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Front Doors Designed for Extreme Challenges

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for The House Designers®

If you live in an area that experiences extreme weather, you’ve probably given serious thought to the materials used to complete your home’s exterior. Do you know how everything from high winds to wildfires can threaten a door’s integrity, and that of your entire home as a result? Good choices can protect your investment and even your life, so it’s well worth taking the time up front. Here are some entry door features you might want to consider!

Therma-Tru Classic-Craft Canvas Collection

This solid Classic-Craft® Canvas Collection® door has a paintable surface with realistic woodgrain texture, and great weather resistance, durability, security, and energy efficiency. What’s more, its attractive fiberglass exterior conceals a cement-based core that helps it achieve a 20-minute fire rating.

Fire-Rated Doors

Most often employed in multi-family dwellings, fire doors play a crucial role in preventing or slowing fire spread to save lives and property. While this is obviously important in structures with the potential for immense loss due to their size and occupancy, more owners of single family homes are seeing the benefits that the extra protection could offer them as well.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), exterior doors are inherently less fire resistant than exterior walls. Direct flames, airborne embers, and even just high heat can combust or melt a door and its frame, and an entry with poor seals around the edges or glass that has been shattered by radiant heat can let the danger inside even if the door still stands. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, it’s wise to maximize the fire resistance of your entire building envelope. Read FEMA’s Home Builder’s Guide to Construction in Wildfire Zones to learn how to take precautions from buying land to maintaining your fully built property, and every step in between.

Fire-rated doors are rated to different levels. Even if they don’t include decorative glass, you’ll find tons of style options with 20-minute ratings in beautiful wood-look and paintable fiberglass packages. They’ll hold up to fire exposure and temperatures over 1400 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes. If you’re looking for even more resistance, a 90-minute steel door, which withstands 1700 degrees for at least an hour and a half, could be perfect. Be sure to compare other qualities of doors as well—fiberglass tends to be more expensive, but it has better energy efficiency, and steel might require some maintenance to prevent rust in case of denting or scratches, but steel doors have one of the highest returns on investment of any home upgrade in case you plan to sell.

Therma-Tru Smooth-Star

Check out this Smooth-Star® door that showcases Saratoga™ decorative glass with full-length lites—not only does the design provide a good level of privacy, but unnoticeable lamination between the panes also makes the system impact-resistant. See more options here!

Impact-Rated Doors

If you live in a hurricane zone, you know how important each part of your home’s envelope is. Any gaps—such as those caused by a broken window or losing a door—allow strong winds to increase the pressure inside the home, creating the perfect conditions to blow out the walls and roof. That’s often why houses get reduced to piles of rubble when a hurricane, tornado, or other high wind weather event hits, and why it is critical to invest in exterior products that resist impact damage.

Impact-rated doors are mandated in some of the highest risk counties of Florida, but they are a good choice for anybody along a coastline or in an area with winds strong enough to carry debris. Confer with a local builder to ensure you choose a door that’s up to code, because ratings vary. For example, Wind-Borne Debris Region (WBDR) doors feature structural doors with laminated impact glass, and they’re designed to withstand 167 mph wind forces. These are great for the majority of homes, but for those at higher risk in the High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) of southern Florida, special steel-plate reinforced doors offer the extra protection mandated by local building codes. As with anything else, a knowledgeable professional must install the door to ensure it works as intended and will pass inspection.

You might be surprised to learn that an HVHZ impact-rated entry can include decorative glass details. Laminated glass includes a durable film between the panes, so even if the glass breaks, the middle layer resists wind and water intrusion. Shattering is also kept to a minimum, as the pieces stick together in the frame, attached to the film. If you’ve ever seen a broken window that had a clear point of impact and a seemingly precarious radiating fracture pattern, you’ve experienced what laminated glass has to offer. And when it comes to your front door, there are plenty of beautiful types with designs ranging from traditional to modern—you’re sure to find a solution that answers your aesthetic and practical demands.

If you’re looking for doors that have it all, take a look at the variety of collections available from Therma-Tru®. With plenty of fiberglass and steel doors, privacy and decorative glass types, and the opportunity to specify the features that you need for your location, you can build an amazing front entry. They also have exterior and garage-to-house doors to meet your needs around the whole home, so find a local dealer to get started!