Curb appeal can be created by grand gestures of architecture and landscaping. But when your guests are standing at the door, it’s the smallest details that often matter most. At hayneedle.com, we call it front porch appeal: the intimate, collective effect of a home’s door-proximate decor. Among those details closest to home, door hardware is an ideal place for shoppers to start.
Door hardware draws more close-up gazes and touches than virtually any other outdoor feature of your home. Even when they’re not consciously noticed, functional items such as doorbells, door knockers, door viewers, and kick plates play an outsized role in a visitor’s first impressions. Collectively, their finishes and decorative features set the tone for what’s to come. But it’s not just about style. These are also functional pieces that prolong your door’s durability and make it easier for you to see who is visiting or hear when guests have arrived.
So with those dual roles in mind, here’s a brief guide to the purposes, types, and installation details of the most important front door complements.
Ring ring! It’s the clearest indication that someone’s at the door, but choosing the best doorbell isn’t quite as easy as pushing a button. There are two different systems available to today’s homeowners: wired and wireless. A wireless doorbell transmits a radio signal to a receiver unit(s) that you plug into an outlet(s), which is useful for large homes or people who are hard of hearing. Another option is a two-button system: a ringing front button and buzzing back button—very convenient if you’re standing at the back door with a heavy plate of barbequed burgers.
Sound is another detail to consider. As with cell phones, some modern doorbell styles offer a much broader sonic selection beyond a ring or chime. A programmable doorbell, for example, may feature pre-programmed music and sounds, or play your recorded voice or transferred MP3 files.
When replacing an existing system, you can replace the entire kit—button/switch, transformer, and bell/chime—or just a faulty component. Make sure that all components have the same voltage rating (if you’re installing a full kit, all components are compatible). The transformer reduces the home’s 120-volt current to a low-voltage current, which flows from the transformer to the push-button. Most doorbell transformers have a rating of 16 volts. A 20V or 24V transformer with a 16V doorbell could fry the button.
To replace a wired switch, first turn off the breaker panel circuit that powers the doorbell. Unscrew the old switch, and carefully pull it away from the wall, exposing the wiring. With your screwdriver, disconnect the wires from the switch, and tape them to the wall to keep them from sliding in. Unwrap the new switch, and thread the wires through the base, wrapping their ends around the positive and negative terminals. Then screw the switch into the wall and snap on the cover. Turn the power back on and test.
To replace a wired chime, turn off the power, and remove the cover. Label the wires by screw terminal. Remove them with a screwdriver, and unscrew the chime unit. Pull it away carefully from the wall, and tape the wires to the wall to avoid them slipping in. Attach the wires to the new chime’s terminals, secure the holding screws, screw the new chime into the wall and attach the cover.
A louder knock that spares your visitor’s knuckles—that’s the practical benefit of a door knocker. Stylistically, door knockers are front porch standouts, adding dramatic decorative flair in the form of a lion’s head, a fleur-de-lis, a mythic or Gothic figure from medieval architecture, or the classic urn-shaped design used on Georgian- and Colonial-era strike plates. Elegant metallic finishes such as polished brass, bronze, iron, nickel, and gold make a gorgeous first impression.
These traditional accents are usually installed in the horizontal center of the door, about four to five feet up (between shoulder level and eye level). Consequently, they’re best paired with windowless doors, or those with a top fan-shaped window. If visibility is important to you, look for a door knocker that incorporates a peephole or viewer.
There are two mounting options available to you, depending on door material and knocker type: through the door and surface mount. A surface mount is recommended only for wood doors. It’s an easy installation: simply install the screws through the mounting holes.
With through-the-door mounting on a wood, fiberglass, or metal door, the screws or bolts are inserted on the back of the door to hold the strike plate in place from behind. Before purchase, you should ensure that the product you choose is compatible with the thickness of your door. Most knockers offer a mounting range for doors between 1-3/8 and 2-1/4 inches thick, but check the specifications to confirm.