Curb Appeal Starts at Your Front Door
By: Danny Lipford
Whether you’re selling your home or just want to update its tired look, that first impression your home gives from the street or sidewalk is key to how your house is perceived. And at the very center of curb appeal is your front door and the area around it. It’s where you welcome the world to your home, and it sets the tone for your entire house.
The good news is that upgrading the impression your front door gives the world can be accomplished for as little as a few hundred dollars. It’s really a matter of dressing up what you have with some strategic replacements and additions.
Renewing Entry Door Finish
Front doors take a lot of abuse both from the weather and the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. A wooden front door will need a new paint job every five years or so to look its best. If the door is stained and varnished, it will need attention more frequently.
Like any paint job, a front door will only look great if you put in the prep time and use top quality paint. Start by thoroughly sanding down the existing finish, brush on a coat of primer, and follow with two topcoats of a quality exterior paint, sanding lightly between each application.
The same general routine applies to stain and varnish, although it is even more important to remove all the old varnish sand thoroughly before staining. Also, be careful of brush marks and to apply finish in mild weather with the door in complete shade.
Consider your color choice carefully. Your front door is a great place to express a little personality with a strong primary color, as long as it still works with shutters, trim, siding, and other aspects of your house.
Adding a Entry Door Kickplate
Typically made of brass and attached with screws, a kickplate attaches to the bottom of the door to protect against scuff marks and dress up the door. Typical sizes for a 36-inch front door are 6″ or 8″ high by 34″ long.
Kickplates range in price from under $20 to more than $50. Look for one that’s solid brass, as thick as possible, and protected with a clear finish with lifetime protection against tarnishing and corrosion.
Entry Door Lockset Upgrade
Choosing a quality lockset is important both aesthetically and to provide adequate security for your home. The term lockset refers to both the door handle and lock, which can be combined in a number of ways:
- Handle with a keyed lock.
- Handle and lock with a separate deadbolt.
- Handle and deadbolt that are connected visually and mechanically.
Door handle styles include a “D” handle, a round handle that you grasp, and a lever handle. It’s important to pick a lock that offers the degree of security you need. Once that is satisfied, take some time to pick the look that will make the best statement on your front door.
You’ll see lots of new finishes available—including satin nickel, hand-rubbed pewter, and hand-rubbed bronze—as well as bright and antique brass. Prices range from less than $50 to $300 and more depending on the security rating of the lock, the quality of the materials, the design, and the finish.
Typically, you can replace a new lock used the holes already drilled in the door, but check to make sure the existing holes will work.
Replacing the Entry Light Fixture
Most porches and home entries have had their light fixtures for decades. There are lots of choices under $100 at home centers, while higher quality fixtures can easily double the price.
If you want a real conversation piece, consider a hand-crafted fixture in iron or copper. You will probably want to match the finish of your lockset, and make sure to pick a size that’s in scale with the other elements around your front door.
The amount of light generated is also an important consideration when choosing entry light fixtures for your home. You want to have a well-lit area without creating an annoying beacon for the neighborhood. Your front lights should also create as little shadow as possible when visitors are standing at the door.
Often smaller fixtures on either side of the door or a pendant light hung from the porch or entry ceiling is a good choice. Replacing an old light fixture with a new one isn’t difficult, just remember to flip the circuit breaker that controls the light off and use an electrical tester to be sure it’s not hot before working on it.
Upgrade Your Doorbell Button
Because doorbell buttons are sold separately from the chimes they actuate, it’s easy to upgrade this decorative feature at a cost of $5 to $25. Hand cast versions and converted antique doorbell buttons and escutcheons run considerably more.
Be sure to match the style of the doorbell button to your home and the finish to the other hardware elements on your door. Installation of a doorbell button is very straightforward and either involves low-voltage wiring (two wires) or none at all (wireless chimes).
Consider a Door Knocker
Depending on how you like visitors to announce themselves, you might want to consider a door knocker for the handsome authority it brings to a door.
Most door knockers are die cast and brass plated in traditional styling with a finish that will keep them from tarnishing. There are also some very attractive, solid brass, hand cast versions with nature themes as well.
Prices for door knockers range from as little as $10 for a flea market find to $250 for a unique castings. Home center versions of door knockers typically run from $5 up to $20.
Install a Mailbox or Slot
Even if the mail is only delivered to your mailbox out on the curb, a flush-mounted mailbox or a mail slot has a traditional appeal and can be a convenient way for neighbors and friends to leave things for you when you’re not home.
Mailboxes, which are attached directly to the wall or siding range in price from a few dollars for a thin sheet metal version to several hundred for a detailed architectural casting. Style and quality differences are obvious.
Mail slots are available at architectural salvage yards in solid brass, and at the home center in brass or nickel plated versions for under $20. Mail slots do require you to cut a hole in the door or wall and reduces energy efficiency.
Add House Numbers
This is another way to enhance the curb appeal of your house while serving a practical purpose as well. Thin brass or nickel house numbers can run under $5 each, while choosing more substantial numbers can double the price.
House numbers are typically screwed to the wall with small matching screws that are included, but number plaques are also available that frame the number in a matching metal.
Replace Door Trim
Many homes built in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s have door trim—both inside and out—that is very bland and looks like most of the other houses in the neighborhood. Carefully prying off this door surround (the technical name is door casing) and replacing it with something more decorative is can alter the look of your entry area dramatically.
Options range from fluted pilasters (wide vertical trim that looks like square columns) to keyed arches. You do have to be careful not to get too carried away or you can end up with a style that doesn’t work with your home or the style of your front door.
While door trim has traditionally been made of wood, some of the most impressive looks today are achieved in urethane and PVC plastic. These materials have the advantages of being very stable, are unattractive to termites, won’t rot, and are as easy to work with as wood.
Depending on how radical a change you are making, replacing the door trim on your home does require some moderate carpentry skills or a competent carpenter. The materials range from $75 to $250.
Other Curb Appeal Upgrades
It you’re looking for a bigger change in your front entry to increase curb appeal, consider landscaping changes like replacing old, monolithic foundation plantings with some more exciting shrubbery, flower beds, or ground cover, or changing the path to your front door.
Other possible changes include:
- Adding landscape lighting along your front walk.
- Installing a new curbside mailbox or lamp post.
- Replacing the welcome mat in front of the door.
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