October 18

Entry dress-ups: front door

Help your home emerge from winter’s blahs by giving it the quickest yet most effective face lift you can: Add drama and design to the frame around your front door. After all, the entry is the first thing your callers see.

I studied the style and proportions of my house before sketching up new casing that I could either make myself or create by combining stock moldings from the lumberyard. My design would adapt well to many other entries–even those without a soffit overhead. But one of the effects I like best is the way my new trim package fills that eight-inch gap on top by butting against the soffit, seeming to support it.

Sitting down to design your own casing can be intimidating at first, but these tips should help:

* Look at entry-door trims on well-designed homes in your area. Familiarize yourself with different trim styles, such as Federal, Georgian, and Greek Revival, by consulting books on architectural detail at your local library.

* Experiment on paper. Take a photo of your front door and have it enlarged to an 8×10 size. Tape tracing paper over the print and draw various designs around the door.

* Do sample assemblies with pieces of molding. Your new casing will consist of three basic parts–two pilasters (vertical strips that flank the door) and a head (the horizontal crosspiece at the top). It’s easy to make the pilasters of a single board, but the head is usually built up from several different moldings.

Head for your lumberyard to check out its moldings –you’ll probably find a dozen shapes that have possibilities. The larger crowns, coves, beds, battens, and stops –plus half and quarter rounds–are all worth looking at. If the yard doesn’t have samples to lend you, offer to buy a couple of inches cut off each molding you want to play with. At home, set these short lengths on end and arrange them like blocks, building up full-size cross sections of various configurations until you find one that appeals to you. Then trace around each molding to get a profile like the sketch at right. If your design calls for a shape you can’t buy, consider making your own–as I had to for my dentil and “panel-raising” moldings.

My actual trim work started with the pilasters–made from hald-inch clear pine 5-1/2 inches wide. I routed parallel flutes then chamfered the edges. I stopped both flutes and chamfers about five inches from the bottom and three inches from the top.

After nailing up all trim, fill holes with an exterior wood putty, caulk all joints, prime the wood with an alkyd primer, and apply two coats of latex trim paint.