The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Front Entry Door for New Jersey Homeowners

By November 3, 2015Doors
entry doors with sidelights

How to Choose a Front Entry Door

Have you ever taken the time to consider the effort that goes in to expertly choosing a modern front entry door? When faced with the task of replacing the door to a front entrance, many people go down to their local home improvement store and settle for whatever’s on the shelf. Sure, a pre-made and prehung front entry door will seem like the easy way out. However, that door will never be uniquely yours – there’ll always be someone else who has gone down to their local home improvement store and picked up that exact same door.

It’s a Comprehensive System

A front entry door has a multitude of functions – weatherproofing your home, providing a way for people to enter and exit your home, and keeping intruders out. The front entry door has design styles, lighting situations and privacy aspects to consider. It must not only be beautiful, but functional as well. What kind of locks do you intend on having? What kind of doorknob? Have you considered what type of glass the door may have? How about the sidelights or the transom? How about a kickplate or a knocker? We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here.

The Ultimate Front Door Guide

There’s so much to consider when choosing a front door that it goes without saying that you’ll be doing yourself a favor by putting some legwork and heavy planning into it. As you read this guide and plan how to upgrade your home’s most prominent feature, remember that this is just that – a guide. There are two goals here; the first is to be comprehensive, and the second is to be brief. On the surface, these two goals may seem to work against each other. Not today.

Common Entry Door Sizes

Have you ever wondered why local home improvement stores can offer pre-hung and pre-made front entry doors? This is because there is no standard front door size, front entry doors come in a small array of standard sizes. Of course, you shouldn’t feel limited by what you see here. It’s always possible to get your front entry door custom-made to your liking.

Standard Height: 80 Inches

Front entry doors have a standard height of 80 inches. That’s not the doorframe – that’s just the door. This allows enough room for most people to walk through comfortably without having to stoop over or lower their head to walk through. Your front entry door is also used to bring in all of your belongings. It is, for this reason that the front entry doors appear to be much larger than perhaps a bathroom door. I don’t foresee anyone ever having a need to carry a couch or dining room table through a door designed for a half-bath.

Single: 30, 32 and 36 Inches

The width of the door can vary. An ordinary bedroom door is either 30 or 32 inches. Single front doors are commonly 36 inches. This is what you see in 90 percent of the houses and apartments that you come across. Additionally, a door that measures 36” x 80” is what you commonly see at your local home improvement store on the shelf.

Double: 60 Inches (2 – 30 Inch Doors)

For a single front entry door, 30 inches can seem slimmer than most. That’s because most front entry doors are not 30 inches wide – they are 36 inches. However, a double door front entryway is commonly comprised of two doors that swing open on opposite sides. These doors usually come in the 30-inch size. Cutting off 6 inches from the width of a 36-inch door may not seem like a lot, but if you double it you’re actually cutting off and entire foot (6 inches X 2 inches = 12 inches) from the width of the entryway. Since you’re dealing with two doors instead of one, you don’t need that extra foot. Double doors are already almost twice as wide as single doors.

Front Door With Sidelights Configuration

How do you foresee your front door configuration? Do you know what a front door configuration is? As you can see below, there are nine different configurations you can have. Everything is considered – the exterior door sidelights, the transom and the door itself.

Square Top Entry Doors With Sidelights

A square top door is merely a door that does not have a transom. The transom is the little area directly above the door. It can be a panel, or it can be a window. It can give your door an arched look, or its design can be square and make your door appear much taller than it is. Sidelights, on the other hand, are windows that run the height of your door, and are placed on the sides of the door.

Single Door

This is the most common configuration because it is the most basic. It consists of one feature – the front entry door.

Double Door

Much like the single door, this is another typical configuration because of its simplicity. It also showcases a single feature – two doors.

Door with One Sidelight

Sidelights are usually placed on single door configurations – but not always. In this particular configuration, you have a front entry door with a window on the side of it. The window is narrow – usually in the realm of 6 inches wide. The height, however, runs from the floor and is as tall as the door itself.

Door with Two Sidelights

This configuration has an entry door with side windows on both sides of the door.

Two Doors with Two Sidelights

This is a double door configuration with two sidelights – one window on either side of the set of doors. Notice that we don’t mention two doors with a single sidelight. Two doors with a single sidelight is the least common configuration – but, if that’s what you want, it is more than possible.

