Your home’s doors and locksets are the gateways to your house, permitting entry to some and denying it to others. Doors and locks are only effective, though, if they’re in good shape. Let’s start by talking about how to check the condition of your exterior doors. We will talk about checking locksets in a future post.
Exterior doors are commonly available in wood, steel, or fiberglass/composite. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses. The first step in checking your own exterior doors is to know what material they are made from, since the signs to look for differ.
Doors can also be solid core or hollow, and can come with or without reinforcing interior framing. A solid door is inherently stronger than a hollow one and most exterior doors are solid for that reason. Again, knowing when to replace your door is easier if you know what type of door you have.
Check the Surface
Wood doors are subject to damage from moisture, seasonal changes (expanding/contracting/warping), and insect damage. Both moisture and insect damage can be detected by examining the surface of the door. Seasonal change damage (or wear and tear) is best observed by examining the alignment.
Signs of potential damage and weakness in the door include peeling paint, blistering paint, flaking wood, bare patches, and soft or spongy areas. All of these symptoms are likely signs of water getting into the wood itself. The soft or spongy area might also be caused by insects. If you spot problems, a more thorough sanding and repainting may be enough to bring the door back into shape. If the soft or spongy area is extensive (or caused by insects), you are likely looking at a door replacement or a door re-build to remove and replace the damaged area.
If the door is warped and simply does not fit into the door frame neatly any more, you are also looking at replacing the door. Even if it still locks securely, the gaps caused by warping are letting air leak in (or out) and may let insects and other pests into your home.
Steel doors can suffer damage from moisture, too, though insects are not an issue. It may take a long time for the water damage to weaken the door, but water is stronger than unprotected steel in the long run. So if you see blistering or peeling paint or areas of rust on your steel door’s surface, you are in the same spot as you would be with a wood door. If the damage is on the surface only (meaning the paint is damaged but no rust), a thorough sanding and repainting may be all that is needed. The rust areas are of more concern. If the rust is deep or extensive, the integrity of the door is already under attack. You are likely to be looking at a door replacement in the near future.
One of the great advantages of fiberglass/composite doors is that they are not bothered by moisture or insects. So they are great choices in areas where high humidity and frequent rain/snow are common. The surface of your fiberglass door may benefit from repainting now and then, but it should not be subject to other weather-related or insect-caused problems. These doors tend to feel light-weight. They are often made with internal steel reinforcing framing to make them more secure against a break-in. They also are less likely to leak heated or cooled air through the door itself.
Your check for a fiberglass/composite door is really a check of the paint or other finish.
It does not take long to check the condition of your exterior doors. Your home’s appearance and security deserve a few moments of your time.
You might also like:
- How to check your windows and screens
- How to check your caulk and weather-stripping
- Take an outside tour of your house
- How to check your locksets
Download our Home Maintenance Schedule to keep up on this and other home maintenance tasks.