfectly matches your style preferences and functional needs.

This post has been brought to you by Masonite. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.  


A Contractor’s Tips for a Long-Lasting Front Door

To keep entry doors looking and performing their best, heed the advice of contractor, author, and old house expert Scott Sidler.

Front Door Maintenance

Photo: masonite.com

If there were one rule in home exterior maintenance, it might be this: Don’t skip the door. With their frequent daily use and constant exposure to the elements, even well made, properly installed entry doors are prone to wear and tear. Given their partly utilitarian role in the home, doors are too often taken for granted and left out of monthly or annual upkeep routines. That’s a mistake, according to contractor, author, and owner of Austin Home Restorations, Scott Sidler. Here, Scott tells us what threats exist to the appearance and functioning of doors, and more importantly, what can be done to ensure that the door enjoys a long life. 

Front Door Maintenance - With Plants

Photo: masonite.com

What about ongoing maintenance? Are there annual upkeep tasks that you would recommend?

Scott: Spot-check the finish at least every year. Because of the stronger sun we have in the South, I see a lot of peeling paint. Here, paint chalks very quickly and doesn’t last nearly as long as it does in the rest of the country. But as long as you care for the door by keeping it painted, you’re not likely to have issues. I’d say that around here, a front door probably needs a fresh coat of paint—and at least a little sanding—every five years. It depends on the level of exposure it gets. If the door isn’t covered by a porch and is out there in the full sun, you may need to paint it as often as every two or three years.

Parents always scold children for slamming the door, but the sun and the rain are really a door’s worst enemies, right? Are there any steps you would recommend taking to minimize with the vulnerability of an entry door installation to the elements?

Scott: Many door jambs come with a factory finish on the side that’s visible to everybody coming and going in the house. But the back side of the jamb is usually left unfinished. So when we install a pre-hung door—whether it’s a fiberglass, steel, or wood door—we always make sure to back-prime the wood jamb to give it that much more resistance to moisture and insects. The other thing you can do is a borate treatment. It’s nothing complex. Borate either brushes or sprays on. Once applied, it migrates through the jamb, helping to the lengthen its life at minimal extra cost. It takes five minutes.

Editor’s note: Borate products are inexpensive and readily available at The Home Depot, which is also a great place to buy a entry door. The retail chain sells the full line of doors made by Masonite, a long-established leader in the product category whose fiberglass, steel, and wood doors come with a limited lifetime warranty when purchased at The Home Depot. If you need help choosing a new door, check out Masonite Max. Offered jointly by Masonite and The Home Depot, Masonite Max is an easy- and fun-to-use tool that guides you through the process of designing the perfect door for your project.

What other issues are there to watch out for? 

Scott: Of course, these problems don’t tend to affect fiberglass or steel doors, but in the warm, humid season, doors made of wood often stick. Then in the winter, everything works again. What some people do is shave down a sticking door in the summer so that it opens and shuts smoothly again. But now you’ve got a problem, because in the winter, that door is going to shrink, leaving big gaps all around it. If you’re going to modify a wood door because you’re having trouble with it, be sure to make allowances for the time of year. Fiberglass and steel doors are less sensitive to weather conditions, so they’re free of these seasonal issues.

Front Door Maintenance - Veranda

Photo: masonite.com

Assuming you’ve got the new door, it’s the style for your house, and you’re properly maintaining it—what are the benefits that can be expected? 

Scott: I don’t think a lot of people think about it this way, but the front door is the only part of your house that anyone will stand and stare at, with nothing else to do. This is how I explain it to homeowners: A guest doesn’t walk up to a wall in your house and just stare at it. But at the front door, while they’re waiting for you to answer it, visitors are just going to stand there and stare at the door. The door and its hardware. That’s the stuff your guests and potential homebuyers see first and linger on. Meanwhile, you probably go in and out of the front door every day. So make it something you love. And if there is one door in the house that should work smoothly, it should be your front door. It just gets so much attention. It’s the first impression your home makes. Don’t skip the door!

Editor’s note: Choose a new entry door with the best chance of standing up to the inevitable wear and tear it’s going to experience. In continuous operation since 1925, Masonite manufactures doors in an array of materials and style, and the company specializes in durability. Among the many Masonite product lines are its Barrington fiberglass doors, which stand out for their resistance to denting, warping, splitting, and cracking. Not sure what type of door you want? Don’t forget to try Masonite Max, a new online tool that guides you through the process of designing the perfect door and easily purchasing it from The Home Depot.

Front Door Maintenance - Glass Inset

Photo: masonite.com

This post has been brought to you by Masonite. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com


A Contractor’s Tips for Open-and-Shut Door Installation

In an interview with Bob Vila, contractor, author, and old house expert Scott Sidler explains his approach to choosing and installing doors in the South, where he lives and works around a changeable climate.