Arched Top Doors

Doors with arched tops are not very common. They can certainly fall into the realm of custom-made front doors. However, an arched top door does not necessarily mean that your front door is arched. It can merely mean that your front door has an arched transom. Most arched top door configurations must be made so that the arc reaches from one edge of the configuration to the other edge – side to side. This means that the width of your arch will need it to cover the sidelights – not just your front door.

Single Door Arched Top

This is the configuration wherein you have a single door with arched top. The width of the arch is determined by the width of the door, plus the width of the sidelights (if any).

Double Door Arched Top

Just like the single door arched top configuration, the double door arched top is a configuration where you have two doors with an arch on top. You will never see a double door configuration with two arches. Instead, the width of the arch is the width of the entire door frame – plus the width of the sidelights if you choose to have any.

Square Top Doors with Transom

Transoms are generally square and flat on the top. They can contain a window to increase the amount of light that shines through, or they can be made to create the illusion that your door is much taller than it actually is. Transoms add a measure of depth to your front entry door.

Door with Two Sidelights and Transom

This configuration has a transom that is just as wide as the door and two sidelights. Adding a transom with this configuration adds a degree of sophistication and depth to your front door.

Double Door and Transom

Generally, if you have a double door with a transom, you have double doors and two sidelights. The width of the transom matches the width of your double door frame with the sidelights.

Entry Door Material

Now that you have an idea of front door configurations, let’s just take a second to talk about the materials that your front door can be made from. The materials that front doors are made from must meet a set of requirements. They must be strong enough to keep the elements out and sturdy enough to keep intruders at bay, yet at the same time be beautiful enough that people would want to use it as the entrance to their home. Front doors are often a prominent feature, focal point, of every home. You see, every home has a front door. Not every house has a garage, a front yard, or even a driveway. A front door is something that every single house has.


Fiberglass is a manufactured material that is designed to be weather resistant, durable and is an all-around quality material for the front door. Exterior fiberglass doors won’t warp, fray or rust. It is also available in a variety of colors, making paint a thing of the past.


Steel is a very common material for front doors. However, solid steel doors are not. Usually, an exterior steel front door will be plated with steel on the front and steel on the back. Sandwiched in between these steel layers will be a layer of solid wood. After all, it’s much easier to drill through wood than steel. I bring that up because every front entry door must have holes drilled in it for the hardware. How else are you going to get a doorknob on there?


Wood is the most classic and luxurious of front door materials. It is also the most expensive to buy and the most costly to maintain. It must be weatherproofed – which usually means it needs to be repainted every couple of years. The same routine applies to stain. Whether you choose to stain your front door instead of painting, it doesn’t matter. You will need a fresh coat of whatever you choose every couple of years.

Flush Versus Paneled

This has to do with the look of your front door. A flush door is completely flat. It looks like someone just put up a board and called it a door. A paneled front door is extremely common because of its quiet and subtle beauty. It is most common for doors to have six panels. These are the six rectangles you see built into the face of the door for decoration purposes. They add a level of depth and shadow to the door.

Surface Type

Surface type is another consideration you have to look at when you are choosing your front door. Surface type has to do with the physical feel of the surface of the door. It will determine how your door looks and handles finishing materials like stain or paint.

Smooth for Paint

If you are planning on painting your front door, the smoother you can get the surface, the better. Woodworkers will always tell you that you need to sand a surface before you paint it. Furthermore, it will take several coats of paint – so the smoother you can get it, the better your front door will look and feel.

Textured for Stain

Stain is the other option for wood doors. Stains come in many colors. However, every color has one thing in common – you can see the wood grain underneath. This is actually why people choose to stain wood rather than paint it. The most expensive front doors have wood that is cut in a unique manner to bring out the grain in the wood and make it ideal for staining.

The Ultimate Front Door Style Guide

If you’re having a tough time choosing a material or configuration for your door, consider putting your selection through the style guide process. It’s a little more cut and dry. If you tell someone you want a particular style, then they instinctively know what you’re talking about.

Dutch Doors

A Dutch door is one that is physically split horizontally, in the middle. This allows you to open the top section of the door while leaving the bottom section closed. In other words, the upper and lower halves of the door swing open independently of each other. There is a bolt installed between the top half and the bottom half to lock them together so that the door can swing like a standard, single unit door.

Contemporary Entry Doors

Contemporary doors are those that have a minimalistic look. Many people attribute them to the 1950s era. This is a style that usually incorporates custom-made glass panels for the door. You’ll notice that many of these doors are flush, off-center and are built with simple lines for an unpretentious design. Although these doors can be stained, they much more commonly painted with a bright, offbeat color.

