October 31, 2006

Front Door

Filed under: House Blog, Tools — marcstober @ 7:09 pm

Fall 2006 031Just in time for Halloween, we have a freshly painted and fully functioning front door. See below for advice on paint and caulk guns, but first some editorial content.

When we bought the house, we were only given back door keys, and the old mortise lock (probably original) felt like it was one jiggle away from falling off the door. I know what you’re thinking – this is the suburbs, people enter their houses from the driveway. But I like to use the front door, and always have, ever since I let myself in that way when I got off the school bus. So what if I’m the only one in my family who enters my parent’s house that way? Now that I take the train home, I like to use the front door, too – especially now that it gets dark early and it’s dark in back.

We’ve made a few improvements, like installing a bracket for an American flag and a new doorbell we bought at Restoration Hardware on our second night in the house. The biggest improvement was hiring a locksmith to get the old lock working. It took him a while to rebuild it, but was still a lot cheaper than buying anything that looked as nice as the original one. So now we can actually go in the front door. (I suspect this will be particularly important when the kitchen is being renovated and maybe we can’t get in that way.)

I did some pre-winter maintenance as well, like painting the house numbers white (for visibility), and installing little solar floodlights so you can see the house number and steps, which are not well illuminated even when the front lights are on. I sealed some cracks in the steps and caulked and painted the front door. I think the old wood front door adds character to the house and a thick layer of glossy black enamel brings it out even more.

On the advice of (someone – Hammerzone I think, but can’t find it now), I got a professional quality caulk gun. Fortunately, professional grade caulk guns are still under $20, It does make it easier to get good results. I also used Benjamin Moore paint. I think it really is better that the Behr paint (which I basically consider the store brand) at Home Depot. The big soapstone sink in the basement with garden-hose pressure made quick work of cleaning my brushes, too (although buying new brushes every time has got to be better for the environment than using all that water).

Finally, I did some work to restore the appearance of the lock. There are 12 brass slotted screws on the outside, and the locksmith replaced the missing ones with drywall screws. This was functional, but I replaced those with matching brass screws. Even this turned out to be more work that I’d thought because it turns out that the screws around the cylinder where shorter (because of the mechanism behind) than the others, and I needed to cut the screws and wedge in little pieces of plastic anchors for them to stay in the stripped openings. (They must just be decorative anyway. Even back in 1920, I think they were smart enough not to build a lock you could just unscrew from outside!)

Eventually we want to rebuild the whole front porch and steps. Until then, I think Cheryl is still using the back door. 🙂