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A Free Information Guide

Things you need to know before purchasing decorative doors and door glass.

A FREE INFORMATION GUIDE

From

Dream Doors

If you are like most folks, home improvement projects offer the excitement of experiencing enjoyable new home amenities. But this same excitement often gives way to worry and concern about how to get the most value from the home improvement experience and products.

The replacement of doors offers the same challenges. People usually do not have much need to replace doors often. Therefore, knowledge and information of doors can be scarce.

This information guide hopefully will help you to determine how to shop for and purchase entry doors, in particular, decorative entry doors. In fact, this guide will help whether you are purchasing decorative glass to be installed into your existing door, or if you are replacing the whole door unit. Let's begin!

DECORATIVE GLASS INSTALLED INTO EXISTING DOORS

If you have a door that is in relatively good condition, it may well be to your advantage to have glass installed into that door rather than replacing the door unit. This typically should save you about half the cost of a complete door replacement.

Keep in mind that all decorative glass is not the same. Just as with jewelry, automobiles, food items, or most anything, there are varying degrees of quality and pricing. It would not be fair go to an expensive jewelry store and be surprised to find their most beautiful diamond is more expensive than a similar looking ring set at Wal-Mart! Decorative glass should be purchased not on the basis of price alone, but on the beauty, appeal and esthetic value to the home you are attempting to upgrade. You will not remember exactly how much you paid for your decorative glass insert one year after the purchase, but you will know if you continue to enjoy your selection. Our advice is, don't base your purchasing decision on price only. Consider other factors of quality, beauty and appeal.

Take into consideration the age of the house and the door. As a rule of thumb, a house and door under twenty (20) years will be a good candidate. Inspect the door carefully. Does the door open and close properly? Do you see any light around or under the door? Can you feel air blowing past the edges or under the door? Is there any splitting, cracking or warping? If the door is made of wood, do you see any wood rot or termite damage with the door slab or the surrounding frames (jambs)?

If you see no obvious problems, and the door performs and seals well, your door may well be a suitable candidate. So let's proceed with the idea of installing glass into your existing door!

Your door will be made from wood, steel or fiberglass. It is somewhat important to know which type material the door is made from. To determine which type door you have, perform these simple checks.

  • METAL DOORS Attempt to attach a refrigerator magnet to the door. If it sticks, you have a metal (steel) door. These are the very best candidate for decorative glass!

  • FIBERGLASS DOORS if the magnet does not stick, take a tape measure and measure the horizontal distance from the outside edge to outside edge of the door panels. If you get a measurement of 23" or so (+ or ), then most likely you will have a fiberglass door. Another clue is to determine the age of the house. Most fiberglass doors did not gain popularity until within about the last ten years.

  • WOOD DOORS If the measurement exceeds 23", to somewhere around 26" or 27" (+ or ), you have either a wood door or what is known as a wide panel fiberglass door. Not to worry! Dream Doors™ can and does install glass into existing wide panel wood and fiberglass doors. Beware if anyone tries to sell you a new door to replace the door you have, especially if your existing door is made of fiberglass.

    Why? Because the wood slab used in these situations are usually an inexpensive pressed wood center core door slab, inferior to the fiberglass door slab being replaced. They simply do not hold up over time.

  • WOOD DOORS WITH GLASS in some homes, the wood doors may have decorative glass that has metal between the pieces of glass. You can actually touch the metal strips (caming) that is soldered around the individual glass pieces. These type doors are true leaded glass doors. Often, one or more of the glass pieces will be cracked or broken.

    The cracked or broken glass is difficult to repair, since the craftsmen who originally built these type doors are almost nonexistent now. This type door glass is illegal and has been for some years, because all door glass by federal law must be tempered safety glass. Dream Doors™ can cut out the old glass and/or panels, and install a new decorative safety insert that does meet all current building codes.

  • SIDELIGHTS If your door has sidelights, the long narrow glass on either one or both sides of the door, the existing clear glass (whether there are dividing grids or not) can be replaced. However, in some homes the sidelights are actually side windows. In that case, extra work may be necessary to install glass into a side window.

    Determining which can be difficult. If you are not certain whether yours are sidelights or side windows, simply take a digital picture and email to our team. We'll be happy to tell you which you have. In most cases, adding decorative glass to the side windows can be accomplished with a sash replacement or direct set the sidelight glass into your existing opening.