Craftsman Style Front Doors

Craftsman style front doors are often called Bungalow doors, Cottage doors, Cabin doors, or even Arts and Crafts doors. These doors are often stained and made of wood. You’ll recognize these doors because of the exquisite, classical design built right into them.

Decorative Doors

Decorative doors often fall within the vicinity of custom-made doors. These are the doors that are made of materials such as wood, wrought iron and glass. You may see a door that has ornate woodwork on the bottom half and an exquisitely designed top made of frosted glass with an iron inlay. The wood is often stained a rich, dark and warm color.

Classic Doors

Classic doors have been used on homes for several decades. Manufacturers have figured out a way to make several different designs from a few configurations. For example, you may see a double door front entryway wherein each door has an oval shaped piece of glass in the middle. It is in this piece of glass that the true design work shines through.

Rustic Entry Doors

Rustic doors are fun to have. They often have an Old World charm to them. You’ll see a mixture of wood and iron – but no windows. You’ll also see doors that contain nothing but straight lines. Even the most well-made and robust, rustic entry doors can be made of nothing more than a few boards. You’ll recognize the rustic entry doors because their simplicity is highlighted in the design.

The Ultimate Front Door Glass Insert Guide

Glass inserts are one of the most common ways manufacturers take classical designs and redo them to make it look like it has been custom made. They do this because the finished product can be strikingly different from anything else they’ve ever created. There are several different ways to make this possible.

Design Considerations

When you’re talking to a front door company about the possibility of owning and installing a brand-new front door, glass inserts are something that they will most certainly go over with you. If you want to be informed beforehand, or if you’re just curious about how they do it, then these design considerations are for you.


Clear glass is the most common glass available. This is the kind of glass that you can see right through. As a result, it also lets the most light in and has the least amount of privacy.


Decorative glass is often custom-made and is gaining popularity in American homes today. It can be a combination of textured glass, colored glass or inlaid with iron – called caming – to keep the pieces of glass together. Having decorative glass in your home can result in a higher perceived home value due to having something aesthetically unique.


During the manufacturing process, glass is impressed with a distinct texture, and left that way. Textured glass falls right in the middle between translucent and opaque. Every piece of textured glass is unique and comes in a wide variety of styles, opacity, and even comes tempered.


Baroque glass is unique in the fact that in its manufacturing process, it creates swirls of texture, enabling a series of lighting situations that can inspire a sense of beauty within the glass. Just like the textured glass, every piece is unique. However, Baroque glass appears to be custom-made, while textured glass does not.


Everybody knows about stained glass. This is where you take several pieces of colored glass and inlay them with iron to create a picture or design. Historically speaking, stained glass has been popular in churches, buildings and front entry doors.


Caming is the process of using iron to connect two or more pieces of glass together to create one solid piece. As a whole, this piece of glass is used as a glass insert for front doors and can be customized.

Performance Considerations

Front doors have many jobs. Being able to perform its function as a front door is one of them. Who would have thought? Glass is often seen as a delicate and decorative material. With that in mind, the glass must meet certain standards before it is installed in front entry doors – no matter which style you choose.


When you add glass to your front door, there is an assumption that that the door still offers both safety and security. In the case of glass, safety usually refers to the risk of injury one can incur when the glass is broken or shattered. It can also refer to the ability to keep inclement weather out of the house and protect the house’s occupants. This is especially true if you have children in the house – either tempered glass or impact resistant glass works best. Tempered glass is four times less likely to shatter than standard glass. On top of that, when it does shatter, it shatters into uniform, small, blunt pieces instead of the long, thin, sharp shards that we are accustomed to associating with broken glass.


We can’t have it all. A privacy rating for glass has to do with its translucence. On one side of the scale, you have a translucent, clear piece of glass. On the other hand, the glass is opaque and doesn’t let any light through. Your glass will need to fall somewhere in the middle and be somewhat transparent. A measure of privacy is usually desired, but then again, so is the ability for the glass to let light in the house. You’ll have to pick your battle on this one.

Energy Efficiency

The most energy-efficient glass inserts you can have consist of more than one pane. A single pane of glass is not energy-efficient, as it can quickly allow the outside temperature to seep into the house. However, double paned – or even triple paned – glass inserts have space in between the pieces of glass that are filled with either pressurized air or gas for thermal insulation.

