Please help me choose a front door!

ontariomomJuly 3, 2012

Hi all,

I am back for more helpful advice. We need to make a decision on the style of our new front door, this week if possible. We have decided to have a large rectangular window/transom over the front door, and to have sidelights that go low to the ground (needed to bring light to the basement). We are unsure of the following:

a)Should there be a space between the door and large window above door, sort of like the second picture (although imagine a rectangular transom instead)? The space between the two would be board and batten siding and could include door trim.

b)Should we keep to the top picture and have the door and window above all one unit? Do you think this looks top heavy? BTW, there is only enough width to have a 32" door, with narrow sidelights.

C)What style of door would you suggest? I kind of like the Craftman style doors (similar to the image posted, but simpler), but have no idea if that will go with the look.

Any opinions welcome and appreciated. Thanks!


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Annie Deighnaugh

Others here know better than I, but I would like to see some substantial framing between the door and the upper windows.

Also instead of sidelights, you might consider a door that has a lot of glass. That way you can get a wider front door. Of course you could do a door with a lot of glass with sidelights too.

We chose one for our front door and it does provide a lot of light which can be seen from the lower level.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 7:30AM
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If your elevation is correct, then I think you are mixing styles, and not in a good way, if you choose a Craftsman style door.

You have already established the scale and shape of the openings in the walls, and I would consider repeating the horizontal panels of the garage door, rather than the more traditional types you're looking at.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 10:18AM
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Thanks Annie and Bronwynsmom for your help. I like those doors you have posted Annie, and I appreciate you taking the time to upload those pictures. Bronwynsmom, I agree that finding a door that looks like our Garaga overlay garage door would be great (Garaga Cambridge CL style). I am not sure where to look for such a front door. I don't want to mix styles as you warned against.

We do want an oversized transom over the door as it will be necessary to draw visitors into the front door. We have gotten into trouble with the garage bump out masking the front door, so we want to draw attention to the front door again with a high window over the door. There is still some final framing to do on the front elevation (an add-on to our addition project), so we can still change slightly the rough opening size and shape of the front door and the location of the window above the door. However, we need to make this decision early this week as the framers return mid next week.

Any other opinions?


    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 11:33AM
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I would highly recommend having a space between the units.

We have a door with sidelights and an elliptical above and it's all basically one unit. We had problems with the door and since it was one unit we had to replace everything. Since we have a brick home this made it extremely challenging.

We also have a large window in our living room that has a transom above and they are built/stacked as one unit. I wish now that they were separate. It would make it easier for future change-outs. So definitely make the upper window separate.

If you get a door with sidelights make sure the unit has a continuous sill. Our first one did not (they didn't make them years ago) and the wood between the door and sidelights wicked up moisture and caused rot. When we got the replacement door we got a continuous sill, but then we also had some of the frame made of a composite or treated material so it won't rot. I can't remember if it's just the lower 1' or if it's the whole frame, but it was supposed to help alleviate future problems if snow or moisture collects around the door.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 7:44PM
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The simplest way to call attention to your entry door is with color.

If you keep the style and proportion consistent, you can paint the entry door a vibrant color, or give it a stain finish that is clearly different from the rest of the facade.

Painting your garage door and trim the same color as the body of your house can de-emphasize it. I'm always surprised when a front-facing garage door is painted a contrasting throws the proportion off, and the message seems to be that cars live here, but people are secondary. (White garage doors look like drive-in movie screens to me!)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Thanks Bronwynsmom and Hilltop for your excellent points. I never thought about the continuous sill, Hilltop. We will watch out to keep the garage colour subdued Bronwnysmom, but we did choose a beautiful garage door as we could not get around the fact that the garage door is very noticeable. Presently, our plan is to keep the garage door a few shades darker (same tone) than the body of the house. We are not planning to paint it, but have gone with one of the colours available in a pre-baked finish offered by Garaga doors.

