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Dear Jim: I need a new front door. Several neighbors have beautiful wood doors. I want an attractive door with glass like theirs, but I am afraid it may eventually warp and need repairs. What do you think? - Sandi T.
A: If you install a top-quality wood front door, you won't have to worry about its becoming warped. A warped door is not only unattractive, but the air leakage around it will increase your utility bills year-round. It also creates chilly drafts and allows allergens and dust to get indoors.
Keep in mind though, even the best wood doors require a periodic inspection and they are not as maintenance-free as are insulated steel and fiberglass doors. Wood is a natural material, so it may grow and shrink with seasonal changes in humidity and temperature.
A good-quality finish on the door should seal the wood and minimize these changes. Some doors are delivered prefinished and other are finished at your home. Your regular inspection should be for scratches and nicks that might allow moisture to enter the wood. Seal any spots with a touch of urethane.
Many top-quality wood doors are made of solid hardwood rails (horizontal sections) and stiles (vertical sections). If the climate conditions in your area are severe and have caused other front doors to warp, consider a door made of laminated veneer lumber or other engineered lumber. For stability, these consist of small pieces of wood bonded together under a wood veneer.
Another option is a wood door with a foam insulation core. Solid wood is a fairly good natural insulator, but the foam core quadruples the overall insulation level. These designs also use two-piece rail and stile construction for greater stability in any climate and weather conditions.
The type of decorative glass you install in the door will likely have a greater impact on its efficiency than the door construction or the foam insulation. Also, adding large decorative glass panels, such as leaded, stained, beveled, arched, etc., can almost double the cost of some doors.
Triple-pane glass is best for all climates. It is energy efficient (two air gaps) and it is more difficult for a thief to break through it. The decorative pane is between the outer two for protection against accidental damages or degradation by the sun, air pollution, cleaning, etc.
The wood you select (oak, maple, ash, birch, mahogany, hemlock, walnut, cherry) does not have a great impact on the durability of the door as long as you maintain it and keep the surface sealed. Make your selection of the wood type based its appearance and your budget. If you prefer a stylish look, select one with an embossed metal (brass, copper, or pewter) skin.
Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 434 - buyer's guide of 14 highest-quality wood front entry doors, construction types (solid hardwood, composite molded wood fiber, engineered lumber, cross-banded wood construction, laminated wood core, insulated core), illustrations of styles available, decorative/efficiency/security features, glass types and finishing recommendations for solid or veneer wood doors.
Dear Jim: I have completed the trench around the foundation of my house for drainage pipe. It now has a thin layer of leaves in it. Do I have clean out all the leaves before I fill in some base gravel and install the pipe? - Al W.
A: Installing perforated drainage pipe in a trench around the foundation is an excellent way to minimize water leakage problems. You can remove the leaves with a vacuum if you wish, but it probably is not necessary.
Under the weight of the gravel and with the high moisture content in the drainage ditch, the leaves will rapidly decompose into loose soil. The gravel separates the holes in the pipe from the soil so it should not clog.