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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > Buying Guides > Choose an Exterior Door

Choose an Exterior Door

Your entry door is the first thing people notice when they come to your home. It makes a statement and sets the tone for the rest of the house. Is your door sending the right message? If not, let us help you select the right door for your home. You will learn the key terms you need to know as well as different materials available for doors. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.


Doors have their own special language. In order to make an informed choice about a new door, you need to learn some of the lingo:

  • Inswing (I/S) - A door that opens in.
  • Outswing (O/S) - A door that opens out.
  • Left hand - For an I/S door, hinges are on the left and for an O/S door hinges are on the right (when the door is viewed from the house's exterior).
  • Right hand - For an I/S door, hinges are on the right and for an O/S door hinges are on the left. (when the door is viewed from the house's exterior).
  • Lite - A pane of glass in a door.
  • Divided lite - Panes of glass that are or appear to be divided.
  • Grille - Plastic, wooden or metal assembly in a door that gives the appearance of divided lites.

Traditional Entry Doors

Door technology has come a long way since the first humans hung skins at the front of the cave. Be sure to explore all your options before you choose:

  • Steel doors have energy efficient foam core insulation and are fully weatherstripped by the manufacturer. They are highly resistant to shrinking, swelling and warping. Their tough steel construction will withstand years of extreme weather conditions with minimum maintenance. The doors can be purchased with predrilled doorknob and lockset holes, making installation even easier. Steel doors come preprimed and ready to paint.
  • Fibreglass doors offer the same energy saving and easy installation qualities as steel doors. Fibreglass doors have wood-grain texture moulded into the door so they give the appearance of a real wood door when painted or stained. Their high quality composite construction make these doors resistant to all sorts of weather as well as scratches and dents. These are an excellent choice for extreme climates and high traffic entrances.
  • Wood doors offer the most traditional look. The familiar look and feel of a well-crafted wooden door sends an inviting message of home and hearth. The substantial weight of a wooden door adds a sense of security and sturdiness to your home. These doors may be painted or stained for a natural, warm appearance. Wooden doors are usually made using frame and panel construction to counteract the effects of climatic or seasonal changes.

Patio Doors

Patio doors, including French and sliding glass doors, range from five to over twelve feet in width. The selection of patio doors is as diverse as their sizes:

  • Sliding doors are almost like huge picture windows through which you can walk. The doors are usually huge panes of glass mounted in a frame with rollers. They are manufactured from a variety of materials including:
  • Aluminum doors are usually the least expensive. Their all aluminum construction won't rust and is easily maintained.
  • Vinyl doors are low maintenance and energy efficient. The tough vinyl frames are easy to maintain and look new for years. Most vinyl patio doors offer low-e insulated glass and factory installed weatherstripping for maximum energy-efficiency.
  • Wood doors are normally the highest quality and the most expensive patio doors. Wood patio doors offer the the same natural aesthetic qualities as traditional wood doors with the added bonus of a full view through the large pane.
  • Wood clad doors are wooden doors and frames with a vinyl, fibreglass or aluminum coating on the exterior face of the door. The coating serves as an armour to protect the wood from the elements and still allows you to have the look of real wood inside.
  • French doors are available in the same materials as sliding glass doors and more. They are also available in steel and fibreglass, with the same characteristics as those found in traditional entry doors of the same material. French doors are available with either left or right handed inswing or outswing. You can also purchase units where both doors open. These units are available with or without brick mould stops in the centre.


There are plenty of accents available to help you fully customize your entryway to your needs and desires.

  • Glass - All door types are available with decorative glass. While most doors have insulated glass for energy efficiency, others may have beveled, silk-screened or stained glass with genuine brass caming (joining strips for segmented glass). The glass may be one large lite or have a grille that separates the glass into several lites.
  • Sidelites - Sidelites are available for all types of doors. You may use one sidelite on either side of the door or have one on each side.
  • Transoms - Transoms are available for all types of doors, in three distinct shapes: arch, ellipse and box.
  • In-glass blinds - Some doors have adjustable blinds made inside the glass pane.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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