Entry doors are unique and important parts of a home both functionally and aesthetically. A really nice door is damn near impossible to take your eyes off of. They are the first thing people notice about a house and they are often the first thing people touch, typically in a twisting fashion. Doors come in pairs, be it front/back, front/side, or double front, as well as a wide variety of shapes and sizes from small to large, narrow to wide, plain to fancy. Some are even adorned with decorative accessories. Brand new doors are especially spectacular but even old, ugly doors are difficult not to notice. As they age and the more they are used, even the highest quality doors become misshapen and tend to sag. Historically they’ve been made of natural materials but we now also make them from a range of synthetic materials. In other words, entry doors are the boobs of your house.
Doors have been around as long as human cohabitation has been de rigueur. I suspect the first was created by an innovative Neanderthal frustrated at having nothing to slam when he stomped out of the cave after a spat with the missus. Through all the millennia of door history, one fact has remained constant and that is their construction. All doors ever and to this day are comprised of a plank secured into a frame by hinges. The planks and frame are typically wood, though modern planks now range from metal to fibreglass, and the hinges are almost always metal. We have progressed from making weapons out of flaked flint tied to a stick to nuclear armaments, from travelling by foot to visiting the moon, from gathering nuts and fruits from surrounding bushes to an endless supply of chain restaurants and hyper-processed foodstuffs (okay, so it’s not all progress) and yet our doors have remained virtually unaltered. It shows.
Science Fiction hasn’t given much hope for the future, either. Even the most ardent non-Trekkies are familiar with the infamous swooshing sound of the automatic doors on the USS Enterprise. Familiar sights at grocery stores and public venues with high foot traffic, automatic doors have been a staple of futurist living for decades but we seem reluctant to welcome them into our homes. I think I know why. Oh, sure, they look coolly futuristic and intuitively convenient but in reality, who the hell wants a door that makes that noise all the time? Just the slightest peep from a door hinge has me scrambling for the spray lubricant never mind a barrage of synthesizer sounds each and every time a door opens or closes. Our true future utopia will only arrive with the advent of the perfectly silent door. Sorry Scotty.
This all brings me to the latest episode of our home renovation adventure; new entry doors. I guess I’m not so much renovating my own home as I am self-contracting the renovation of my own home. At least so far, anyway. There are some things I’m willing to try myself knowing full well I will ruin them. There are other things I’m absolutely unwilling to try myself knowing full well I will ruin them. The former tend to be inexpensive, smaller, piecemeal items such as tile or hardwood flooring whereas the latter cost a shit load of money to buy even before installation such as windows or doors. If you break a tile, or twelve tiles, you’re out a few dollars, maybe a hundred at most and you can easily replace the damaged piece and try again. If you break a fancy entry door, you’re now out thousands and must reorder the entire door. That’s a risk I’m not willing to place in my incapable, amateur hands.
Our forty-five year old home has undergone at least two separate window replacement events, neither of which encompassed the entirety of the home. The result is a patchwork of various aged and styled windows leaving us with the unenviable task of trying to determine which to replace. The resultant frustration and price shock repeatedly left us curled up in respective corners of the living room mourning our inability to decide or justify an appropriate course of action. The entry doors, on the other hand, were original, leaked frigid, winter air like a wind tunnel, and had the visual appeal of a meth addict. Replacing them proved an easier decision while simultaneously, if temporarily, alleviating our guilt at not doing anything about the windows. In my world, this is how low the win-win bar is set.
I’m no fan of salespeople. I’m sure many of them are very nice, honest people but I just loathe the whole “sales” experience. They’re like colon exams with me having to pay at the end. So when we decided to replace our doors we asked our trusted contractor friend, the one whom we had initially intended to renovate our entire home before our sphincters slammed shut, for his preferred supplier of doors. Not exactly the recommended modus operandi according to advice columns and HGTV shows but one that limited my stress and exempt me from having to say “no” to the non-selected sellers who never just kindly accept your decision without at least one attempt to change your mind.