Bronwnysmom, do you have a style of door in mind that you do think would compliment the look of the house? The elevation picture is quite accurate except there is no grills over the angled window on top -- just windows. The house will be clad in red brick, and greige board and batten siding. We will use board and batten trim arond the windows and doors too. We are not generally contemporary style people, but I do see that with the clear railing over the front deck the house is looking more contemporary in style than I would have liked (yet the clear railing is vital to keep the windows behind in view). This was an addition, so we were not starting from a clean slate in style. Our inside will not be contemporary in the least, and will lean closer to traditional, perhaps described best as transitional.

Thanks so much for helping.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 10:35AM
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What are your available sources for doors?
Can your builder bring you a catalog (paper or online) from his/her suppliers?
Is your rough opening wide enough for a double door (from your elevation, I think not, but it's hard to tell)?
And do you want to be able to see through the door, or would you prefer a solid one?

See this one at

This from might work without being too too modern:

And this style from Door Express in Canada:

As you see, they all have a horizontal panel style, whether solid or glass...just a jumping off point for you to think about. Your choice of hardware can also pull any of these styles into a more simply classic and less modernist look, if that's your preference.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:02PM
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Hi Bronwynsmom!

Thanks so much for posting these images -- they would look great with the garage door! The good news is we can buy our front door from any place that is willing to ship to Canada or even to a location just across the border as we are only about 2 hours or so drive from the border. We are owner builders so we are not bound to buy from a contractor.

We have 68 inches of width available for the door. The entranceway will be 2 feet wider than the 68 inches, but the extra width is off to one side and not part of an outside wall so can't add to the door width (if that makes sense). Therefore, the door will not be centred in the entranceway area. I think we would prefer to have glass in the door (especially important to DH). I do like the idea of double doors instead of sidelights. If we had double doors, one door would swing into a wall, and the other into more open space (and infront of a small entrance closet). Not sure if that would work or not.

Thanks again for the door images. I'm going to show them to DH now, and share them with my designer tomorrow.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Hi all,

I searched some more on and found these two doors that I like (one is in my post, and the other can be seen if you click on the link).

As you will see on my elevation picture, we also need to choose a door for the deck over the garage. If I go for a French style front door, perhaps I could get a single door to match for the deck door. Would that be a way to tie the doors together. The deck door is higher up than the front elevation windows (due to needing a interior step to deck). Perhaps twining the front door (double door) to the deck door (single door) might help tie things together. What do you think of these doors and the idea of twining the front with the deck door? I do appreciate your input -- you guys are all so helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: contemporary door

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 11:07PM
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I like the idea of a pair of doors down, and a single one of the same kind up.

I'm not mad about these two, however.
The pair in the link have square panels, whereas all the panels in your garage door are rectangular.
And I think the ones in the post might be a little too contemporary for the classic materials you are using.

How are the panels in your garage door delineated? The shadow lines in the elevation rendering seem to indicate that they are recessed. In that case, recessed panels in your doors, rather than flat ones marked off only by etching, might be better. They also feel more substantial.

Can you ask your designer to produce an elevation rotated to show the whole front door entry, and then make renderings using the specifics of the doors you are considering, within your current scope of work? Since the design is already programmed, it shouldn't be complicated to do.

It's a view you ought to be able to look at anyway, and that might help you to see them in context.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 8:24AM
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Good thoughts Bronwynsmom!

Our garage door is the Garaga overlay design. The rectangles that you see are in fact recessed as you guessed. The framing around the rectangles is over a flat door panel. The way the garage door is shown on the Sketch-up elevation picture is a bit off. Our garage door will have three rectangles across, not four as shown (the garage door is 14 feet wide). As a result the rectangles will be even wider on the true garage door.

I will see about getting the different doors we are considering put into the Sketch-up picture. I will also investigate if we can get rectangles rather than squares into the two doors (sort of like the first door that you posted above, but with two doors). The two doors will at best be each 32 inches wide so the rectangles can only be so wide.

