Doors Of Perception
The entryway to a house speaks volumes about the lifestyle within.
Thursday, April 19, 2001
Sal Balbo owns Bay Door and Supply in Sand City and has sold doors for about 20 years. The first question he usually asks a prospective customer is whether the customer wants to paint or stain the door.
If that seems like an odd question to start with, it nonetheless reveals a lot about the customer. Not only does it narrow down the potential styles the customer may want, it also helps fix a price range.
"Most of the time, a painted door is going to be a less expensive door," says Balbo. "They don''t have to use the same quality of material, for one thing. Plus, if you''re going to use a door that''s going to be painted, you don''t have to even use wood."
Some substitutes for wood include fiberglass, steel and fiberboard (chipped wood mixed with glue). Although these materials can be less expensive than wood, they may present homeowners with problems all their own--particularly if the door is being purchased to replace an existing door.
While there are some pretty standard sizes for the thickness of wooden doors, steel and fiberglass tend to be thinner--which means it might be impossible to find a way to make them fit into an existing door frame. Although it''s possible to buy the doors pre-hung (basically the door is already mounted in a door frame), anyone who''s installed a door frame into an older house knows that it can be a tricky business to get everything to fit. Even the best houses have some degree of settling and shifting, and trying to get a new door frame to fit plumb and square can be an exercise in frustration. Unless you''re willing to rip out the existing door frame and start from scratch, it might be cheaper in the long run to pay for a good wooden door that matches the specs for your existing door frame, rather than trying to save a few bucks with other materials.
Balbo says that over the years, there has been a trend away from the smooth-finished doors that were formerly popular.
"The biggest trend that I''ve noticed," says Balbo, "is that people are going away from more traditional finishes to more rustic Southwestern style doors--it''s more of a rough finish, with wormholes, and is distressed. That''s becoming more and more popular but it''s expensive, so making doors match throughout a whole house--that''s a big number. But if it''s just the front door, that''s more doable."
Balbo says the unfinished rustic doors start in the $500-1,000 range and go up from there based on other considerations like whether there are any glass components involved with the door, if there are curved or rounded elements, or if the door is to be pre-finished.
Over at Renaissance Old World Door Company in Salinas, Gary Courtright estimates that even the shop''s most inexpensive interior doors--which generally cost a lot less than exterior doors--begin in the $900-2,000 price range. "The price is dictated by how complicated it is," says Courtright, citing the number and style of panels, shapes and carving as being the most relevant price variables.
Courtright says that prehung entry doors from Renaissance start at around $2,500.
"We''ve sold some for up to $12,000, but that''s for massive 14-foot doors," says Courtright, whose company counts Pasadera and Tehama country clubs as customers. "You can get a lot for $5,500--some nice carving and some glass--it''s just phenomenal."
If $5,500 seems like a lot, Courtright has some news for you. "Let''s just say that I don''t have a lot of our stuff in my house right now," he laughs. "Mostly we don''t go out to places that sell for $200,000-300,000. We go out to places that sell for $750,000 and up."