With a supplier pegged, we turned to the epic portion of this renovation project; choosing the new doors. Like seemingly everything else in this consumption-obsessed world, the available door options are numerous. In fact, I think we looked at 4,220,164 different doors of varying style, composition, colour, and cost. That number is a rough approximation, but it was certainly more than 5. The existing front entry door was a double door that, though aged and in poor repair, gave our two-storey home a prominent, welcoming focal point out front. It also made moving large furniture and appliances in and out effortless. Conversely, double doors, no matter the quality, are the least energy efficient of the various entryway designs, something we were all too aware off each winter. Nonetheless, the allure of their convenience and beauty eventually led us back to the double door setup, a decision we justified on the flimsy pretense that modern doors must surely be better than the original doors from 1973. It sounded good at the time.
Several weeks after our final decision and deposit payment, I sat in my kitchen watching the workmen dismantle our existing doors and begin the installation of the gorgeous new doors we had picked to initiate the rehabilitation of our dated home. I was nervous, as I always am, though not as much as with the tree murdering we’d done a short while before, but also excited that we would finally have functioning, efficient, and attractive new doors to the front (and back) our home. Installation took two days. The installers were wonderful. The finished product looked every bit as good as we hoped. And for three weeks I experienced what I think is called bliss. Then I heard a noise.
It started on the front door, a noticeable squeak each time it was closed. It persisted so I called up the door company and booked a service appointment. A nice man showed up the next week and determined the problem to be a faulty hinge which he promptly replaced at no charge. Two days later the back door started squealing. A robust, piercing squeal. I won’t bore you with detailed accounts of the subsequent repair appointments through the course of the summer but you won’t be surprised to learn that the front door eventually started to squeak again too. Eventually it was determined by an exceptionally knowledgeably service guy that all the hinges had been installed too tightly into the frame and were essentially warping. Thirty minutes of adjustments and tweaks and we’ve finally had quiet, smooth entry doors for five months now.
Noise wouldn’t be our only conundrum. I’m a stickler for symmetry and in the days after installation I noticed a strikingly odd piece of black moulding on one side of the front doors. It appeared as though the original moulding had been removed from three quarters of the original door frame but this one piece was left. I did not like it. Not one bit. Several additional service appointments, not to mention image-filled emails, were scheduled and sent over the course of the summer until this issue, too, was resolved. The asymmetrical trim remains, much to my disdain, as we determined the moulding issue was not a defective installation but yet another reminder as to the stupidity of previous homeowners.
Our final service call, yes there were many, occurred after the first winter deep freeze arrived in the late fall. This was the first time temperatures dipped significantly enough for us to check and notice that the cold air was still blowing into the house at a disturbing clip. It was worse than the old doors, in fact. The primary reason for replacing the doors was to eliminate this draft and improve our carbon footprint, as it were. Yet another helpful service man (they were always different which I suspect might mean I’m not making good impressions with these people) performed yet more adjustments on our front door, replaced some weather-stripping, and left us with a much reduced influx of frigid air entering our home. It’s not perfect, but better. On very cold mornings, cold air still finds a way in through the seam between the two doors near the bottom. This seems to be the risk with double door systems and evidence of my biggest gripe with our entire door replacement experience; why hasn’t anything improved?
Technology has dramatically changed our world and continues to do so. We’ve come to accept this change, not always willingly, and marvel at what might yet come. Despite this remarkable progress, some things remain stubbornly constant. Apparently, we’ve decided that the mechanics of doors was perfected 5000 years ago and need never be improved. Apply metal hinges to a plank of wood (or wood-mimicking substitute), screw this into a framed opening, stick some foam around as necessary and voila, you have an attractive, secure entry to your home. Improper installation, squeaking, and imperfections are within acceptable operating parameters, I guess.
We spent $7,000 on our new doors. That’s a big chunk of coin in my mind. Big enough that I erroneously assumed we’d progressed to the point where doors were problem-free nowadays. They aren’t. In fact, they’re pretty much the same as they were 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and 5000 years ago. I guess I expected more. Hell, I could literally buy a decent pair of breast implants for $7,000 and I doubt I would need half a dozen service calls over the next six months to repair, adjust, or replace parts of them. It’d be considered malpractice if I did. So why is something as simple as a door still fraught with imperfection? I don’t understand it. The door supplier was respectably patient and persistent in addressing our recurrent concerns. I hold no animus towards their product or customer service. I just find myself befuddled that this is still even an issue in the industry. Surely we should have perfected the door by now.