  • HARDWARE In most cases, replacing the old tarnished or pitted hardware is a good idea when giving your door a makeover. Be aware, however, that most hardware on the market, especially those at bargain prices, is builder grade and will look bad again in just a few short years. Always ask for high quality hardware, such as Baldwin or Emtek. You may spend a bit more initially, but quality is always less expensive in the long run.

REPLACING YOUR EXISTING DOOR(S) WITH A NEW DOOR

Obviously, one option you have is to just replace that old door with a new one. There are compelling and good reasons for doing just that. If your house and doors are old, or have some type of problems such as rotting or splitting frames (jambs), or if they don't seal well, are drafty and let bugs, air and water in, then it may be time to replace the old door system.

There are a couple of ways to approach this project. One is called a slab door installation; one is called a pre-hung door installation. Let's look at both, to see which the proper one for you is.

  • SLAB DOOR INSTALLATION is where just the door slab (the part you think of as the door) is removed and replaced with a new door slab. The old hinges, weather stripping, threshold, interior and exterior trim are left in place, and not replaced. This is typically done in older homes where the jambs are heart pine, the moldings are custom, or the jambs may share a common support of the wall, or for some other good reason.

    Slab installs almost always use wood door slabs. The reason for this is because wood doors are a true size (such as 36" x 80") and are not undersized. This means they can be trimmed to fit the opening correctly, such as where an opening may not be completely square. Make sure your installer has good experience in slab door installation. These are most difficult to perform and a door can be damaged or ruined by an inexperienced installer.

    This method should not be considered, except where it makes sense to do so over the next type of installation, the pre-hung door unit.

  • PRE-HUNG DOOR INSTALLATION a pre-hung door is where the door slab is assembled into a system comprising new frames (jambs), hinges, threshold, and weather stripping and will be replaced as a complete unit. Additionally, new interior and exterior molding is also replaced to make sure the job is complete.

As a general rule, all steel and fiberglass door slabs will be replaced as a pre-hung unit. While there is a new trimmable fiberglass slab on the market, it still makes good sense to replace most doors with a pre-hung unit. This insures you get a door unit that performs and seals well against the elements.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A DOOR

It may surprise you learn that all doors are not made the same. There are different grades of doors, and different price points. Here are some facts good to know as you shop for doors.

  • WOOD DOORS Wood doors come in two basic grades, expensive and inexpensive. Expensive doors will look expensive, are made usually of oak or mahogany or alder, or maybe even pine or cherry. Inexpensive doors are usually made of fir, birch, some pine or a foreign species you never heard of before.

    Expensive doors will cost thousands; inexpensive wood doors will cost hundreds. Wood doors of any species or cost will require more maintenance and upkeep than comparable steel or fiberglass doors. However, if you choose to have a door with a stained finish, wood is still the best option you have.

  • STEEL DOORS Steel doors were popular for many years due to their low cost. Most people assume steel doors are more secure, when in fact, they are less secure than wood or fiberglass doors. Steel doors should be considered ONLY when price is a real issue. Initial purchase price is the only real advantage steel doors have; in the long run, they are the most expensive to own.

    The reasons for this are multiple. Steel doors conduct heat and cold, which means your house is hotter in the summer, colder in the winter. This drives up energy costs, and in fact, some steel doors with a direct sun exposure may get hot enough to cause skin burns! Steel doors also get dented easily, making them look old and ugly before their usefulness is up. Steel doors also rust, sometimes from the inside out. When this happens, replacement is imminent.

  • FIBERGLASS DOORS Fiberglass is generally assumed by the industry to be the best choice for a door material if low maintenance and cost of ownership is important. Fiberglass has the advantage of providing lower energy costs due to the fact they do not conduct heat and cold well. This means the heating and air conditioning stays inside the house where you want it, does not transfer to the outside of the house where you do not want it.

    Fiberglass can be stained or painted. If staining, a textured fiberglass door slab should be specified. If painting, you may select between a textured door slab, and a smooth skin door slab. Should you choose to stain your textured fiberglass door, please consider a professional finisher who is experienced in staining fiberglass. This is not the time to try a do-it-yourself project if it's your first time staining fiberglass!

