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How to Nail a Beautiful, Historic Front Door

historic front door

Your home’s history gives it extra curb appeal, but that might not make you happy. Older front doors can be eyesores in the middle of a gorgeous exterior. Check out these tips to learn how to nail a beautiful, historic front door when you don’t want to replace the one you have.

1. Consider Your Home’s Style

Every home has a style. Just like modern houses have different architectural forms, your historic one has a style unique to the time the constructor built it. Queen Anne homes have bay windows and steep roofs, while Tudor Revivals feature half-timbered walls and large chimneys.

Consider what your house’s style might be to match it to the right front door. You’ll need to know what you’re working with to nail your exterior’s appearance.

2. Add a Decorative Transom

The transom is a small horizontal window above a front door. It connects to the frame and often features artistic glass details. You could always add a transom to enhance your historic front door without changing the door itself. It would only require cutting into the wall above it and selecting glass that matches your home’s architectural style.

3. Clean the Grime Away

Mildew, mold and grime are the last things anyone wants on their historic house. If those tiny details keep you from a beautiful front door, clean the grime away with a sponge or soft washing treatment.

More modern homes often receive power washing or sandblasting to remove contaminants from doors and siding. However, historic houses have older paint, brick or stone that could quickly deteriorate under the same conditions. 

Soft washing uses a pressure washer without a tip to extend the spray’s surface and divert the pressure. You could clean your door and take years off of it without creating damage.

Consider adding a stained finish if the door has no original paint. The stain would match the wood’s natural appearance and add a weather-protectant layer against future deterioration. You can always contact your local historic home preservation agency to discuss other cleaning alternatives to help your front door shine.

4. Change Your Door’s Appearance

Next, you’ll need to find your door’s inherent style. Many have unique design flairs that fit within the concept of tradition and could make your door pop with character. Reflect on your current door to match it to a design, like how stained or frosted glass often adorns Victorian houses, while wood door carvings evoke images of rustic mansions.

Using elements like these while renovating your door may give it the refresh you want. It’s also helpful to narrow everything down to a specific style and ensure your door matches your home’s history.

5. Install Porch Lighting

Beautiful houses almost always have spotlights in the yard. They showcase the home at night, so everyone who drives by gets to marvel at it. You could do the same for your new front door. Hire an electrician to install a porch light that shines directly in your door or onto the space in front of it. It’ll become the focal point of your curb appeal and instantly make it feel more luxurious.

6. Design Panel Molding

A front door panel is the part below where a window or peephole would go. Depending on your house, the front door might not have any decorative molding due to its first owners or the builder’s original vision. However, you can always add panel molding yourself with the correct measurements, beadboard and construction glue.

There’s also the option of meeting with a local woodcarving artist and ordering something that matches your home. Attaching the molding is simple because it only takes a few minutes with construction glue or nails. It depends on how much work you want to do on your door and how much you want to preserve.

7. Swap the Hardware

Sometimes historic doors look nearly perfect, but something about them is still off. The issue might be your door’s hardware. Swap out modern fixtures like brushed nickel or matte black doorknobs for a metal that matches your house’s build year. Aged brass doorknobs and hinges will complete your door’s appearance like accessories.

Transform Your Historic Door

Once you have a vision for your beautiful, historic front door, use these tips to start your project. You’ll find solutions to your design needs and upgrade your home without removing its historic appeal. You only need a bit of creativity and guidance to transform its appearance.

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