• Matt Weber

How to Order Exterior Doors


When it’s time to order a new exterior door, make sure you are clear on the terminology and how it relates to the size, fit and performance of the door. If you get the terms confused when ordering, you might end up with problems such as a door that has the latch on the wrong side, or a door that swings out instead inward. (I know who guy who looks a lot like me who once got the order wrong.)


1. Inswing vs. Outswing


First up, know the terms “Inswing” and “Outswing”, usually abbreviated on order forms as I/S and O/S. An Inswing door opens inward to the house. An outswing door opens outward. Most exterior doors are Inswing models.

2. Left Hand vs. Right Hand.


These terms refer to hinge placement, and it is critical to understand that “hinge placement” refers to the door when viewed from the outside looking into the home.

Left Hand: This is an I/S door with hinges on the left or an O/S door with hinges on the right.

Right Hand: This an I/S door with hinges on the right or an O/S door with hinges on the left.

3. Is the Door Frame Included?

Prehung Door: A pre-hung door is a complete, ready-to-install door commonly available at home centers such as Lowe’s and popular for its ease of installation because it includes the door slab, hinges, and weather-sealed outer frame that fits into a prepared doorway.

Slab Door: A rectangular slab of wood, composite or steel without hinges or other hardware.

4. Any Door can be Made to Include Glass.


A pane of glass in a door that functions as a window is called a “Lite.” Most exterior doors have insulated glass for energy efficiency, but others may have beveled, silk-screened or stained glass. Glass comes in several shapes and patterns.

Divided Lite: Panes of glass that are divided within the door (or appear to be).


Grille: Plastic, wooden or metal details that give the appearance of divided lites, often in a grid pattern.


Front Door with Sidelites: A sidelite can be placed on one or either side of the door, or both sides.


Transom: A decorative accent placed above the door, which is usually available in three shapes: arch, ellipse and box.


Door suppliers generally offer customizable options in which they can make an order to your specifications, including sidelites and transoms pre-attached to the door frame to simplify installation.


5. Order the Right Size.


Measure your entryway carefully. Although there are some standard sizes, depending on when your house was built, you might not have a “standard” size door. For replacements, you can simply measure the existing door for the size you need.


If you're framing a new door or replacing the door and jamb, you should leave several inches for adjusting and shimming the door within the rough opening. Most pros suggest adding 2-1/2 inches to the width of the door (1-1/4" on each side) and 3-1/2 inches to the height. Any gaps can be shimmed and insulated then concealed with brick molding.


Door thickness is fairly easy to determine unless you have a special application. Normally exterior doors are 1-3/4 inch thick (interior doors are 1-3/8″).


Doors are measured in feet and inches. A standard door measures 36 inches wide by 80 inches high by 1-3/4 inches thick. When ordering a door, this size is also designated as 3/0 by 6/8 by 1-3/4, which means 3 feet, 0 inches by 6 feet, 8 inches by 1-3/4 inches.

TIP: For maximum savings on your utility bill, look for ENERGY STAR® certified entry doors.



© 2020 Pine Mountain Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.