Front Door Installation

Photo: masonite.com

Real estate agents call it curb appeal. It’s how a house looks to visitors as they arrive by car. Curb appeal was, is, and will be important to homeowners, whether or not they’re planning to sell. And while factors ranging from landscaping to paint color influence curb appeal, there’s no more immediate facade facelift than a new front door. Thanks to the advent of pre-hung doors, installation has only gotten easier. But according to contractor, author, and old house expert Scott Sidler, owner of Austin Home Restorations, the job still comes with some complexities. Here, Scott shares what to keep in mind.

Front Door Installation - Curb Appeal

Photo: masonite.com

Most entry doors that you can pick up at The Home Depot—they’re pre-hung, right? What is a pre-hung door, anyway?

Scott: A pre-hung door comes with the jamb, the hinges, and the door itself. It’s a fully functional door; it’s just not installed. If it were not pre-hung, you would have to cut out hinge mortises and fit that door into an existing jamb. But with a pre-hung, you just order the doors you need, you set it in the rough opening—the framing between the studs, with the header above it. Then the door gets leveled, plumbed, shimmed, and fastened into place, and finally the trim goes over. Unless it’s a custom situation, pre-hung doors are used almost exclusively. It’s been a big step forward, I think. Everything is already assembled, and you just install it into the building.

If pre-hung doors have made entry door installation so much more forgiving, what’s the most difficult part now?

Scott: When you’re installing a door, you’re working with three planes: The door needs to be plumb, it needs to be level, and it needs to be square. It’s easy to miss some of the alignment issues. If you shim it a little too much on one side, you may put the jamb out of square, and as a consequence, the door may not close properly. But in new construction—if your framer did a good job, and you’ve got a well-framed opening—it’s fairly easy, so long as you take your measurements properly. With remodeling, it’s another world. In an older house that may have settled a bit, you need to make adjustments to account for any sagging. If the level, plumb, and square are not perfect, the door isn’t going to perform as it should. It’s not going to stay open when it’s open. It’s not going to to stay closed when it’s closed.

Front Door Installation - Interior View

Photo: masonite.com

You live and work in the South. Are there any regional considerations you take into account when installing a door?

Scott: If we’re installing a pre-hung—or even if we’re building a jamb on-site—I like there to be plenty of space in the jamb. That’s why I use larger shims. They allow me to make sure there’s extra space in there, and that’s important because we get so much sun. Winters here, the temperature ranges from the 30s to 50s, so the wood contracts quite a bit. And in the summer, when it’s 95 degrees and 100% humidity, and it’s raining, that wood is going to swell. You want to make sure that there’s a little extra gap around the door that you can fill with weatherstripping, which can take that large expansion and contraction we get here. I think that’s fairly common in a lot of the country, but with wood doors here, the effect is extreme. You don’t have those issues with fiberglass or steel doors.

Do you think that’s a reason other contractors should think about shying away from wood doors in the South?

Scott: In new construction down here, and also in standard remodels, it sure feels like most of the exterior doors are fiberglass or steel, except on the high end, where the clients want something really special. In the South, fiberglass and steel tend to hold up better than wood. We also run across rotten jamb bottoms. The legs of the jamb start to rot out, because no matter what material the door is, you’ve likely still got a wooden jamb. With all the rain we get, that wood is going to rot out eventually. That’s why some jambs today have PVC bottoms. Just that bottom foot and a half or so being PVC… it makes a huge difference.

Front Door Installation - Lites

Photo: masonite.com

A new door ought to suit the style of the house. How do you go about choosing the right door for a project you’re working on?

Scott: It really depends on what the client wants. A lot of our clients say, “I want something that’s true to the style of the house,” what was there originally. So we can do a little research and see if we can find out. But usually we choose based on the home’s architectural style. Colonial-style doors are going to be the standard four- or six-panel doors. Mission-style doors are typically composed of thick, vertical boards tied together under an arched top, with a peek hole and wrought iron hardware. It’s about staying true to the architectural style of the house, whether this is an 1800 Queen Anne Victorian or a newer house in the local vernacular. Just try and stay true to that, so it doesn’t look terribly anachronistic and way out of place. Choose for the scale and style of the building.

Editor’s note: If you need help selecting a door, don’t hesitate to check out the Masonite Max configurator offered jointly by The Home Depot and Masonite. Easy and actually quite fun to use, the Masonite Max tool guides you through the process of designing and purchasing the perfect door for your project. Based in Tampa, Florida, Masonite has continually operated since its founding in 1925. Today, the company manufactures steel, wood, and fiberglass doors in an array of styles to suit any preference. Plus, at The Home Depot, Masonite fiberglass and steel doors carry a limited lifetime warranty!

Front Door Installation - Back

Photo: masonite.com

This post has been brought to you by Masonite. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.