Major Front Door Upgrade

Most of our best home improvement projects are the ones we never planned to do – the projects that just drop into our lap and cannot be resisted. This is one of those projects.

It all started because we were doing a one-night vacation at a local AirBnB in a different part of Dallas than we normally frequent, and we had some extra time on our hands after we checked out the next day. had the idea to swing by the local Habitat for Humanity Restore. After all, we were toddler-free for a few hours and had nothing better to do. Plus, this part of Dallas has really cool older homes, and I thought we might find some good treasures. (Spoiler: I was right!)

We bought several cool things at Restore that day, including new lighting for our foyer (this $20 Secto Design pendant that retails for $820 and a chandelier for $25 that’s normally $900) and kitchen, but there was one thing we did not buy: a giant, beautiful arched front door hanging out on its own dolly in the door section. It was 4 feet wide, 8 feet tall, made of 2.5”-thick solid wood. It was only $200. We admired it. We posed for photos beside it. We tried to think of someone we knew who would have a place for this awesome door. WE ended up leaving it there because, what would we do with that big door?

Fast forward 24 hours and I was still thinking about this lovely door. I looked at the space surrounding our existing front door and realized we could fit the big door if we were willing to basically rebuild the entrance. As you can see in this photo, our previous door was standard size but was surrounded by siding, a window on top and a window on the side. All of that would have to go to accommodate the new, oversized front door.

We kept thinking about it for a little while, and finally Scott decided to call to see if they still had it. Sure enough, they did! He hopped in his truck and drove 45 minutes to buy this door (after successfully negotiating it down to $100 – SUCH A BARGAIN), bringing lots of pillows and blankets to make sure it didn’t break on its way back to our house. It was so heavy – you should have seen the efforts needed to get it in and out of the truck!

That purchase kicked off a frenzied sprint to get this door installed. We had basically one week before football season started, and my coach/husband is too busy with his day gig to tackle big projects during football season.

I don’t want this blog to be a novel, so I’m going to do my best to keep it brief. I’ll start by saying that even though the door cost $100, this was not a $100 project. Keep reading to see the additional costs that need to be factored in if you’re thinking of doing something similar.

You know we’re DIY people and my husband’s always adding to his DIY arsenal, but this was not a DIY situation. We needed some tradespeople who had expertise in framing, drywall and siding. Doors are notoriously hard to install, and this was a full rebuild of the wall that housed our front door. Plus, the door was far too heavy for one guy to install it. The crew ended up being my husband and two other specialists – the framer who helped us build our back patio, and a drywall/painting specialist that the framer recommended.

Once we had the crew committed to the job and we found a Saturday (the only Saturday left before football started) when they could all work on the job, they planned to tackle 90% of this project in one day.   

I don’t have a lot of photos of the process because it was my job to take the twins out of the house for the day so the guys could get this job done without toddlers underfoot. About 8 hours later, I rolled into my driveway and was welcomed by a beautiful new front door!

It wasn’t a simple process. Making that door work for our house required quite a few steps:

-       Remove old door. (As this was happening, our neighbor walked by and asked if he could have it. YES, please take it! So now it’s still in the neighborhood.)
-       Demo the front door area by removing the framing, windows and siding around the door without compromising the structural integrity of the entryway.
-       Remove door knob on the new door and patch the hole where it was installed. (We needed the doorknob to be on the other side of the door in our front entry configuration, and we needed a "door lock extender" because the new door was so thick. I had no idea those were a thing!)
-       Install new door knob on the right side of the door.
-       Install new framing, including perfectly curved door frame (an additional challenge compared to a rectangular door). Our neighbor, who works for a lumber yard, helped us source the flexible casing that we used for the top trim. You can bend it to fit curved doors. It's very cool! 
-       Install new siding around the door (exterior).
-       Install new drywall around the door (interior).
-       Install the new door. (All three guys were necessary for this step. You have to get everything lined up perfectly so your door swings smoothly, and I hear this is really a pain. Kind of glad I wasn’t there!)
-       Install new door threshold.
-       Install trim around the door, inside and out.
-       Weatherproof the new door.
-       Raise the height of the chandeliers both inside and outside the front door to accommodate the new door’s height.
-       Install trim around the door, inside and out.
-       Paint the door, trim and siding, inside and out.

What this bulleted list omits is the agony over paint colors for the door, whether or not to add trim and other hassles that inevitably pop up during a project of this magnitude that’s also under a time crunch. It was a bit stressful! Let's walk through it in this collection of random iPhone photos...

This project wasn’t exactly cheap, but we tried to keep costs to a minimum. I didn’t save receipts or anything, but I asked the husband to summarize our costs and this is what he gave me:

  • $100 door
  • $700 labor to frame and install door and new exterior siding
  • $800 labor to install new drywall and paint the entire area (walls inside and out, trim, door)
  • $100 miscellaneous: paint, trim, weatherstrips, door lock extender, etc.

Total makeover cost: $1,700

I almost titled this blog post, “This is the story of how a spontaneous $100 purchase turned into a $1,700 renovation” but that seemed too negative to represent how we actually feel about the project. I just didn't want to be that person who's like, "Wow, I upgraded my door for $100!" when really it was just the door cost and there are many more factors that up the project price. Still, it’s important to note that this door would have easily cost $2,000 by itself, so we still feel like we got a steal.

We love, love, LOVE our new door. We would absolutely do it over again because it completely changes our house, and we feel it adds to our resale value. The glass part of the door really brightens up the inside of the house, and everyone comments on the door when they come over. We’ve had random strangers ask us about it while they’re walking by. Our old door was fine and I never had any thoughts about replacing it, but it’s fun to have something that’s a bit more wow.

Once we installed the door, we couldn't help but laugh at our previous door wreaths and floor mats. They looked so tiny with the oversized door! I did find some affordable 48" door mats we really like - we use this Target one outside and this Houzz one inside.  Like most things, it's more expensive to buy doormats and wreaths in bigger sizes. I ended up making my own DIY wreaths for fall and Christmas and I love them so much!

The new front door makes me so happy every time I pull in the driveway! I hope this post helped you if you are considering upgrading yours. 

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