The right door can provide a warm welcome home

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 6:02 p.m.

Elliott Fabri Jr. says it's easy to let money race through the front door.

“People express a lot of interest in energy-efficiency in their house, but when it comes to the front door, they takes things for granted,” says the executive from EcoCraft Homes, a South Fayette company that builds modular homes centered on efficient design.

Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokeswoman from the Iowa-based Pella Corp., agrees that ignoring energy-efficiency is a financial mistake.

“A new door can quickly pay for itself,” she says. “Leaks just take money out the door.”

Door and construction professionals all urge some investigation to make sure doors do more than simply keep wandering dogs outside. Doors easily can cost several thousand dollars, they say, but checking into energy-efficiency and construction will make sure any investment pays off.

Of course, energy-efficiency is only part of the process. Doors create more than a two-sided issue.

“The value proposition our customers are looking for are made up of price, appearance/design, energy-efficiency and security,” says Jaclyn Pardini, a national spokeswoman for Lowe's. “Each customer places varying amounts of importance on each item; however, those four items are each customer's main consideration when shopping for doors.”

Simply in appearance, doors play an important role.

Kathleen Ziprik from Ohio-based Therma-Tru manufacturing firm says a nationwide test showed home values seemed higher with more dramatic doors. Tested individuals estimated the value of residences at 3.2 to 6.6 percent higher than the same home with a less-expensive door.

The investment has a strong payback, too.

Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value report for 2013 says replacement of a fiberglass entry door generated a 65.9 percent return at sale time — more than even a roofing replacement (62.9 percent).

Money is important, but in front-door projects, it is easy to save a few dollars now and lose them later.

Hank Michaels, a contractor from Shaler, says steel doors are popular because they are strong, attractive and relatively inexpensive. For $750 or so, a homeowner can upgrade the entryway with a sound doorway.

“But steel doors can bring in the cold,” he says. “If they are not insulated right, they are not too efficient.”

Krafka Harkema agrees, saying steel doors often emerge as a value-conscious choice, but have their heat-blocking weaknesses. But, she adds, steel doors with a strong core can do a good insulation job.

She and the other door professionals all are high on fiberglass for efficiency, low maintenance and flexibility in color choice or painting.

Ziprik says that company's tests have shown that fiberglass doors are four times more efficient than a solid wood door in preventing heat loss.

She and Krafka Harkema both recommend information from the U.S. Department of Energy ( and the nonprofit National Fenestration Rating Council ( in choosing. The latter group also deals with window ratings.

Ratings at both sites largely are based on U-value, which is how quickly heat is transferred through a door; and R-value, which is resistance to heat loss. Low U values and higher R values are desired.

Fabri points out another initial that comes into play: the E rating for glass, as in large panes in doors or sidelights. Low E ratings generally are examined for the way they keep ultraviolet light out of the house in warm weather, reducing air conditioning bills. But low E glass also keeps heat in, so it has a winter bonus.

Fabri advocates triple-paned, low E glass in doorways where that type of design is wanted.

Besides the heat transmission in doors and panes, the ability to stay sealed from water also is a factor to consider, say Ziprik and Krafka Harkema.

One aspect that is difficult to measure is heat loss through poor framing.

Krafka Harkema says pre-framed doors are more efficient because the critical area between the door and the frame is tighter and better insulated.

She says homeowners should always look for a pre-framed door because their functioning has been “tested for reliability and repeatability.” She says the latter is important because doors are opened so much, their ability to constantly repeat an efficient function is vital.

It is easier to create an efficient doorway using pre-framed construction because they are “designed to operate as a unit. There is no-one-size-fits-all for a door opening.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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