    Be aware there are differences in quality of fiberglass door slabs. Some fiberglass doors, such as Johnson, Veemco, Stanley and some others offer fiberglass door slabs with wood around the four outer edges (sides, top and bottom). These doors WILL rot out along the edges, and termites have even been found in some. Always look for a fiberglass door slab, such as PlastPro, which has fiberglass on all six (6) sides of the door slab.

DIFFERENCES IN DOORS

Now that you have the basics in door types, there is one more thing to understand about doors, and this may be the most important part of this guide.

Most people assume a door is a door, and that there are no basic differences in doors. You may be tempted to choose one based on the lowest purchase price. If you choose a door on the basis of lowest purchase price, and choose a door company for the same reason, you may be vulnerable to spending your money more than once to replace a door not carefully selected.

Most doors are built in places called millworks shops, and there are many in Jacksonville and throughout the state. These shops build doors based on volume and pricing, and quality is not always paramount. In fact, to be competitive, especially when supplying doors to builders or home improvement warehouses such as Lowe's or Home Depot, you can be assured that quality takes a lower position on the priority list.

These generally are builder grade doors and their claim to fame is a lower price point. To achieve that lower price point, inferior products will be used. For instance, the hinges will be anodized or painted and will be low grade residential, which means they are stamped out with very thin metal thicknesses. The weather stripping will be nylon, which loses its ability to conform and seal tightly to the door slab over time. The threshold will be thin cast aluminum with a wood support plate, inviting both termites as a food source and wood rot if moisture gets under the threshold (it will, be assured).

The frame (jambs) will be a fir wood, prone to splitting, termites and wood rot. Look for fancy wording by some companies about their jambs and thresholds, but hedge their claims by adding "Limits jamb rot". In a quality door system, wood rot and termite damage should be eliminated, and stated so in the warranty.

The frames (jambs) on low price doors will always be stapled onto the threshold. This type fastening system lends itself to production, but is also limited in strength.

Builder grade low price doors almost always have excessive reveals, the narrow gap between the door slab and the jamb itself. Wide gaps allows for doors to "fall" in the opening over time, a common problem with doors using inexpensive hinges. This is why doors "stick" or rub, it's because the door has fallen or shifted in the opening. Since there is limited money to be made on inexpensive doors, the manufacturer limits their warranty expense by creating these excessive reveals or gaps. This allows the door to "fall" further before sticking, resulting in less service calls and warranty issues.

There are other options to buying a builder grade door unit. One is to seek out quality name brand doors, such as Andersen, Peachtree, Marvin, and Pella (not the Pella doors sold through Lowe's -- these are knockoffs from the real deal). These name brand doors are generally sold through independent door shops and will command higher prices, but the quality far exceeds doors sold at the home improvement warehouses.

Dream Doors™ builds doors to a quality standard, and feature components not found on most doors at any price. We invite you visit our showroom and let us show you the exclusive features offered.

Door companies

There is as much difference in door companies as there are in door quality. Several things to look out for and confirm up front are:

  1. How long have they been in business?
  2. Do they offer references?
  3. Do they use subcontractors for installation, or company trained installers?
  4. Do they have the proper licenses (General, Residential or Certified Building Contractor) or do they just have an occupational license?
  5. How much general liability insurance do they carry (one million should be minimum)?
  6. Do they have a showroom (shows financial commitment and stability)?
  7. Do they charge sales tax on installed doors (some do charge sales tax, and it is illegal)?
  8. How large is their selection (again, proves financial stability and commitment)?

In conclusion, it pays to shop, compare and ask questions. Be informed as to what a good door really is. Deal with companies that will spend time with you answering questions, has numerous references and a strong community presence. Beware of those who pressure you into making a decision before obtaining all the facts. Look for a large selection of products to insure your door is as special as the home it's installed into.

We invite you to call us at 904-880-7778 or email sales@dreamdoors.com if you have additional questions, or visit our showroom at 5220 Shad Road in Jacksonville.

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Dream Doors Testimonials

When we purchased our home there was an ugly set of builder grade sliding glass doors leading to the patio. Mike and the Dream Doors team came out and installed a beautiful set of French doors with a transom glass above. It completely transformed our home and gave it a nice modern look.
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