Curtain Care

The sun’s rays have a damaging effect on cloth. We can see the effects of that in the fading color of our cars, carpets and our curtains. To protect the curtains you hang to cover the sidelights of your door from fading, make sure that your glass is coated with something called “low-E” or “low emissivity.” This special coating acts as a semipermeable layer that blocks out the sun’s harmful rays and lets the rest of the light in the house.

The Ultimate Front Door Color Guide

What color should your front door be? Before you decide on a color, let’s look at it the rest of the colors surrounding the front door. To really dive into this issue, let’s look at it over time. Summer colors are very different from winter colors.

What Type of Home Do You Have?

The kind of home you have plays a large role in the color you should be choosing. Often, you may need to seek out the expert advice of an interior decorator. I know what you’re thinking. The front door is an exterior piece. So, why do you need to hire an interior decorator to help you choose? Interior decorators are experts at picking the right color and bringing the most value to your home. Home styles usually influence the door type and color.


In America, the most popular style of home is the country home. It epitomizes America’s history with its dual levels, classic angles and roomy designs. These homes usually have porches, lap siding and shuttered windows.


Evolving from European influences from the 1600s, these homes often emphasize the front door. Most colonial homes often share a set of characteristics. They are generally rectangular in shape, symmetrical, and feature the front door in the front middle of the home.


Unlike the country style or colonial style, ranch-style homes have one story. They are built wider than they are tall. If you look at one of the floor plans for ranch-style home, you’ll notice that it can be distinctively divided into the living areas and the sleeping areas.

The Current Color of Your Home

The present color of your home can influence the color of your front door. Your door needs to match the color palette for the rest of the house. It needs to stick out and be prominent, but not be an eyesore. Doors are supposed to be elegant – and they can be that way if you do it right.

Primary (Body Color, Roof Color)

The primary colors of your home consist of the main body color and the roof color. Although the body the house may be a vibrant color, you will usually find the roof to be a shade of gray or another neutral color.

Secondary (Trim)

The trim is designed to complement the primary color of the house. Look for this color on the edges of your home, window frames and doorframe.

Other Color Considerations (Yard, Seasons, Natural Surroundings)

Consider the other colors that are prominent in your yard. These include the color of the leaves, flowers and other plants. It may be summer or fall now, but what about in the winter? What will your yard look like then? How will seasonal colors influence the decision you make on your front door color?

The Ultimate Front Door Hardware Guide

We’ve talked about colors, materials, styles and everything in between. We have yet to speak about hardware options. What type of lock are you planning on getting? Are you considering a door knocker or a kickplate? Do you want a doorknob or a door handle? What type of material are you looking for? Have you considered the kind of finish the hardware will have?


Just like the rest the front door, carefully consider what kind of locks, knockers, or other pieces of hardware you want on your front door. The right series of hardware will add a sense of elegance to the entrance of your home. The pieces you choose need to stand up to the elements, keep out intruders, and add to your front door – not take away from it. Carefully consider all your hardware options before you make any purchasing decisions.

Locks or Locksets

One may think that the only piece of equipment the front door needs is a lock. After all, how are you able to keep people you don’t want in your home on the outside? Don’t you want a sense of privacy? A quick trip down to your local hardware store will instantly tell you that there is a slew of options to choose from when it comes to locking your front door.


Tubular locks are the most common locks. They’re installed on virtually every door. If you look on any interior door of your house, chances are you have a tubular type doorknob on it. As you twist the door handle, the piece of hardware that sticks out of the door gets pulled into the door, allowing you to open the door.


Mortise locks are considered heavy-duty residential locks. A successful installation is complex and usually requires professional installation. They have a wider and thicker deadbolt connected to the entry latch which engages when the door is locked. If you plan on spending any kind of money on your front door, consider the mortise lock – you won’t be disappointed. Note that on mortise locks, you don’t have the standard door latch that catches in the doorframe when the door is closed.

Electronic (Keyless)

Electronic locks are characterized by the electronic keypad that has a code programmed into it to engage or disengage the deadbolt. Not all electronic locks are keyless – however, all keyless locks are electronic. After all, something has to give you the ability to lock and unlock the door, right? As its name implies, electronic locks are battery-operated. If you’re going to go this route, make sure that your electronic lock can also be operated with a key. If the battery dies, you always have your old-fashioned key to keep yourself from being locked out.


