June 2, 2005
Most American homes don’t put their best foot forward. In many cases dull, wide garage doors are the most prominent front features of homes. The reason is obvious: Developers try to squeeze in as many houses in as limited space as possible, and driveways circling the house take up land.
But the gaping garage doors are something many of us are stuck with. There are, however, ways to dress up the face of the house at modest cost.
First off, obviously, is the front door itself. For most of us, the front door guests see is a storm door – usually a light affair with a sliding window for summer ventilation. As these doors are more fragile then the main door, they are easily damaged – dented, scratched, twisted. As homeowners, we usually don’t notice the damage, but it’s there, and it detracts from the look.
Front doors come in almost as many shapes and designs as there are houses. Most common perhaps is the plain white storm door. White goes with almost anything and is easy to find and buy. Colors to match the house paint or structure are available at home stores, with most doors coming in standard widths. Plastic and wood choices are available, with plastic perhaps less costly.
While bright red may express the homeowner’s personality, such strong colors rarely do as well as plain white or wood-looks. Choices can include variations such as side lights with glass inserts to allow more natural light into the house. (If your door frame does not include space for side lights, the cost for such may be prohibitive.)
If you’re simply going to paint the door, be sure to go for a very good paint. Doors get battered around lot so dings and dents are common.
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Hardware for doors, both storm and main, is up to you. Deadbolts and the usual Yale-type locks offer an extra measure of security. Some systems are designed to be opened from the inside without a key, allowing for hasty exits in case of fire or other emergencies.
You can install a door yourself if you have patience and the needed tools and skills. Lacking any of the above, you’re better having it done by a skilled tradesman.
Lighting for the entry area is important. Obviously, at night you want to be able to see clearly who’s calling. Most average homes get by with a single outdoor light, but a pair of side lanterns with bright and dim settings not only increase security but also look better.
With the door problem settled, there are more things you can do to dress up the home’s appearance (“curb appeal” is what the Realtors call it). Consider small trees or shrubs on each side of the door. The natural colors soften the harder lines of the home. A doormat can further soften the look of things (as well as reducing the amount of dirt tracked into the home). Make sure the doormat is durable and has a rubber base for solid footing.
Lawn lights are common these days, thanks to solar power, which does away with stringing wire and digging up grass. These can be obtrusive – tall black tubes running along the sidewalk – so opt for something that does the job of lighting the way without detracting from your handsome new entryway.
If possible without marring the effect, make sure than the house numbers are illuminated at night. Nothings puts guests in a worse mood than having to wander the neighborhood looking for a house at night.
What can you do about those big garage doors? If they show signs of wear – more dents, paint missing – consider replacing them. Yes, they cost more than regular doors, but you can reduce heating costs if the old ones don’t fit tightly. But sadly, there’s nothing than can be done about a street-facing garage door other than perhaps making it more cheerful. Some skiers nail old skis above the garage doors. At least that suggests something is going on other than parking cars – which in itself is less and less common as in our national affluence more and more detritus occupies the garage and cars sit in driveways.
n Contact Sam Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1236.