I wondered what you thought about the window above the door. I definitely want this window above the door. The entrance way is 12 feet high, so there is plenty of room for the window above the door, and currently the doors we have looked at have been standard height (around 82 inches), although we could look at a taller door.
The ceilings in the rest of our house are only 8 feet, which is still the norm in our area, and all interior doors are around 82 inches high. Do you think there should be a space above the door before the window starts? Should the glass in the window include frame to break up the shape at all? Perhaps it should look like two stacked rectangular transoms? Any thoughts on this?

I really appreciate your help, and the help of others on this site.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 10:51AM
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You're very welcome.

If you can show us the new Sketch-up elevations, it would help to think a about those things. And if the garage proportions could be corrected, too? Seeing those proportions will help you choose the panel proportions for your doors.

My initial thought about your transom is that it should have the same proportional and frame characteristics as the rest of your windows, but horizontally instead of vertically.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Hi again,

We wondered about what kind of glass would be good for the double doors. Our front door faces a cul-de-sac so we don't want everyone to be able to look into our home from the street or from their home. However, when we go to the door we would like to be able to identify who is at the door. We definitely want lots of light to come in. I will also miss being able to look out the door and transom above to supervise my youngest when she is biking around the cul-de-sac, but I guess if we can see out, everyone will be able to see in.

I have read that there is a glass type called Smart Glass, where you can switch the glass from transparent to opaque. Does anyone know if this is available as a glass door insert? If not, what kind of glass in your front door works well for you?


    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 4:56PM
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Hi Brownynsmom and other GWs

I realized the elevation picture I posted previously did not have any cladding material showing. It probably came across as way more modern than it will be in real life. Does this change your opinion as to what style of door would suit the house best, as I really prefer transitional style to contemporary. I do think a double door is going to help tie in that deck door better than what is on the elevation picture. Thanks!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 12:44AM
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You're right! It did read far more modern in style before.
Do you really have room for a double door? Remember that usually one is kept latched, and one is used to come and go, and each door should be three feet wide. So you need a 6' opening after the framing is accounted for.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Hi Bronwynsmom,

Thanks for your reply. We have enough room for two 32 inch doors, or one 32 inch door and two skinny sidelights. If we go with the double door, we can get an 8 foot high door which will fill up the space more as the ceilings in this part of the house is 12 feet (foyer is split between basement and lower level so foyer is a story and a half). If we go with the taller double doors, then the transom shrinks in size which I think is better too. A taller door, and two sidelights will look too slender to me. We will only open one door most of the time, but it will be great to have the option to open both for moving in larger items.

BTW, the entranceway is not large only 8 feet by 6 feet, but it will have a large 4 and a half feet wide half staircase after the 8 X 6 foot landing. There is also a 42 inch half staircase going down to basement from landing (a typical split entry with much wider staircases). The door will need to be off centre from the landing area, which is unavoidable.

So now our biggest question is what to do with the transom? Should we leave a space inbetween the tall double doors before starting the transom or have the transom right above the door? There will be about 28 inches of height over the tall doors for the transom (and still allow the 14 inch header over the transom).

Thanks for your continued assistance.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 1:32PM
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I think this very specific question is for someone with more depth of architectural training than I have, and I'd hate to steer you wrong.
Perhaps your house designer can better help you with this decision.

A double door will have more presence, I think, and stand up better to a big transom window. The thing I'd want to achieve is a horizontal proportion for the transom that looks appropriate with the size of the door, and that is clearly a separate opening. The only thing I feel comfortable advising is that separation, because at the size you want, you risk dwarfing your door if you try to integrate the transom into the door framing. Does that make sense?

Other folks, what do you think?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 4:18PM
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Hi Brownynsmom and thanks for all the guidance you have provided on this door selection. I think we are almost there.

Yes, the question of the correct size/placement of the transom is a challenge. As you suggested, Brownynsmom, we should get the various doors and transoms we are considering sketched out in Sketch-up. We are hoping my BIL who is also an architect will do that for us (although he is swamped with work). He did the first Sketch-up for us. Our regular architect does not offer these services.

The total size of the transom cannot exceed 28 inches. If we leave a gap between door and transom (which is what we will most likely do) then the transom can be reduced by the height of the gap.

If anyone has any further thoughts I am all ears.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:40PM
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