SmartLocks are something else entirely. These are relatively new devices that can be accessed remotely. For some people, that’s OK. For others, these locks imply a degree of danger because they can be accessed by other people remotely. These are often Wi-Fi enabled locks that can be accessed through the Internet using your tablet or smartphone. Some people like the ability to control the lock on the front door with their phone.

The most impressive features of smart locks include Bluetooth recognition, one-touch entry, flexible security with key codes, customization that allows you to turn on and off various codes at different times of day, a code-based greeting when someone enters the home, email notifications whenever someone enters your home, and smart home integration.


The deadbolt is the piece of metal that sticks out and goes deep into your door frame, preventing your door from being opened. When you’re looking at deadbolts, try to get one that has a separate, tubular piece of metal implanted in the center of the deadbolt. This makes it much tougher for someone to force their way through a deadbolt using a saw.

Handles or Handle Sets

This is where you can go crazy in your design choices. There are a million and one different handle set designs you can choose from for your front door. They can be very ornate or very plain. They’re made of different materials like brass or polished nickel. Ultimately, you’re going to want your handle or handle set to match the rest of the hardware on your door. This is commonly a purely aesthetic decision.

Levers and Knobs

Along with the handles and handle sets, you can choose from various levers and knobs. For any handle or grip that you choose for your door, installation is twofold. There is a plate on the inside and a plate on the outside. A sectional entry set has a separate plate for the deadbolt, the top of the handgrip, and the bottom of the handgrip. A monolithic entry plate has a plate that spans the length of the deadbolt and the grip and then a separate plate for the bottom of the handgrip. A full-length entry set has one single plate that attaches the deadbolt, top of the handle grip and the bottom of the handgrip.


Your hinge selection is often secondary. Make sure that your hinges can only be accessed from inside of the house, not the outside. This prevents forced entry. The only thing you need to do here is to make sure that the finished metal on the hinges matches the rest of the hardware of the door.


Now that we’ve talked to you about almost everything there is to know concerning locks and handles, let’s go on to the accessories that are available for finishing the look of your front door.

Door Bumpers

Door bumpers prevent your front door from damaging other parts of your home as it swings open and closed. You can find door bumpers installed in the baseboard to prevent the door handle from damaging the drywall, or you can find a door bumper installed in the hinge of your door to keep it from damaging the drywall that way. That’s the whole purpose of the door bumper – to prevent damage. When the door opens, the door will hit the door bumpers safely, instead of putting a dent or hole in your wall.

Door Stops

Door stops come in two varieties and can be installed at the bottom of the door and placed on a hinge so that all you have to do is use your foot to engage the doorstop to prevent the door from closing. The second variety is the third party doorstop. This is usually a triangular piece of rubber or wood that you place in front of the door to prevent the door from closing on you. Doorstops are much safer than using heavy objects such as bricks or chairs.


The only door in your house that gets a doorbell (usually) is the front door. Doorbells let the occupants of the home know that someone is at the front door. The most basic type of doorbell emits the familiar “Ding Dong!” sound that we have all grown to know and love. That sound is usually made mechanically. However, doorbells can also produce this sound (and more) electronically. Electronic doorbells usually come with a range of options. Some even play songs!

Door Knockers

Before the era of doorbells, people had door knockers. Nowadays, door knockers are not as prominent as they used to be. As of late, door knockers are usually reserved for decorative purposes. However, they can still be used to knock on your door. Door knockers are usually placed at eye level and they are typically on hinges. When you lift the door knocker up, you can let it fall or use it to knock on the door manually. The effect – you guessed it – is that it knocks on the door so your hand doesn’t have to.

Leave the Hard Stuff to the Experts

As you can see, front doors are not simple creations. They are complex and eloquent machines that require a high degree of precision and sophistication to install correctly. They are large pieces of hardware that protect you – the home’s occupant – from the outside world. Since it is the main entrance to your home, it is opened in all seasons. Therefore, your door needs to be sturdy enough to provide protection and insulation from the heat, cold, and whatever storms may come your way.

As a homeowner, it is up to you make the aesthetic decisions for your front door. You can choose how everything looks – from the manufacturing material, the color, the finish of the hardware and more. Because of the degree of precision that’s involved when installing not just the front door but the hardware as well, hiring an expert is a must. Don’t endanger your investment by trying to do this yourself. Quality front doors are not cheap. They can range from $600 on the low end to $5000 on the high end. If you’re anything like me, you know that money doesn’t grow on trees.

The first step to protecting your investment is taking a step back and contacting RWC. We’ll handle the installation and everything else so you don’t have to.

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