It’s hard to overstate the importance of a great entry door to a potential home buyer, so that’s where dealers wanting to sell curb appeal should start.
“The eyes take in the silhouette of the building first, then move to the front door,” says Tony Weremeichik, principal at Canin Associates Architects, in Orlando, Fla., “so the door really needs to stand out.” That said, it should come as little surprise that, as the housing market rebounds, budgets for entry doors are growing. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s 2014 predictions for the door market include an increase of approximately 9% in sales of residential entry doors.
And if you’re curious about which particular door styles are top sellers, manufacturers all report growing demand for entry doors that make a statement.
Sales of tall entry doors have been brisk. “It’s very different from five years ago,” says Gretchen Curry, a product manager with ThermaTru. “After the housing decline, we saw more demand for standard sizes, but more customers are now asking for bigger doors.” She says that there’s strong homeowner demand for 7- and 8-foot-tall doors, and builders, for their part, are choosing taller doors that line up with the top of the home’s windows.
At the very high end of the market, the tall-door trend is even more pronounced, with a preference for doors taller than 8 feet, reaching heights of 10 to 12 feet, says Kolbe’s product and marketing manager Lance Premeau. “It also extends to complete door systems, which include transoms, sidelites, and radius shapes,”he adds.
While some manufacturers find that the strongest market for tall doors is in the South, sales are also growing elsewhere. Says Curry: “I know one builder out West who had 20 projects under way, and just one offered the typical 6-to-8-foot door.”
Keep It Simple
Another key trend is rising demand for doors that feature more linear elements; what Brad Loveless, marketing and product development manager at Simpson Door, defines as “a clean look with a simple profile and fewer raised panels or other decorations.” This look is associated with Modern and Craftsman-style designs, both of which are selling well.
Michele Wild, marketing coordinator with Upstate Door, a custom door company in Warsaw, N.Y., says that the company is getting more requests for flush doors with simple decorative elements. V-groove panels are popular.
Other companies say that Modernism is more of an influence than a pronounced trend. According to Keith Kometer, vice president for new product development at Masonite, strict Modern styling remains a small niche, but it’s having an impact on other styles. “The biggest shift we’re seeing is the influence of modern elements on more traditional design,” he says. “Simplicity, straighter lines, reduced fussiness ... all are driving decisions for today’s designers and consumers.”
Whatever the architectural style, builders and dealers can enhance their reputations by being able to evaluate the quality of the details on different door models. Bud Dietrich, an architect in New Port Richey, Fla., finds that customers are particularly impressed by a door with crisp details that look good up close, even if quality isn’t something they’ve specifically considered. “On some products, the details tend to fall apart as you get closer,” Dietrich says. “You want the door to look as good up close as it does from across the street.”
Putting a Face On
Beyond size and style, there’s less agreement among manufacturers when it comes to the most in-demand colors and wood grains. What they do agree on is that more buyers want to give their entries something extra.
When it comes to wood-grain doors, oak and cherry are still popular, but demand isn’t as strong as it was a few years ago. For instance, Masonite is selling more doors in dark, rich colors; ThermaTru’s top sellers are mahogany and fir; and the most popular woods in Simpson’s lineup are clear Douglas fir, Western hemlock, sapele (a substitute for genuine mahogany), and alder.
More people are also moving away from wood grain. For example, ThermaTru reports more requests for paintable fiberglass doors than it’s seen in previous years.
Painting the door is another way for people to express their personalities, according to Kate Smith, president of Sensational Color, a consultant on color trends who works with ThermaTru and other building product manufacturers. “An entry door painted a bold shade of orange says, ‘I’m friendly, fun-loving, and enjoy getting together with people,’” Smith says. “On the other hand, green tells the world that you have traditional values and enjoy being a member of the community.”
Of course the clearest way for homeowners to express their individuality is with a unique custom door. Not all companies offer customization, but those that do say that they’re getting more requests for it. “Homeowners are ready to invest in their homes and include meaningful details specific to them,” says Elizabeth Souders, Jeld-Wen’s director of product management.
At Simpson, which exclusively makes wood doors, customization has exploded, Loveless says. “Twenty years ago there wasn’t as much breadth of design offered in our door lineup,” he says. “Today, we’re a big custom door shop. We’re making about 150 totally unique doors per week.”
Non-wood doors can also be customized with colors, hardware, and trim for a real boost to curb appeal. “A Craftsman-style front door, with corresponding trim, lighting, possibly siding ... all can dress a modest house up,” says Kometer, noting that emphasizing packages like this can help set a dealer apart.
Custom glass is a great way to give a stock door a genuinely unique look. Roger Finch, senior marketing manager at ODL, says that the company’s custom glass program has seen double-digit growth in recent years and now accounts for about 15% of company sales. He credits this growth to Internet design sites such as Houzz and Pinterest, which are giving people the ability to compare and evaluate a variety of design ideas.
These various trends are evidence of how the entry door has become a popular vehicle that homeowners can use to set their homes apart, delivering big impact for relatively low cost. And entry doors provide an opportunity for smart dealers to sell high-value products to homeowners who might otherwise be chasing low prices. “When it comes to entry doors, dealers shouldn’t be afraid to upsell,” Loveless says. “The successful ones will know how to tell a good story to the homeowners about how great the door will look on the home.”